As we pulled the small hill leading up to our homestead from the main road I saw him there. He is a spectacular piece of artwork that has always taken my breath away. At over 16 hands he is magnificent with his red neck and legs, the white of his rump shines as bright as the sun. His long legs and neck seem to push him above the landscape and today he caught my eye in a way he hasn’t before.
He was standing at the back gate. A relaxed stance with his face off toward the back pasture that he is forbidden from entering. At first I assumed that he was just longingly wishing that someone would open the gate and let him partake in the smorgasbord of field grass and noxious weeds. As we drew nearer to the paddock I began to feel a strong sense of uneasiness overtake me.
You see, I have had this strange connection to Cash since the first moment I laid eyes on him and I can feel it in my heart that he is just as connected to me as I am to him. I know what this feeling is and I know it isn’t good. A little over a year ago he took a jaunt into that back pasture and got tangled in barbed wire. It caused life threatening wire cuts and it was the first time since I had owned him that I could feel his pain.
The last year has not been easy on either of us. Each infection started with a feeling, a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Each time the vet confirmed that the infection had come back and that with it was less of a chance that he would survive his injuries. In the beginning I was willing to do absolutely anything to save my boy. Ultimately, it was not in my hands and only time would tell if he was to make it.
Today, that same feeling came over me and my heart just sunk. It has been a year, there is nothing anyone can do and I know he isn’t right. I said his name a couple times and he just kept looking off into the back field. As I approached him he turned his head for a second to say hi and then back to his original position.
I could feel a lump in my throat as I continued toward him while still saying his name. When I got about 20 feet away he lowered his head and struggled to turn toward me. The well broke…the tears wouldn’t stop. As he struggled to walk toward me all I could do was cry. Until recently he was doing so well, hardly a limp and now he is struggling to walk.
“You have to tell me when you’ve had enough” I struggled through my tears. “I can’t bear to say goodbye, but I don’t want you in pain”. The tears wouldn’t stop, the pain in my souls was just unspeakable. He walked up, put his nose in my face and just breathed. It was not the kind of “I’m ok, just having a bad day” kind of breath. It was a “I don’t know how much more fight I have” kind of breath.
I grabbed his front leg and burried my wet face in his shoulder and sobbed. Mocha, his pasture mate was in the other paddock and she quietly nickered in our direction. She did not come through the gate, she kept her distance so that we could have a moment.
As I stood there face burried in his shoulder, tears rolling down my cheeks he reached his big head around and nuzzled my leg. It felt as though he was asking me to fix something I can’t fix. The only way I can take his pain away is to end his life.
What a horrible place to be. I just want him to be happy and comfortable and I am completely unable to do anything for him. How do I decide that he has had enough? Will there always be a nagging feeling that I did it too soon? How come a year later we are having a potentially life ending back slide?
My heart is torn in a million pieces. He isn’t just a horse, he is my heart. I have loved every horse I have ever been blessed to have in my life, but Cash is special. How do you even reconcile what is best for him with knowing that once he is gone he will take a piece of your heart with him?
I still have no idea what the future holds for Cash. I do not know if I will be strong enough to make that decision. Just the thought tears me into a million tiny pieces.
I pray for both Cash and me. I pray that he live to a ripe old age sound and happy, and if God doesn’t see fit to grant me that prayer…then I pray that he will give me the strength to do what is best for my big wonky boy and that he is the first to greet me when I get through the pearly gates.