I did something very hard today. I looked into the eyes of a child I have grown to love like my own and told her of the dealth of her beloved horse Snowball. I would pray that I never have to do something like that again, but having lived this long, I know the futility of that. Life is life ... and death is something we all stare in the face at one time or another.I did something very hard today. I looked into the eyes of a child I have grown to love like my own and told her of the dealth of her beloved horse Snowball. I would pray that I never have to do something like that again, but having lived this long, I know the futility of that. Life is life ... and death is something we all stare in the face at one time or another.
I did something very hard today. I looked into the eyes of a child I have grown to love like my own and told her of the dealth of her beloved horse Snowball. I would pray that I never have to do something like that again, but having lived this long, I know the futility of that. Life is life … and death is something we all stare in the face at one time or another.
The day started like every other work day. My husband, Lou, and I woke early and readied ourselves for the day, shared a few moments of quiet talk and a cup of coffee over our small kitchen table, gathered our things and prepared to leave for our separate ways, turned off the coffee pot and lights and walked to our cars.
It was immediately apparent to both of us that Snowball was in extreme stress. The ground was torn and ripped apart under her newly shod feet. She was pawing incessantly and biting and kicking at her stomach. Walking in circles, walking in a vain effort to get away from the pain. We never even went back into the house, our days plans forgotten in the urgency of the moment.
I got a lead line on her while Lou went straight to Dr. Alexanders’s office to get advice and a shot to help her relax and get her bowels moving again. For colic had reared it’s ugly head, marring what had started out to be another perfect day.
Snowball and I walked, and we walked, and we walked. Dixie Boy, the young stud colt housed in the pasture with her must have thought it was a new game because he was feeling pretty sure of himself, strutting around and around us with his neck arched and picking up his pretty feet in a beautiful extended trot. When he finally figured out that I wouldn’t tolerate him aggrivating Snowball, he settled into a walk with us.
Lou wasn’t long in town and returned with 12cc of Banamine which we immediately administered and the news that Dr. Jim was out of town. Taking turns, we walked her from 7:30 a.m., steadly, letting her rest every 10 to 15 minutes. Her breating became labored and she went down a few times, but always got back up with little prodding from us. The feeling of helplessness was compounded by the oncall vet being tied up in surgery all morning.
Around 2:30 on advice from Dr. Jim, whom his assistants had contacted by cell phone, we administered another 12cc of Banamine. For a short time, we thought we had it licked. Snowball began to pass some gas and we wanted so badly to believe it was a good sign. About an hour later her breathing again began labored and she began sweating. We covered her with a light blanket and let her walk a little slower. When we would stop to let her rest, she, with some primitive instinct would walk off from us as if saying "Come on … I need to move".
Dixie Boy, and our other two horses, Sadie and Dusty has settled into a corner around 10 that morning with what was surely concern for their old friend in their eyes and body language. Soft nickers floated across the way every so often, offering quiet encouragement to Snowball.
But it was death that would win this day. Death, who would take from a little girl her horse. Not the first or even the second horse she had ridden, but her first, very own horse. One that taught her confidence and would take her from timid trots to being able to stand on her back while she walked. One that she progressed from riding with a saddle to bareback pad to bareback with just a halter. One that taught her balance and introduced her to the freedom of wind in her hair and a horse between her knees.
Once I watched out the window as Becca was riding Snowball in the pasture. Dusty was following a little to close for comfort and Snowball picked up her two back feet in a gentle reminder to him that he was in her space. Becca, riding bareback, was tossed onto Snowballs neck and before I could catch my breath Snowball came to a quick halt and allowed Becca to slide to the ground unharmed. My heart was pounding with the knowledge of what could have happened and at the same time full of pride for the little girl who dusted herself off and remounted. She told me the story later. And with a little girls innocence it became a big kick and a near death fall from a wildly galloping horse.
I remember the day we told Becca that Snowball was hers. I had picked her and her brother L.C. up from their mother’s house early and when we got home, Lou was waiting for us. Snowball was the first thing Becca saw, but I could tell she didn’t want to ask for fear of being told "No, she’s not yours we’re just keeping her for Mr. Pete". But when we got to the barn, her dad handed her a bucket and told her she needed to go feed her horse. She didn’t say a word but turned to her destiny and I swear she grew two inches with the enormity of what he had said. "Her horse". Those two little words opened up a whole new world for her. She fed and groomed and cleaned Snowballs feet. She bathed her on warm summer days and came home with a dirty bottom every chance she got. She rode her in parades and trail rides. She rode her over to the neighbors house, showing off just a little. She took a picture of her and Snowball home to her mom’s so she could prove to her friends that Snowball was real. She gained statue in the eyes of her non-horsey friends and she bragged just a little. She rode for the love of it every chance she got.
I offered to tell her about Snowball, because I knew her dad was feeling defeated by the whole day. And then there was for him the knowledge that this was something he couldn’t protect her from. When the time came and I looked her in the eyes and told her that Snowball was gone, she became very still and her eyes filled with enormous tears. She and I went somewhere private and I let her cry. She made no sound, but I could hear her heart breaking and my heart broke for her. After 20 minutes or so we went back to where her Dad was waiting and in one of those moments that become engraved on your heart, I saw her running to Lou with outstretched arms, needing the strength that only her Dad could provide. He wrapped one arm around her shoulders and, slightly bending as if to protect her from harm, placed his other hand gently on her head and pressed her against his heart. His face was carved in stone but when his eyes met mine they were filled with tears for this precious child that God had presented to him.
I know that this story is long, but it would be much longer if I could just tell you how much Becca and Snowball loved each other. There will be other horses. But for her there will never be a another Snowball. As for me there will never be another Bellbee, my first horse. What is it about little girls and horses? That mysterious bond that so often is found within the hearts of little girls with tangles in their hair and giggles on their breath and these four-footed creatures called horses?
That is something I can’t describe, though it’s been with me my whole life. I can only pray that one day Becca will be fortunate enough to be able to share this story with her own little girl, a child that she will love as much as I have grown to love her.