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Eulogy to a thoroughbred

With a heavy heart I announce the passing of our sweet mare, Emily who came to rest at 4 am Sunday morning, Oct. 25th.

Twilight awoke us yesterday morning with an urgent message of worry. We went out to the field to find Emily crumbled and unwilling to raise herself. Several visits from the vet during the day brought nothing but bad news. The final decision lay to me. I needed for Emily to tell me when it was time to go.

She did, and the vet came and my darling passed away in my arms.

Her passing was filled with dignity and grace as was her life. She was a true queen and always stoic.

All day and night and into the morning, Emily was surrounded by loved ones. Belle, the daughter of our tenant stayed all day and into the night. Sady, neighbour, Michelle and Stephen, friends came to support all of us. Andy visiting from Sask. was here. And of course, all of the animals.

Each of them came to say goodbye. Twilight was the most upset and bit the doctor when he went for the syringe. She knew she was losing her best friend. The whole farm was silent with all thoughts focused on our dying lady.

Only the wind made a sound. It raged wild and wicked, banging door, breaking branches, howling through open stalls. Leaves fell from trees like giant tears. The wind chased away the clouds and the stars shone with startling brightness and for one magic moment, I felt Emily was travelling through space to watch us from above, herself a star.

At the moment of her death, silence vanished from the farm and the roosters began to crow and all the chickens and ducks raised their voices in strange song, as if a combination of protest and celebration, an alleluia of praise and good-bye.

The llamas began to fight and made sounds I’d never heard before. The horses whined their grief. Twilight snorted and pawed the ground and raced around the mare she had protected for the five years we were together.

I covered Emily with a favourite blanket but Lily, our little foster mini, came to her and pulled the blanket back and groomed the mare who had taken her in as a grandmother might to a child who’d lost her parents. Twilight watched with quiet tolerance.

I felt I was losing my sister and teacher, a loved one who had been so gentle and so patient in her mentoring me. She shared the secrets of telepathy with me and it was a powerful learning. Of all the great teachers of my life, she was the most loving, most significant and most enlightening.

As we lay together during the night, we shared many moments in our lives, some we had together, some that had happened before we had come to one another.

She recalled moments of joy in her early years of racing. She confessed she had hated the trip from New Zealand and found the United States a strange place and difficult to race in at first. She also hated being sold. She told me she ha been proud of her foal who was in the movie, Sea Biscuit. But it was hard to be a brood mare and have her babies taken away. She always called to them and kept in touch. She always knew where each one was.

She was so thankful I had changed her name from Lady Rhythm to Emily because in the end the name always reminded her of the difficult last days of racing and losing and being sold and sold again.

I had promised her I would never sell her, and never make her do anything she didn’t want to do. She was free to be her beautiful self. She was so grateful for those carefree years with us where she could just be a natural horse. She had loved living in the garden in Bow, even more than being here on the farm. The garden had been so full of trees and hiding places.

She especially enjoyed that she never ever had to stay in a closed stall and had four stalls to chose from and could come and go as she pleased. She loved the sweet grass of her field and the cool sand to roll in.

She confessed she was terrified by the llamas when they first arrived, but now had grown quite fond of them.

But besides the llamas her life with us had been perfect.

Perfect. I was so thankful that something had driven me to yearn to spend my golden years with equus and that Emily was the horse I had somehow found to come into our lives.

The next day, the farmer with his huge machine came to help us bury our girl. He told me not to watch as he had to drag Emily across the field with a huge chain and most owners could not endure it. I choose to be with her, walking beside her. What I had not expected was the funeral procession that followed us across the field. Me beside my girl, Twilight behind me, Joey behind her, Lily behind him, followed by all of the five llamas. In quiet dignity they proceeded to the grave - site and watched as I placed leaves and flowers and some of Emily’s favorite things around her body.

There was an almost holy silence as the soft earth slowly covered Emily. The backhoe moved away and out of the yard. No one moved. We all stood and watched the ground, the grave, the place where they had all grazed together under an old oak tree.

And then, suddenly, the silence erupted into an epiphany of noise, of cries and snorts and sounds of mourning. Twilight pawed the ground and screamed, then raced about the field as if fleeing from something so terrifying she could not bare it. The mini horses and llamas joined her. The chickens and ducks and roosters joined in the symphony of sorrow and they too raced about the field.

I was terrified someone would be hurt, trampled, knocked about. It was chaos and it lasted about twenty minutes and then, once again, all stopped and only Twilight, Emily’s deepest friend, returned to the gravesite and there was another small period of silence.

I felt such a feeling of awe, of wonder, of sacred presence there, in the early morning of that gray October day when I was privileged to be present at a funeral where animals felt safe and free enough to be themselves and to mourn in a way natural to them. In a manner I would never have imagined possible. Though why I wouldn’t have thought it possible, I don’t know.

Even in death, my sweet sister, Emily taught me and I was grateful then in that sad good-bye as I was for every beautiful, rich, loving moment we had lived together.

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