Stubborn Gladness

Big bay horse's beautiful eyes

My big bay horse’s eyes have always captivated me.

This is my horse. His name is Metro (named for his rhythmic cadence) and he is 18 years old. He became mine on July 24, 2002 as a six year old youngster. A horse-crazy girl from the get-go, all my dreams have come true with him.

Whether I am riding him in a lesson, on a trail, or in a competition, or just being with him, he is a joy.

Little girl and her aunt on a big bay horse.

My niece and I astride my boy.

He’s as gentle as a lamb and seems to know to take it easy around kids.

Bay horse running.

Nostrils flared, and head up, Metro loves to run.

But he’s strong and powerful and he’s run away with me, and nearly bucked me off more times than I can count. Before I bought him, he was competing over big 4’6 obstacles in fast-paced jumper classes. When I went to try him out, I jumped my first line of two jumps with him. Instead of jumping the line in six strides which was correct, he ate up the ground with his powerful long legs and did it in five. It was so smooth, I hardly realized it. I got the wrong distance to other jumps several times and he went ahead and got us over them, completely un-phased by my mistakes. I had to have him. His willing, unflappable athleticism has continued to this day. We’ve had a good deal of success together, but when a real pro is in the stirrups, he’s spectacular.

I started taking riding lessons as a little girl, got my first horse as a freshman in high school, sold him and got my second horse as a sophomore. I worked for a sale barn in Minnesota after high school, cleaning stalls, feeding and caring for the horses, and riding about six to eight of them a day. After quitting the job, I didn’t ride for about 12 years. I started leasing horses and then bought my third horse, Sweet William in 1994. After I got Metro, I helped exercise some of the other horses in my barn. I’m trying to say I’ve ridden lots and lots of horses over the years, some who cost probably five to ten times than my boy , and never once did I wish for any other horse other than Metro. Ever.

He’s my once-in-a lifetime horse. I knew it when I first laid eyes on him. If I live a long life and never stop riding, I’ll never find another horse like him for me. Like Mr. Trueheart is the LOML (love of my life), Metro is the HOML (horse of my life.)

His strength has been his salvation, as he’s overcome several serious health issues, including chronic ligament injuries that had him struggling with lameness on and off for four years and ultimately landing him in rehab for six months, and colic surgery followed by a difficult recovery.

Last week after a six day stay in a veterinary hospital, he was diagnosed with a very rare condition, megaesophagus. It’s a complicated mess and the long term outlook for my darling boy is not sunny. The specialist said it could be a year or two, or it may be sooner.

Sweet William is coming up on his 25th birthday, and his tenth year of retirement. I thought Metro would also have a long, cushy retirement of life grazing on green fields amidst a herd of horse friends and endless carrots and kisses of gratitude.

Metro, Incanto, the best horse in the world.

I’m still able to ride him, and even jump him, and given his new diagnosis, I am learning to treasure each moment I have with him. I love watching him relax in his stall, gently nuzzle little babies, quickly flick his ears forward every time I point him at a jump, jog up the hill toward the turn-out paddocks, rest his head on my shoulder as I stand in front of his stall, reach down and sniff my dog Mia, play in the water trough, listen for every aid as I ride. The moments are endless.

Warmblood horse, Metro, competing in a hunter derby at Sonoma Horse Park in Petaluma , California in September 2014.

My Champion and I competing a few months ago.

It’s a strange thing to joyfully rejoice while facing the end.

But, I also realize it’s what we are all doing, really. It doesn’t seem possible to maintain that awareness on any conscious level for any length of time. It’s too much. It’s too sad. It’s too frightening. It’s too unknowable. It’s not possible that what is so alive and beautiful and pulsing with vibrance could ever be gone. Into the mystic.

Metro and me after a Pebble Beach show.

I don’t know how to do anything different than to keep trying to really appreciate every moment I have with him. To stay in the present, to appreciate this instant. To ward off fear. To find joy.

To quote Nietzsche: “The single most important philosophical question we can ask in life is:why aren’t we dancing in gratitude right now?”

I am also reminded of one of the most powerful quotes I think I’ve ever read, “We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.” It’s from Jack Gilbert’s poem, “A Brief for the Defense.”  

Metro grazing

I am glad for of the perfect horse I have in all his charming, handsome, athletic, kind, funny, smart, forgiving, powerful, sweet soft-muzzled and big-eyed glory.

Metro's golden eyes.

I will walk every step of his path with him. With joy.

Thank you for reading and sharing this walk with us. What path are you walking?


3 responses to “Stubborn Gladness”

  1. The path I’m waking right now is one with an overflowing heart and misty eyes… Your Metro bond reminds me of the one I had with my Firecracker…

    My heart is filed with sadness for this untimely and unwanted death that is upon you and your horse, yet is full of the joys you have accumulated…

    Yes, we are all heading in that direction, Death, but what I have learned is that we can continue to make memories with our loved ones, even when they are no longer here in the physical form…

    Might I show something with you I write not too long ago? “Where there is great pain, there is an even greater love.” Nothing can take that love away, Joutneyer…nothing…

    Thank you for sharing, Neighbor… Dancing in gratitude that I stumbled upon that Instagram photo of Metro…

    Yours in hope, healing, and happiness,

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