Although her feet and legs no longer supported her in strength and comfort and fluidity, her heart and mind still carried power and spirit. It had become so necessary for her to maintain her stance that even in the midst of massive doses of life ending anesthetic she tried to regain her feet. She did not go quietly, her lungs kept pumping oxygen, her eyes kept fluttering. My hand on her muzzle, I hoped to soothe her and soothe myself.
In 1992, on September 19th I embraced a new foal, a new life in my arms. January 30, 2022, I wrapped my arms around the neck of this aging gray mare, her life sparkling just as brightly as it had all those years before. Tears drip down my face as I write these words. I’m writing to share this experience because horse people, at some point in our lives, face an impossible choice that has to be made.
What is the criteria for quality of life? When does the balance from a good life to a precarious one change? For Sparkle and me, balance tipped when the pain in her hooves could not keep her upright, and she would fall. The last fall caused a knee injury that made life even more difficult for her. Her pain was my pain. And I could no longer look her in the eye knowing that it didn’t have to be that way. There was an ending to it, but that ending was so final. , an end of ife options, life choices, life dreams. (Now I am sobbing.)
2 weeks out
Two weeks without the physical presence of Sparkle Plenty. I now know that deep ache, deep in my soul, deep into the root of my being. I have sympathized with others, shared their loss with just a slight turn of heart to not be pierced too deeply by their sorrow. Now I know. There is no turning away. It is right here inside my heart, inside my throat, inside my head. There is a Facebook page, a group: Over The Hill Horsewomen. So many Illustrated stories of loss of the special horse in these women’s lives. I am now one of them, not separate in any way. I am now an initiate into the full cyclical connection of the horse-human relationship. Before I was one of them, sharing the space with them as a horsewoman; now I am them, I am the space.
3 weeks out
Grieving Sparkle Plenty
What did The Lone Ranger do when he lost Silver?
When he had to put a bullet in the head of his partner?
When Silver stepped into a gopher hole,
racing a mad crazy gallop
the way they do in the western movies,
and broke his leg, SNAP,
sending the Lone Ranger somersaulting through the sage?
What did Gene Autry do when Champion
suffocated from a rattlesnake bite
on his muzzle, unable to breathe
through his mouth,
His great lungs and heart shut down
His vibrating nostrils swollen
Clamping his Vital Air passage closed?
What did Roy Rogers do when Trigger’s
great heart gave out mid-stride
in the never-ending pursuit of Justice
in an unjust world?
What am I to do with my grief?
What am I to do?
What am I to do?
4 weeks out
She stands alert in her green grass pasture, attention drawn to the world of sounds, scents, and movement around her. Brush in hand, I see the long white hairs of her winter coat lifted to the warmth of the sun. I smooth the hair with the brush, trying to reach her skin where the gentle bristles relieve itching, laying the hair down smoothly in the direction it wants to be.
I am finally aware of all the prayers, the energies for the Highest Good, the heart healing that is swirling around us, sent from all those who love us. I am reminded again and again that in reality we are all One. I am so grateful for those who hold the vital space of life and love. Sparkle’s essence resides in my heart, my core, my soul, in the very cells of my body.
I go out to her grave in the pasture where she spent half her life. I cast wildflower seeds over the mound under which her body is returning to the very earth whose spirit she so gallantly and consistently carried. As time goes on, I know I will still grieve, but I will find the blessings of our time together sprout in unexpected places just like the wildflowers that will come up with spring rains.
It so took me by surprise that you aged faster than me. I always thought of us as in the same paradigm, graying together, stiffening in our joints together, retiring together. You beat me to the moment of returning home to The Source. I know you are in good company there. Mother told me she would take care of you, help you transition, settle until you found your freedom. You blessed my life beyond words. We are not done.