Broken Hearts, dressage

Hardly a Dry Eye

There was hardly a dry eye in the barn this morning, following yesterday’s really bad news. Natalie met me by the arena and asked if I’d heard. “Oh, yes,” I said. Nichole had texted me yesterday afternoon with the shocking news of Charles’s demise. I’d been fighting tears since, often losing the battle.
A thunderstorm had rolled into town with tremendous speed and force, bringing wind, torrential rain, thunder, lightning, and hail. Out in the pasture, the younger horses got caught up in the excitement of the quickly-changing weather.
The youngster in the herd, Charles loved any excuse for a romp. But on this day, the run was catastrophic. With wind howling and rain lashing down, those on hand quickly handled the crisis, making sure Charles didn’t suffer.
Then came the sharing of the news. Fortunately, Charles’s young owner and her mother had left the barn just minutes before the incident. It was bad enough to hear about it on the phone. I was grateful not to have been there.
When bad things happen to good people, it’s hard to accept. Charles came to our barn just over a year ago, bringing the nicest barn family you could wish for. His young owner, Lauren (dubbed Little Lauren so I didn’t have to live with the title of Old Lauren), and her family quickly moved from newcomers to essential barn members through their acts of kindness and generosity — sharing in the work, volunteering at shows, and becoming deeply involved in our local dressage chapter.
At age 11, Lauren began transforming Charles from a playful pasture pet into a dressage horse with a work ethic. In his first show season Charles took Reserve Champion at Intro Level and was just days away from beginning this year’s new show season at Training Level.
Charles’s death shocked us all, hitting like a random strike of lightning, leaving us all feeling vulnerable. This could have happened to any one of us.
When I arrived at the barn today, there was no pretending that all was well. I was met with tear-stained eyes and outstretched arms. We cried in the barn aisle, our voices quavering with emotion. Even Todd, our burly farrier, was pensive. Our barn community has taken a blow.
Trying to look at the positive, I thank Charles for bringing his family into our lives. They are a joy.
Charles opened up numerous doors for Lauren and her family, transforming them from dressage bystanders to full-on participants and valued members of our community.
And I do hope Lauren knows how deeply we share her loss. Most of us have been there in one way or another. We carry a portion of her pain with us. She is one of us.
While our barn is blanketed with sadness today, the fabric of that blanket is love, woven through our human and equine hearts. Loss draws us closer. We are a solid and strong community, despite the damage to our broken hearts.