On January 1, we said goodbye to an old and very dear friend. His name was Tucker, an American Quarter Horse, a few months short of 30 years old. He belonged to my younger daughter Elizabeth, though he had lived in my barn for twenty years. His stall mate, in the past year, had become a funny groundhog we nicknamed Steve.
My Arabian mare, Ariel, (named for the Shakespearean character not Disney’s) died the week after my husband did in 2017. She, also, was nearing 30. I’ve always felt that I never allotted her death the proper amount of sorrow because my heart was already broken and hearts can only be shattered into so many pieces.
Tucker’s death arrived as we had begun to heal. We knew it was coming – all the signs were there. He had begun to slow down and lose weight. The hot summers weighed on him and the winters treated him brutally. I’d begun to hope that he would die in a sweet September field of tall grass, with the leaves newly turning and the sun shining down to warm him. Instead, death came on New Year’s Day as temperatures dipped and winds lashed around the barn.
He was never a horse to complain. Tucker didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He was beautiful, patient, and kind – a proper gentleman – who greeted any visitor politely and treated any rider with respect. I will miss his white blaze above the stall door waiting for breakfast each morning. Elizabeth credited him with “singing the song of his people” to her the night before he died; Tucker was cheerful until the very last.
It’s the end of an era for us. The final horse at a farm where there have been horses since I was a child. I’m glad this last one was the perfect horse – one that all of us remember with real affectation. I don’t believe that anyone who hasn’t owned a horse truly understands the bond that forges between it and its owner. Be free, Tucker!! Gallop the hills and valleys of heaven and hunt for that little bay Arabian you were so fond of! I’m sure she’s been missing you!