Sunday, November 11, 2012


Friday, I had to say good-bye to one of the best friends I have ever had.  He was old, for a horse, 32 years, but that didn't make it any easier to let him go.  I can't remember how old I was when I got Shadow, but I must have been 12ish.  We rode together through the innocence of youth, the turbulence of adolescence and the caos of young adulthood.  Shadow knew all of my secrets, all of my dreams and all of my hopes.  Shadow had been there for me when I cried, when I laughed, when I made knew friends, found love, lost love and just needed to be alone. 
He was the horse of my dreams, black, beautiful and full of kindness.  He didn't have the most "spirit" of any horse I've ever known, no, that wasn't Shadow. He was slow, some might say lazy, unassuming and quiet.  He made me work for every lope, every gallop, every lap of every arena, but I wouldn't have had him any other way!!  We often compared his personality to that of Eyeore from Winnie the Pooh.  It was his super laid back/lazy side though, that made him sooo reliable, the horse everyone could ride.  I can't even count how many people had their first horse ride on Shadow's back. I can't count how many people's confidence and trust in horses was restored after spending half an hour riding Shadow through a wide open hay field.  Actually, riding through wide open hay fields was our favorite thing.  Shadow wasn't much for mountain riding.  Too much work, too clausterphobic, not his thing.  Get him in a hay field though and if you knew what to look for, you could feel him come alive.  He'd pick up a gallop a little easier for me when I asked him to run between the rows of mowed hay.  He'd pick up speed happily at the bottom of every hill, relishing the thrill of a gallop to the top.  Sometimes we'd go for a "hay field" ride with friends, or with Mom, Aim and Nic. Sometimes, we'd ride alone and just talk. Sometimes I'd take someone behind me, for a ride on Shadow, double.  Sometimes, just Nic and I would go and we'd sing and sing and sing at the top of our lungs, watching the horse's ears flicker back and forth listening to us.  Those memories are my favorite!  But there are sooo many. 

We showed through 4-H together.  He was my only 4-H horse from the time I was 12 until 21.  We were a team, he and I.  We started off pretty rough around the edges, but by the time our show career was done, we were not only showing in 4-H, we showed both hunter and western at open shows and Class A Arabian shows.  (Shadow was anglo-arab.)  Nic and Shadow even won a championship at Region 17 riding him side saddle. 
In his prime, he was absolutely beautiful!! This is a pic of us, lined up after a Western Pleasure class.  I have carried this picture around in my wallet since the day I got it from the photographer and I will continue to even now.  In my eyes, there was never a more handsome horse and there never will be.  This is my most favorite picture of him ever!!!
Most of my Shadow pictures are at Mom's house in albums.  Most of our memories together happened before there was such a thing as digital photography. I had to take a picture of this picture just so I could post it.  

Once I left for University, I joined a rodeo club and not wanting to miss out, but not having any rodeo experience at all, I drug Shadow along as my pole bending horse.  We had done quite a few gymcanas in our day and though we were never really fast, we were precise.  I figured pole bending was our best shot at not looking totally ridiculous! Needless to say, our rodeo career together wasn't as successful as out show career, but Shadow was the kind of horse you could try anything with.  Upon his back, I was never embarrassed or never felt out of place...not even among all of those long haired blond girls on their giant quarter horses.  Shadow and I were a team, sometimes we were winners and sometimes we were losers, but we were always in it together!!!

After University, I had the rodeo bug. I really wanted to rope.  Shadow was not big enough for this adventure, but I did take him to some arenas and chased around some steers just to get a feel for it.  I moved him to Sylvan Lake with me when I got my first job, even though, by then I also had a rope horse.  I could not imagine NOT having Shadow with me!!  It wasn't long after I moved to Sylvan that I met the Kentz Family.  They had just moved to an acreage and were just getting into horses.  They wanted to know if I could give them riding lessons.  Bailey was 4 years old when she started riding Shadow and Brooke was in grade 2.  He was their first horse ride, their first horse experience and eventually, he became their first horse.  A deal that involved one dollar and a promise that I would still be an "owner" of Shadow, being able to ride him, visit him and love him whenever I wanted, saw Shadow move from my place, to the Kentz Family acreage, AKA: Paradise! I continued to give them riding lessons, help them load him before each of their 4-H events, coach them through shows until they could do it all by themselves. Shadow was patient with them, teaching them everything they needed to know about owning a horse and in exchange, they gave him the best semi-retirement and eventually retirement home an old boy could ever ask for. I continued to visit him until the very end. I rode him every chance I got and I do not regret for one minute that I decided, when my life was too busy and too "roping" focused, to let the Kentz's love Shadow for me.  Connie became my best friend, Craig, and her kids are like nieces and nephews to me.  Shadow brought us together and I think that friendship might be the best thing he ever gave me!  My family and theirs have shared a lifetime of memories with the most amazing horse!!

I had always hoped I would have a child of my own one day, who might get to ride Shadow.  It looked for a long time like it might not happen (I didn't get to have children as young as I had hoped...) but it did! Ryder and I have been out to visit Shadow together a few times and Ryder did get to ride Shadow. Shadow got to see that finally all of my dreams had come true!! Having Ryder, sit on his back was an emotional moment for both of us.  Shadow knows how long I had hoped to be a Mamma and how desperately I wanted him to be alive to see it happen!! 

 The following pics were taken this summer
 This was not Ryder's first time meeting Shadow, but it was the first time he was able to walk up to him by himself.

 The most trustworthy horse in the world giving the most trusting boy in the world a ride.

Saying good bye to Shadow was not easy, but I am glad I got to be there to hold his "hand."  I had a few minutes alone with him "before" we shared a hug, some tears and a knowing in our hearts.  The actual "moment" was incredibly sad, but also peaceful.  Shadow went to sleep. His body remains at the Kentz homestead, but I know his spirit and his soul are up in heaven running free through endless hay fields!
It is impossible to write about Shadow and do him justice. I have 24 years worth of memories with him.  I could write forever and one day, I will write a perfectly fitting story about him, but tonight I just wanna close with my top ten memories of him right now, in no particular order....

1. Seeing him for the first time. I was a little kid. A black horse was my wish.  He was perfect....well perfect enough for me! :)
2. Riding him bareback...everywhere, all the time!
3. Going for rides with Nic (she on her own horse) singing out LOUD the whole time
4. Running through hay fields
5. Qualifying for the Arabian Region 17 Horse Show
6. Practicing the "Three Amigos" jumping over his butt from the ground...or a bucket.  We rarely made it successfully, but as long as he had a bucket of oats in front of him, Shadow would stand there all day and let us crash into his ass! :)
7. Riding under the old swing set, grabbing the top rail, swinging over it and landing back on Shadow's back!
8. Watching our boyfriends show off, by jumping all the way over Shadow.  They'd take a run for it and jump over his butt and clear over his head!  Again, as long as their was oats, he'd let us do anything!!
9. Riding him side saddle in my wedding dress to my first wedding (hey, I got the groom part wrong, but my ride was perfect! :)
10. Taking people for their first ride ever on Shadow.  I especially loved sharing him with kids he and I would give rides to whoever asked.

Rest in Peace, Shadow. You will never ever be forgotten.  Mom once said, "you will never have another horse like Shadow. You will never have the time or miles to put into another horse like the time and miles you have put into Shadow."  She was right.  Don't get me wrong, I love Dirt Face. He has been the perfect horse for me, for the time he has been in my life, but he is not and never will be, Shadow.

Kiss your babies, count your blessings and if you have a horse whose touched your life, hug him, love him and let him know how much better your life is because he is a part of it!


Country Girl said...

*hugs* so many memories to carry in your heart

Nicole said...

Your top ten list made me smile too :)