People have never been my forte. I’m decent enough at one-on-one conversations, but I tend to flounder in social settings. Also, I grew up in a veterinarian’s clinic, and my stepmother had a farm. So it should come as no surprise that the being I learned the most from had four legs, furry ears, and a tail.
I don’t write about my horse, Good Night Moon, very often because I only knew him for a short amount of time, so there’s only so much to write about. But I did learn quite a bit during that time.
It was the summer of 2008, and I was going to be a freshman in high school during the fall. My stepmom and I had collaborated and decided that a good thing for me would be a horse, so she and I could go on rides together, and I would have something to invest my time in when I came to visit. After doing some research, she found a quiet Thoroughbred for sale one state over.
It was love at first sight.
He stood at almost 17 hands, making him nearly as big as a draft horse, and was all legs. He was a dark seal bay, and depending on the sunlight, sometimes looked like a cup of black coffee. A white star graced his forehead, with a stripe running down to his nose, making it look like a shooting star had left a trail on his face. The first time I rode him around the arena, it was is if he knew what I was thinking before I did. We went through all the paces, a seamless flying lead change, and played around on the trail course they had set up. He was so tall he stepped over a log that most horses would have jumped. He went through a ditch. He walked over bridges. Water didn’t bother him. When we had completed the trail, he wanted to go again. He was perfect. There was only one problem: he was very, very skinny.
The girl we bought him from, Katy, was a sweet woman, heading off to college. She had bought him a year or so previously, and informed us he had been starved due to overcrowding when she came into possession of him. She said that, with time and lots of food, he would surely come around and be healthy. We knew little about his past, aside from that he had been raced once (and won) and was accustomed to being a trail horse. Katy informed me that she would love to see me take him home, since the other two people who had looked at him hadn’t been a good fit.
That afternoon, my stepmom and I headed back home, trailer full of horse.
During the next week, I became acquainted with my new companion. “Mooney” was very mellow, but still had a lot of get-up-and-go when asked. Horse hierarchy is different from humans and other predatory animals, and although my stepmom’s mares picked on him, he was still a gentleman to them. I figured out he loved be scratched behind the ear, and he genuinely seemed to listen when I would talk to him. When he saw me, he would give a neigh in his deep voice, as if to say, “There you are! Let’s go!”
He ate as much as the draft horses, but he still was losing weight. The vet did some blood work and informed us that he had kidney failure, most likely due to the grains he had been fed when he was racing. She predicted he would have a year left.
I couldn’t ride during the winter months because of the snow and ice, but as soon as spring hit, he and I were galloping around, going on long trail rides, and enjoying life. Once, when we were frolicking about, a storm hit. Remarkably, instead of shying and spooking every time thunder rolled overhead, my horse would pick up his pace and continue forward, running for the hell of it through the rain.
As time passed, my boy became sicker and sicker. He became too weak to ride during the fall of 2009. His ribs stuck out, and his rich brown coat became dull and patchy. Walking seemed to pain him, and he became cranky. But every time I went out to the paddock, he would still come up to me and sigh on my shoulder before turning away.
In February of 2010, at age fourteen, one year and six months after the diagnosis, Good Night Moon had to be put down. The most painful thing about it is that I wasn’t able to be there to say good bye.
Good Night Moon taught me to live in the moment. He taught me to enjoy little things, like a trail ride in the spring time. He taught me to do what I love, no matter the circumstance. Most importantly, though, he taught me the definition of unconditional love, and that such a connection never really dies.