I have been trying to wrap my head around this tragedy and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to come to terms with. My sweet, beautiful, wonderful mare isn’t here with me anymore and it just feels so wrong. We thought she was going to be okay. I thought we had averted the crisis, that she would heal up and we’d move to our new barn and I’d be able to ride her again. The vet that came out on Saturday did a bunch of flexion tests, manipulated all her joints, bent and stretched all her affected legs. We even asked if there was any fractures and he said he didn’t believe that was a concern. So I was prepared to treat it like any other superficial wound. Ricci was being kept in her stall so she could heal, we were going to take a short walk down the road to get her moving and help with the swelling. I gave her some bute, ran a brush over her and asked her to walk. She didn’t want to walk at first but I convinced her. By the time we had gotten out of the barn, she was walking beautifully, with only a slight limp. So Ricci and I walked down the road, stopped for some grass, sauntered along enjoying the early fall warmth. And then she tripped. She caught herself, but she didn’t want to move anymore. I figured she was sore and being a bit of a baby, so we made it a little ways to a nice patch of grass to take a break. She started munching her hay and as she munched, her back legs started to shake. Really shake. I asked her to move and she wouldn’t, I was afraid if I made her, she would fall down. I had no idea what was wrong with her. After a few minutes, it became clear it wasn’t getting better. So I had to leave her there and run back to the barn to get the barn owner. Of all the times for my phone to be dead. The barn owner comes out, she said that was how she was when she first tried to get her out of the pasture when she found her Friday evening. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew it was a big deal. I started calling the vet that saw her Saturday, leaving choked, sobbing, panicked messages on his voicemail. By the time he finally got back to me, I was in hysterics. Ricci was starting to eat less. She was standing there with her head low, her hind legs quaking, her abs were lifted, the muscles in her stomach, back and haunches hard, and she was sweating. I couldn’t even talk on the phone, I had to hand the phone to the barn owner to talk to him. I picked some apples from the nearby trees and fed them to her. I begged her to be okay. And we waited. I called my mom and she rushed out and we waited for what felt like an eternity for the on-call vet to arrive. When he finally arrived, he looked her over before asking her to move. My barn owner was holding Ricci, I was standing with my mom, alternating between getting it together and losing it completely. The vet pressed on her back left leg and she stumbled forward. She couldn’t hold herself up on her front legs alone so she crashed to the ground in a heap, back legs sprawled out behind her and to the side. The vet said it was very clear her femur was broken, we needed to keep her calm and put her down. It all happened so fast. I launched myself at her as she managed to heave herself over onto her side. I don’t know how I managed to stop sobbing long enough to focus but I pulled myself together for her. I laid by her neck, rubbing her face, whispering into her ears and crying onto her cheek. It took awhile for the sedative to take affect and even longer for the fatal drugs to work. I laid down next to her and getting up and leaving was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. To leave my beautiful girl laying there, to know I’d never see her again, it was shattering.
You know that moment in the movies where someone just gives a collapsing sob. It’s loud and heart-wrenching and it almost doesn’t seem like it could be real. Well I can assure you it is. Everything happened so fast and luckily it is pretty blurry, but I remember her falling and I sobbed. I remember the vet saying her femur was broken and I sobbed. If I was standing alone, I think I would have fallen down.
People seldom get it when I say Ricci was my soulmate. She was my heart-horse, she was my favorite and most beloved possession, my favorite being. I love my cats and I’ll be devastated when their time comes, but it’s a different connection. Ricci was everything to me. She was my heart and soul in a way I could never explain. There were more songs playing on the radio that made me think of her than of any person. I found Ricci right out of high school. Her previous owner hired me to ride her, get her in shape and tune her up to be sold. I rode her all summer and oddly, I did not like her when I first started working with her. I don’t even remember why. But all of a sudden, when her owner wanted her sold, I couldn’t let her go. I paid a small fortune for her. I learned how to ride on her. Yeah, sure, I had been taking lessons but I didn’t figure things out until Ricci. She was the perfect partner. She was a joy to ride, you had to work for what you wanted, she didn’t just hand it to you, but she was a willing partner and she would do anything for me. We raced up and down the trails, she jumped any tree I pointed her at, she was perfect. I could throw a six year old on her, feet not even in the stirrups, and she’d listen to that kid. Walk, stop, turn. She was a saint. Worth her weight in gold. I can’t tell you how fun she was. I would ride her bareback and in a halter down the road to the coffee stand for a chai. I could ride her walk, trot and canter in the pasture without touching the reins, controlling her with only my core and seat. We could canter a circle, come down to a trot, change direction, and canter a circle in the other direction. I remember riding her bareback and double with a friend who was pretty nervous and she was solid. She saw a plastic bag on the side of the road, she thought it was terrifying but Ricci was so amazing, she just looked at it and trembled as we walked by. She rarely spooked at anything and it on the rare occasion she did, she was so easy to bring back to you. Ricci could sit in the pasture for months and I could throw her bridle on and ride her bareback down the road, cars and trucks driving right by us and she wouldn’t bat an eye. You were safe with Ricci. Even when she was falling, you could tell she was trying desperately to not knock into anyone. There’s no way I can ever express how lucky I got with her. It was foolish to buy a horse right out of high school, for that much money, but I got the best horse. I wouldn’t trade a single moment of it. I would have lived in my car before I would have sold her.
I got so lucky with her passing too. As traumatic and terrifying as it was, I got lucky. I have no guilt, there was nothing I could have done differently, it wasn’t my fault. The vet believes her femur had fractured on Friday, it’s either what caused her to fall and bang herself up or she fractured it when she was trying to get herself up. He said that with older horses, their bones just become more fragile. She was a tough, tough mare, I’m surprised she was able to act so cheerfully. And I am so, so grateful that it happened with me there. It wasn’t in her stall overnight and alone, I was there and I was able to end her pain as quickly as possible. I can’t pretend she wasn’t in extreme pain her last couple hours but it was over as soon as it could be. Until she fell, she was standing there and trying to be so strong. She was interactive, she nuzzled me, she was amazing and impressive in her stoic resolve to keep herself together.
Dealing with her loss has been very difficult. I cried more than I’ve ever cried before, even the bridge of my nose was swollen and puffy. I could barely sleep and it took all of my strength to get out of bed. It comes and goes in waves. I’ll feel almost partially okay and then I’ll lose it again. The smallest things have been sending me into tears. Like after I got out of the shower and cleaned my ears with a Q-Tip, it was dirty, like it always is when I leave the barn. And I won’t have to clean dirt out of my ears for a very long time. My sweatshirt smells like her and everytime I bring my hand up to wipe my eyes, I breathe her in and it guts me. I cut a lock of her mane on Sunday and I haven’t been able to let go of it. I slept with it clutched in my hands. I’m going to have to mail it to the woman who is going to make my keepsake ring and I have no idea how I’m going to let this last piece of her go. Even though I know I’ll get it back in a beautiful way, I’m terrified to put it in an envelope and mail it. I have to go back to work tomorrow and I don’t know how I’ll get through it. I’m going to have to go back to the barn and get Ricci’s things eventually. I’m going to have to pick up the pieces and keep moving and it’s so daunting. I feel like my world stopped. People have expressed their heartfelt condolensces and I have no idea what to even say. I can’t pretend I’m all right. I won’t be all right for a long time. And oh how I miss her.
Rest in peace, my love. My heart will ache for you until we meet again. You were the best damn horse, I have no idea how I got so lucky. I will never forget you, I will remember everything you taught me, and I will miss you every day for the rest of my life. Long live, Ricci love. <3
“Will you take a moment, promise me this. That you’ll stand by me forever, but if god forbid fate should step in, and force us into a goodbye… if you have children some day, when they point to the pictures, please tell them my name. Long live the walls we crashed through, I had the time of my life with you. Long, long live the walls we crashed through, how the kingdom lights shined just for me and you. And I was screaming long live all the magic we made. And bring on all the pretenders, I’m not afraid. Singing long live all the mountains we moved, I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you. And long, long live the look on your face. And bring on all the pretenders, one day, we will be remembered.”