Married with Horses: On Saying Goodbye

A barn manager honors the life of a friend's horse in his own way in this Married with Horses column.

| © Andy Myer

I don’t like funerals, but that’s not why I’m missing this one.

I spent the better part of the past two weeks trying to get the farrier and the vet to our barn, and they were both coming today. Between rough hooves, loose shoes and teeth in need of floating, I can’t change the plans.

A close friend of ours had a horse with EPM. It was not caught early enough for the cycles of medication to make much difference. She put her horse down yesterday and a few people were headed over today to have what would most closely resemble a wake. Kimberly is on a business trip and the best either of us could do was offer our friend our condolences over the telephone.

After I hung up I started crying. It’s silly, really. I didn’t know her horse that well–I’d been around him plenty–but moreover I’m not a particularly sentimental guy. And that’s the other thing: I’m a guy. Social expectations and imposed gender roles aside, my tears usually come as a surprise, and they don’t last long. Even today, my first thought was that something must be irritating my eyes. Perhaps I’m chopping onions. But, why would I be chopping onions in the tack room? Oh, I guess I’m upset. Then the brain kicks in and the few drops dry on your cheek as you return to work. It’s like a little leak in the dam; you just plug it up and move on.

But my mood didn’t improve. Whether pet or athlete, an animal dying always bothers me. They seem innocent and undeserving of injury or disease. And there we are, responsible for every aspect of their care including deciding when to let them die and when to help them die. If you care about your animals, euthanasia is sometimes the only compassionate and responsible choice. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it’s easy or that it won’t make you sick to your stomach.

And it seems ironic. The daily news doesn’t affect me like our friend’s situation. Yes, we know her and her horse, so it’s personal, but the media reports human deaths everyday. Those should hit home because we’re human, too, and it could happen to us and our families. I can’t explain or justify my or anyone else’s apparent numbness.

We all know the news. We could probably write a newspaper front page or script a television newscast by ourselves. A few deaths in the Middle East, with a robbery here or there, add a house fire, a couple of school awards, a corruption scandal and then the weather: more of the same, and maybe some rain.

Now I’m really feeling down and what is worse is I can’t keep track of exactly why. It’s my own fault my brain does this. I should have stuck with my physics major and not switched to philosophy. It’s the only major where the professors’ tests are the same every year. They just change the answers.

I wish Kimberly were home and that we could visit our friend together. I feel bad she had to put down a horse that was only 12 and had helped her win her a ton of ribbons at a lot of shows.

The fact that I see the vet’s truck kicking up dust on the road to the barn makes me feel a little better. It’s time for some horsey check-ups. There’s a lot to do in the barn. There’s always a lot to do in the barn, and that’s how it should be if you’re doing it right. Any animals–but especially horses–require special care. I do feel good giving them that care–whatever length of time I’m fortunate enough to spend with them.

The decision to miss the memorial today is tough, though nothing compared to the decision our friend just made. My heart and thoughts are with her, but what’s right is what’s best for our horses. This barn isn’t going to run itself, and I wouldn’t want it to.

Besides, here comes the farrier.

Jeremy Law and his wife, Kimberly, live on a small farm in North Carolina with their two cats, two dogs and two horses.

Read Jeremy’s other columns in EquiSearch’s Humor section and share your comments in the forum.

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