The day I let Rosie, my first horse, go 11 years ago was a tough one. But for the best, I knew.
I was 18, and it was actually the day before a show she and I were to compete in, our third year in the top harness driving spot in our local 4-H division. Rosie, once energetic and vibrant, had grown ill with emphysema a year or so before, and never fully recovered. The sickness practically ravaged her physically, and the dusty summers were the worst time.
Though I knew it was possible, I didn't actually believe Rosie would die so quickly and easily. But that's just what happened.
As the vet prepared a shot that would put my little chocolate-colored mare asleep forever, I played over in my mind many moments from the 11 years we had together.
Rosie was the first horse who was truly my own. It just so happened that my first was a little pistol. She was a Hackney, a breed known for its high-stepping gaits, and could this filly pack a punch with her kick. Many things came in contact with those black hooves; my knees, back, legs, and the side of my head nearly once, and our dogs, and our Appaloosa geldings who all crushed on her from the moment we brought her home. I can't blame them; she was a feisty catch I'm sure.
Within a year, we were bringing home blue ribbons at local fairs and riding competitions. I learned to jump with Rosie, and drive harness--which she was a natural at. Most of our time was spent riding the trails covering my family's country properties. At 11, though, I outgrew Rosie and moved on to another hourse, and so on, and so on. I still found time to spend with her whenever I was able, brushing her mane and coat, driving her around hitched to her harness minus the cart before the shows.
Now, looking at her, this special little mare who taught me so much, it was clear things had changed. How sick she'd become; her once glossy coat was dull, her ribs stuck out and her sides heaved just to breath normal. Her dark eyes were so tired, but very clear, I noticed. It was then I knew this was our time to say good-bye. Keeping her alive in this state was unbearable, and I wanted to remember my mare for what she was all those years. Not how she left this world.
I stared lovingly into those tired eyes, stroking her forelock as the vet administered the shot. I'd never witnessed a horse put down before, and the drugs took effect so fast. It took me, the vet and my grandmother to move Rosie into the trailer that would take her away from me that afternoon.
The whole time I watched Rosie's life drain away, I whispered as I ran my hands through her long mane, my face close to hers: 'I love you. Always. Good-bye...'
Then, just like that, Rosie was gone, and I'd let her go.