My beloved horse,
You are a horse, and have no concept of birthdays. When I pushed your luxurious black forelock back from your eyes and pressed my cheek to yours so that your sleek fur bristled against my fragile skin, and whispered “Happy birthday, buddy” to your forward-tipped ears, you understood not a word. But you pressed closer to me, your eyes lighting up at the sheer pleasure of hearing my voice.
Honestly, beyond the words you didn’t understand, I didn’t do anything special for your birthday. I even forgot to bring you a carrot. But I made your day with everything I did, because that’s the way you are. I took you for a ride; we loped down the fenceline with your big feet beating softly on the green grass and your ears pricked forward with excitement. When we had to be called back to help out with some cattle work, I turned you up the hill and pushed you faster than I have ever dared before. You flung out your long gawky legs and snorted in glee. Watch me run, Mom! you cried with pride, flinging up your tail. I’m so fast!
Yes, Thunder, I replied with one hand on your neck, you are. Even though you were barely hand-galloping. You did it with so much of yourself that it was ten times more exciting than speed alone could ever make it.
Then we cut heifers out of the herd for their owner and some buyers; the owner thought you were adorable and made your day again by rubbing your nose. You got bored standing and waiting, and tried to eat your stirrup. When we got to herd the cows, you threw yourself into it with the puppyish enthusiasm only you have; your ears were up even as you sprinted and spun to catch those heifers, because you thought it was an elaborate and wonderful game.
You turned four years old yesterday. I trust you with my life.
It seems like yesterday that I first breathed into your nose and made you mine; it feels like last week that I would press my cheek against Skye’s stomach and speak to you before you were even born. “Hi, baby Skye, when are you coming?” I swear you knew my voice when you were born, like a human baby knows the voice of his mother; I will never forget the first time you pricked your ears to me, just hours old. You will never know how I waited for you and prayed for you, or how delighted I was when you finally made your appearance, a tiny bundle of legs and fur and soft puffs of milky breath.
You were still too small to eat even a carrot slice out of my hand when you first started coming to me in the paddock, giving your poor little baby whinny. (“He neighs like a Barbie horse,” commented my sister). It melted my heart, the way it still does when your now 15.1hh bulk lopes up to me and rumbles a greeting like a thunderstorm turning over in its sleep.
Oh, Baby Thun. You’re not so much of a baby anymore, are you? It has been a long time since I first haltered you or picked up your tiny feet, struggling to fit the hoofpick into the teeny grooves of your frog. So many milestones, and so few struggles. You opened your mouth for the bit before you even knew what it was. Every new thing I introduced was a complete non-event for you and a miracle for me; I kept waiting for you to finally explode, but you never did. We have come a long way together, you and me. We’ve had our fights, of course, but I have never seen malice in you. My experiences with you are so peppered with wonder at how much you dare to trust me. The first time I looked into your star-studded eyes and reached out to brush my fingers over your downy neck. Sitting on the grass, barely daring to breathe as your head rested in my lap while you slept. Later, when you were too big to use me as a pillow, I would wait for you to lie down on your side and then crash between your legs with my head resting against your belly. The first time I sat on you, and how you just turned back an ear to hear the voice you love so much. Falling off on an outride, watching you come back to get me. Walking into the horsebox for the first time, hearing your faithful hoofbeats as you followed me without a qualm.
I don’t deserve for you to trust me this much, buddy, and it scares me a little. But you make me want to be better than I am, you make me believe in the stars, you make me know that when the world feels cold and dark there is always someone on this earth who is happy to see me. I have been proud and amazed and happy and priviledged to be such a big part of your remarkable young life, but most of all I have been humbled that God would trust me with one of the best creatures He ever made. You are amazing, but it’s not me who gave the horse his strength and clothed his neck with thunder. The King made you, and you are a glory to Him.
Here’s to a long and beautiful journey ahead with you, my beautiful bay gelding.