How long we live

I have been writing and re-writing this blog, erasing entire sections, trying to say what I have to say. I have tried being poetic, or upbeat, something that will breathe life into the reader, something to inspire.

I got nothin.

A year ago, a persistent wound in Rhett’s butt was identified as cancer, and we went to war. It was an awful, painful spot, but the horse remained stoic while we poked, prodded, took samples and chunks. Two surgeries and many more chemo sessions later, driving back and forth to the hospital….we are losing the battle. This cancer is a freight train, it will not let go. Every time it has surged back and I have contacted our medical team, they have been sure I was imagining it, worrying too much. This is not a reflection on their skills, because we are very grateful for a talented team that has fought hard for our horse…it was disbelief that it could be back, after having twice been carved out of his hind end, after having been blasted with chemotherapy, comforting Rhett, learning about aftercare, learning how to be soldiers in this fight. All of our efforts have lost. That’s the reality we must live with, while our horse enjoys his last days of life.

I sense this is one of those times when our own emotions, our own tremendous drive to save lives, our sense of success, fueled by our deep love for this kind horse, could overshadow his needs. I have to be the adult and make a decision no one wants to make, and for once everyone here is glad they are not me. Everyone surrounding this horse is distraught with helplessness to stop this from happening. While we all know that everyone dies….not this horse. not now.

In the swirl of emotions, I need to find calm.

I don’t feel poetic, spiritual, or calm and I am sorry if this is going to bum you out. I am angry. I am very sad and very tired. I am throwing stones at Goliath. I don’t want to get up today. But, others require it. I will have years to re-visit and probe for mistakes but right now, chores await. The herds here, living fully, need care. Grief must wait until nightfall. As for Rhett, mentally we are in ‘hospice mode’, which means nothing to the horse, because it is simply more love.

What is it about this horse?

Well for one, he is gorgeous, that tall hunk of handsome to cause women to swoon. But his looks pale compared to his calm spirit. His gentle eyes, and quiet energy. When Rhett arrived he was not quiet or calm, having lost his brother at auction, where they were separated after a lifetime, having moved and moved, being flipped through three auctions as they travelled up from the south, before being intercepted by a kind friend who began his rehab and then got him to us. He was alone in his heart, and very scared. It took time to ground him, to find out who he was, to connect. His throat suffered previous damage, perhaps from ropes in his past, and he was sometimes a runaway under saddle, so afraid of pressure. Rhett was not an old horse, but displayed a lot of fear. Sometimes with huge horses, people change their voices, slip into this fake baritone, ‘hey big fella’ thing, but Rhett has been a little guy in a large body. Once he settled and connected, he revealed his superpower of empathy. Unlike the other horses, who reject weakness, Rhett would hang his head over the stall, to comfort a horse in need. We haven’t seen anything like it before or since. His gentle love has touched us all.  Rhett became family, cherished for himself. He has been with us for five years, and has become the ‘go to’ greeting horse for new arrivals. He leads a sub-band of paint mares, and together they can be moved anywhere, with any of our herds, as needed. He plays with the other geldings, he cuddles with every human, he watches his mares faithfully. He is maybe 15 or 16 years old now, still gorgeous.

I can see the shadow in his eyes now, a veil that is some pain, as we watch and draw out what days and weeks we are able….but he is living today. Living fully, with his family. And yes, it has occurred to me that he is better at this then I. His gift to us should be this simple lesson, but humans are stubborn and slow to learn.