It's been a difficult week. On Friday I found out that my lovely horse Max was sick. On Saturday, the vet visited and my sister & I made a difficult decision. I saw him on Sunday, and by Monday he was gone.
I don't know if I've written about Max much on this blog, which makes me sad. He was a dream come true. For as long as I can remember, I've been obsessed with horses. I grew up, following in my big sister's footsteps by learning to ride, spending every weekend helping out at a stable, reading anything I could find about horses, and doing all I could to learn about them, to spend all of my time with them.
When I was 14, I realised that, no matter how much I wished, I wouldn't magically just be given a horse - so I decided to take matters into my own hands (sorry mum). I visited every farm/stable within walking distance and asked them how much livery costs would be, and put together a spreadsheet that argued how loaning a horse was actually cheaper than the cost of riding lessons. One of these farms asked about the horse I was bringing... in a panic I said I was also looking for a horse to loan, and they just happened to have one that fitted the bill.
Of course, I agreed to come back, try out the horse & meet the owner (at the time I was just thinking about a free ride), so I had to rope my big sister into coming with me (that wasn't hard). We met Max, we fell in love, and my well-researched case for taking on a horse, somehow, convinced our parents to go along with it.
It turns out, he was a total wimp. At first, we couldn't tie him up in the yard as he was scared to be alone, he would spook at EVERYTHING, including water (I have fond memories of falling off mid-canter as he caught sight of his own reflection in a puddle), and the only time we got a rosette, he ran away from the ribbon. He would beg with his front leg when he wanted something, and had to get his mane cut into a mohawk every summer because he would scratch it off.
But he was the most beautiful, patient horse. He learned to be brave (well, braver) quickly. He neighed when he saw me come into the barn. Whenever you groomed him, he would try to groom you back, and if I was walking through the barn, he would follow me without a lead rope, head gently pressed against my back. Every difficult moment in my life has been made better by spending time with him - either riding, forgetting about everything, or by simply grooming him, listening to his soft whickers, the way he would lean against you, lazily, heavy and comforting and trusting.
I moved away for uni, and my sister took over main owner duties (we had shared him equally up until then). I visited as often as I could, and spent my summers at the farm. Then when I got a job I came home once or twice a week to see him, and ride. Then work got busier, life was more chaotic, and well, things changed. I visited, and rode when I could.
But, oh, how I wish I had visited him more.
In a cold and dreich Spring, the skies turned blue this weekend. Max's last day was spent in the sunshine, grazing in the field with his friends. He had painkillers, so he didn't hurt. I hugged him and he groomed my back, just like he always did. He was 18, and his life was good. We loved him so.