I said goodbye to my dear Stevie this week, just a month shy of his 29th birthday. While my heart hurts to think that I won't get a chance to scratch him under the chin or run my fingers through his mane again, I'm taking comfort in knowing that the days suffering in a body too old for his young spirit are finally over.
So many Stevie stories - I've written pages and pages about my "little horse that could", never publishing most of it, because there was always more. Stevie's life was a never-ending stream of anecdotes, where would I start? And he seemed to have nine lives - we'd had so many near-misses, so many rebounds, I figured his story would never end. I suppose it really hasn't!
I do know that Stevie's ability to overcome the impossible wasn't exclusive to his twelve years with me. There are thirteen previous owners listed on his American Saddlebred Horse Association registration papers before mine. I got to meet one of them in Colorado several years ago, and she recounted the story of how close she had come to putting Stevie to sleep following a seemingly unsuccessful colic surgery. She and her veterinarian couldn't seem to manage Stevie's pain with a common pain reliever, "Banamine", as he was waking from the anesthetic, and he was thrashing around violently, unable to get up. Afraid that he would fatally injure himself, she decided to put him out of his misery as soon as the "pain relievers" wore off and her vet could give him the lethal injection. She had a horse-sized hole dug on her property and prepared to say her goodbyes, when Stevie suddenly got more comfortable and stood up with a big sigh. Happily stunned by this reversal of the inevitable, she changed her mind, the hole was filled, and a conclusion made: Stevie would be fine, but no more Banamine!
Stevie certainly had a flair for the dramatic, but in other ways he could be very stoic about pain, he always looked years younger in the show ring, because adrenaline would kick in whenever there was an audience. We won an Open English Pleasure Championship in a class of professionals aboard their best and brightest, when Stevie was 20. It was my proudest blue ribbon ever, not to mention a ride that I wish everyone could experience in their lifetime! He was as proud that I was navigating him through the class as I was to be riding him! There was no doubt that Stevie loved attention, seeking it out in every way possible, even if it meant toothmarks! "Hey! Are you listening to me?" I'm still sporting the remains of one of his "love bites" on my thigh from the day before he died - the little booger always wanted to make sure everybody knew exactly how he felt.
The consummate Energizer Pony, Stevie could outlast everbody else - student riders, other (much, much younger) horses, even me. And don't let him catch you feeling sorry for him - he had way too much pride for any such nonesense! Well into retirement, arthritic body failing him, he'd sense somebody watching and puff himself up, putting on a show that inevitably caused someone to ask, "How is old is that horse, again?" I loved watching their faces when I revealed his vintage.
Stevie was always giving me a reason to smile. Like right now.
PSST: Do you have a Stevie story? I know I have many more! Post yours in the comments, and I'll write more soon!