A week ago today, my identity changed.
In a peaceful, wooded spot, surrounded by trees and dappled sun, I watched as the vet hooked up a catheter to Yale’s neck, then injected the serum that would end his life. His head lowered as I stroked him. It had already been low for the last few days, as he struggled and eventually gave up against a fatal tumor.
My handsome, strong boy wobbled on his feet, buckled his knees, stretched out on his side – and in a quiet few moments, he stopped breathing.
With that, I no longer owned two horses. Now I only own one.
Externally, there was always this little stutter when I would explain to others that I owned two horses. They would look at me – from battered clogs to discount haircut – and pause before saying, “Really?” or repeating, “You own two horses?” Depending on mood and time, sometimes I’d tell the story, and maybe I’d seem a little more like I fit my own mold by the time I got through it. Or maybe not, and that was fine, because the stutter was internal, too. Nelson and Yale, together, always seemed just a little unreal to me.
I’m not sure that identity is shaped by what we own.
I’m also not sure I ever really owned two horses. It was more of a partnership deal, a trade-off based on trust.
I feed you, you carry me. I clean up after you, you rest your head on my shoulder after a hard day of work. I brush you, you remind me how it feels to fly.
I let you go… and now it has been a week. I hit the ground running the next day, and didn’t stop until late last night.
There are so many other things I have to describe about this week of running into walls. We released a paper. I fired kilns. Frustrations brewed at meetings. Nelson joined a new herd. I made mistakes. I went to a Trump rally. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming.)
Yet none of these buzzing, fluttering happenings have changed who I am. They are simply the ways I have kept busy.
I’ve been around horses since I was ten years old. This was the first time I had to make the decision to end one’s life. It was also the first time I stood with a horse through the end. My close friends tell me that it was a blessing to be able to make the decision, before it was an inevitable, before his suffering was too much. Maybe it was.
I am different now, in ways that I haven’t found a way to explain yet. I haven’t told many others, and those I’ve told, I’ve been brief.
But I’ve been looking around me, watching people, thinking about how our identities change, over and over again, and how much of each others’ stories we miss.
Rest easy, my friend. Thanks for sharing my story for awhile.