Thursday, 12 July 2012
Memories of John
I want to write about horses today. The trouble is I no longer have one.
After spending so much time in a one-to-one relationship with my beloved Thoroughbred John, years of feeding and turning out, mucking out, making feed and poo picking, bringing in at night, feeding and putting to bed, not to mention the rugging and de-rugging, grooming, feet cleaning, bathing and farrier standing - well I'm lost basically.
No more for me the freezing cold mornings to come in a few months time, trying to break ice that's six inches thick on his water bucket, scraping away the snow so he can get to the grass below. No more basking in the sun in the field, me hanging over the gate watching him proudly. No more wandering down Dedham's country lanes on a relaxing hack, both of us as one and at peace with the world, or as would sometimes happen, him deciding to canter after a horse and rider we don't know with me hanging on to whatever bit of him or his tack I could manage to grab hold of and not lose my stirrups.
I'm smiling thinking about him now, but oh the pain doesn't go away. I can't believe it ever will. What other animal could a person become so close to? A dog - perhaps, a cat - not really. Horses have a power that draws people in, enchanting us, making us so responsive to the needs of these great creatures that our own selfish needs quickly disappear, relegated forever behind caring for our friends. Does that make sense? I think of it as an addiction - but a good one. Where else would you find a normally sane bunch of people standing in the freezing cold in the middle of winter, breaking ice on the aforementioned water buckets and clearing snow from those frozen, hard fields?
I still go to the yard, but it is very difficult to do so. To return and see everybody else doing everything they always have done, is hard to bear. One of the biggest events of my life, one of my greatest tragedies, means I will never be the same. The world stopped for me on 28 May and my life will never be the same again. The 28 May was a sad day for the others, too, but they still had to feed, rug, poo pick and groom as usual. It was a normal day for them, as have been the ones that followed.
My first time back at the yard after John died, a week or so later, I noticed straight away that there was a new hose, that John's field had been cut back. The baby who had shared John's field for the last few weeks of his life was in another field, next to another horse, and it felt like a betrayal.
It wasn't a betrayal of course. My friend had to find a replacement companion for her yearling as it wasn't fair leaving him on his own at such a tender age. I could see the confusion in his eyes as he tried to fathom out what had happened; my friend told me he had been unsettled since he'd lost his nursery nurse or 'dad' as we used to call John. The two of them had been inseparable and I'm grateful that my boy had company he loved for his last few weeks.
How can they continue as if nothing has happened? I ask myself that every time I go to the yard. I still have to sort out John's belongings and my feed/tack room. I gave away a few rugs he never wore to a horse charity, the ones he wore though - I don't think I'll be able to let them go. His bright pink and purple diamond turnout I used as a thick stable rug over the winter, well, I'll never be able to part with that. Yes, he was a gelding, but pink and purple were his colours and he looked magnificent wearing them.
I go into his stable and look around at the emptiness. There are still a couple of rugs in there - his thin Jasper and a checked summer sheet - I bought him that one before he came to live with me, when he was still with somebody else. I was there the Saturday before last, and I breathed in the smell of those rugs, sucking it in deeply so I could feel him again. His smell is still on them, but it's getting fainter. Soon it won't be there any longer. And I will stop going to the yard.
I miss him so much, but one of the things I miss most is burying my head in his soft, hot, furry neck. No matter how bad I felt, I always felt a bit better after a horsey cuddle. I miss the way he used to put his big head in my hands, head sort of down, when we first met each day, for me to cuddle him. I miss the way he was a complete and utter baby when it came to wormer or medicine, pulling his head up and down over and over again, then becoming calm and just accepting the syringe. I love the way he loved his apples and carrots - he would always start tea with a bite of apple and a bit of carrot, then he would eat around them, pushing them out of the way of his mouth with his nose, until there was no feed left. Then, often as not he would go off and eat his hay for a while, before returning to enjoy his fruit and veg, savouring the flavour as long as possible. I love the way he adored polos.
I loved and still love him. I always will. What am I to do?
No horse. I have to find another way forwards, a way to have horses in my life without having a horse in my life. It's too soon for another one.
I managed to write about horses after all.