Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Ride I'll Never Forget

I have mentioned my best friend, Aubrey and her Mustang, Chocolate in several of my posts.  Aubrey and I met in high school.  We came together for our love of horses.  We grew together as horsewomen.  We got our first horses a few months apart from each other.  In April of 2003, Aubrey was given Chocolate, a 6 year old Mustang pony mare, from a horse trainer who taught us both how to start colts. I bought my yearling Appaloosa filly, Riskie, in August of 2003.  The four of us were inseparable over the next several Summers.  Of course we parted ways with our steeds when we headed to college every Fall, but those Summers spent riding and training our very own horses were priceless.

After college, Aubrey went to Vet School and I found a job.  Our horses were still together until the last 2 years of Aubrey's time in Michigan.  She took Chocolate to Michigan so that she could have her horse with her. 

This Spring, when Aubrey graduated from Michigan State University, I took the 10 hour round trip to pick up Chocolate.  I knew that Riskie would remember Chocolate.  They were together for almost 8 years before we separated them. When Chocolate got off the trailer at home we sent her out with Riskie in the big pasture. They sniffed noses and went right to grazing side by side.  It was as if they hadn't been separated for more than 10 minutes. 

This Summer Aubrey and I took our mares on a ride I know that I will not soon forget.  It was a really hot day at the end of July.  Aubrey and I had spent the morning putting hay up for the winter.  We had planned to ride that day, but hay is one of those things you need to get done when you can so we had to postpone our all-day ride for a shorter one.  I decided we should trailer to a nearby park with lots of shade down by the river since it was so hot.

We got to the park and hopped on our already saddled mares.  Riskie lead the way down a narrow path along the river.  A recent storm had knocked several trees down so our mares had to carefully step over the logs blocking the trail.  They carried us with grace and strength down the over grown trail.

We ended up coming to what must have been the end of the trail so we decided to meander back and try to find where the other trail met up.  I remember riding behind Aubrey and Chocolate. I remember watching as that small little pony lifted her legs so high over the downed trees and branches.  She took her time and knew where her feet were.  Aubrey never had to lift a rein to ask Chocolate to slow her feet down or to prevent her from rushing through the brush.  I know the feel that Aubrey had with Chocolate, because I have that same feel with my first horse, Riskie.  It is something that you know about if you've had a good horse.  That trust you develop in knowing each other's every thought and move.  You are two bodies, one spirit. 

We were the only two riders at the park that day.  We mostly rode in silence, except when there was a question as to what direction we should take.  Good friends don't need to talk in order to enjoy the time they spend together.  I still think about that ride, even more so over the past few days.  It was the ride dreams are made of.

Yesterday morning I went out the the barn, a little earlier than normal because I had a meeting I needed to be at before school.  It was still dark out.  I called the five horses into the barn yard for their hay, but only four came to me.  I went to the tack room for the flash light and headed out to the pasture in search of my fifth horse.  I could see her in the distance, standing against the fence line in the large pasture adjacent to the barn yard.  As I approached her, she nickered to me. Something wasn't right.  As I got closer I noticed she was holding up her left rear.  My worst nightmare was unfolding right before my eyes.  I knew, without a doubt, that my best friend's horse had a broken leg.

The next few hours were a blur.  I contacted the vet first, then Aubrey, then my principal.  I got Chocolate some hay because I knew that's what she wanted.  She was in shock.  She knew enough to stand still, but the adrenaline coursing through her must have helped to numb the pain.  She took a few bites here and there but it seemed as if she was getting tired of standing on three legs as I waited for the vet to show up.

When the vet arrived he confirmed my belief.  Too much damage was done to the leg to save it.  I called Aubrey and handed the phone to the vet.  A close friend of mine showed up shortly after and all I could do was cry and hug her.

I rubbed Chocolate's forehead as she left this world.  A first horse can never be replaced.  I know the spot that Chocolate holds in Aubrey's heart, and I know the pain that Aubrey is experiencing now.  I am lucky to have witnessed the bond between the two of them as they grew together from a teenage girl and a cranky Mustang mare into a friendship that will not be forgotten.