The Horse Next Door

Sophie died last week, so in a way, this is an obit for a horse.

Kayleen and Sophie.jpg

First you should understand that I don’t much like horses – they’re big, and twitchy, and I am never quite convinced that they won’t use those big hooves to squash me like a bug. Sure, when I was a teenage girl I fantasized that I would be riding bareback, with flowing scarves drifting in the wind, and that my faithful steed would adore me.

Didn’t happen. I got run away with a couple of times, stepped on, and once backed into a fence. So I’m not crazy about those big animals.

But I loved Sophie.

Sophie was a thoroughbred who had been used (probably misused) at a racetrack to lead and pace other horses. Sandie and Nick pastured her, a too-thin animal of about six, for their horse-mad granddaughter. Kayleen rode her, trained with her, and loved her. The feeling was clearly mutual. From the other side of the fence, I watched this elegant creature, chestnut with a white face and one socked foot, learn to come when called, stand patiently while Kayleen washed and brushed her, and carry her on trail-riding adventures.

When I worked in my yard, Sophie would amble over to the fence. Yes, she might have been looking for treats, but she hung around when I gingerly stroked her nose and asked how the grass was shaping up this season.

Very neighborly.

When my English grandsons came to visit, they had their first introduction to a horse by being lifted up by their mother to feed Sophie apples from my tree. She had good manners, didn’t push or grab, so they giggled and laughed and fed her more. When I told a friend that Sophie had died, she was upset too – I’d forgotten her 10-year-old grandson had happily hung out with Sophie and the dogs when forced to come along with grandma.

Sadie, one of my border collie rescues, would touch noses and hang out in the shade with her. Emmett on the other hand, would charge the fence, crouch like he was going to attack, and bark wildly. Sophie just tossed her head, but I was terrified that somehow they would break through the fence and get into a frenzied canine/equine fight. It would be epic and not end well. That was until I realized that the retired track horse and the crazy fast dog would race up and down the fence line together.

Interspecies playtime.

Last week when I returned from a trip, I saw all my flowers were crushed along the fenceline under a tree. Sandie told me later that when Sophie was sick, she stood by the fence and the dogs lay down beside her – no racing or barking. Just being with her.

When I was in Italy, the guide mentioned that Saint Francis d’Assisi had believed all God’s creatures, not just people, have souls. I’m with him. When I go tottering into heaven, I know all my dogs will be by my side in whatever form a dog soul takes. And I want to see Sophie too. I want to pat her nose, watch her race Emmett, and see the sun gleaming on her coat as she ambles around the meadows waiting for Kayleen and Sandie to bring her carrots.

She was a wonderful horse – gentle, friendly, and a good neighbor. Damn but we miss her.