As I sat down to write this week's blog post, I had a few different ideas running through my head. Some of these topics include tips on sleep, preparing for an upcoming sports season with little to no pre-season training, and how to keep yourself “game ready” so when the time comes and you can compete, you will be steps ahead of your competition.
But then Tuesday happened…
Just to give you a little back story, my two year old daughter has a pretty unique life. On our property, we have horses, dogs, cats, baby chickens, and whatever else wildlife just so happens to fly or scurry by. She wakes up each morning with an animal snuggled in her bed and we hear her giggling and petting them upon waking. In this regard, she is very lucky.
Most mornings she “helps” her mother take care of the horses, and is becoming quite comfortable around them. As I write this at 7:32 am, I just heard her say “Emi walking horsies as she looked out the window at them”. Oftentimes we take a look to see what she is up to when we are outside and she is typically off rubbing a horse on the face or neck. Her favorite horse to pet and hang out with was Hershey. Or, as so many others including my daughter liked to call him, Old Man Hersh. Hershey's nickname was well-founded as he was 35 years young!
Now, Hershey, in and of itself, is quite a remarkable story. There are stories upon stories about this horse and the things he did over his lifetime. The parades, the horse shows, his love of snapple, his ability to smile, and of course, his ability to escape any “enclosed area”. He was like the Harry Houdini of the horse world and an incredible escape artist! But to me, the one thing I enjoyed most about him was how sweet he was to my daughter. This past Sunday, we decided to let Emilia ride Old Man Hersh. She was so happy! She smiled the entire time as we walked them around the property and would have stayed up there for hours if we would have let her. From that moment on, we heard “Emi ride Old Man Hersh” non-stop!
On Tuesday, as the day progressed and the weather was beautiful we thought that Emi could take Hersh out for a ride after she took her nap. As we got her ready to go, she looked at me and said, “Emi rides Old Man Hersh”. I thought it was the cutest thing ever and said to myself, I should have her say that again and I will record it. I decided it might sound inauthentic if I made her repeat herself and she was already two or three steps outside as she excitedly walked her way to the barn. I said to myself, "I'll record it another day" and out the door we went!
As Emi and I walked across the driveway towards the barn, I saw Hershey lying on the ground in an area he typically wouldn’t lie in. Because of his age, he had free reign over the property. He had an open stall door policy that allowed him to come and go as he pleased and if he wanted to be out doing his thing, he could do that. So for him to be lying in this area I thought something was up. I said, “Marisa, can you go look at Hersh?” She asked if he was okay and I said “I am not sure, just please look”. I started to walk Emi towards the barn and peaked around the corner and Marisa said, “It’s not good”.
I took Emi to one of our stalls and gave her a few peppermints to hold. I told her to stand right there and to hold on to the peppermints and when we got Hershey to his feet, we could give him those treats. I then went outside to help Marisa as we waited for the vet to arrive. We tried to do everything we could to help him with no luck. The vet came and looked him over but couldn’t quite figure out what was going on. We could not find a way to get him to his belly and eventually to his feet. We continued to try and help but Hershey was fighting us. He did not want to go to his belly. Upon further examination, the vet found a break in Hershey’s leg/shoulder. It was pretty severe. That bone is extremely dense in a horse and for it to break, something significant must have happened. The bone would not be repairable. Marisa spoke with the vet and they made the tough decision.
I have to say something about our little two year old and her understanding of the situation. So as we entered the barn, I gave her a few peppermints and said, “Emi, stand here. Mommy and Daddy have to work. Hershey is stuck and needs help”. She was 15 feet away from us but behind one of those barn doors where the top and bottom are detached (I believe they are known as Dutch doors). We had the top open but kept the bottom closed so she couldn’t see. I would periodically check on her and she didn’t budge. She stood in the exact same spot I asked her to stand in with her peppermints in hand. That, in and of itself, impressed the hell out of me and made me a little emotional. She knew something was going on and did exactly what I asked of her. Eventually, when the decision was made, we allowed her to come out and give Hershey a few rubs, a few kisses, to say goodbye and of course those peppermints she had been holding.
After the vet left, we had to navigate this situation with our two year old daughter. She had her helmet and saddle ready and her heart was set on riding Old Man Hersh. We had to explain to her that that would not be happening today. We had to explain to her that Hershey was not going to be with us anymore. She looked at us and said, “Ahh” which is the way she says yes when she is taking news in or may be a little confused. We went inside, made some food, took the dogs for a walk, but it didn’t stop her from wondering about Hersh. That night, Marisa was out in the barn and I told her that Mom was working and she said, “Mom-mom working, Old Man Hersh stuck”. I said no baby, Hershey is not stuck anymore and she gave me her “ahh” response.
As I was putting the finishing touches on this article I was trying to think of some great lesson learned that I can share with the reader but soon realized I have none. I have no advice on how to cope with losing a beloved animal or explaining to a child that their animal will no longer be with us. I am having a hard time navigating this just like everyone else would. But in the end, this article is about the bond my daughter created with a pretty remarkable horse who meant a lot to so many people.
Rest in peace Hersh, thanks for being so kind to Emi and everyone else you touched!