Family is one of the strongest bonds in existence. I believe that no matter what, they will always have your back. Even if it hurts them, they will always do what is best for you.
It was a summer day when we got the call that my horse, Alex, was sick. He had stomach colic, a disease not uncommon or serious among humans, but fatal in horses. My heart sunk. Alex had experienced difficulty over the two years I owned him. His previous owners had moved to Colorado, but unable to adjust to the altitude, he came back skinny and unhealthy. When I rode him, despite how weak he was, I loved him immediately. A few months ago he sprained his leg and was unrideable for a month, which seemed like the worst thing to ever happen to me at the time - but all that paled in comparison to this, something life threatening. The whole day was a pile of anxiety and bad feelings, hours of trying to read without actually taking in any words, and deep breathing in the mirror when my imagination ran wild with nightmares that might soon come true.
At dinner, we got the call. Alex was going to be sent to Michigan State Veterinary Hospital. My mother asked if we should come. The owner of our barn said no; it wouldn’t be worth it, it would be too emotional, we would just get in the way of everything, and a million
other reasons that basically meant you can’t handle it right now. My panic deepened. This was my worst fear, and also the worst fear, I assumed, of my parents.
A few hours later, the hospital called saying they needed clearance for surgery. My father took a deep breath and said to go ahead.
“Dad?” I said tentatively, “Is Alex going to be okay?”
“I don’t know kiddo,” he said, looking worried, and tired. “I don’t know.”
The surgery took two hours. Two hours that felt like two years. The saying goes time flies when you’re having fun. I was experiencing the opposite of that. I felt so many negative emotions, mixed up and indistinguishable from one to the next. When we did get the call that the surgery went well, all of the horrible emotional turmoil I was experiencing was gone. I couldn’t believe it. He was alive. Even as the doctor explained that it would take at least 3 months of intense cooperation to get him to the point he was at before, all that registered in my brain was that he was going to be okay.
He stayed at the hospital for another two weeks. He couldn’t eat while he was there, so by the time he was able to come home, he had lost at least thirty pounds. He couldn’t leave his stall for another month, so we drove all the way to the barn that he lived at every day, and let him outside to eat grass. It was awful knowing the time we were with him was the only time he got to do what he wanted freely.
Two whole months later, I was finally able to ride him again. I started out just getting him used to having me on his back, and worked my way up until he could run again. It was when I asked if he was ready to jump again that things got complicated.
“Sweetie,” my mom said to me, “We don’t think Alex is going to be able to jump again.”
We were going to have to sell him, she explained to me in a way that made complete sense, but my brain seemed to have lost the ability to process something like that and refused to believe her. So what if he had to go through surgery, I said to her - he was okay after so many other bad things to happen to him, after all!
It took me the rest of the week to process that we needed to put Alex into retirement. He was getting older, insurance wouldn’t cover him anymore, and year by year his legs were getting weaker and he was at the point that it would damage him to do anything more. However, a ray of light shone through the darkness of the situation. My parents had found him a good home where he would only do trail rides with a woman who actually had owned him before we had got him. We got to talk to her before they took Alex to their farm. She expressed how sad she was about what had happened and that we could visit anytime. We gave her our phone numbers in case she needed anything, and just like that; they were gone. I knew it was a great situation, even it was found through terrible circumstances. Sorrowfully, we watched the trailer that held Alex drive away from the farm. As I saw the vehicle disappear into the distance, I told myself that I couldn’t be sad, not when Alex had survived. My family had helped save him, and that was enough.
These events over of course of a summer helped me understand the meaning of family and what they will do for you. Even though some might not consider a horse part of their family, ours certainly did. We gave Alex as much care as we could possibly give, and when our family couldn’t take care of him as well as he needed, we gave him up to a place that could do that for him. No matter how hard it is, family will always do what is best for you. This I believe.