The bond between horse and human can be one of incredible strength and love. Ask anyone who is a pet guardian, a real animal lover, and they will tell you that they are not “pets,” they are family. Our furry loved ones are incredible companions who give us unconditional love and understanding.
I was lucky enough to have acquired Clyde when he was two years old, and we became best friends instantly. Once when he escaped from his pasture, he came to the back door of my house to let me know. I turned the corner and saw his big white blaze peeking inside the glass door, and I jumped. He jumped back too, and it was as if we both stood there laughing at one another. He would follow me around like Vicky had, but he didn’t need a lead rope. He hugged me like Shammy had, wrapping his head around my shoulders and squeezing me gently. Animals are simply incredible.
Even though I am a world champion equestrian in the Saddlebred world, Clyde is a quarter horse and he taught me how to do flying lead changes through cones, and how to jump over a two-to-three-foot fences and sometimes not fall off. We filled classes in reining, and I introduced him to cows in the team penning events. I had no idea what a big chicken he was until then, but we laughed and later even earned a few points. Twenty years passed, I retired him from the show ring and we enjoyed each other’s company at home for several years. One night when Clyde was 22 years old, I had a dream…
The sun was shining hot but not blindingly so. A breeze kept the temperature perfect but didn’t blow anything away. It simply moved the air and made the day beautiful like no other. The reins felt familiar and light between my fingers, the thin, supple leather resting on Clyde’s withers and running toward his chin where they attached to his bit. His ears forward, he was happy and looking ahead. I was mesmerized by the feel of his smooth jog and the saddle underneath my seat. I looked down and saw his black mane blowing lightly in the breeze. I reached with one hand to touch his silky, smooth coat. The rich deep, dark brown color of his hair felt soft as silk.
We moved together as one as he gently transitioned into the lope. I felt his muscles flexing, reaching, moving under my legs, and noticed there wasn’t a saddle. I was bareback. I patted and caressed his neck with both hands, then realized the reins were gone too. Looking forward through his pointed ears, I saw rolling hills of green, green grass that seemed to go on for miles with trees here and there. But the trees went somewhat unnoticed because it was the rolling hills and the grass that was mesmerizing. Together we transitioned into a gallop, still smooth, controlled, and so very powerful. I leaned forward slightly and, with both hands, rubbed his soft neck, memorizing the silky feeling. As I felt his mane tickle my face, I closed my eyes.
When I opened my eyes, I was standing alone in the green grass watching him canter away. He was free, slowing to a bouncy—extended—trot. He bent his neck and looked back at me while his tail flagged with excitement. He swung his head with a wave, and slowly I woke.
As I did every morning, I walked to the barn to feed Clyde and listened for him to nicker his morning greeting so I could answer, “Good morning, Clyde!” The first door was the feed room where I prepared his bucket, and while he waited, he would usually move around his stall preparing to pee, and I would say, “Really, Clyde? You are about to go outside. You just want to make sure I clean your stall every day, don’t you?”
Today, there was no greeting. As shocked as I was to find him gone, I remembered he had said his goodbye in my dream. A huge lump formed in my throat at the thought of my dearest departed friend named Clyde. Tears filled my eyes and my heart was heavy with loss, but I will always treasure the memories we shared and the special way he said goodbye.
Our perfect companions have four legs and four hooves, and the way to heaven is on horseback.
Vicky and Shammy are mentioned in my book The Last Crabtree Girl.
Grab your copy to join me on my incredible journey from the first time I toddled up onto the back of a sleeping thoroughbred yearling to becoming a top world show competitor. A love and understanding of horses never faltered, nor will never fade!