2 Jan 09
India was the name of our first horse.
Gray-white and a little speckled, we bought her in 1995 when the boys, Joshua and Gideon, were only 10 and 8.
Josh wanted to re-name her.
"How about Sonic the Hedgehog?" he said with dead seriousness. Sonic, after all, was a cartoon star of video games back in the early 90's and a particular favorite of his.
Me, not so much.
Fortunately, Josh decided it wasn't such a great idea after all.
And India, mercifully, stayed India.
But she early on developed leg problems and pretty soon couldn't jump at all. And couldn't even canter very hard.
Josh was worried about her future.
"What are you going to do with her?" he demanded. "You're not going to kill her, are you?"
No, I said firmly, we took her into this family and she stays part of this family.
But it was clear she needed a new and less demanding place to live and graze and finish out her years.
We found that place in Bangor, Michigan with a wonderful woman named Mary Ann Smith. She and her husband, Gary, ran Twin Pines, a kind of retirement farm for old or wounded horses.
And so India moved in.
That was the beginning of my understanding that horses aren't so different from people.
India, a mare with a mind of her own, began to bond with a gelding named Sunny. Pretty soon, according to Mary Ann, they became inseparable. One wouldn't go out to pasture without the other. They were housed together in side-by-side stalls, a devoted old couple and happy about it.
It was Thanksgiving of 2006 that Mary Ann called. "India has colic," she said, referring to what can be a fatal obstruction of the intestines. "She's suffering, too old for surgery and the vet and I both think the only humane thing to do is put her down."
I gave the consent and thanked her for the great care she had taken with our mare.
A couple of days later, the phone rang again with Mary Ann on the line.
"I just have to tell you," she said, "the rest of the story."
After the vet had put India down, Mary Ann took Sunny from his stall to show her to him---to break it to him, in other words---before they buried India out in a back pasture. Sunny went back into his stall and stopped eating. It was as though his heart was broken. A couple of days later, Sonny died.
"We buried him out back with India," said Mary Ann. "I knew you'd want to know."
A horse story.
A love story.