It’s a few days shy of 5 months since I lost Stu. It still feels like yesterday.
In fact, it still doesn’t feel real, some days.
It’s hard to believe I’ll never again see this big hunk of bay attitude trotting up to me in his paddock, or feel his goofy Roman nose pressed against my chest in his version of a hug.
I have been blessed to know a great number of horses, in my lifetime. They have all taught me something, and I have loved each of them. But, there are some that stole away more of my heart than others. Stu was, obviously, one of those horses.
I have always been drawn to the difficult horses. No, don’t roll your eyes, I’m not talking about the hot-heads that just need a quiet seat and soft hand to express their jaw-dropping, innate brilliance. I’m talking about the ones with personalities that rub people the wrong way, the ones that are too dull, the crabby ones, the aloof ones. The ones that frustrate people because they “aren’t a joy to ride,”or because they “aren’t talented enough to be worth the time” it takes to draw out their inner superstar (two real quotes I heard from people, recently).
Stu was one of those horses. When I adopted him, I was made aware that he wasn’t the trainer’s favourite horse, nor had he really clicked with anyone. I was also jokingly advised that he would probably be sorted into Slytherin, when he turned 11. The best description of him, though, was that he was a horse to go on a “horseman’s journey” with, and that suited him perfectly. I’ll never forget how, after I dismounted from our trial ride, he shoved his muzzle into my chest and stood there, stock-still, for many long seconds, and I swear he was looking right into my soul. It was that Black Stallion moment that I’d never believed in.
The first couple of days in my training journal were filled with self-doubt and worry, as I wasn’t quite sure if I was doing right by him; his ego seemed as endless as his talent. But, he always greeted me at the gate of his large pasture, and he had a work ethic that matched mine. There was no quit in that boy. Even at the end, he fought so valiantly for his life that the surgeons and I were amazed at his sheer force of will that kept him on his feet.
Stu reminded me of how deep my well of knowledge is, and made me remember how to dig deeper still when faced with a challenge. He helped me celebrate the small victories, but never lose sight of the big goals. He showed me how to quickly get over the small stuff in life, and demonstrated that confidence is a way of life, not a temporary state. He forced me to keep learning, keep trying, and keep my passion at the forefront of my life.
So, here’s to you, Stu. Your star burned just a little too bright for this earthly realm. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you. I’m sorry we didn’t have more time together. But, I promise you I won’t forget you, and that I’ll keep the lessons you taught me close to my heart. I’ll do your memory proud with every horse I work with in the future. And I know I’ll see you again, someday, somehow.