|King of Hearts
Author: Wanda Walker PM
COMPLETE. The true, short story of how a teenage girl and her horse, King of Hearts, struggle with a sudden illness, one that neither understands. Told from the horse's POV.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Hurt/Comfort/Friendship - Words: 6,698 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 7 - Published: 07-18-09 - Status: Complete - id: 2698675
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Angela Nelson 3/5/09
15-20 Page Story12
**This is a short story based on true events of my life. It's long, but it's complete.**
King of Hearts
1. My Life
I live on a little farm on a big hill, a farm with a few small red barns, a humble collection of various animals, and a family of five horses, including myself. I also have a mother, my human mother, whom I refer to so endearingly because my past is a bit foggy to me. I am middle-aged, but human caretakers are all that I seem to be able to remember. The only human I know is my mother, because the rest of her family never visits me in the field. No one else feeds us horses hay in the winter or rides us in the summer, and so we all consider her our one true guardian. However, the others do not call her "mother" like me. They prefer to call her "the human."
My mother visits us all today, carrying a halter strung over her shoulder and wearing a smile that matches the mood of the warm, windy day. She goes to the others first, patting those who come to her. There is Jackie, who my mother raised from a rather young age and taught with all the necessary patience. There is Zelda and Roxy, who are rather new to the field and like to think of my mother as the girl who shows up to feed them occasionally. The most recent addition to the herd, Chippewa, perks his ears and waits for my mother to pat him. He likes to pretend she is his favorite. He is deluded.
At last my mother comes to me. I have been here the longest, I have carried my mother the furthest, and I have taught her the most (and she me). It is only expected that we are the closest. I remember the day I met her in the dead cold of February. I bucked once to test her. It was only a little jump, nothing to harm anyone. She let out a startled "Woo!" and then giggled. "You're a feisty one, are you, King?"
My mother takes the halter and slips it over my head. I follow her back to the barn as she has taught me, my head slightly ahead of her, neither lagging nor speeding away. I wait for her to open the gate and stand aside. I slip past her and turn automatically to allow her to close the gate behind us. Then I follow her inside the barn.
She grooms me diligently, wiping away the mud that clumps my reddish-brown coat. She runs a comb through my mane, all while cooing to me.
"Some people like to cut their horses' manes," she tells me. I learned long ago that she loves nothing more than to talk to us when she grooms us. She runs her fingers over the shaved part of my bridle path, which she cut using clippers, a machine that always remind me of a gigantic buzzing bee. "They actually pull out the mane so that it's thin and lies flat." Her hands still, and she plants a kiss on my crest. "But your mane's too long and pretty to cut."
She takes me to out to ride. My mother taught me all about how to ride. Before I met her, I knew a little about riding. I knew one kick meant walk, two kicks meant trot, and a whole bunch of disorganized kicking meant canter. My mother didn't have the same cues. One press of her heels meant walk. Another press meant trot. And one leg on my girth, the other behind it, meant canter. My mother taught me exactly how to walk, how to trot, how to canter. She taught me that arching my neck was a good thing. She taught me that refusing my jumps was a bad thing. She taught me to gallop up hills and crawl down them. However, I taught her to trust me. I did this by doing as she said and giving her little guff about it. She never stopped telling me how much she appreciated me. She loved having the freedom to trust me. She once told me that the only horse she'd ever trusted was her first pony. After that, everyone had disappointed her.
I wanted to be that horse she could be safe with. I tried hard and I won her over. The others didn't understand it, but we looked out for each other. We took care of each other.
After the ride, my mother returns me to the pasture. I roll in the dirt, trying to scratch my back. She groans, as she has just groomed me. When I satiate all my itches, I trot back out to the herd. They all nicker and greet me. They all know where I went, but they all worry anyway. After they all ascertain that I am healthy and happy, they return to their grazing. I step up beside Jackie and help her with a fertile patch of grass. Chippewa watches me closely, making sure I don't get too close to his mate. For a moment I wonder if he likes me at all. But he must. We are a herd.
2. What I Do Away From Home
I have school once a week, when I accompany my mother to a place surrounded by evergreen trees, a place haunted by rain clouds and filled with the howls of distant foxhounds. I always have to work when I come here, and it's not always fun work. This is when my mother ceases to be the boss, when the woman who stands in the center of the ring becomes superior. This place is where the jumps are highest and the riding the most grueling. Sometimes we are expected to leap over the poles placed between two winged standards painted brilliant colors. I didn't like jumping at first; I simply didn't see the point. I then decided it could be fun, especially if I jumped too high or too suddenly, startling my mother. I feel like a bird at times, going over these big jumps. My mother always gives me proper rein to stretch my head, though occasionally her grip is too firm on my mouth when I gallop toward a hurdle. I forgive her.
Some of the horses don't have such strong relationships with their riders. Or, if they do, they don't know how to show it. They treat their mothers and fathers in poor ways, bucking and rearing and bolting like foals born a week ago. I have my quirks, of course. I especially love to irritate my mother when she takes me to the annual show and I refuse the jumps. I jump for myself, I want to tell her. Not for a ribbon. She gets angry at me and frowns, but she never rages any longer than a few minutes. I only have to give her one look and she'll sigh and pat me.
Once at the fair, an older woman called me Bright Eyes. She told my mother that I had the biggest, blackest eyes she'd ever seen on a horse, and for a few days I felt very proud of myself. I didn't know big, black eyes were a good thing, but everyone seemed to think so. Everywhere I go, people tell my mother that I look as harmless as a fly. They don't know flies like I do, obviously.
3. My Friend, My Mother
My mother brings me out of my pasture and lets me eat the virgin grass on the front yard. She climbs up on top of my bare back using an overturned bucket, one hand clutching my lead rope while the other holds a book. Once on top of me, she lets me graze. She spins around so she's facing backwards and lies down so that her elbows rest on my rump. Then she flips open the book and starts reading. Just when she gets comfortable, I raise my tail and fart.
"Ugh! King! You're gross!"
I wish I could laugh with her.
On another day she winds her way down to the pasture, carrying a plastic bag. I immediately toss up my head and prick my ears. I can see through the bag into what lies inside. I trot up to her eagerly.
"I brought you our favorite food," she says with a laugh. She pulls out a watermelon rind and hands it to me. I eat half of it in one bite.
This is a ritual we've established. It only happens in the summer, but it's worth waiting for every year. She pulls out another piece, this one not yet bitten into. She eats the red, juicy part while I attempt to steal it from her. She giggles, finishes off the last, and hands me the rind, which I like just as much as the pulp. I theatrically toss my head and splash her with slobber, which she finds extremely amusing. She yells at me, but she does it with a smile, and her eyes tells me she loves me.
I wish I could tell her I love her too.
On another day, she goes down to the pasture, heads straight for me, and wraps my neck in a hug. Her face is wet, and she is sobbing. She presses her face into my mane and runs her fingers through it. I curl my neck around to envelop her. I nibble at her shirt. She chokes out a laugh and pushes me away. I try hugging her with my neck again. I want to show her that I need her as much as she needs me.
4. Where Is My Mother?
The pain begins at school today. We go out past the arena fences to jump in the open, amongst the trees and weeds. My lesson mates are being ridiculous and foalish. They dodge the jump at the last minute and bolt, knocking their mothers from their saddles. They show general disinterest in conquering the tall logs that obstruct their paths. The instructor looks rather grumpy.
I would be in a better mood to put up with their behavior, but there is a twinge in my abdomen. I figure I had eaten too much on the way here. After looking around at the absurd behavior of my fellow species, I decide that I will try my best today, just to make the rest feel more ashamed of their immaturity. Maybe those other horses don't love their mothers like I love mine. Maybe their mothers don't love them like my mother loves me. Whatever the reason, I pick up my head and my feet and clear all the jumps. My gut growls and twists worse over each log, but I disregard it. It is nothing. My mother is proud of me. She leans far over my neck and kisses me, repeating "good boy" over and over again in an enamored whisper. I feel proud of myself.
When school was over, she packs me back up into that tight-walled trailer I hate. She still threatens me by tying a rope to one side of the box and walking up behind me. She knows I am claustrophobic. I have a history of refusing to walk up that ramp and get chained into a space hardly wide enough for my haunches to fit through. A long time ago she had to strap a rope around my butt and pull me in (a rather uncomfortable sensation and not one I would like to experience again). Now she just has to show me that stupid rope and I grudgingly climb into the box, knowing it is a short ride. The truck and my box trundle away from school while the breeze sifting through the window cools my hot face.
That night I feel worse. The other horses take this time to eat as comfortably as possible. The evening is the only time insects give us any respite. We scour the hills and valleys, looking for palatable grass. Jackie asks me what is wrong and why I'm not eating.
I manage to assure her that I must have eaten too much on the way to school. I tell her that perhaps it is just a bit of gas that has not had time to pass through. She gives me a pleased look and returns to her eating. She takes my word for it. She is not the smartest specimen.
Chippewa, her mate, asks a few hours later why I do not eat with them. We do not like each other much. Before he came, I was the leader of this herd, probably because I had been the biggest. He stole my job when he arrived. He is just as tall as me and has a stubborn streak to compete with a mare's. He came just a few months ago, skinny and sick and so pathetic-looking that no one thought he'd become anything. My mother named him Chippewa (since he'd previously had no name) and began training him as she did me. She seems to like him more than the others, but not more than me. She would never like him more than me.
I tell Chippewa that I am not feeling well, that I need to sleep it off. He is much smarter than his mate and doesn't seem convinced. But he continues to eat because, as I said before, I am still a little sore over my demotion to second-in-command and he knows it.
The next day is worse. My three hours of sleep had not helped. I feel as if there is a heavy plug in my intestine, so heavy that it weighs on my legs and my haunches as well. Every time I move a small shock of pain travels up my spine. I try reaching around and nipping at it, to no avail. I try rolling. That does not work either. In fact, all my efforts seem to worsen my condition. I am not hungry and even the scent of grain makes me dizzy. I want my mother to come down and see me. She would know what to do.
But she does not come.
5. Walking Nowhere
I endure this for another day. The heat makes me miserable. I am too tired and sore to chase away the flies that rest on my eyes and mouth. Their tiny little feet tickle, but the sensation is so small compared to the enormous agony that grips my middle. I try rolling a bit more in hopes that it helps. There is nothing I can do. I can only drink water, because I am neither hungry nor can I stomach grass anyway. The other horses huddle around me, black eyes full of concern. Even Chippewa begins to nudge me in hopes that I liven up.
My mother will come, I tell them. She will know what to do.
My mother does come. She comes with a friend I do not like much. Whenever this friend comes over, she hangs on me and bumps my back when I trot. When I turn, she leans so much that she nearly makes me stumble. She is no rider, that is for sure, but I tolerate her because I know my mother would want me to.
They come bearing two halters. My mother takes Chippewa while the friend takes me. No, I want to yell. I want my mother to take me. They begin to lead us toward the barn. I have not walked for a very long time and I stumble. I bump into my mother's friend, and she yelps in shock. I begin to trot, and she cries out to my mother for help.
"He's not listening to me!" the friend calls.
My mother turns. "Here. Take Chip. King, what is wrong with you today?"
I reach for her, wanting to explain. I am in pain, I tell her. Why did you not come earlier?
"Silly horse," she says with a smile. "Come on."
She begins to lead me. A small twinge tears through my gut, and I trot in panic. My mother yelps. Unlike her friend, she knows me. She knows how politely I follow her. When I run my head into her, she pushes me away in alarm. She holds me at an arm's length and for the first time I see a tinge of fear in her eyes.
"What's wrong, baby?" she whispers.
I need you, I want to say. Help take away this pain.
They take us to the barn. My mother puts Chip in a stall with some grain. When she offers me a handful, I refuse. This is when she knows that something must be wrong. I don't think I could even stomach a watermelon now.
But it'll be okay, I want to tell her. You're my mother. I trust you.
She puts me in a stall and pinches the skin on my neck. She tells her friend that she thinks I am dehydrated.
No, I think, wanting to shake my head and make her understand. I am in pain.
After fretting over me for some time, my mother puts Chippewa back in the field. I watch him go, feeling strange and disconnected. For the next two days I will recall watching that white rump sway as it walked away. Must he leave? Am I going to be placed in this lonely stall, away from my herd? I would prefer Chippewa to no horse at all. I nicker after him. He doesn't respond.
It will be okay, I tell myself. You are with your mother now.
The friend calls another friend. My mother seems to think this friend of a friend can help. A good time later this friend of a friend shows up, dressed in jeans and boots. She looks me over and presses a hand into my kidneys. Another flash of pain rockets through my head, and I sway.
"Has he been rolling? Looking at his stomach?" the friend of a friend asks my mother.
"No," she said.
Yes, I respond silently. Yes, I have. You just haven't seen me.
"You should call the vet. He may be colicking."
I don't like the veterinarian, a man dressed in white. Whenever he visits, he slips a needle into my neck and it hurts. He never addresses me with the kindness of my mother.
I don't remember much of what he does to me. He gives me a shot and moments later I feel as if I am floating, drifting to the ceiling and staying there. I can't move my legs. My nose barely brushes the floor. The only thing I feel are my mother's fingers running through my mane, fingers that shake. I feel something plastic and cold slide up my nostril and down into my throat. I don't care. Right now, I am in such relief that my stomach hurts no longer. While I am floating, I wonder if the herd knows what is happening. Do they worry about me? I know my mother does. I've seen the distress in her eyes. Is that enough? Is my mother all I need?
I'd rather have her than be alone with the darkness and pain.
The vet leaves and I eventually manage to push off the ceiling and back into my body. I can lift my head and my feet. However, with my newfound agility comes more pain. How is this so? I heard that the vet was supposed to help. But I feel no different. I drink little and pace my stall, hoping that perhaps my walking can help relieve the knot that grew in my stomach. I feel as if someone is wrapping a tight band around me and keeps squeezing and squeezing. Soon my head will come off, along with my legs.
Walk, I tell myself. Walk faster.
My mother leaves me. I don't want her to. But she sleeps away from me, and I don't sleep at all.
6. Scabbed Eyes
After a while I forget that I am walking. My legs are churning and I cannot stop them. Even the words I mutter in the back of my head—walk, walk, walk faster—dim into a dull roar that has no meaning. Why do I walk? I'm losing my mind. I can't find an answer to my question. I can only think of walking. Walking and the pain. My stall gets smaller and smaller and as I plod, and my head rubs up against the concrete walls. I feel the hot friction between my soft skin and the unforgiving texture of the cinderblocks, and I like it. It is a different pain, a pain that doesn't feel like that rubber band around my middle, squeezing me. I feel something drip past my eyelashes and I realize it is blood.
There is blood in my eyes, I think. I should be frightened. But there is too much pain for fear to slip past. Why worry about bloody eyelashes when there is a monster chomping on my insides?
Walk, I think. Stop thinking. Just walk.
My mother comes out in the morning and sees me. My eyes are becoming hard to open because of the swelling, but I see her well enough. For the first time, she seems to be in as much agony as me. Her eyes fill with tears and she throws open the stall door. She snatches up my halter and holds me still. I try to continue moving.
I must walk! I want to scream. The pain grows as a result of my stopping. I yank my head out of her hands and continue on my tight circle around the stall.
She grabs me again and clips a long rope to my halter. Then she yanks me out of the stall. I start trotting down the hall.
She's taking me back to the pasture, I think. That must mean everything is well!
She does not take me to the pasture. She takes me to the orchard in front of the barn and tries stopping me there. I stumble past and walk in a circle around her, orbiting on the length of the lead and trotting when the slack allows. The ground is uneven here, the grass wet and slippery. There is a small ditch that makes my churning legs falter. I almost go down, but I keep going, determined to walk and slip out of the band that restricts my stomach. If I could only run, I think in despair. If I could only jump out of this clamp around my abdomen.
My mother's mother joins her. They talk in low murmurs. Tears now soak my mother's cheeks. I want to tell her that she should walk too. Walking helps pain.
They put me back in my stall and leave. I continue my trek, slamming even harder into the walls. My flesh tears, and I don't care. Even my eyelids don't hurt anymore. The band around my middle goes tighter. I want to roll, but there is not enough room in my stall. I haven't the strength to nicker or call to my friends. They are calling. I can hear them. Well, maybe not them. But I hear the signature neigh of Chippewa. He is asking me where I am, what I am doing. Why does he care? Is it because he's the leader? Or is he simply so worried that he no longer cares about being the stoic leader, being the alpha male. Could it be he is sincere and concerned?
But I'm too tired and too preoccupied to reply. He calls for me all night. Not once do I respond.
I want to go back in time. I would not eat those oats in that trailer. I would not gorge on grass. Why am I sick? What have I done wrong? Perhaps being a "pig" is not as amusing as my mother seems to think it is. I wish I had eaten more carefully. Maybe I had eaten something poisonous. Perhaps my oats had been stale. Perhaps sickness had been in the water.
At last I come to a stand still. I have no more strength to walk. The skin on my face is so raw that when I rub it against the walls, the pain is so strong it overrides my stomachaches. I turn to face the corner because the light hurts my eyes. I no longer want to look into the hall, out the window, at the musty hay that gathers in the corners of the dirty corridor. I close my eyes and find darkness. My legs feel like strands of tall grass, swaying in even the slightest breeze. I fall down once. It takes all of my will and determination to stand again. This time I press my head against the wall softly, because it helps me keep my balance.
I can only think of my mother tonight.
7. The King of No More Hearts
The next morning my mother comes and clips me to a lead. She takes me out to the trailer I hate. But I know that she wants to help me. She shows me no rope to coerce me inside. She just whispers my name over and over, clutching at my mane and my halter as I swerve too far right to make it inside the compartment. I put a foot on the ramp and the world swirls. I have to get back on even ground before I fall over. The opening flickers up and down, left and right. I can't aim for it. When I try going toward it, my legs tangle and I lose my balance. My head slams into the partition once or twice, irritating my swelled eyelids. I want to quit, to go back to my stall and walk in my stall and think of flying over those jumps. My mother keeps me trying over and over again. She keeps saying my name, again and again and again, as if it can give me strength. I finally manage to enter the narrow stall inside the trailer, and I sigh. I am able to lean against the cushioned partition. My legs tremble and my head feels so heavy I lean it on the grain bin. My mother opens the door beside my head and strokes my face. Finally she closes the door and they fire up the truck. The trailer jerks forward, and the only thing that keeps me standing are the close walls that I hated for years.
The journey seems interminable, but it eventually ends. The heat and the movement of the box make me sicker, and I want to walk. My legs try and fail. However, I feel as if I am walking. A breeze caresses my face, and I wonder if perhaps I am running, running faster than I've ever run before, so fast that even my mother cannot catch me.
My mother and her mother take me to a barn on a steep hill. There is not much activity, but there is more than there ever was at home. There are foreign scents, foreign people, foreign horses, and I don't want to be here.
My mother cries softly as she picks my head up off the grain bin and pushes me back, whispering to me over and over again.
"Come on, baby," she whimpers. "Do this for me, sweetheart. You can do it."
But my legs are so tired, my head so heavy, the rubber band around my abdomen so tight . . .
They take me inside a building with rubber mats and white walls. I have never been inside a room like this, so clean with cement floors and fluorescent lights. There aren't bridles and saddles and bits and boots and whips and helmets and brushes and blankets. I want to go home.
Two women I do not know talk to my mother, then to my mother's mother. I am unable to dissect their words and make any meanings of them. They take my head and look at me. Pain rips through me With the last reserves of my strength, I bolt forward, squeezing my haunches tight so that when they release, they propel me forward straight into the woman. She hits the wall, and I slip past her. My mother takes my lead and pulls me to a stop.
"Why did you do that?" she whispers, petting my forehead. I don't know, I thought in despair. I just don't want to be here and I hurt so much. I remember those hot days at the fair, at lessons, at shows. Such a nice horse, they would say. Look at those big black eyes. He's a good one for sure!
They wouldn't like my eyes now. They are almost swollen shut. They are ugly eyes, ringed with blood, dull, frightened, wracked with pain. I am an ugly horse now, an ugly horse who knocks over humans and can't comfort my mother's tears.
They take me to a stall, a stall with bright green mats and wire around the windows. They put me in there and close the door. I can see my mother and her mother and the strange women through the thick metal bars. I return to my corner and close my eyes. I sway dangerously, and I press my face up against the corner of the stall to keep me from collapsing.
Another woman comes in and pricks me beneath my stomach with a needle. I don't care. It is a small pain compared to the big one. She collects whatever comes from the prick and leaves. She talks to my mother. She shakes her head and shows them the few drops of stomach juice she collected. My mother is weeping.
I wish I could go over to her and let her cry into my neck like she used to. I wish I could nibble at her shirt and make her laugh. But I am too weak. I cannot move my legs. I cannot even lift my head from the corner. I cannot be your King of Hearts, I think. I'm not Bright Eyes, I'm not King of Hearts, I am nothing but a barely conscious horse who is in too much pain to care about his end. I wondered if I could even still love her now. I felt like there was too much pain to love. Too much pain to care.
My mother's mother slips into the stall and hugs me tightly. Why are you hugging me? I want to ask. You never hugged me before. I barely know my mother's mother. Sometimes she drives me and my mother to school and to shows, but she never shows much interest in me, other than an occasional trail ride once a year. I don't want her hugging me. I want my mother to hug me. I want to stretch my neck around and look at her, but I cannot.
My mother's mother leaves. A strange woman comes in and cuts off a piece of my mane with a pair of scissors and leaves. Why does she take my mane? My mother wouldn't want her cutting my mane! She thinks I am beautiful with my thick black mane. Now a chunk of my mother's pride is gone.
I see the woman hand it to my mother, who only stares at me.
Take me home, I say silently. Just take me home.
But she doesn't take me home. She doesn't hug me. She just takes the mane clipping, bows her head, and walks away, weeping so hard that I can hear her down the hall.
I want to run after her. I want to neigh. I want her to stroke my mane and call me her King of Hearts. But she is gone. And everything that I once was leaves with her. My herd is gone. My mother is gone. I try to care. I try to nicker, to stomp my feet, to show some sign that I recognize her departure, that I lament it, that I am afraid in a strange world. But now I am a shell of a horse, some bones and some muscle and some guts that don't seem to be working properly anyway. The horse that sprung over jumps, who chastised lesson-mates for their treatment of their mothers, who consumed watermelon with relish and who ate grass in the front lawn on lazy summer afternoons . . . he no longer exists. He disappears.
One woman comes up to me with a needle, like the vet.
"You've got big pretty black eyes, you know that?" she asked softly, petting my forehead. "Biggest black eyes I've seen in a long time."
They call me Bright Eyes sometimes, I think. But I don't think I'm that horse anymore. My eyes are swollen half-shut, and all the brightness is gone.
"Pretty horse," she says gently. "Your mama loves you very much."
I want my mother, I think. Do you know where she is? Can you bring her here? Tell her to come back with what part of me she took with her.
"It's all gonna be over now, big boy. It won't hurt anymore."
She slips the thin pin of the needle beneath my skin and pets my neck. Another woman looks on. I trust them because I can. I close my eyes and sigh. I wait for the pain to leave.
I feel the ghost of fingers slipping through my mane. I hear my mother's voice, telling me how silly I am. A stranger at the fair asks me if my name is Bright Eyes. My mother and her brother ride me together, laughing as they attempt to play polo with croquet mallets. I can feel the juice of a watermelon rind slipping down my face, splashing onto the white cotton of a plain T-shirt. I hear laughs as my mother and her friend try to mount me in the field with no mounting block or saddle to grab onto. I see my mother's annoying little dog chase my heels, barking because he thinks he is bigger than he is.
8. That Place Where I Belong
I am in a dark stall now, not the spongy, strange one but a stall at home, one with musty straw and cobwebs on the ceiling. My mother slips through the door and stretches her arms out, receiving me. She is crying. She is burying her face in my neck. Her body shakes and her fingers tremble as she runs them down my neck. She tells me she loves me. She clutches me tighter. I stop my eating and I twist my head around. I cradle her in the loop of my neck and rub my soft nose up against the bare skin between her shirt and belt.
"I love you," I tell her.
"I love you too," she says.
I am floating in darkness. The pain in my abdomen fades. I feel my knees weaken, feel myself stumble to the floor and stay there. I have no strength to stand, not even to lift my head. The world dances around me, the lights orbiting a particular stain in the center of the ceiling. A numbness crawls through my legs and across my body. It fills my neck, and I think of home.
The prose above is a completely true story, or as true as I can be from the view point of a horse. He was my horse, and I was his "mother". I've owned horses for more than ten years, and I've had more than 20 in my lifetime. King, or King of Hearts, as I called him, was one of the most influential animals in my whole life, and his death changed me. I have three favorite horses that I've owned: my first pony, King, and Chippewa, who is currently for sale because I am in college and can't work with him. Some say that animals lack the capability to touch you like a human does, but I beg to differ. I will even argue that a person's relationship with a dog is completely different than one that a girl forges with a horse. I love my dog to death, and while I appreciate her enthusiasm to see me every day, my relationship with her cannot TOUCH what I have with my horses. There is something extremely potent in what I have with my horses. Most of them do not reach me emotionally, and I sell them without a qualm. But there is that occasional horse that reaches down inside of you and doesn't let go. Every time you get on a horse you are giving him your life. They are powerful animals, and if they are not interested in working with you, they won't. Working with an animal so large that adheres to your requests and commands touches you emotionally; it's because you know they don't have to listen to you. No, they want to listen to you. And there is such a beauty in the way I work with the horses who really are interested in working with me. It's not a master/animal relationship. You are a team. One cannot get their job done without the other, and while we often operate on different levels of communication, its when you finally connect with each other, when we as humans find a different way to communicate than our words, that touches you.
Every time I read this story I cry, and I cried the whole time I wrote it. But it's a good cry, one that I will not regret. He deserves it. He deserves this story and my tears, because when I stop crying, that means I would have stopped caring. And I will always love this horse into old age, even when I can't remember much about him. He was the only horse I ever owned who really seemed to love me as much I loved him, and I noticed it. I really did.
A few days later, my mother drove back to the vet clinic and got part of King's tail from the vets there, all without my knowing. On Christmas, she presented me a mask from Mexico, which I had visited, with hair that was in actuality King's tail. That was perhaps one of the few times I felt like my mother truly understood me. So I can honestly say that King not only gave me a relationship with him, but he gave me a moment to connect with my mother, who does not usually see eye to eye with me.
Long author's note, but this story deserves it. King deserves it.
For those who don't know, colic is an intestinal problem which is common in horses. It can either be the inability to pass gas, the consumption of sand, the twisting of the intestines, or the blocking of the intestines. Usually it is not fatal if caught in time, but unfortunately it was not caught in time with King. He had a blockage; I was told after the vets performed his autopsy. Luckily, this has been the only time this has ever happened to me; usually my horses are healthy as . . . well, horses. :) Colic has yet to strike again, and I will pray it doesn't.