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  • rkrywko

The One Where We Get Emotional

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

In the last post I said I'd fill you guys in on my life with Ben, so strap in as we take a ride down memory lane. (Maybe bring tissues, I know I'll need them)



I don't remember how long we were talking over Facebook, but I had come across Fleetwood Farms Quarter Horses and noticed that they were looking for interns. So come June 1st, 2013, I moved away from home and drove down to meet Ryan and Judy for the first time. To say it was overwhelming, in the best way possible, is an understatement. They just opened their arms and welcomed me like family. Which is why they are quite literally my second family. Of course, I won't go into the entire story but after a few days of getting situated with what was expected of me and what my chores entailed, Rosa was brought up from pasture with her little red colt by Jax Fed Ex. Rosa (TwiceRoyal Rocinante) was by Docs Twice Royal and out of Lucky Contadina. (Google is your best friend if you don't know much about pedigrees) So not only was this little guy royally bred, he was the most laid back foal from that year. Seriously, he was halter broke in two sessions. You could light fireworks next to him and he'd just enjoy them with you!

So he of course became my favourite to work with and to be around. The other intern working with me (and friend) convinced me to ask Ryan about purchasing "Rosa's colt". So I very shyly brought it up in a round about way, and Ryan completely dumbfounded me by saying "Yeah, sure." I don't know if I just felt like I shouldn't have him or why I had my reserves, but I was giddy after the initial shock. So, "Rosa's colt" became "Becca's colt". You couldn't take the smile off my face.

So, one night after work we were brainstorming names for him. I got to pick his registered name (Jaxs Little King) but a call name was very elusive. The white star on his face slightly resembled a bird, so maybe Phoenix? But he wasn't quite sassy enough to earn the name I thought. His marking also resembled a horse jumping. Ryan walks in hurriedly and announces, "Do you know who Ian Miller is?"

"Yes...?" I sheepishly reply as I, at the time, didn't actually know very much about him. He continues to tell me about Big Ben, and the accomplishments of the pair. And, it just kind of stuck. Ben. He was not going to be big (I think he finished about 14hh) But Ben just kind of clicked. He had many nicknames over the years, Baby B, B, BB, Fuzzhead, My Boy... I'm sure you get the idea...

He was quiet, calm, collected, smart, silly, sucky, loving and a great teacher as my first horse (and first baby.) A little bit bossy, a little bit hard headed, but once you got to know him he'd cross Hell and high water for you. I guess I say that but he really only liked a very few select people in his life. If he didn't like you, that was it. You had no chance to try. (Funnily enough, he only liked women.)

Of course I have so many good memories with me... but one of my favourites is when I got their extras ready (ration, minerals, and a bit of beet pulp) and Ben was nowhere to be found. Which is really strange because Ben LOVED food! (He made good use of it too, he was heavily overweight for most of his life...) So of course I'm immediately worried and I go off calling him and trudging through the bush. I make my rounds and I walk back to the front portion of the pasture, when I see his cute face looking at me from where I normally feed them. My in-laws farm the rest of the field that surrounds the pasture, so the combine was making end rounds right when I was lost in the trees for Ben's line of sight. Well, he was certain the combine was some kind of monster so he ran as fast as he could to make sure I was OK. He was whinnying his poor little heart out, and you could see his whole body sigh in relief when he saw me walking towards him. He bravely put himself between the combine and me, and ushered me back to where it was "safe". I don't know any other horse who would run head on, alone, into a perceived dangerous situation. He was my one and only, my true heart horse.

April 2020, I can't remember exact dates, but I went out to visit Ben and his leg was swollen and he was limping. So I did (what I thought) was a thorough investigation, and came up empty. The next day, he was still limping and I really went over his whole leg, foot, into his frog... And there it was. A nail. Of course I panic, I call and text my dearest horse friends and they say the same thing, "Take him to the vet!" But at the time I didn't have a horse trailer, so I eventually found a hauling company to take him the next morning. For two weeks, I soaked his foot twice a day, wrapped it, did everything I could. The vet had him stay overnight the first night and did everything my bank account could handle. By the end of the second week, I had to get the hauling company to take him back since he still needed Bute to be comfortable. X-rays confirmed that infection had eaten most of his coffin bone, and there was nothing more that could be done. I collapsed into the truck, the kind of soul-destroying cry that makes everyone else cry too. I heard my husband get out of the truck to talk to the vet, digging for any sign of hope. It was freezing cold, the wind was blowing into me, whipping snow around us. My husband stood behind me to try to shield me from the weather as I just fell apart. I was not aware of time, or space. Just the black hole of despair consuming my heart, my soul. When I could finally right myself, the vet came back outside with Ben. I hugged him and sobbed. "I'm so sorry my boy" was all I could get out. I'm so sorry that I failed you, if I had just gotten you to the vet sooner. If I found the nail sooner. If I paid for the treatments for you to get them for a whole week instead of only two days. If I was only a better mom.

I took his blanket off, and asked the vet to cut some of his tail for me to keep. We walked around back, and they moved their company vehicles so we could kind of have a more private moment. (Back when nobody was allowed in the clinics during the pandemic)

The sun came out just for us, as we stood there. He sighed a deep, comfortable sigh. I was clinging to him for dear life. He softly nickered through the sedative to the horses in the pens, he was always game for making new equine friends.

After the time of death was announced, I laid on his body and cried. My husband started the truck, and waited for us to have our final Goodbye. The vet and the tech said their final words and carried on to help the now line up of clients in for their visits.

The sun kept us warm for a little while, but it didn't stop my eyes from freezing shut. And I was OK with that. I wanted to stay with him, I wasn't prepared to leave him to his final resting place. A part of me wanted to be buried with him. In fact, I know a part of me died that day with him. But as a wife, and a mother, I had to get up. I had to go home without the love of my life. We were supposed to grow old together, he was going to teach my kids how to ride... but I was left with emptiness.



I think we don't ever heal from losing someone we love so incredulously. As I'm writing this, I'm crying like I did for the first two weeks after I came home with an empty trailer. The guilt is relentless as well. I was prepared to quit, sell all of my tack and never let another horse into my heart again.

But then again... How beautiful is it that we can feel such a sense of love, and belonging? As a horse person we dream to have "that" horse, and I'm so incredibly lucky that I got to experience it with my first horse. Some people never find their "heart horse", and that to me is a greater pain than having to lose them.


So, I gave it some time. And by August I had already been to visit Fleetwood Farms, as Ryan may have mentioned that they had a very sweet little filly that checked off all of my boxes... Except for maybe having too much white. This baby was born out on the range, and had no human interaction when I first met her. They had just brought her and her mother up to the barnyard for me to meet her.

I crouched down, and waited. I talked softly to her. She hesitated, and then walked up to me and pressed her muzzle to my lips. If there was any kind of sign from Ben that I was meant to bring her up as well; this was it. One of her first interactions with people, she was so soft and gentle. I think it was the start of a beautiful healing and loving process.


So here's to our heart horses, the ones that make life a little easier and a whole lot more brighter.

I miss you my boy, and I can't wait to see you again.


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