I knew the day was going to eventually come. I didn't expect it to end how it did though. My old brown mare died July 24. She was 27, and I had her 21 of those years. Thought I'd share a little bit about her time with me and the last days of her life.
On April 1, 1998, I had a thousand bucks burning a hole in my pocket. I was a student at Hutchinson Community College and there was a horse sale at the sale barn my sister and I worked at occasionally. I wanted another horse so bad I could taste it.
Rylene and I traipsed through all the pens, seeing what was there, and I was beginning to get disappointed because nothing really caught my eye. Looking back on it, I'm not even sure I laid eyes on the 6-year-old brown mare that eventually would be mine, but I do remember when she went through the ring. She was long, lean and seemed pretty nice. Brown, with a black mane and tail and not a speck of white on her. The trader who had her had his kid crawling under her and weaving in between her front legs. Then they started talking pedigree. All I remember hearing was Seattle Slew, and I was hooked. He was the 1977 Triple Crown winner and is still the only undefeated winner.
I'd conned my sister into bidding for me, and we got my mare bought, $125 more than what I had so I had to sweet talk her and mom into loaning me the extra money. Many times Mom claimed she owned the tail. Probably the best $1,125 investment I've ever made.
It's been a long 21 years with a lot of highs and some lows. From the first ride on her when she about run off with me, and to realizing how fast she really was. The first jackpot we won in Holly, Colorado, and our first rodeo check at Ashland, Kansas, to the knocked down barrels that “would have” won, we’ve been through a lot. I about lost her twice (July 2005 and April 2006) to colic and have been sidelined with our fair share of injuries. I'd always wanted to get her bred, but never could find the right stud to pair her with, and when I had settled on one I didn't have the money. Now that she reached 27, I was perfectly content with just having her healthy and happy.
In the last month or so my oldest son, Shaun, rode her here and there. He signed her up to be one of his project horses for 4H and I entered her in the county fair classes—walk/trot pleasure and horsemanship and the speed events. The day of the show she was great for him. I made the mistake of wrapping her legs like I always did to run barrels and put her tie down on, not thinking she would want to relive her glory days of running barrels. She saw the gate and the barrels and "took off" with Shaun. He got scared and thought she was going to run off with him, but he managed to get her stopped. He ended up finishing out his "speed events" with mom leading him and even got a time in the keyhole event because I made him do it alone. With her help, he was reserve champion performance winner for the junior division at the Ford County Fair.
Wednesday evening Shaun came in the house crying because his Dad wanted him to ride her again. He was still scared of her "running off” with him but I didn't want to push the issue. I basically told him to toughen up and get back out there. They headed out to check cattle and I stayed at the house to finish supper. When they didn't come back for quite some time, I began to worry. I just knew something was wrong. Then my phone rang and stopped. I tried to call my husband back, but couldn't get him.
Our pasture has pretty steep canyons and creek bottoms so service is sketchy at times. When I did get to talk to my husband it wasn't the news I'd wanted. My poor boy got to experience the highs and lows of horses all in one evening. Fifteen minutes before she died, he used her to push a lame bull back to the herd. Then she was gone. Physically Shaun is ok, but I think it'll be a while before he wants to ride again.
I wish we could have another 20 some years together, but with horses you just never know how long they will be in your lives. I'm glad I wasn't there to see the end. I’m glad I got to cry in her neck one last time. I’m glad Shaun got to ride her the times he did. I’m glad she was my only horse, but was a heck of a one at that.
Sweet Heart Slew, Feb. 15, 1992-July 24, 2019. Run free my sweet brown mare.