Yesterday morning in early light, as I pitched hay to horses, I discovered our beautiful bay coming-two-year-old gelding had accidentally hanged himself overnight. He was an ever-mischievous little fellow, and I’m guessing he was trying to snag a tall weed growing on the outside of the fence when his head wedged between two corral posts that were planted entirely too close together. He probably reared up after that and jammed a leg or two through the fence rods.
And there he was come morning, not a breath left in him. His three pen-mates came up as I fed them breakfast, and for a moment I wondered where he might be before I lifted my eyes to look across the pen. And there he was on the other side — a horrifying site. I swore and I hollered, but there was no reviving his still body.
We had owned him just a few short months. The kids called him Big Enough. I prefer for young colts to be out in the hills, away from the chaos of the barn and the feedlot, but he’d been in that pen for a couple months because I was doctoring a cut on his foot. (In fact, an unpaid bill from his most recent visit to the vet sits on my desk right now.) During long moments spent cleaning and dressing his foot wound in the last weeks, I had grown kinda fond of him. He was ridiculously gentle and always looking for trouble, yet he was cute as a button. I couldn’t help but think about his potential as a ranch horse and a kid horse… and maybe he would even be my horse in the baby-free years that are ahead of me. I’m not saying he was my soulmate — I’m a little too ranch-y to subscribe to such thinking — but I sure liked him nonetheless.
Then came the morning I found him hanging from the fence, lifeless. I was overwhelmed with thought. Selfishly: what a waste of money, of time! More importantly: what a waste of potential. He will never know the pride of carrying a saddle and having a job, and we’ll never have the chance to ride him on a dewey branding morning in May.
Guilt washed over me. If only I had been a better nurse… his foot would’ve been all healed up by now, and I could’ve had him turned back out to pasture. In fact, I had thought about turning him out to pasture the afternoon before his untimely death. Why hadn’t I done that? Why hadn’t I at least thrown him a little extra hay the night before, given him something to chew on through the night? I longed to turn the clock back just 12 hours.
Foggily I searched through the files of my brain trying to figure out who to blame for this freak accident. Perhaps whoever it was who built that goofy fence with the posts eight inches apart. Maybe my husband, who — like me — had overlooked those posts in a quick safety inspection of the pen. Maybe any one of the various people who represent challenge in my life right now.
I have seen an awful lot of cows, horses, and people pass through this outfit in my 36 years here, and I would consider myself pretty callused to life transitions by now. Yet to find him there like that was a shock, at least initially. After that it just seemed like an extra load of crap to bear in a difficult season for our family, as Beau and I survive on little sleep, raise four kids on a tight budget, and learn the ropes of what’s proving to be a bear of a (thankless) job.
So I had shed a few tears by the time I trudged into the shop yesterday morning and asked the farm crew if they could lay Big’s body out to rest.
And then to the house, to hold my kids tight and to call Beau — who was weaning calves at Ridge Camp and was gone yesterday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. — and to call my mom, who drove down to the house from her own to help me and my kids get the day underway.
As many friends have assured me, that colt could’ve met his end even if I had turned him out to pasture the day before. Some horses, and colts especially, are experts at getting themselves into trouble.
The truth of the matter is that we live in a fallen world, and yucky things happen this side of heaven. Horses die senseless deaths. Unfortunately, people can too. Yesterday when I came back inside and knelt and wrapped four little Blake kids in my arms, I was overwhelmed with relief that they, at least, were all safe and sound. There was a tragedy here yesterday… yet every human within my circle was okay… and that, right or wrong, is what I have to be thankful for.
© Tami Blake