Monday, August 4, 2008
It was an extremely difficult decision, but we decided as a family it was time for us to retire our dear horse Thor. Father Time was catching up with our regal, gentle giant and we could all tell his heart wasn't in his job anymore. The change in his demeanor was gradual; and it didn't help that arthritis was starting to get the better of him. In his early years, I was told that he had been part of a leasing program at a fancy show barn. I can only imagine how hard he must have worked and how many ribbons he must have won for his riders.
Now, at 23, he was participating in daily lessons at our barn where we boarded, and we would watch him as he slowly trudged around the arena, (it was usually his job to work with the beginners) and you could almost read his mind as he shuffled: "Here we go again, I am so tired of doing the same old thing, day in and day out." You could tell by his demeanor he wasn't enjoying it at all-the twinkle wasn't in his eye anymore. He just seemed worn out. We approached our trainer about taking him out of the lesson string. We understood this would also affect us financially, but his well-being was more important. (We had been fortunate to have an arrangement where she would use him in her weekly lessons which offset the boarding costs.)
We rescued our sweet boy Thor three years ago from a family who was relocating out of the area. I remember how thrilled we were to even be in a position to be able to provide him with a good home. How proud we were-I am sure anyone who has ever added a fur baby to their family can appreciate that surreal feeling-the "pinch me, am I dreaming?" feeling; waking up every morning to rush out to the barn to convince ourselves we really had a horse!
I have loved horses for as long as I can remember, from when I was a little girl. I told everyone when I grew up I was going to have a stud farm in Switzerland. (I must have gotten that from one of the books I checked out during my countless trips to the library.) I guess life got the better of me; I grew up and lost my dreams. Then, along came another little girl who helped me to re-discover them again. It seemed that she lived, breathed and dreamed about horses 24/7. If E could have had a horse come live with her in her room, why, she would have shared everything with it including her underwear. Her idea of the perfect horse was somewhere between "My little Pony" and "Pie" in National Velvet, both of which she was a huge fan. (M is not "horse crazy" like her sister; she tells me she prefers dolphins and wants to be a marine biologist or dolphin trainer when she grows up. On the other hand, give her a brush or a rake and she really enjoys grooming the horses, or mucking out a stall. Surprisingly,she is just not into the riding.)
E and Thor became fast friends. He was always well behaved, almost to the point of being aloof to the adults. With the children, he always seemed to sense he needed to take extra special care. It was not uncommon to find E and Thor walking in the arena, after a lesson, cooling down, with E chattering away. On one occasion I asked her what she was saying. "Oh, I'm telling him a story," she would say, very matter-of-factly, and off they would go. Other times, you could hear her singing him a song.
I know E understood why we had to find Thor another home. She is a practical kid, and she is wise beyond her years. It took about a month to place him, thanks to a lovely lady I contacted who runs a local horse rescue. She was kind enough to put me in touch with some potential buyers, and we eventually found a gem of a gal who exceeded our hightest expectations. It was obvious this person really cared about Thor when she came for her initial visit. She asked all the right questions, and she and Thor seemed to hit it off almost immediately.
We all heaved a sigh of relief once we drew up the agreement. It isn't so easy to place older horses; everyone wants the younger ones, and the seniors come with their own set of issues to deal with. However, they make wonderful companions and are excellent beginner horses because they are so calm and experienced. I am sure you have heard the term "bombproof." Most have that "been there, done that attitude." They are wonderful confidence builders.
Still, it didn't make it any easier the night before Thor was to go to his new home; it was then that reality hit like a ton of bricks. E sobbed her heart out for three hours straight. It took everything in me to hold it together. I started second guessing myself if I was doing the right thing. I began wondering myself how I could do something so terrible. After all, when you get an animal, its supposed to be a commitment forever-and I felt like I was doing the absolute unforgiveable. Somewhere between the sobs of "How could you do this, Mom?" and, "You are a big meanie!" that part of my brain that rules my heart started making mental notes of all the things that I could sell on Ebay to cover the upcoming costs of monthly board if we decided to keep Thor. We could make do with one car, I think-and, maybe I could sell one of my kidneys? Do they even let you do that on Ebay? Any parent knows the feeling, it usually hits late at night when you are at your weakest, and all kinds of scenarios start playing through your mind....
Eventually,hours later, when E finally fell asleep, the logical side of my brain started kicking in. I knew this was really the best thing, and that Thor would be so much happier not going around and around in little circles in the ring anymore. It still didn't fill the hole in my heart.
The next day, my brave little girl woke up and said the most wondrous thing. "Its okay Mommy" she said, with a big smile, "I'm feeling better today." She reached up and gave me a kiss and whispered in my ear, "Thor gets to make someone else's dreams come true today."
I cried all the way to the barn that morning.
Kids, they are amazing, aren't they?