An email lay in wait for me yesterday, innocently resting in the Inbox.
Who'd know such a benign-looking title (something about pics that came from a cell phone) could hold such emotion for me.
Yes, they were of Shadow.
My dear Shadow...I think of him every day, I go to sleep each night imagining I am brushing him and tacking him up for a ride. I dream of him every night. The exact outline of his various color patches are engrained into my memory.
No wonder he won't slip away into other pastures where I could just forget about him.
He's just a horse. It's been two years since I left him. Why, oh why, is it so hard to let him go?
Oh, I am so happy for him, the home he has, the people who love him and work with him. He's 18 now, unbelievable to me that much time has gone by. We were partners for 12 years, the longest I ever owned a horse.
The pictures show him so well-cared for, a recent bath creating an unusual sheen on his brilliantly white coat. The text accompanying the photos tells of how much he is loved and how much he is teaching his rider. I'm so blessed to have been able to give him this home, when I could no longer ride or care for him.
But, oh, how seeing his photos breaks my poor, ol' heart. How I recall the days when I'd slip out to the barn in the twilight and together we'd ride through the rangelands, me bareback and he with only a halter on his head. Or I'd saddle him up and take a moonlight ride...or load him in the trailer to climb steep mountain trails or chase cattle to places they ought to be. How he did love to chase cows! Just writing about it brings a gulp to my lips, tears coursing down my cheeks, nose is dribbling and my throat is burning!
He's an English gentleman now, being ridden exclusively English. His tail carried a French braid in the photos yesterday. I don't mind...this indicates someone is loving him, and wanting to please his owner. That is good stuff.
Sometimes, I dream that when he is too old to ride, I will bring him up here to live out his years in my back 2 acres. But I have no hold on him now, and I can see that connection between his new owner and him, and besides, California is a lot nicer place to retire, with rich "parents" than up here in the poor Washington mountains.
I still wonder, though...
...does he ever think of me? Wonder where I went? Wonder if I'll come back? Remember those days as a ranch horse, sweat on his neck showing the honest day's work he'd done? No English saddle but a stock saddle, a chinks-clad rider, a rope at the horn, a trail to climb. Turned out with all the other ranch horses, bringing the whole herd to the gate when he heard my whistle.