Love, Horses & Growth

by Katie Bowdring
British Columbia, Canada
genre: General

She bound towards me through the fields as she had for so many years in her youth, a shining beauty, hair flowing with gold, sparkling in the Sun. She'd bore seven foals, lucky number 7, each going on to win races that made my husband and I Proud and wealthy enough to buy the ranch. Lazy Days was no average horse and no old nag either; even after all these years, she was magic.

We started our life together 24 years ago. At age 26, after a long period of trying and painfully failing over and over to have a child together, my husband gifted her to me; she was a life-changing surprise. Who would have known how she'd help me through a world of pain, Me, the youngest of 4 daughters, the 'weak one.' From my struggle with stillbirths and more miscarriages, to my husband's terminal cancer diagnosis and miraculous recovery. Lazy Days quickly became my distraction, my reason to get out of bed, my replacement child, my heart on earth.

The Day we decided to breed her was also the Day we decided to stop trying for our own child. I cried for us both, and later, when Dr. Dermot said she was pregnant, I cried again, this time with a tempered joy. Her babies were my babies, she was my best friend, and together we've grown up side by side. Each Day we'd watched the sunrise and set together, growing older every Day, together bound by joy and sadness, I leaned on her for strength.

The last days of summer were upon us, we were both a little greyer and a little slower, but today she ran the fields like a foal again; she had a brush with youthful herself as though she was made anew. My heart burst with pure joy as I watched her frolic, the Sun low in the sky behind her.

It was past dinner, and I was washing up in the kitchen when my husband, Kent, returned from the stables. "Susanna, you need to go see LD, she's breathing heavily, and I don't think she's eaten anything today."

My heart stopped. I clung to the dishrag, trying to hold on to a moment, the one before I knew my life would change forever. I gathered myself and turned to Kent, "Can you call the Dr. and ask him to come in the morning?"

"Tomorrow?" He asked, puzzled.

"Yes, tomorrow," I turned on my heels and walked calmly out the front door, across the yard, towards the barn. When I was sure Kent could no longer hear my boot heels on the paved path, I ran like I hadn't in so many years.

Once I reach the stables, I can see her lying down on her side in her stall. The tears come again. 'I needed to be strong for her,' I told myself, breathe, and stepped into her stall. I put my hands on her, then knelt down beside her, and tried to wrap her in my arms. Lazy Day raises her head slightly to meet my hand as I stroke her nose, but her body bucks; I whisper to calm her, my voice relaxing her. She wasn't going to be alone tonight, she had gotten me through the worst days of my life, and now it was my turn to be there for her.

I eased myself against her chest and neck. I combed her mane with my fingers as I'd done for more than 24 years, and in hushed voices, we remembered better days, I laughed, I cried, and we remembered. As the sun began to rise, her breathing slowed, and in the calming coolness of the early morning, I drifted off to sleep. I dreamt we were walking down a long white sand beach into a fiery sunset, my heart felt pure unadulterated, child-like joy.

Kent woke me with gentle words, "She's gone my love, the doctor came, but I sent him away," he repeated as I came to, "Sweetheart, she's gone."

I kissed her one last time, Kent helping me to my feet and wrapping me in a blanket he'd brought from the house, "Come inside, and I'll make you a coffee." With his arm around me, he led me to the house. As I walked, I wept in his arms.

That evening we sat together, watching the last Sun of the summer as it glowed over the west field. "Thank you," I said to Kent, "You gave me the greatest gift anyone could ask for." Smiling, he held me as tight as he could, "anything for my girl."

I wondered how I'll survive alone, Kent's cancer was back, and he'd be leaving me soon. I was stronger with the experience of their love, and I'd stay here on the ranch alone, until it was my turn to go.

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