Beginnings are wonderful, filled with hope and promise. Then you (hopefully) get to move on to a lifetime of joy and success with your wonderful horse. And almost inevitably, that comes to a time when the road is nearing its end.
Running the retirement facility has been the most challenging, joyful, rewarding, and heartbreaking thing that I have ever done. My favorite part is watching a retired show horse go out to pasture for the first time. They run and play; meet their new pasture mates; squeal, buck, strike … and remember how to be a horse in the "wild." They fall in love with each other, get mad at each other, and protect each other.
Then they settle into their new life.
I’ve watched horses that were stressed and suffering from ulcers or chronic lameness find a new balance in their own bodies. The stress leaves, and they get more comfortable. And I hope that they’ll be with me for years. Because I fall in love with every horse that lives with me. They become part of my family. I know them, every bump and blemish, and learn what they love, their favorite treats, and how they behave. When I start to see changes in their normal behavior, changes in weight, increased pain, or sore feet, I do everything I can for them. At some point, though, we get to the worst part of my job. It becomes "time." Making the phone calls, breaking people’s hearts, and getting the vet to the barn. I hate having to do this part, but this, too, is my job. It’s the agreement I’ve made with the horses—the promise to do everything I can, right up to the end, and then stay with them for as long as I physically can. To refuse to leave them until they’re finished needing me.