In July Ben tore his tendon (left hind leg, superficial digital flexor tendon) galloping in the field that I was renting behind us here. He then damaged the tendon in his right hind leg, simply by the strain of supporting his left leg. Recovery happened slowly, then he became severely lame again, recovered a bit, his fetlocks dropped and suddenly was incurably lame. He was put to sleep in the last week of October.
So much in the package of a small, stocky cob. He has been my equine partner, my friend, my guardian of being for nearly eight years. It has taken me until now to write this, which feels like the ending of ponies at home although life goes on and more ponies come. Ben and Rosie were the originals, the first, the magical initiators of so many, many new experiences, new ways of awakening to life, new conduits of joy.
Ben went without a fuss. He was old and I could see that he was ready. The only problem was that I wasn’t. Two nights before the vet was due I sat outside near where he stood munching some hay. My mind had at last found a still place and Ben limped over and stood by me. He rested his head on mine, breathed a long breath over my hair and limped away again. His goodbye. And he went with such finality, such typical completeness. No ghost lingers, as Rosie still sometimes does, to accompany me through the paddock, thrusting a soft invisible muzzle against my arm.
And how I miss him.
With Ben I took the decision to go barefoot which seemed at the time like a defining moment in how I viewed so many aspects of keeping horses. In time we went bitless and eventually treeless also. But as I look back these are not the stand out moments for me.
I miss so many aspects of Ben himself. His defiance, his pride, his surprising gentleness, his stubbornness, his determination, walking purposefully in the direction of his goal. I remember him coming up beside me to lick a raw scar from a burn on my wrist; how he wrapped his head around my back as we mourned Rosie together; how he impatiently would lift each leg in turn during hoof trimming in a ‘get on with it’ manner; how he walked off to the back gate all tacked up without waiting for me when I was taking too long fitting a new saddle.
I remember how he would sink into peace beside me as I sat in the yard and how Rosie would line up on the other side of me and together we would breathe in harmony with the universe.
And I remember our rides: galloping flat out trying his best to keep up with Sandra and Minnie, cantering through forest tracks, galloping in a field with Cloud, this time happy to be in the lead, and jumping, never faltering no matter how I saw or did not see a stride. But most of all I remember our rides from the back gate at home, doing what he loved best, for if I ever turned him back before he had gone as far as he felt he should, he would walk home in a sulk, dragging his feet. But when we had time for the full ride – well I can see the road ahead right now in my mind’s eye, and feel in my body his wonderful relaxed walk as we ride home in the light of a setting sun on a summer’s evening on a loose rein.