|Photo: Fran Hendershaw|
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
How Horses Mourn
The only kind thing was to let him go, and that is what Gwen regretfully did, loving her friend of 29 years more than fearing the grief that would engulf her as his spirit left him.
By the time Hayley was released from her prison, Bey had been laid to rest in a deep grave in the corner of a grassy paddock, gently placed next to Gwen's old Arab mare, Gracie, who had died only a few months after Hayley's arrival at the tranquil Harvard farmstead. All Hayley knew now was that Bey was missing, and she galloped wildly through every inch of the three fenced pastures, tossing her head and shrieking with fear and disbelief that she could not find him.
I arrived as darkness encompassed the barn and sensed that Hayley seemed distracted, but not yet fully resigned to the finality of having been left behind, and alone. She still seemed to have hope.
By today, something had shifted. Hayley's thick winter coat was drenched with sweat even as dusk's coolness came, and though she seemed more composed, I knew that she must have spent the day running her heart out. There was something about her tonight that brought all of the sadness of losing Bey back again, with full force. Her whole self seemed deflated of the joy of anticipation, and for many long minutes she did nothing but yawn and yawn and yawn, as if a terrible tiredness had settled in.
I wanted so much to protect Hayley, but not by pretending that her search would be fulfilled. With that thought in mind, I slowly opened the door to Bey's stall, and watched as Hayley strolled in, repeating a pattern I'd witnessed hundreds or thousands of times. We had so often found them huddled together in a place meant for one, preferring crowded camaraderie to the relative spaciousness of an unshared stall.
This time, Hayley strode in carefully, and silently snorted through every inch of the now vacant stall, poking under leftover hay strands with perked ears. But suddenly and in slow motion, she seemed to understand what I was trying to show her, and she ambled out of Bey's space with her head hanging down just as low as it would go.
Alone now in her own stall, Hayley sighed deeply, then nickered for dinner. She seems to know that her life will go on, but it will never be the same, for any of us.