Saying Goodbye to a Friend

Danny had already scarfed down almost 2 pounds of juicy just-picked carrots. The last one was almost as thick as my fist. Expertly he cut it in half letting the saliva drip into the palm of my hand. Let’s be honest, drip makes it sound way too delicate…drooled was more like it. Yep, seemed like a normal day.

As I watched the carrot filled spit slip through my fingers, and heard the rhythmic, satisfying crunch made by those still powerful jaws, I tried to ignore the reality that my friend would soon be dead.

In the quiet of the barn on an early, cool and still autumn morning, I leaned against the stall door, with my shoulder near to his.

“You’re looking good this morning Danny,” I said, keeping my voice light. He always was a stunningly handsome fellow – even as his hindquarters started to shrink and his withers became more pronounced. He didn’t look like he was ready to die.

I started my mantra of giving thanks, for working with me day to day in that simple arena, for his companionship, for patience…but I had so much more to thank this old dressage master for.

I whispered in the quiet barn. You carried me as I waited alone and frightened on a sterile examining table, when the resident bolted from the room searching for a specialist to examine ‘something suspicious’. You carried me as I lay on the unyielding hospital bed tethered to the chemo bags, vulnerable, anxious and nauseous.

Remember when you piaffed for me? I was far too unskilled to request it, but my coach asked from the ground. You were well beyond your Prix St George glory days, but you obediently complied. Your suspension was still elastic, and I felt the thrill of your athleticism, still present in your elder years. Closing my eyes I relived the memory of that moment, the magic of your smooth movement, though clinic visits, through painful procedures and through panic. You carried me to calmness with your strength and grace.

Respect him always for what he has done for you, said my coach. Danny gave me far more than the basics of dressage. Don’t they all?

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