For me, it has been like a member of my family dying. That's not over the top, he was a member of my family and his death has left me devastated. Please don't tell me that as an animal it's not the same as a person dying - horses are not cats or dogs, they and their personalities, and the entire way of life that goes with them, makes them so much more than simply a pet. My relationship with my horse was built up over many years of care, trust and mutual understanding on both sides. It didn't come automatically - and one day when I'm feeling better I will tell you about a few of the funny - and scary - situations we have found ourselves in. I have so many lovely and funny stories about John, that's my horse's name, that I'm smiling just writing this. But now is not the time.
I have so many more hours in my day now - and I'm not sure what to do with them. His death was so sudden that at times I think 'right, time to get ready to go to the yard', then I suddenly remember.
I know it will be like that for a long time, the feelings of loss and the pain - I have lost too many people in my life to have any illusions about how long the process of grief takes - but I am trying to be positive, and I have started working with a horse charity as a volunteer, to raise awareness of what they do and hopefully raise money for them through that.
The charity is based in Essex and is called the Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary. It takes its name from the first horse it cared for. It currently looks after more than 70 horses, plus donkeys, sheep, goats, a couple of cattle and a couple of cats. All of the people who work there are volunteers and all the money they spend caring for these creatures, whose lives in most cases have been ones of hell and neglect, comes from donations. There is no government money - shamefully - and no grant money, but that is one area in which I hope to make a difference, by sorting out their grant applications.
The sanctuary holds regular open days - the next one is scheduled for 1 July - and it also holds fun dog shows, holistic health days where you can meet healers and therapists and watch them working their magic on the animals, and it takes some of the smaller inhabitants, the Shetland Ponies, to visit with people in the community, especially the elderly in care homes.
Remus places a lot of importance on the care of elderly horses - many of their residents are in their 20s and 30s, while their oldest resident is the oldest horse in the world. Shayne is 51 (nobody has told him that though, he is feisty and will not be patted, I know because I tried - ears back, head up, the lot, and that was him not me, obviously.)
It seems a fitting choice of road for me. John would have been 24 this year, or he was 24, I don't know his birthday. I know he was loved more than any horse could be, and I know he knew that. But so many poor horses are just discarded when they get older; people don't want them if they can't ride them or compete them. Thank God for Remus and sanctuaries like them. I can honestly say, having visited the sanctuary, that all of the animals I saw there, horses included, looked well and contented. Just for a short time while I was there I felt happy. That has got to be good.
And there can be no more fitting tribute to John than me being able to make a difference, no matter how small, to others of his kind who were not so fortunate in finding their special someone.
The charity's website can be found at www.remussanctuary.org please visit and support them through donations, attending their events or adopting one of their residents. I have taken the following photos from the website, hopefully they won't mind, and I'll take lots of my own next time I'm there. I'll be keeping you up to date with what's happening at Remus over the coming months and I'll also be tweeting - they don't have a Twitter address yet but I will be setting one up, so please keep in touch with their wonderful work via Twitter, their website and here. Thank you.
|This is Shayne, at 51 he is still a handsome chap and full of life|
|Meet Harvey, he is as tall as a pony and ever so friendly, though |
the smaller donkeys do push him around a bit