The Very Old Teach Us Kindness
by Kim Roe
Human, dog, cat, or horse, old age brings with it wisdom and grace. Old horses seem to become more honorable and proud—even when they’re ornery! They hold a special place of esteem in the herd and also with me.
I remember when my childhood mare had grown old, the young horses in the herd would move out of her way as she approached the water trough or a pile of hay. She was stiff and slow, and I’m sure the yearlings and 2-year-olds she lived with could have tormented her, but instead they scattered when she flicked an ear or swished her tail at them. This mare raised a few foals in her life, and put up with me throughout my childhood. I started riding her when she was three, and I was only six. She deserved the respect the herd gave her.
When the old mare died, I was away at college. I remember my mother calling to let me know. I think back now to how her passing barely registered with me. I was at a self-centered stage in my life, but as I grow older, and lose more and more animals to old age, each passing hits me harder until I can barely stand it.
Over the last few years I’ve lost two of my senior horses, two old dogs, and two old cats. I still have one old gelding, Beowulf, who is 27. He is a large warmblood and has never been “tough,” yet he is doing well and is in good health. He lost his best friend, my beloved Turaghan, this last summer. I’ve watched him grieve over this loss, yet he continues on with that special old-horse grace. He gives me comfort, and I give it back to him.
Wulf has become more and more dear to me. I love this time with a horse—when we no longer put the demands of training or competing on them and just enjoy our time together. It changes our relationship with them, and it makes us better people. To give good care to our senior horses (or dogs, cats, or people) makes us better human beings. And that is their gift back to us.
Enjoy our Senior Horse Issue. Choosing the photo contest winners was not easy. They are all winners! You can see them on page 6.
Please contact me with your stories and comments. I love to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org.