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“Promise Kept”

By: Linda Robens Fraise

Last Wednesday, my beloved, sweet, amazing old horse Red took his last earthly breath.  17 years ago, I found Red or he found me.  Soon after he became mine, I read one should never buy the first horse one looked at ~ but we never followed directions well and I am so grateful we didn’t.  A friend (who owned a riding stable) once shared, that, in all her years, she had never seen a horse take better care of anyone.  The few times I landed on the ground (my fault, not his), he would simply stop and look at me as though I was an embarrassment and not particularly bright.

It started with a slight limp on his left front leg and he just didn’t look the same. Something was wrong.  My amazing vet examined him and it was time.  She told me my intuition was perfect and though horses are stoic, he was in great pain.  My sweet friend Gayla came over and was with him when he died.  We all cried.

I am so grateful that he died in the fall when the weather was good.  I am so glad his days were piled high with grandbabies and my sweet girls were home from Czech this summer.  Their horse was the first face they looked for when they arrived home.   He was happiest when surrounded by kids.  I have known him to pick pockets for a carrot, sneak a bottle of water and ooze horse slime as he rolled his eyes upward when eating watermelon.  He opened the fence gate on more than one occasion and strolled under the top of the gate into the backyard to join the gathering.  He loved the colts and fillies and was kept with them during the years he was boarded before I built our home.  We would go riding in the hills leaving a cascade of whinnies in our wake.  If they were young, they could do anything.  When they hit about a year, he taught them manners first hand.

On what turned out to be his final day, three-year-old Hudson took a break from the hard work of irrigating (translated playing in mud), went to the red barn on his own, picked up a scoop of grain and went over to feed Red.  I wish the younger kids had the opportunity to be loved on and taught by Red and Mountain who went much too soon.  Animals are such amazing teachers.

I am so glad that he was healthy this summer and raced around for the kids like he was young.  I am grateful for all the hugs he was given and the slobbery kisses he gave.  I am grateful for the lessons he taught and the gift he was.  My sweet boy saw me through some of my hardest moments and taught me so much about love.   I am glad that we went on evening strolls through the neighborhood with our girls and one lazy dog piled on top.  Red lived for those evening strolls.   I am so glad that he was surrounded with love at the end and his suffering is over.  I am sad that my friend Sandy (who recently lost her beloved husband) can’t come over for a Red hug and horsey slobber to help her bear the pain.  I so wanted to give her that gift.

Most kids never get to know a horse very well and understand that their hearts are huge and their love even bigger.  They are remarkable creatures.  We humans can learn much from them.  Red and Mountain were loved very much and are loved still.  I am closing my eyes and picturing Red and Mountain running around together and neither one is in pain.  I can’t wait to see him again.

The day I bought Red, I made him a promise ~ I would keep him forever.   Today, in the mail, there was a card ~ Dr. Pat reminding me  “my promise was kept”.

Each time I turn in the driveway or go outside – my eyes automatically search the pasture.  I really didn’t need to do that because I never had to look for him at all.  He was immediately racing to be wherever I was and letting me know, in no uncertain terms, the expectation of a hug and a treat were non-negotiable in his eyes.  Some of my best memories are in that pasture.   It is amazing how less bright the world looks to me now – because for 17 years – it was colored through the beautiful brown eyes of my friend.

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