Regular readers may remember Jordan, the 31-year-old Thoroughbred cross that my dad bought as his first horse, who wrought a path of chaos and destruction across two countries during the 25 years that he was part of my family.
I really believed that Jordan was going to keep going forever. He was, for some reason, a great favourite on the yard despite his many and varied quirky habits (dragging the girls to and from the field; wandering across the Forbidden Lawn; helping himself to the yard owner’s beautifully tended flower boxes; refusing to eat anything but compressed meadow hay that I had to buy specially, at great expense, on a bi-weekly basis).
It came as a shock, then, when we got the vet out to check him over after he dropped a little weight.
“I’m sorry, Anna. It’s not good news.”
Over the last few years, Jordan has had two bouts of colic. Each time, I told the vet that I trusted her to tell me when it was his time. Each time, he bounced back (“He’s very feisty, isn’t he?” said the vet, as Jordan nearly took her arm off when she intubated him.) This time, it was different. His kidneys were beginning to fail.
“It’s time to say goodbye to him, isn’t it?” I asked.
A little more time?
There is a highly invasive treatment available that may possibly have bought him a little more time, but I don’t want that for him. Our horses give us so much; in return, I think we have a duty to make the right decision at the end of their lives, no matter how hard it is.
“Yes, I think it is. I’m so sorry not to have better news for you,” agrees the vet.
My heart breaks.
Aside from a little weight loss coming out of winter, Jordan is completely himself. I ask Zoe, our unfailingly kind vet, if it would be unkind to take him out for a last walk on the Epsom Downs under saddle; she says that she thinks he would enjoy that very much, and that he will let me know if he isn’t happy.
It is the most beautiful morning; the first day where it feels that Spring is really on its way. The sun is warm and the first hint of blossom is showing on the trees.
Jordan strides along, while his buddy Finn has to jog to keep up. I FaceTime my dad as we ride through the woods so he can see the view from behind Jordan’s furry ears, and manage not to drop my phone as he spooks sideways at a jogger and threatens to reverse down a bank.
It brings back memories of a hack with my dad six months earlier: me on Owen and him on Jordan (combined age of nearly 100!), cantering up a hill, slightly breathless with exhilaration and with delighted grins on our faces.
Goodbye, old friend
A week later, it is time to say goodbye. It is another beautiful day, and Jordan is beautifully plaited with oiled hooves.
As I bring him out of his box, he promptly drags me across the lawn – I think he thinks he’s going to a show.
We take him to a quiet patch of grass, and he grazes while the birds sing. He lays down, and I sit with him until he is gone.
I thank him for the good times, and the funny times, and the embarrassing times, and the completely-bloody-awful times, and then I give him a last kiss on the nose.
Goodbye, old friend – I will treasure the memories, and I’m fortunate that you touched/endangered my life for so many years.