By Thonie Hevron
Casey, my horse, died this week.
We’ve been best partners for twenty years. On March 17—St. Patrick’s Day—he turned thirty-one years old. An equine senior citizen, yes, and a character, for sure. I rode him Saturday and he was a dream. He stepped lively but not too forward, was responsive to my hand and leg aids and most of all was, as always, a gentleman. Then, a week later, a sudden injury and it was time to say good-bye.
For the ten years I lived in Bishop, away from home, Casey kept me from needing therapy. I rode about three days a week then. That, of course, doesn’t mean I was a good rider. Just ask my trainer, Hilke Ungersma. I plodded along, my fear hold me back. But my love for horses and Casey specifically propelled me into the saddle regularly. This isn’t courage. This is love. Here’s an example of this grand love: Casey had such a big stride that I had trouble keeping up with him. Something had to give. I had to give up smoking. Easy choice: after puffing for 26 years, Bishop was a real challenge at 4500 feet. I guess I could have sold the horse and kept smoking but, nah. That wasn’t an option. So I quit smoking.
Casey was my confidant when I became embroiled in an ugly Inyo County Grand Jury investigation of my police chief and his top staff. Casey was there when I had to take his name off the ranch horse/owner map because I was afraid someone might hurt him. When we moved back to Sonoma County, time spent in the saddle helped me to adjust to the big changes in my life: new job and retirement six years later, as well as other life events.
I spoke to him without words and he always understood. He took me away from the pressures—even for just a little while—and reminded me to focus on moving forward, literally and figuratively.
He had a huge impact on me and not just for the reasons above. I first rode him because I’d fallen off my other horse. My trainer thought Casey might be just the ticket to bolster my confidence. I loved him from the moment got on and I looked down to the ground. Such a long way. But he took good care of me. So I made a commitment to him, leased him from his owner and eventually bought him. She still says selling him was a giant mistake. Not for me.
Horse keeping is time-consuming and expensive. Done properly, both owner and animal should thrive. I know both of us did. Besides facing my fears, Casey “came back” from a half-dozen life-threatening injuries during our time together. My friend and trainer, Karen Henley, believes it was because he loved me so. He surely felt my love for him. I know a huge part of it is because of Karen’s exceptional care.
I never once felt guilty about riding instead of writing. Since coming back to Sonoma County, I’ve not ridden nearly as often as in my past. In fact, I often felt guilty about writing instead of riding. This especially during the past year while I’ve been so busy working on my second, and now my third books.
But he never complained. Whenever he heard my voice, he’d whinny and trot to the gate, always happy to see me.
I mourn him. I miss him. I’m puddling up as I write this. But I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it–a riding lesson in a blizzard where I conquered the canter (at least for a while), bleary-eyed at the vet hospital, rides in the desert or the arena. My life is richer for having loved him. Horses have found their way into all three of my books. I’ll never give up my love for them, especially Casey.