I poured the hot water over the feed in the bucket. The steam rose up bringing with it the all too familiar smell of alfalfa, grains and molasses. I carried the soaking mixture to the barn and began to prepare Shira’s stall for the night. Fresh water, feed hung up in the corner, and a rack of fresh sweet smelling hay were all in place. Reaching for her worn leather halter I ran my finger over the aged brass name plate. “Jubilee’s Song” it read with her nickname below “Shira”. I smiled as I recalled the moment that I first saw her 23 years before. I had spent 10 nights sleeping in a barn waiting for her to be born. I was very disappointed that she was a filly and a spotless appaloosa. I believe I had drawn too many pictures in my mind of a sweet, leggy colt with a full hip blanket of snowy spots that I was certain would be born. It was a shock to see this tiny red chestnut filly with ears curled at the tips. An hour later she slept with her head in my lap and I gently stoked her face and thought, “Well, she is kinda cute.”
We traveled many highs and lows together over the next two decades. She became my trail companion and I spent many happy hours in the saddle memorizing the outline of the sunset on the sweet curve of her ears. Oh, and the spots. They finally appeared, slowly a handful at a time. Her coat darkened to a liver chestnut each spring and a new harvest of white snowflake spots would dot the landscape of her short body.
Drawing myself out of my daydreams I set out to bring Shira in for dinner. Normally she would be nickering at gate already. Where was she?
In shock I saw her, head down, sides heaving as she fought to draw a breath. My heart sank as I felt the ground giving way under way around me. I attempted to quickly evaluate her symptoms. She had been struggling with symptoms of Cushing’s Syndrome for a while. We had begun, just the day before, a medication that seemed promising. I thought it may give us a few more happy years together. Her present symptoms appeared to be respiratory distress and a colic brought on by the stress. There was suffering in her eyes. I believe in that moment I knew she said, “I’m done.” I called my husband to help me, to hold me up.
I sobbed as I called the vet. I explained the situation, and through my tears explained that we most likely needed to put her down. It felt like only minutes until the vet truck pulled into the driveway. I did not know this vet who was on call. However, I felt calm in her evaluation. She listened and agreed that anything that we could do that night would only be a bandaid to Shira’s condition. I made the decision to put her to sleep. Shira was in distress and we gave her a sedative to help her relax. We walked her into the pasture near her equine companion Zee. My family had arrived and I had renewed strength from their presence.
I calmly held Shira’s head, hand on the brass nameplate, I kissed her muzzle and wiped my tears in her mane. I told her we would go for one last ride, along the way the scenery would be spectacular. I told her to run free with her Momma and that I would remember her forever. She was gone in an instant. I slipped her head from the halter and let her go.
Now that she was no longer suffering I said my real goodbye. I stayed with her stroking her smooth neck beneath her short mane. It felt warm, familiar and I did not want to leave. The barn cat curled up in the small of her back. Her only pasture mate, Zee, came over, walked to Shira’s muzzle and stood for a few minutes breathing in and out seeking the returning breath that was not there. She was calm and upon receiving her own answer to the questioning breaths Zee touched her muzzle one last time, sighed and walked away.
I traced the outline of her ears once more and our last moments together were ended. I left a part of my heart there on the field, in the moonlight. As I entered the barn I found the untouched feed fully soaked now, still in the bucket. I scattered it for the chickens.
Heading home my eyes were still stinging with tears. I thanked God for the strength to make the best decision for Shira that night. I thanked him for the days of my childhood spent with Shira’s mother. I praised His wisdom for sending me the perfect Appaloosa filly, that March morning 23 years ago, who became a lifelong friend.
God for the good day
God for the bad day
God for the pleasure
God for the pain
God for the rain
God when our barns are empty
and when they are full again. – Irish Blessing
March 29, 1993 – March 19, 2016
Christmas Jubilee “Silly Filly” X Mr. Ben CoDea
I am forever grateful for the men in my life, my loving husband, also my Daddy who always dreamed horse dreams with me and I am ever grateful for my son. I thank them for being there for the tough stuff in life that I can not handle. For always being a rock and strength for me when I am not strong.
I am grateful that my daughter, Meg, grew up always having Shira around. Shira was like a first child of sorts. I am so glad that Meg and I shared happy moments caring for and riding Shira together. Thank you to my Mom, the non horsey Mom, that wholeheartedly followed me to horse shows, mucked stalls, boarded my horses, slept at the barn with me and was there when Shira was born.
Thank you to the many, many friends who had a part in our story. Friends who boarded her, parents who kept her at home, girls that grew up at the barn with me and to Lynn and John who watched over her while we lived a year in England, thank you for all of these sweet memories.
Praising Always the Creator of these Magnificent Equine Creatures,