by Caitlin Allen
January 8th, 2017, at 7:58 in the morning. My memories are still flooded with that morning, all vivid and haunting. I no longer can stay up late, because once sleep deprivation hits, the flashbacks and emotion crash down on me like a tidal wave.My luck ran out on
2:30 in the morning, I finish an episode of Black Mirror or Arrested Development after a couple episodes, and I am alone with my thoughts. What could have been done that night to save him? Is this even real? We were going to show First Level. How could this happen? My thoughts are clouded with questions and promises I never fulfilled.
Colic is not something any horse book could romanticize, nobody can make emptying a horse’s stomach through their nose sound appealing, or the crucial rectal exam sound beautiful. Colic is horrific, it’s painful, and ugly. For the first time that night, I felt the same pain he felt. My nose burned as I saw the tube slide through his, my throat felt dry, my stomach turned, and suddenly the world around me got dark and muffled. I was blacking out. The stress overwhelmed me as I watched this once noble Thoroughbred struggle for his life. The stress returns as that night replays in my head.
Suddenly, my thoughts take me to the morning of his final moments. Sitting in the clinic stall, crying into his mane and stroking him. Telling him about all my aspirations I had for him, how I couldn’t wait for him to meet my first boyfriend, showing First Level after he got a taste of showing, and how in my eyes, he was Valegro. He was the world’s best dressage horse with the potential to do so much, while others saw him as a dinky little OTTB ridden by a teenager who got a late start in dressage. At that moment, I knew he was my heart horse. I knew this was the horse whose purpose was to make me into the best rider I could be. He was here to teach me not just dressage, but great horsemanship. For the first time, I was grateful for every quirk he had that came from the track. I took it all for granted though, thinking I would have him in my life for longer than 9 months.
It ends, quickly. The last breath is exhaled as I sit there and stroke his face. I was the last thing he saw. I still vividly see his face and the large syringes. Him lying down for the final time is engrained in me. The final walk to the back of the vet facility lasts an eternity.
One day, I will be able to be alone with my thoughts. One day, I won’t freeze up in the middle of class or work and become so overwhelmed with sadness, frustration, and anger as the last minute of his life interrupts my train of thought. One day, I’ll meet another horse, an unlikely partner that teaches me lessons I never realized were so crucial. Maybe I’ve already met that horse, or maybe I’ll meet that horse 10 years down the road. The 9 months I had with him were the best I’ve had in a long time, and nothing good lasts forever.
But for now, the memory of Perfect Luck lives on through me. Next time I hack in the park next to the barn, perhaps I’ll see him, enjoying the life he deserved and guiding me in those unexpected ways.
Caitlin Allen is a senior in high school. After graduation, she will be attending Champlain College in Burlington, VT, to study Cybersecurity. Caitlin is currently schooling 1st and 2nd level and will be showing 1st level this summer. She is a working student under a Danish Warmblood trainer and breeder in New Jersey with hopes of becoming a dressage professional one day.