I recant my opening from my last blog. Colic is not the worst 5 letter word I know. Grief, tops it, by far.
This is the third morning since Monday's call to put an end to my horse's life. What is becoming clearer to me it that the things that happened in and around that event and subsequent call and decision, were in a dream like distortion of time, place, and reality, a mere following of the flow.
There was a separateness to the happenings, am impersonality, and abstraction. Now there is a crystal clear fact staring me flat in the face. It is every where I turn and in every thing I think and do. That wonderful spirit, that incredible personality that was embodied in that magnificent horse that was Atlas,is, absolutely,and undeniably, dead and gone. He will whinny to greet me no more, forever.
From my experiences with death before, I do know the process of healing. Time does heal but with trade offs. It steals and erases the memories. They go away, become foggy, until they are loaded far in the back of the recesses of my brain and far from the sensors of my heart. It is this, that I am rebelling against in my pain of the current moment. I do not want to forget this horse. I feel a desperation to write about him and remember all the images I can before distractions of daily life take them from me and leave me forever forgetting the details of my relationship with this wonderful animal.
Atlas was born in a dressage ring. His dam, Robijn, was always a sneaky one for not giving clues of impending delivery of her foals. This arrival was no exception and Atlas was delivered a bit early, at the letter C in my arena late one night in May. My first impression of him was of his ears. The tops of them hooked strongly inward towards each other like the cartoon version of the devil, perked forward giving an extra amount of curiosity and interest in what he was looking at. Then there was his face. Large brown eyes separated by a large star between them on a slightly rounded forehead. Then the white continued as a stripe down his nose and spread around his nostrils and mouth. He was a bright chestnut red with 4 white feet and socks.
Atlas was the prettiest foal I had every seen and he never took an ugly moment in his life, awkward at a brief moment of adolescence perhaps but never anything but handsome. He held himself in a regal posture at all times and picked his feet up with no impression of gravity having any hold over them. The sheer joy I felt as I watched him move with grace and power around the pasture was like being drenched in spring sunshine after a brutal winter.
Now when I walk to the barn to feed the other horses, there is no lovely boy to trot up to the fence to greet me. His bridle hanging in the tack room still has a little clover leaf on it, from our last walk to the pond dam for his last graze after our final, incredible ride on Friday. The stark, brutal finality of this reality and emptiness is nauseatingly sobering.
The vet who performed the surgery sent me, at my request, a lock of Atlas's tail, a thick long braid still holding bits of the wood shavings he laid on in his last painful hours. It is both a source of intense pain to look at and hold and is also the only remaining connection I have to the physical reality of that horse ever having been here. There are videos of him that I will look at when the memory starts to fade and I need to see him again, a pitiful and poor substitute for the real thing.
The questions began yesterday, the second guessing about what might have been had I done this or that. What clues did I miss that might have averted this evil course that fates took us on. What were the signs I just didn't see until too late? It is this attempt of cold anaylization of an emotional and horrific event, that as tho by my doing so, I can magically turn the clocks back to the golden rays of sun on Friday and bring back my friend Atlas.
I did force myself to ride my two mares on Tuesday and felt such guilt and intense pain at the thought of my ruining the last remaining foot prints from my last ride on Atlas. There on the sand lay the evidence of that ride, the lateral work, so easy for him, our path that day laid out like words in a book. I cried as I rode them, trying to enjoy the moment with them and was not able to. I will try to again today. Perhaps it will be easier, but I have doubts before I attempt it.
There will be, forever etched in my mind and heart, the magic of that last ride I had with Atlas. That day his ease and ability and willingness to try raised a bar of expectation that I don't know will ever replicated or surpassed, a benchmark of excellence. My image, too, is that of after our ride, standing in the barn aisle, him untacked, no halter holding him there, the sun shining on his smooth coat and him looking gently back at me while I brushed his back. Engaged and content, it was a blithe moment of two friend of different species, who shared it together.