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Home Is Where the Heart Is This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

As a child, I grew fond of many creatures. Horses, in particular, were my favorite. My room was decorated with many posters and plushes of the giants and I opted to ride them at the fairgrounds over the mechanical devices the others of my generation chose. My first horse, a small pony named Marshmellow, allowed me my first real peek into their mysterious demeanor. Following his rehoming, we were gifted with the life of a senior Peruvian who went by the name of Nacho. At the time, we also had another horse, Flicka, who ironically turned out to be our new guests exact opposite. Young and ornery, he became quite hefty in little time. It was not uncommon to find him picking on our other animals and stealing their grain. Nacho on the other hand, was gentle yet jumpy, traumatized by the abuse he had experienced unknowingly during his training. With old age and a hip complication, his owner had given him to us in the hope that he would live what she thought would be a few remaining years, in peace. Despite this intention however, Nacho lived well into his thirties.

It's hard to recall how many years we had him exactly, but it seemed as if we had raised him from a tiny foal ourselves. Regardless of their differences, Nacho came to enjoy Flicka's company. When we attempted to separate them so he had the ability to thrive, it wasn't unusual to find him standing at the gate to Flicka's pasture crying for the youth. Finally, it was decided in the best interest of the horses to return the two together. Years crept by without incident until Flicka was taken to auction, leaving Nacho devastated. Sure, now he could eat without problem and continuously leave the barn to graze, but it was obvious that he was slipping into a state of loneliness. A couple of months after Flicka's departure, Nacho's hip pain started to become increasingly and noticeably unbearable.

He began to creep deeper into the pasture and from our window, we'd see him standing for hours on end at the bottom of the field, staring at..we'll never know what. This went on for some time. After awhile, he stopped coming back up to the barn. Instead, my father would have to bring food and water down to him. Walking back up just wasn't an option anymore for the deteriorating soul. One day, as I peeked through the window, my eyes caught a glimpse of him laying on the ground. Edgar, our calf, stood above him. I felt my gut tighten into a knot. This can't be good. When my father and I made our way to the bottom of the pasture we found that the poor fellow had slipped, entwining his hooves in the skeletal remains of our electric fence.

After snipping the wire, we'd hoped our old boy would stand but weakened by the fall, hip discomfort, and cold that nipped at his exterior, he did not. With the dark creeping out upon the hills, we made the difficult decision of leaving Nacho where he lay. Heartbroken by the events I knew were yet to come, I covered the horse in hay to protect him from the rapidly decreasing temperatures. The next morning, I was overjoyed to discover that Nacho had held on despite the odds. Horses, though many may not realize it, should never lie down for extended periods of time due to the strain it puts on their delicate organs. Unfortunately, my father was called into work that day so I was left alone with the uneasy task of finding things to do to keep my helpless mind occupied. Outside, it had started to snow and I feared it wouldn't be long before Nacho slowly died of the bitter cold. Why was he still holding on? The question often tore at my heart; Such an elderly, pained horse had no reason to. When my dad arrived home eight hours later, my boyfriend and I were already patiently awaiting him, determined to take action.

Together we strode down to the numbed animal and assessed the situation before us. The light began to fade from the sky and instead invited the cold along with it. My father, being the wise man he is, suggested we use our tractor and a large piece of plywood to haul the thinning horse back up the hill. Due to have my second child in two months, I was excluded from pulling him onto the makeshift platform; My presence however was nonetheless important. With Nacho resting on the board, we began our slow ascent to the lean to. There were several occasions where he struggled to accept our help and slid off, but we never became deterred. Eventually, we made it to the top. Hands that froze to the bone once again covered Nacho with hay; As he gnawed on a pile that rested nearby, we stood back and admired our accomplishment. A sense of peace flooded my body. If Nacho were to pass away at this very moment, I could at least fall asleep with the fact that he had done so at home where he belonged. The next morning, I was awaken by a phone call from my mother; I was an hour away from home when I received the news.

Nacho had finally let go.




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