I want to tell you my story. Not so you can feel sorry for me, no, but so you can catch a small glimpse of my history and know how lucky I am. I’ve lived in many different homes, but my last home I thought would be my forever home. I was loved on every day by an adorable little girl, Lori. I think she was 10 or 11-years-old, and she was the most adorable little girl you’d have ever met. I knew she would never hurt me and I knew I would never hurt her. For over a year, Lori took great care of me and even though my Lori couldn’t ride me, I knew we would always be together.
Lori was so excited when she told me her dad agreed to pay for riding lessons for her. I’d never met her dad, but he must have been such a wonderful person. My girl didn’t have as much time for me, she seemed to be so busy with school and her riding lessons, but she gave me food and checked my water every day, and once or twice a week she would spend some time with me. She was so excited about her riding lessons, and told me all about the new horses she was spending time with. I knew better than to be jealous, how could I be jealous of my girl being happy?
One day a horse trailer pulled into the yard and two men I didn’t know stepped out. They unloaded a horse, a gorgeous gelding if I ever saw one, and I got so excited; would I finally have a horse friend? “Lori is going to be so excited!” I heard the younger man exclaim. “I’d do anything for my little girl and I know she’s going to win all the ribbons this year.”
Winning ribbons? Was Lori good enough to start winning events? She must have been doing so much better than I could ever imagine! I remember in my younger days when I would compete at events…
“What are you goin’ to do with that old nag?” the driver of the truck asked. “Doesn’t even look like she can walk.” It was true, I was limping these days from an old injury that just kept hurting, but my Lori never seemed to notice.
“I reckon she’ll be good for nothin’ now, how much you give me for her?” Lori’s dad asked.
I whinnied nervously. I was hoping they weren’t talking about me, but I knew better; I was the only other horse on the property.
“Give you? I ought’a charge you for haulin’ her off. Tell you what, if I can have her, I’ll not charge you for the gas.”
As I watched my forever home disappear behind the hill, I had a sinking feeling in my heart. Somehow I knew I’d never see my Lori again. I knew life would be changed forever.
I was unloaded into a pen with over 20 other horses. There were a couple aggressive horses keeping us older horses away from the hay pile, not that the hay pile was worth eating, it was a nasty bale that had more weeds than grass in it. I wondered how long I would be here, waiting for a chance to eat a little something. I tried to help a young foal find a bit to eat, but the other horses kept him away from the food too.
“Get on up!” broke my dream. For a minute I had been back in my home with Lori. “Eeeeyaaa,” a rough looking man was yelling. He was waving a whip; horses were screaming and jostling each other; a baby fell down and almost got trampled. Where did he want us to go? We started moving as a group, the ones in front being pushed by the terrified horses behind; there was no stopping this group. The man behind kept yelling obscenities; the whip kept flying and cracking. The front horses saw the opening into the giant trailer and they half jumped, half stumbled into the trailer. Those of us in the middle were pushed in behind the front ones by those behind. I nearly fell on the slippery floor, but caught my footing and stayed on my feet.
The trailer ride was unlike any other I had been on. The fear was palpable. Sweat poured from our bodies, and mingled with the manure and urine coating the walls and floor. Time stood still, eternity seemed to come and go. I kept close to the baby as best I could, he was so scared, and it did me good to comfort him.
I felt my mind slipping in and out of consciousness, and I don’t know how long the trailer ride was. The only consolation was the wind coming through the slats fell cool against my face. Screeching brakes and the trailer finally was still. We had hardly stopped when the doors flung open. The same foul mouthed man began yelling and beating the horses at the front of the trailer, who pushed their way into us so hard I thought I’d break a rib. The horses at the back of the trailer jumped as if their lives depended on it and one landed hard, almost going all the way to the ground. We all followed them back and into pens and more pens. There were pens everywhere! We were sorted into various pens, I lost track of the baby. I’d try to keep my eye on him and reassure him everything would be okay, but I was having a hard enough time keeping my own sanity.
People seemed to come from everywhere. They all had the same look: curious, but aloof. Some checked my teeth, muttered “smooth mouth” and kept walking. A nice looking person, who didn’t have a hard face, who wasn’t yelling, and who seemed to have a kind eye spent a minute with me. “She’s older but I hope we can save her.” Did I need saving? What were they saving me from?
“How many more horses ya need to fill a load?” the foul man asked the man and woman standing next to him. “I brought in 20 and I know a bunch of them will be good for shippin’ if that Horse Plus ain’t here.”
“I can’t believe they trick people into donating. I heard they got a brand new trailer from donations; they’re the worst!” the woman spat. “That Tawnee is such a con and just loves killing horses!”
“They’re already here,” the last man said. “And Jason too. They’re going to bid so many horses up we won’t make nothin’ tonight.”
Whoever these Tawnee and Jason people were, I desperately hoped they wouldn’t end up with me. If the foul man said they were bad, they must be so much worse than him!
One by one the horses were driven from their pens. A man inside a little arena was talking so fast I didn’t even bother trying to understand what he said. I knew it would be my turn soon. As my pen gate swung open and I headed down the alley, I knew I’d be bought by someone, but please don’t let it be Tawnee or that Horse Plus the foul man talked about!
I was pushed back and forth in front of the bleachers with a lot of people. The fast talking man was rambling on and on, but before I knew it I heard, “Sold, 9824, Horse Plus!” My heart sank. I felt my insides die right then.
I was put into a pen with other horses; they too had been purchased by Horse Plus. The fear was making me numb. All I could do was wait and see what happened to me next. My future was out of my control; there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t even go with the foul man or his friends; they never even looked at me as they walked by, got into their trucks and left. Didn’t they buy any horses? Were we all going with Horse Plus?
“Shhh, don’t worry,” broke through the numbness. A gentle hand began caressing my neck. “Can I see your teeth?” Sure, why not, it’d be a horrible night and it was only going to get worse. I let the lady look inside my mouth. “I think she’s mid 20’s,” she said. “How old Tawnee?” came a reply from someone I couldn’t see.
Tawnee? This was Tawnee? I looked nervously for her, but she had already moved on to the next horse. Her movements were slow and deliberate; she wasn’t waving flags or scaring us. She was talking calmly and moving from horse to horse, giving pats, rubs, and over all… love? I had thought she was a horrible person.
The next few hours were a blur in my memory. I remember being loaded into a trailer, a long ride, and then unloading with all the other horses. There was fresh water waiting for us, water that I desperately needed to quench my thirst.
A veterinarian examined me. “We need x-rays,” she said. “I think there is something going on in her hind legs.” My hind legs, a memory surfaced; I had caught one in a gopher hole a long time ago. I’m pretty sure it broke, but no one ever treated it and eventually I could walk on it again without too much pain. Recently it had started hurting real bad if I walked too much, but I tried my best to ignore the chronic pain.
Some beeping, some talking, and then I heard, “She has an old injury and severe arthritis in her left knee and there’s nothing we can do.” So that’s it, I’m living with pain forever. “I think we should give her the Last Act of Kindness,” I heard the vet say.
My last thoughts, as I sit here eating my grain, as I dream back over my years, is that it could have ended so differently. I’m ok with going to sleep forever. My life has been full, I’ve known love. I’ll miss my Lori.