General Non-Fiction posted January 5, 2012

This work has reached the exceptional level
a prince of a horse


by Writingfundimension

The first time I met George was the day he died. My friend, Catherine invited me to attend his wake. She'd arranged a glorious garden party to celebrate George's life before euthanizing and laying her horse to rest in the pasture where he'd spent the last seven years of his life.

I was not prepared for the size of George - his head towered over the top of mine and he had a well muscled, broad flank. He was dignified in his bearing and peace flowed from his eyes. He'd been through a lot in his younger years before finding refuge and love with Catherine. You could see that, too, in his eyes.

A few weeks prior to the wake/party he'd been diagnosed with advanced rectal cancer after months of suffering through tests, x-rays and long trips to equine centers. When the tumor finally manifested itself, it was past surgical treatment. Catherine was inconsolable and desperate to deny the diagnosis. But George's pain became unbearable for her, too, and so she had made the difficult decision to 'put him down'.

The wake took place on a hill overlooking the clear, aquamarine waters of Lake Michigan. Catherine led her horse from the adjoining pasture where he'd spent the morning with his horse buddy Patches. He walked slowly beside her through the carefully tended garden where roses filled the space with a rainbow of color and scents. The sky was robin egg blue and a light breeze helped keep the insects away.

Catherine's step-grandchildren, who adored George, took turns getting up on his back. The horse remained statue-still as if he knew he was king for the day and nickered occasionally when someone hugged his neck too long or too hard. A steady supply of carrots and apples kept him content for the hour it took for everyone to make their way past George, whisper in his ear and leave behind shed tears.

A bell tinkled and Catherine asked for a few minutes of silence, so we could pray for George and for her. She, then, spoke of how George had been the only unconditionally loving male she'd ever known. And during one of the darkest periods of her life, she would sit in the corner of George's stall, drinking wine and debating whether to take her life after a bitter, second divorce. In the end, her fear for what would happen to George if she wasn't around saved her life just as she'd once saved his.

Finally, she asked us all to surround George. A giant 'necklace' of roses was placed around his neck and we all smiled for the camera. Following a light lunch with cake and punch, the party broke up. I made my way down the gravel driveway moving slowly past George, who had been returned to the pasture, hoping my new hero would look up.  But he didn't. 

I knew the party was more for Catherine than George. And like the faithful, patient friend he'd always been, he played his part beautifully. Later, as evening came courting, underneath a stand of trees and with only Catherine and a veterinarian as witnesses, George was laid to rest. Patches nickered in the distance, and for days afterwards refused to eat. 

When Patches was finally allowed back into the part of the pasture where George was buried, he made his way directly to the grave of his buddy. Catherine and I cried as she told me the story of how Patches stood there motionless for a long time with his head hanging low and how much it reminded her of pictures she'd seen of soldiers standing guard at a fallen comrade's tomb.   


I admire horses from afar, having a great deal of respect for their size and power. Yet, I find myself endlessly fascinated by their beauty. George was not the most beautiful horse I'd ever seen - at least not on the outside. His spirit communicated with me that day and I, believe, blessed me.

Awesome artwork courtesy of belgrano: horses at night. Thanks!!
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