I lay on the bed with Mum yesterday morning, having delivered her a cup of tea. We watched Tabitha play on the angora blanket my grandmother (her mother) gave me.
Gently, she told me that she had something to tell me, but that she wouldn't say it out loud if I didn't want to hear it. I knew it was my horse. I told her not to say anything. She would give me the details when I'm ready, she said. She said she couldn't tell me before it. And then, each day passed, and each day she found she couldn't tell me. She was right, it was better not-telling in person.
Later, I asked her where he is. Poplar, the paddock by the stream.
I deliberately haven't thought about it since. It is not brave. I am not brave.
In February, she told me his legs were bothering him and that a hard decision needed to be made. I said I understood, but I couldn't bring myself to say anything more. I couldn't bring myself to accept it, to be the one to say the word. It was not brave. I was not brave.
Throughout February, I ignored it. I should have booked a trip to say goodbye before the weather turned. I was busy, I told myself. I ignored it. It was not brave. I was not brave.
I think it was '97, when we bought him. I went to try him and fell a little bit in love. He was chestnut and enormous, with a round gait that required a different seat to that I was used to. We called and said thank you but no. By the end of the call, we'd agreed another trial time. That was it. He was ours.
I fell in love. We all did. We had many ponies and horses during our teenage years and I loved them all, but he was special. 16.3 hands high, gentle, striking, special. He was known all through the area. Small children used to come up to have a pat or ask for a quick ride. They bought him treats. He always, always did what I asked. With gentle grace and enormous effort. In return, he could use me as a post to scratch that spot on the base of his neck. Gently mouthe my ponytail with his whiskery lips. Rest his oversized head on my shoulder.
I moved to university. Eventually, reluctantly, Mum sold him. The caveat was that if the purchaser ever wanted to sell him again, or retire him, could she please call us first.
She sent us regular updates. Then she called. His legs meant he could no longer stand anything but a gentle hack. He retired to the farm. Every day, Mum took him a carrot. He was probably a little lonely, which breaks my heart just thinking about it. We brushed him and spoke to him and loved him and he stood on the top of the hill, master of all he surveyed.
Thank you Mum and Dad for all you did for him. You did it for me and I love you for it. I have had trouble saying this out loud. It is not brave. I am not brave.
He is gone. I miss him terribly. I wish I had been brave.