So far, the last two weeks haven’t been great.
Two weeks ago, our barn lost a long-time lesson horse and an old friend of mine. It was the definition of a tragic pasture accident, and there was never any questioning what choice had to be made. Mighty was the horse who taught me how to jump, and, really, how to ride. He taught countless beginners to be determined, persistent, and accurate. He wasn’t always cheerful — okay, he was a straight up grump — but if you rode him right he’d do everything you wanted. Mighty was the perfect herd boss and firmly yet kindly taught every new horse in his pasture the right way to behave. When a friend’s retired 30 year old gelding moved in with him, Mighty would shelter Ashton during feeding time and forgo his own food until Ashton was done. Then Mighty would happily kick all the other geldings off the remaining piles to get his fair share. He was the poster boy for solid citizen, with just a few days here and there when he tried to ditch a beginner after getting thoroughly fed up with him.
This weekend, one of my trainer’s first students lost her first horse. This student took her horse T with her to college, competed him through prelim, and retired him when he told her he couldn’t compete any longer. In a cruel twist of fate that was no human’s fault, T’s retirement was far too short. He deserved longer, but at least he is now at peace.
And then Tuesday morning I found our barn cat dying on the barn aisle floor. Noel was gasping for breath, and I ran to get our barn manager, and the two of us comforted her while she breathed her last. Something went horribly wrong inside Noel in the last few days and she never let us know.
Noel was one hell of a barn presence. Everybody moved around her, because she absolutely was not going to move for you. Cars, horses, dogs, the tractor — all yielded to her superior willpower. One of my favourite games was letting Murray sniff her and blow air through her fur on our way out to the arena. It was a test of patience — Murray typically had more curiosity than Noel had patience — and I was always waiting for the moment she would tell him enough was enough. Instead, she just rolled her eyes and moved away from the giant blowing thing and flopped down somewhere else.
I’m not sure Noel ever caught a mouse, or even scared any away. When she arrived seven or eight years ago we thought she was pregnant. So we waited for the kittens. And waited. And waited. And seven weeks later there were still no kittens and Noel showed no sign of getting bigger or smaller. And she never did. She pretended to be pregnant for the rest of her time with us. We will miss her, the tick, our little lion heart.
We buried her behind my garden and I’ll plant some flowers later this week.
So if you’re paying attention, universe, we’re done for a while.