This is a couple weeks after the fact. I sort of feel hollow, a little blank, whenever I think about it. I’m not sad, not exactly. I am grieving, which it turns out isn’t always the same thing.
Victor died because he was old and sick and, at last, just too tired to go on. He lived with Cushing’s Syndrome and foundered hooves that looked like they had been formed from slowly cooling waves of lava, rippled and misshapen. He lived that way for years because he was too ornery to die. So we kept him going, with supplements and special feed and not pain medication because his kidneys tried to fail. In the last couple years, he even improved, hooves growing true again and eating with gusto. Horrid looking, but not going anywhere. There was absolutely no reason why he should have stayed alive as long as he did, but he just kept hanging in there. Until he didn’t.
He was born here, three years before I was, and he, like most of our horses, would have gone to the track to try his luck there. Except my mother started training him and saw how he could jump and claimed him for her own. He was spectacularly talented and revoltingly intelligent. The stories about him primarily center around smart-ass trainers, giving lessons to my mother, trying to get Victor in trouble–higher jumps, more complicated lines. No human ever outsmarted him. His partnership with her was like what you see in fiction–two people (detectives, twins, things that come in pairs or not at all) so totally in tune with each other, it’s like they’re one mind.
He was not the first horse I sat on, but he was the first horse I learned to ride, flopping around on a saddle with Victor on a lunge line. Horses are one of those rare animals that you can spend all of your adult life with. Twenty-nine years for my mother. All of my life. There was never a day when he wasn’t there.
Now I can’t figure out how to mourn for him because I just don’t recognize life without him. Routine is where grief waits: the hundred moments in a day when you think of someone and remember. You remember they won’t be where you look for them, they won’t need you to take care of them, they won’t happen this day or any other.
If there is such a thing as a good death, Victor’s was one. He died because it was time, because all things do, eventually. After losing so many young horses in the past few years to sudden, horrific illnesses, I thought, let there just be one who is old and done. That will be easier.