There is a price to horseback riding. More than the price of their stabling, more than the price of their feed, their maintenance and their upkeep. More than all the gold in the world.
It’s a small price at first. A wish here, a dream there. The need to touch a horse. Then, without warning, like an aggressive, malignant cancer it spreads and consumes you. Your soul, your being, your life suddenly belongs to them. To their rhythm, to their touch and their strange, quiet love which they give you in return for your heart.
I saw a piece of my friend die today. Her stallion, the golden stallion, died from a terrible disease called African Horse Sickness. It is a virus that kills horses here in Africa. You can vaccinate and pray but, inevitably, it will strike and you will be left to the mercy of fate. Your horse will die or your horse will live.
If he lives, you know you’re safe for another year but if he dies, you die and the world ends. For second, for a minute and in a sense for the lifetime that you were with him.
I lost my first horse years ago, and carry that sorrow with me to this day, like parcel of pain, wrapped up to try and conceal the impact of it. I was aware of it tonight, as I listened to my friend sob in a way nobody else could understand. It’s what it sounds like when someone has lost a part of themselves which they will never get back. A heart beat, a spark of love, a piece of soul – forever gone.