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Letter From a Groom

Yesterday was a hard day. I loaded a horse onto a trailer. I kissed that horse's neck, just like the last million times, and told him to behave himself. Not that he was going someplace bad. I actually didn't know where he'd end up. I told him to behave because any decent horseman or woman will respect that quality and treat that horse well. I don't know if he will get that respect. But I know he will behave.

Yesterday, I touched a horse for the last time. He had only lived 28 days. I stayed with him during his very first 24 hours. I lifted him to his feet so that he could nurse. Every 20 minutes. His color changed from dark wet sleek to fluffy baby brown. And many days later, when he was much stronger on his spindly legs, in a big green field, another mare kicked him. So I kissed his neck and told him to go run and play.

Yesterday, I held a horse in the Winner's Circle. I smiled as we became part of history. The world could see what that horse had done. And I had helped him. It was just one day, a few minutes really, but one of our best and I was proud. So I patted his neck and said "good boy".

Yesterday, I walked into the barn. I'm always the first person there. It's early but I don't mind because twenty pairs of eyes look at me eagerly and nicker to me with breathy voices. I kiss a few muzzles but not everyone tolerates the nonsense of a late breakfast so I quickly get the grain. Their voices are music to my ears.

Yesterday I waited, my whole heart hurting as you stood in the field with a broken leg. When the vet finally showed, he drove straight down to where you stood shaking and immediately started grabbing needles and pulling blue liquid. I was his only helper and he instructed me through the din of my uncontrollable sobs. I held your artery and told you that soon you wouldn't hurt anymore. I let go and then fell to my knees to lay across your neck.

There are pieces of my heart out there. And I don't know which goodbye is worse. When it's cold, I pray that you have enough hay to eat. I hope that someone cares enough to give you water and exercise and a pat on the neck. Are your feet trimmed? Did you get your spring shots? Does your leg bother you still? Do they rub liniment on it or ice it or is it completely healed? I still see you in the barn. I can still see you in a picture, but every day when I walk past your stall, there is another horse there. I will give my best to him too.

There are pieces of my heart out there. And the best goodbyes come with the knowledge that my horse still has a job and a home with horsemen and women who respect him.


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