People who know horses said he probably wouldn't last through the winter. Boy did they underestimate him. He was a retired show horse whose former family had to let him go. You could see it in the lightness of his feet, the way he held his head. He never forgot who he was. And he put on nearly a hundred pounds that first winter and never lost it.
During his five years at Four Mile, Skip carried more than 20 riders--some bareback--with never a wrong step or a head toss. His youngest rider was 18 months old, his oldest 70. They were five really great years.
When he was a few months shy of 35 (around 100 in people years), he went blind in one eye from the pressure of glaucoma (like a steady headache). Then he began rubbing his good eye until he split that eye lid open as well. It was clear that he was struggling with the pain in spite of the treatments and medications we'd tried.
Eventually, we all said our goodbyes, and the kindest, gentlest vet on the planet set him loose on the rainbow bridge.
That's a popular if somewhat childish image. But better to dwell on than the empty stall, the green winter blanket with the leg strap stitched back on wrong-way-round lying in the garage with the red halter that looked so striking against his white face. Or the silver champagne chiller half full of the hydration hay soaked in warm water there wasn't time to finish before a friend's horse trailer circled in front of the barn for one last haul. Nope, rainbow bridge it is.
At first, I worried whether Skip would take to our more humble facilities, tolerate my lack of expertise. Then one day, I was watching a friend work Travis in the round pen, and I felt the softness of a chin settling onto my shoulder and felt warm breath on my neck. I think it was Skip's way of saying I'd do.
I hope I did.
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