The Force of the Horse

I Picked Up My Horse Today

By R.T. Fitch

I picked up my horse today; should have done it sooner, the equine hospital had called days ago and said that he was ready but I resisted.

The members of his herd missed him, missed him lots. Everything in the herd dynamics was upside down because the boss was not there.

After breakfast, his best buddy Moose would linger at the barn’s entrance and stare at the empty stall with the closed door. He would simply stand and stare and then move under the barn’s porch and survey the lower pastures for a glimpse of his friend. His persistence was unrelenting.

I picked up my horse today for fear of retribution from the equine hospital, it had been long enough and it was beginning to look like I did not care and was a bad equine parent. But I fought it and did not know why.

The days had drifted away, one by one and the property was different without him, I should have gone and gotten him earlier but I languished. I was ashamed.

I picked up my horse today by getting in the truck, turning the key, adjusting the mirrors and backing out of the driveway. Today would be the day that I would bring him home but I felt no joy.

As I drove further out into the country the bright blue sky against the crisp green of the hay fields brought me no joy as I knew not where my heart was nor my soul, I should have done this weeks ago.

I pulled through the automatic gates of the hospital, parked the truck in the dusty gravel parking lot amidst a sea of parked working trucks with trailers and walked into the hospital waiting room.

There were several crusty, horsey types sitting in the hard, wooden straight back chairs but no one waiting at the window so I walked up and introduced myself to the young girl behind the counter.

“Howdy, I am R.T. Fitch and I have come to pick up my horse.” I said.

“What is your horse’s name, Mr. Fitch?” she countered.

“Harley!” I answered.

“Please stand at the double doors to the right,” she replied, “I will be right back.”

I walked over to the double swinging doors and waited; I could feel the eyes of the people waiting staring holes in my back as the stark walls of the waiting room offered nothing to entertain, but I fought the urge to turnaround and stare back.

I could hear footsteps coming down the hall behind the closed doors and my pulse quickened. I am sure that a fine sweat was breaking out on my bald spot but it was cleverly concealed by my straw hat. I looked down at my dusty boots and I heard the doors swing open before me so I looked up.

The girl from the service window said, “ Here’s Harley; tail, mane and ashes are all here.” she whispered as she thrust a 12X24 inch cardboard box into my hands. “We are sorry.”

I don’t recall how I responded, I hope that I was kind enough to have said thank you but I have no recollection as I was in the process of spiraling down into an abyss of pain, misery, regret and desperation.

Nor do I recall the looks on the faces of those who were in the waiting room as my eyes were blurred with tears and I could not feel my feet under me as I pushed open the hospital’s office door and stumbled across the gravel parking lot. I was lost in time, the lot was huge as the memories of Harley’s last day came crashing in on my consciousness and the tremendous pain of his last moments sized my soul and made all time stand still.

It felt as if I had been walking forever as I made my way to the truck, a month worth of grieving came rushing back at me with a vengeance. I knew I was staggering, I was aware that I must have been a spectacle but I was doing my best to navigate that long and lonely mile back to the truck so I could depart this place of despair.

After what seemed to be hours I reached the truck and put my hand on the back door’s handle to steady myself. I was breathing heavily and my glasses were smeared with tears and dust. I jerked open the door, set the box gently on the back floorboards and sat down on the truck’s side steps to gather my wits and to clean my glasses.

When I had finally caught my breath and had some strength back in my legs and stood up I turned around to look at the little white box that contained all that was left of my best friend and companion. It was then that I saw, delicately scrolled with the flourish of a black felt pen, the name Harley Fitch written on the box. I sucked air, lovingly reached out and stroked the little box.

“You are going home, Harley.” I sobbed as I petted the box, “I am finally taking you home.”

I picked up my horse, today.

painted by Leslie Anne Webb from photo by Terry Fitch

painted by Leslie Anne Webb from photo by Terry Fitch

32 replies »

  1. I am so very sorry. I lost two of my best ever friends the last 15 years…it is yet hard to talk about. Horses became a part of me when I was two years old. I was lucky to have a horse lover Dad…horses are my daily life.
    Loosing two of them, was incredibly hard, they are buried close to each other and I know but I know for sure we will see our horses, dogs, cats and critters again.
    God Bless Harley and God Bless You. My heart is with you…


  2. Oh geez RT. I’m so sorry for your loss. I know and understand the pain. I also know that when others are depending on is to pull ourselves together we just have to do that. Harleys gone but will never die as long as hold him in your heart which I’m sure you’ll do. But for now you have them and they are going through the same grief as you. Help each other get through this. They need you and you need them. Take care of each other. My deepest and most sincere condolences to you ( and Terri) for your loss. May God grant you peace of mind knowing that you did what you could and gave Harley a good life and lots of love..


  3. …he will be waiting for you over the Rainbow Bridge….one day …celebrate the joy you found together… heart goes out to you……..


  4. Yes, it certainly isn’t easy. My beautiful Arabian Nicholas whom I rescued from Kill Buyer passed 3 years ago in February. In one of the coldest days in years in the Midwest. I wasn’t an Arab person before him. Even though some of my friends tried to convert me. He was a high strung some what, cranky and minus manners. Still the thought of this beautiful Horse going to slaughter sickened me. The owner never came our and owed everyone. But I begged her to sell him to me. My vet thought I was crazy. In the 8 years I owned him, he taught me so much. He went from.a crabby I’ll mannered Horse to a magnuficient show off who loved humans once again. My vet said he could not believe the transfirmation since I owned him. I was just getting ready to prepare him for the show ring when he passed. After this experience I realized why people love Arabians. He was smart, a show off but most of all bonding quite different from the other horses I owned. My other two were buried on the farm but winter in the Midwest does not allow that. So Nicholas too was cremated. His death devastating because I thought he would be with me longer. But God has a way of healing us. Did I even want another horse? As you age you wonder, should I get another horse? My love for horses will never die and I surfed the internet. But this time rescues and Kill Pens. Called on 5 that had homes already. But then I saw her..a little grey Arabian at a rescue near my house. Again, God has a way of healing. She was a beauty! A show off doing that Arab thing with her head. And to boot a dream to ride! She had been a casuality of the New Holland Kill Pen. But was one of the lucky ones that made it out. So I took the plunge. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect horse. Who owned her and why would someone take her to a terrible hell hole place like New Holland? I will probably never know her history. She is mine now and is considered the Princess in the barn from the other borders to all the geldings that nicker to her as she passes by! A coincidence or master plan both were the same age when I got them?


  5. It’s been along time since you read something like that. I love you, man. Harley’s loss doesn’t take anything away from you. It added to the depths of your soul. Thank you for sharing part of you.

    Sent from my iPhone



  6. Blessings and peace as you miss him. We recently put my Cody friend of 17 years down and I am mourning with you. They become best friends and confidants. May your heart heal and may you reach the place when you can remember him with a smile. ❤


  7. Dear RT—thanks for renewing my faith in men who can feel deep love for animals!! I am so glad Harley had you !


  8. I’m so sorry to hear this. It’s tough to lose a good friend, and it leaves such an emptiness. Hard to accept. I know the feeling; I lost my Siamese this past June, she was 19 years and 3 mos, and I had her since she was only 9 weeks! She passed away at home.

    I feel so bad for the other horses too – animals do know these things and mourn, too.


  9. RT – please know that all the people who follow this blog have you in their thoughts and prayers. Every time we lose one of these wonderful creatures – it leaves a hollow spot in your heart.


  10. R.T. … What can I say that hasn’t already been said a few thousand times already?
    I don’t want to say the usual I will say this. You are a remarkable man & most of us all love & grieve over our pets. Harley had an outstanding life thanks to you & Terry. He landed into a the proverbial pot of gold. How many will take the time , care. & love to have their horse cremated? Not too many. They’ll just take the ole tracter ..dig a hole & put him in it! You chose not to. You took excellent care of him..& he absolutely loved you for all you did for him. A once in a lifetime bond you & Harley had. As a caretaker..your simply the best..& God knows this. He only chooses the best..& you are the best! Look at everything you’ve done & are doing for equines everywhere! Harley knew that! Just know Harley.. & all the other animals you’ve had over the years of hard work & all the good times you’ve had with each one will be waiting for you when it’s your turn to go across that golden bridge. Harley smiling telling all his friends of the the life he lived to the fullest thanks to you! Now he’s running..& rolling in the green grasses enjoying his new life. Be good to yourself…you’ve done good!

    Sincerely, Sharon ((((hugs))))


  11. i cried just reading your words..they touch your heart and heal your soul. They connect in a way that many people can’t. What a gift to have had that connection. My profound sympathy for your loss.


  12. I have walked in those boots before myself. There is no way for anyone with a heart to not be affected by the loss of a loved one … but there is nothing that can ever take that love away from you. Harley will be forever with you and Terry in your hearts.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I was deeply saddened reading your story. So very sorry for your loss , An angel in Heaven now has a very special horse to ride and they will always be watching over you. Harley will be forever in you heart.


  14. I am so sorry for your loss. Sorry for the other horses at home that respected him. My Gabby passed this Year and I know the pain, Hugs.


  15. I’m so sorry for your loss R.T. No words can comfort a man when his best friend passes by, but know that Harley knew who much you and Terry loved him and, if there is another side, he will be waiting for you guys there.


  16. R.T. & Terry, We are heartbroken to hear about your loss of your beloved Harley. We know that there are no words to comfort you at this time, but the three of you were truly blessed to have each other.

    “The love for a horse is just as complicated as the love for another human being….
    If you have never loved a horse, you will never understand”
    – Author unknown

    Sadly, grief is the price that we pay for love. But the two of you truly made a difference in his life and he returned that love two-fold.
    Our thoughts and prayers are with you.


  17. so sorry for your loss, a friend like they are , really are so special and have a one place in our hearts, no one else can fill that hole, but on the up side we all will see them again at the rain bow bridge, our special pets will be waiting they loved us so too .


  18. It is through tears that I convey my deepest sympathies for your loss. Having lost several animal companions this year I know the lost feeling in your heart. They have all crossed that beautiful Rainbow Bridge and one day we will all meet again.


  19. I cry a lot these days. I am SO grateful for my beloved equine companions…

    ~”But seldom have I had what I would call true friendship—except with another species of creature. I am a lover of horses. When I am with a horse, I feel happy. A horse does not seek my acquaintance for the sake of my appearance or my accomplishments; a horse does not expect a great deal of me a horse accepts me as I am.” – from ”Split Infinity” by Piers Anthony~


  20. God, I am so, so Sorry R.T. I feel your broken heart & that of your remaining horses.

    I lost 2 in 5 &1/2 months last year, An old 25 yr. old mare & her son. When momma had to be put down in my pasture my poor gelding went nuts & every time he saw a red tractor he went crazy again as my friend come in with a red tractor to take her away.
    Though I went on & got another companion horse my little man was never the same. He was only 8 when he calliced on Christmas night & was rushed to the vets, being put down the Sunday after that.
    May God be with you, your wife & your poor horse who has lost it’s best friend.


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