Today marks one month since I lost my friend, the first horse I ever owned. She and I were together for 29 years, more than half my life. I still remember when I got her. She was only 3 and I was 24. I had only been riding seriously a couple years when my trainer brought her to the barn. She was just green broke, but Katie got her to jump over a 3-foot fence that day. A blue roan quarter horse. And I had to have her. I couldn’t come up with the $2,000 to buy her, so Katie let me make payments of $250 a month.
I was out at that barn every day, grooming her, cleaning her stall, feeding her and, of course, riding her. I would go from a shitty day at work with a horrible boss named Beth, but by the time I got to the barn, all was right.
Sure we butted heads often. She was an alpha mare, having been born out in the field and not found by her owners for a couple days. She thought it was her way or the highway. And so did I. It took years for us both to figure each other out, to work together and not against each other. We made several moves, twice to new barns, and from hunter jumper to dressage disciplines.
The last barn I trained at was a dressage barn. I worked part-time there cleaning stalls and turning horses out weeknights after my full-time job and weekend mornings to help pay for her room and board. My friend Marty called her a hot house tomato because she stayed in when it was too hot, lounging under a whirring fan and covered in thick blankets when it was cold outside. But we rode, in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter.
My riding came to an end when I found out I was pregnant with twins. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Marty came to the rescue and offered to put her up on her land with her three horses. That’s where she would live for the rest of her life. The hothouse tomato turned into a country horse, rolling in the mud after every rainstorm. I didn’t ride again for more than 10 years and visited less than I want to admit, because I got caught up in taking care of a family.
Scott got me to get back on and ride her in 2010. I spent the next few years visiting Marty’s ranch and taking some pleasure rides, chasing the boys around her 20 acres as we played Jan-tracker, and getting all 4 kids to take a spin with me. Life got busy with kids in high school, football games, band concerts and all the things that come with 4 kids, and I didn’t make the time to see her enough. That will always be one of my biggest regrets.
We went out this past spring so the boys could help clean out one of Marty’s flower beds. I walked out to the pasture and my girl came walking slowly up to me, something she never did unless I had treats for her. She walked stiff and she was showing her age. I hugged her and she actually let me, which brought tears to my eyes. Little did I know that would be the last time I would ever see her. Thankfully Scott caught our last moments together.
I got a call from Marty a little more than a month ago. She said it was time to start thinking about putting Rosie down – she wasn’t keeping weight on, having trouble eating. Marty tried for a week to get someone to come out with a backhoe to dig a hole for her on her property – you need to have a hole dug before you put a horse down or you’re asking for trouble. I knew it was the right thing to do but was still having a hard time trying to figure out how I had the strength to do this. Rosie, being the independent girl she was, made the decision for me.
A week after that first call, Rosie laid down under her favorite tree and passed away. I got the call on a Sunday – Marty telling me she was gone. I still feel guilty that I didn’t get to see her one last time. But I am so grateful that her struggle is over and she’s no longer in pain.
29 years is a long life for a horse. I just wish I had spent more of that time actually with her. I will be eternally grateful for Marty and Janna for taking her in and giving her a home and a peaceful life for the last 19 years.