Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Horse Tails - End


     Rodger found the flag holsters for our saddles as well as the flags.  Up until then we had practiced just with the horses, to keep the same pace and uniformity.  We had that down and we were feeling quite good about ourselves.  The vests and horse pads were almost ready and with horse show season as well as Fair time coming up we were getting excited about being able to do the Color Guard for the beginning of those events.  Note:  that we never thought we wouldn't get to do this.  

     Spring in Antioch is quite windy and this day was no exception.  Becky wasn't able to work with us this day on her horse Whisky so David's sister was going to substitute for fun with us.  There were a few other kids on horses in the arena along with us,  just having a good time riding.  Rodger had already placed the holster on our saddles where it would hang down from the saddle horn by the right side of the saddle next to your leg.  David was on his horse walking around with the flag waving in the wind.  His horse didn't seem to mind.  Of course he noted that you don't want the flag flapping in your face.  He was laughing and excited about the whole deal carry the flag.  This will take a bit of learning on our part holding the flag with one hand and reins in the other, that when standing in place it would be a good to hold the flag against the pole with your right hand.   

     My Duke and I are all ready to give it a try.  Duke is the kind of horse you call "bomb proof".   He doesn't get nervous or do stupid things like some spirited horses can do.  I can walk behind and under him with never a worry of getting kicked.  He just isn't that kind of horse.  He is the perfect kid horse.    In my mind he is the best horse in the whole world whom I love with all my heart.  


     Tragedy comes to each of us and we are never aware or prepared for it's arrival.  A day will begin just as any other day.  You rise, eat breakfast, dress and do whatever your day will be.  And that was how my day was until it ended in that one moment of disbelief. 

     I can hear Rodger talking to me about holding the flag.  I am standing next to Duke not up on him.  I have split reins and one is up around his neck and the other is down.  What I don't remember is why I was not on him when we put the flag in the holster.  Why did we do it this way?  Rodger had suggested I walk Duke and he would hold the flag for Duke to get use to before I was on him.  What I remember is the flag flapping with Rodger holding the pole straight up and I was next to him.  We had started walking,  then with out any warning Duke took off running, the reins jerked from my hands.  Just like that.  I can hear myself yelling to him "Whoa, whoa!".  Yelling is name "Duke!"  I was running after him wanting him to stop.   That horse of mine was running with the flag still in the holster dragging next to him.  He was running in fear and I was as afraid as he was.  

     Then Duke did the next thing he had never done.  He tried to jump the arena fence.  The tall arena fence that was sturdy and strong.  The height of which to climb you go up four rails till you reach the top.  My eyes saw him try to clear it but Duke was not a jumper, he wasn't a big horse and he had that flag dragging in the dirt.  I can see him in my mind making the jump.  Though he made it over my thoughts next were, will he stop running?  Will he keep running and why won't the flag pole drop?

     I ran to the arena gate and swung it open.  Dub and Ilene's barn is right there near the gate with the one lane drive that leads around the fairgrounds.   There was Duke,  stopped and I was so overcome by this crazy thing he had done that I ran to him as he stood there and it was then I noticed his trembling.  I noticed his hind leg that he would not bear weight on.  I saw the blood running down that leg he held up, cocked on the tip of his hoof.   I ran to him my arms flung round his neck the tears flowing.  I never saw Dub come to me and was looking Duke over.  I never heard a sound but my own cry and the burning tears blinding my eyes.  

    Dub. Dear, sweet man,  Dub.  He gets his truck and hooks the horse trailer up.  He unsaddles Duke and gets a halter on him.  He somehow gets me to let go of my horse and load him in the trailer.  Ilene was next to me, arms around my shoulders letting me weep and cry.   I remember Dub telling us that he would go to Davis to the Veterinary School.  I am reassured as I have heard they are the best for taking care of horses.  I watched that trailer take my horse for as long as I could.

     My mom came to pick me up, at sometime Ilene must have called her.   She drives me to the doctor's office that she works at and gets me in a room.  I don't think my mom knew what to do for me.  This was not a situation she was prepared for to see her daughter so upset and unconsolable.    The Doctor came in and it was discussed that she could leave early.  We went home and I buried myself in my bed.  Alone as the day became night, crying, just crying.  At some time the door opened in the dark,  letting a shaft of light in.  My mom came to my bed to tell me that Dub had called.   It was not good.  Duke had shattered his hind leg in the jump and there was nothing that could be done.  My Duke was gone.  My dearest friend in this awful life of mine was gone.   I know my mom must have touched me or stroked my back but she was gone before I felt the relief that I longed for.  The darkness and at last sleep came upon me.

     It was weeks before I would go back to the barn and see my friends.  See Duke's empty stall, his saddle and bridle, halter and all the memories flashing in my head day after day.  I kept the shirt I wore that day with the blood on it, his blood.  I hid it, I didn't want to have it washed clean, I wanted to have something that was of him with me.

     Everyone was kind and caring.  Telling me all the right things to say to someone who has lost their horse.  I sat with Ilene in the office for awhile till I felt I needed to leave.  Dub was not there, he was truck driving cross country for the week.  I was never told I needed to remove my tack.  Everything was the same there in the barn.  It was only Duke gone and my insides twisted and torn.

     The Color Guard group went on.  A young girl named Ann on her pretty Appaloosa took my place.   She was a sweet girl who had been quite upset over the accident.  I have a snapshot in my head of the four of them all dressed in our uniforms, the horses with the fancy saddle pads, fluttering silver and black as they walked.  They looked good.  I never see myself in that picture.  It was over and it was the end.


Thoughts of an Engineer said...

This very sad ending brings tears to my eyes. I hurt for your loss ... some 30+ years later. Gene

Ms. Moon said...

That is a story of life-long grief. Heartbreaking.

Ellen said...

Grief profoundly felt..and Mary it is a life long one. That horse meant the world to me and was my saving grace at that particular time in my life. in college never really knowing what life was in that town or at home. I often wished it was I Colorado away...


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