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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Requiem for a beloved horse.

Hooves thundered through the night and up the field she ran
Tossed her mane, flared her nostrils, soft approached the man
Power bursting through her veins, freedom celebration
Tasting every breath fresh air
Feeling her elation
Ashley was the name she wore
Hearts have not yet healed
Every morning on my lips
Yet she lies ‘neath the field.

This is one of the most difficult columns I’ve ever had to write. Last week we lost our horse, Ashley, and I am still in shock. It never should have happened. I keep replaying the events leading up to her death in my mind, trying to find a moment where I could have altered the course of fate. There was no reason. No sense.
On that Sunday morning, Ashley was sick. We called the vet, who showed up within minutes to take her temperature and to administer fever medication and antibiotics.
After Ashley had her shots, she seemed to be feeling better. We dried her off, covered her with a warm blanket, and she began drinking water and eating hay. Thinking she was on the road to recovery, we went back into the house to say goodbye to our dinner guests and to clean up the kitchen. Then I sat down to write a column about my sick horse.
Two hours later, the Farmer went out to check on Ashley. About half an hour later I heard the door slide open and shut as he returned to the house. I heard his footsteps on the stairs. He came up behind me and put his big hands on my shoulders. I thought he was reading my writing over my shoulder, until I heard a sniff.
“Is Ashley okay?” I asked, afraid to turn around and look at him.
“She’s dead.”
I couldn’t believe it. Neither could he. Disbelief and shock propelled me down the stairs where I put my coat and boots on and ran to the stable to see what I was sure would be my sleeping horse.
Misty snorted a startled greeting as I ran into the stable. She couldn’t see her sister, who had fallen down. The half-wall between them blocked her view. Ashley lay in her stall, as if she had curled up for a nap. Her eyes were open. I let myself in to the stall for a closer look. Her hide was cool to the touch. Obviously she had been gone for a while. I stared at her. I just couldn’t believe that the life had gone from that massive, muscled body.
What could be powerful enough to kill an enormous Belgian horse within minutes? Was it an allergy to penicillin? A reaction to one of the other two drugs she was given? I called the vet and let her know what happened. She suggested we get an autopsy, because she agreed that while the horse did have a fever, she did not appear to be dying at the time of treatment. She was on her feet. She was stealing food from her sister. She was not dehydrated. We did what we should have done, according to a team of local vets and the consultants at the Ontario Veterinary College. But she died anyway. There will be no autopsy on our horse. It won’t bring her back.
It was quite a shock, and it has only been a week, but I have a feeling that we will mourn the loss of this creature for some time to come. I guess we really are “horse people” now.
The first day I met Ashley, she put her nose on my chest. She loved human touch. A horse lets you know what they are thinking. This horse was content, beautiful, strong, at peace. She trusted us. And that’s what hurts the most, I think. Knowing that we let her down. We weren’t able to keep her safe.
To her previous owner, who raised her and her siblings from birth, I am sorry. To her sister Misty, who spends the better part of every day now looking and listening for her, I am sorry. And to Ashley, who will never get the chance to have a foal or pull a wagon or take a human for a ride on her back, I am sorry. This should not have happened.
I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. But I think I’m going to be waiting a while to find the reason in this one.


Bruce said...

Diana, I am truly sorry to hear of your loss. As I read the first few words of your column in the Advance today, I choked up. I just knew what you were going to write about.

Losing an animal friend that you love is such a terrible thing and although you will never forget her, I hope the pain eases for you and The Farmer, soon. :((

Anonymous said...