Amigo must have been an incredible horse. A dun with a long, black mane and tail, black feet and the dark line down his back. He stood tall and proud as the stable hand loaded him in the trailer. He only had one fault, he was walking on the cannon bone of his right foot.
“He went lame a couple of weeks ago,” the stable manager said. “Some kids tried to ride him but his hoof curled up like that. He ain’t no good to anyone no more.”
Amigo’s hoof had at least six month’s worth of growth on it, telling me that he had been this way for a long time, kept in a stall, hidden away. His filthy coat, his matted hair – no one had cared until a visitor to the stables called us and arranged for the owner to donate him to Habitat for Horses.
We spent two weeks building him up before the operation. Our vet clipped the tendons, fitted a brace and told us, quite frankly, that there was only a small chance that he would make it. We tried because Amigo tried.
To see the fire in his eyes was to understand his desire to live. Even crippled, he belonged in a world of running, belonged out in the pasture with the other horses, racing and bucking. Amigo was full of life, not willing to lay down, not wanting to give into a hoof that didn’t support his dreams.
The days that followed showed us how dreams can turn to dust. The twice a day dressing changes, the constant shots, the gentle hands of the vet did nothing for the healing. It kept getting worse, the skin started sloughing off, then the hoof wall separated and we knew it was over.
How do you tell a horse that he will never run again? How do you ask him if he understands? How do you say you’re sorry, that you failed, that there will never again see green pastures or blue skies or playmates to chase?
I held him in my arms, held his head next to mine, whispered soft words, looked deeply into his eyes and said goodbye. The vet inserted the needle. Seconds later, Amigo was gone.
My walk out into the pasture the next morning wasn’t for me, it was for him. I smelled the richness of the earth, felt the breeze that carried his dreams on wings. I walked with the other horses, felt a part of the herd, touched noses, watched the birds, looked over the fence at the cows in the next pasture, felt the warmth of the sun. Amigo was within me. His hoof beats followed my every step. His heart beat within my chest – so strong, so proud, so full of life.
As I walked away, I knew that there is a part of him that will live forever in my heart. But there was a part of him that I must leave behind.
Amigo belongs out there, a place where humans can never go – being free, running, playing, in a world where the dreams of horses come true.