Losing a friend is never easy and when it is an equine friend, I am particularly emotional. Last Wednesday, my 26 year old mare, Ryah, went to “horse heaven” as I call it. She was one incredible horse.
I first came to know Ryah when the San Juan Riding program acquired her. She was that “sweet little bay” horse left in a Ridgway pasture along with some other horses by a “fly-by-night” outfitter. It was summer and so they had pasture and had water but other than that — no one paid any attention to them, except for a friend of mine who had horses in the adjacent pasture. She brushed the “bay” and spent time with her. You couldn’t help but fall in love with her. She got along with everyone, equine and human. Finding out who actually owned the “bay,” the riding program was able to lease her.
What a gem! She worked in the therapy program — learning to be comfortable around a wheelchair, ramps, paraplegics and Down syndrome adults and children with all sorts of disabilities. A quiet gentle equine soul! What was great about Ryah was that you were able to put anyone on her. She was a great lesson horse. The thing about Ryah was that you could trust her — trust her to take care of you. My “horsey” friends know what’s that worth. When the riding program closed in 2010, Ryah came to live with me.
When Ryah passed on Wednesday, I couldn’t bury her until Thursday. That was difficult. My farrier said that he would bring the backhoe to dig. I said to him, “I’m pretty neurotic and obsessive when it comes to burying a horse. He laughed and said, “I’ve known you for years, Alice…It’s okay, don’t worry.” So, it all went well — and just as we were finishing the weather came in. At least it waited. I am grateful for that and I’m very grateful for my friends who helped me lay her to rest with great respect, love and compassion.
As we were digging and working, the herd was watching from afar. When we were done, and had left the pasture, backhoe and all, the horses all came down the hill and went to the burial site. They knew. One of their own had transitioned and had become a horse angel.
So we go on. A special angel horse is now protecting us. The herd dynamics will change a bit — and they grieve…yes, horses grieve. Ryah was Thunder’s girlfriend. He is grieving. My Outrageous “8” are now the Magnificent “7” and that’s what “Thunder Heart Haven” is all about — a horse sanctuary where horses can live in peace and harmony and safety and feel love and be blessed. I feel blessed to be part of their family — my equine family.
And I’m so grateful to have had that sweet little “bay” horse in the pasture. RIP my beautiful Ryah.
Alice Billings is a resident of Ridgway, Colorado, a painter, an artist, an author and friend to animals everywhere.