At 1:30 today I wrote this email to Hilary after King died:
“King took his last breath at 12:40 PM. Bill had arrived with his tractor before noon, Madison [the vet] got here at 12:25. I just got back to the house right now. Instead of dragging the body down to Dead Horse Tree, which wouldn’t have worked with the way Bill had the tractor rigged, we picked a different spot. He had a couple of forks hooked to the bucket so he could lift the horse. That worked very well. We took King down the hill to the place where one of our old horses was shot by Eileen [another vet]. King is under a tree near the creek, and looked none the worse for wear.
“This morning I had given him lots of water, so he was comfortable up to the end. We were saddened to see him go.”
“I had a feeling King died at 12:40. Right then, to the minute, Benjamin suddenly started screaming and screaming, and had an expression of agony on his face, like he had just lost an old friend and was inconsolable. Tears were pouring down his cheeks like they never had before, and his eyes were open, not closed like when he has a bellyache. I think he watched King gallop by on his way to the Big Meadow in the Sky, and was sad to see him go.”
And later added:
“It was amazing, considering the timing. He was happy and fine, and then suddenly he was overtaken by sadness. I immediately knew what had happened, even though we’re programmed to mistrust those instincts and call them stupid.”
The gathering of twenty horses and mules:
When Bill and I got back up the hill through the gates to the top of the corral, we were surprised to see that every one of the horses and mules had gone, drifting off to wherever it was they had come in from.
I was reminded of the expression used when a monarch dies and is succeeded by a new monarch: The King is dead. Long live the King!
Photo: Hilary Hurley Painter