He was a gentle soul with a fiery heart. And he captured mine.
The first time I saw him, a tingle of fear went down my spine. I'd never had a stallion before, and he was a sight to behold. Nostrils flared, he trotted the perimeter of the pen, whinnying at the herd in the pasture. He snorted and pranced, all 1300 pounds of him, his sorrel and white paint job glistening in the sun.
I nearly had a heart attack the first time I stepped into a stall with him, feed bucket in hand. He squealed, pinned his ears, and shook his head from side to side, complaining and fretting all the while I served up his ration. He crunched down on the grain with gusto as I beat a hasty retreat to the other side of the gate.
But as we got to know one another, I learned that what I took as displays of aggression were actually expressions of delight. And he delighted in so many simple things.
Grooming time was his favorite. He'd stand still, his languid eyes half-closed as I brushed and combed him. Unlike our other horses who grew impatient with me, Coosa would stand still for as long as I wanted to rub on him. I would coo and baby-talk, and every now and then he'd turn his head and nuzzle me. He courted me with affection and trust, and I fell head over heels in love.
The first time the cancer came, it was a barely visible sore on the inside of his eye. We took him to the vet, had it removed, and everything was fine for six years. He sired several colts and fillies, protected his herd, and played with Boomer, our Newfoundland/Rottweiller mix breed. I thought we'd have many years together.
I was wrong.
The cancer came back with a vengeance. What I thought was a simple irritation turned into an aggressive tumor that bit deep inside. He began to loose weight and became more and more lethargic.
I knew the time was approaching to say our goodbyes. I couldn't bear to see him in pain, but I didn't think I could stand being there when it was time to put him down. I didn't want my last memory to be his lifeless body on the ground.
But the night before we took him to the vet, I realized that there was no way I could allow strangers to be the last people he saw. He had given me love, devotion, and trust. In his time of need, there was no way I could do less. He deserved that much.
I ran my hands gently over his face, and leaned my forehead against his. He laid his head on my shoulder, as if to assure me that this was the right thing to do, that it was time to let go. I cried when the needle went in, and I sobbed over his rapidly cooling body, running my hands down neck and whithers.
The pasture seems lonely without Coosa snapping the geldings into line, or watching him play chase with the dog. I feel certain in my heart that there will be horses in heaven, but my grief and sorrow is here and now. Heaven seems so far away.
As I open the gate to the pasture, I hear a whinny and the thunder of hooves. Keah, Coosa's last daughter, races to meet me, tossing her head and pinning her ears. She skids to a stop in front of me, stretching her neck out, sniffing with quivering muzzle. As I reach out a hand to pet her, my sadness lifts just a little.
I see the spirit of her father in the prance of her step, the toss of her head, from the depths of her brown eyes. She stands there as I lean my forehead against hers.
The invitation to love is given.
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This is so beautiful! It brought tears to my eyes. The honest, transparent way you show this special bond between horses and us, it's really special. The ending, I'm glad it shows your hope. Thank you for sharing this-it is a beautiful tribute.