it’s been a very difficult week for us. on sunday night, just as we were settling in for a nice glass of wine and some delicious comfort food, we received a call from the stables informing us that asya’s beloved horse, donovan, was ill.
a gentle giant, donovan had eaten his nightly meal just an hour earlier and was in great spirits in the stable videos only 30 minutes before they called us. then, for some unknown reason, he laid down and wouldn’t- or couldn’t- get back up. asya and i dropped everything and rushed to the stable.
anyone who knows me knows that while i am a true animal lover; my respect for and love of all animals figures strongly into my vegetarianism; i am actually terrified of horses. i don’t know exactly when or why this fear started- i have vague memories of a large horse walking toward a very small me- but it is ironic that i have two daughters who are horse obsessed.
funny side story. when asya was about 6 erim and i decided that her love of riding was getting too intense and could only lead to dangerous moments requiring her to be on a horse unaccompanied in the near future. so, we cancelled her horseback riding lessons and signed her up for every other sport under the sun- tennis, volleyball, swimming, scuba diving- anything she wanted that wasn’t riding. less than two seasons later asya came to me with a form to sign for her afterschool activity. then a new mother of three i went ahead and signed it without much scrutiny and sent her on her way. off she went to the afterschool riding lessons that she had sneakily signed up for! needless to say, that was the last time erim and i meddled with anyone’s riding.
a horse lover is a horse lover. sorry to be the one to break it to you if you have one in your house; but that child will love horses no matter what you do. best to just lean in and let things run their course.
so, with my two riders i have done my best to get used to being around horses. i am lucky because every pony and horse that we have owned has been lovely. i have been able to look into their eyes and see their beautiful souls and kind hearts shining through.
and donovan, well he was the best of the bunch. despite being the biggest horse in the stable he always had a truly gentle aura surrounding him. when he cantered, the whole riding rink would shake, but never once did i see him take advantage of his size or use his presence to frighten or intimidate.
in fact, he seemed almost uncertain of his own beauty at times. when we would come to give pat him or give him treats, he would act nonchalant; as if we couldn’t possibly be there for him. but then as soon as we turned to walk off, he would kick his door and remind us that a little more love never hurt anyone- big baby, he loved the attention.
sunday night was awful. he was hurting and frustrated and uncomfortable. a tremendous team of grooms, veterinarians and friends helped us to keep him as calm and as comfortable as possible, but after a whole night of waiting and hoping his condition did not improve. in the end we had to make the decision to let him go- a heart-wrenching decision that i do not wish upon anyone.
since then, asya particularly, but i too, have received so much support and kindness from so many people. i think it is hard for someone who does not have horses in their lives to understand the depth of this loss. i know that i could not have done so before donovan came into our lives. he was special and his loss has left an ache that will take a long time to heal.
one message spoke specifically to the pain of losing a horse and i would like to share it here. for all the horse lovers- it is poignant and apt. for all the others- may it help you to empathize with the loss of a horse and remind you that horse-people will need a little extra love to offset this loss.
an asheville friend, shelly pew brown- a horsewoman through and through- writes-
“a horse is so much more than a companion or a pet. a horse is your partner. you go through tough courses or tough situations together. you rely on one another. this big 2000-pound animal trusts you in scary situations or when you have to give them medicine or whatever. but the horse also takes care of you – he navigates the course or rough terrain or whatever, even if you’re giving him wrong signals or no signals – he will take care of you and much of your dreams for the future are based on him. when you lose a dog, your dreams aren’t threatened. but when you lose a horse, your dreams of future accomplishments are very much threatened. so, it is a very significant loss. loss of a beloved companion; loss of a protector; loss of the vehicle of your dreams; and loss of a partner.”
so dear donovan- asya’s beloved companion, her champion, and her partner in crime- i hope you are cantering through heaven with all the hay you could ask for. we love you and will miss you. rest peacefully our gentle giant with a huge heart.