Azteca, a 16 hand bay Mexican thoroughbred taught me much about love, life and learning how to say goodbye to a beloved equine family member. He came to me because I had a horse that was injured, and I was hoping to continue riding while he recovered. From what I heard, he was a good horse who had been passed around from lease to lease for a while and happened to fit the bill.

learning to say goodbye to beloved equine family members

I always loves his bright eyes, they had such intelligence in them, like he know what I was thinking.

My commitment to my horses is for life.

Anyone that knows me knows I have a really hard time treating horses as anything other than a lifetime commitment. I speak about this often within my blogs, and you can read more about that here. This horse was bright eyed and playful and had accomplished much in his long career, including many championships and trips to Harrisburg among other accolades. He was fun to ride and very wise. I loved him instantly.

Even before the end of my lease I had made up my mind that he was my family and he would have a home for life.

My commitment to this belief means I have three retired horses that live out their days outside, cared for by a wonderful woman who treats them like her own. That financial commitment is one that means I don’t always have the chance to “buy another horse” because at some point the financial responsibility would be greater than the capability. And I am ok with that because for me, the horses are not about horse shows. Or winning. Of course those things are great but in this “sport” they can also easily be purchased for the right price, which is usually outside my budget. Instead my horses have all come to me in one way another, but share in common that they were meant to find me because I have learned something immense from all of them.
Another reason why they are with me for life.

learning how to say goodbye to an equine loved one

my three retirees (from left): Azteca, Porkchop, & Ramon. This photo is from about ten years ago when they were all still very much show horses. 💕

This line of thinking doesn’t work for everyone and I get that. And, I do not judge anybody who has a different way of thinking because that is not my place. Bu what I can say, is this who I am. And it brings me comfort knowing that he and I made an agreement when he became my family; he would help me learn to ride, and be safe and he would have a home for life. He held up his end of the bargain beautifully. I have done my utmost to hold up mine too.

Learning how to goodbye to an equine family member

Azteca and I at a competition in Michigan

Waking up to the call that horse owners dread.

This morning was the kind of morning no one who feels like I do about their animals wants to get; he was in immense pain, and suffering. The option for surgery was there, but the chance of survival was slim, while the road to recovery would have been very long and full of potential complications. Words like tumors, and resection start to sort of fade out as all I see in my mind is my horse in pain and not able to understand any of it.

I made the commitment to this beautiful soul that he would always have me in his corner, so today I spoke on his behalf. No suffering. No long surgery. Or risky, long post surgery hospital stay in confinement. Just a lot of love and a sad but strong heart who knows it is time to tell her pal one last thank you, remind him he is loved, and say good bye.

Learning how to goodbye to an equine family member

I love his face in this portrait, courtesy of Aullmyn Photography

Happy trails, my dear, beloved horse, thank you for the life lessons.

He was a really good horse and he loved a lot of people. I am happy he lived so many years in big open fields with his brothers and even got to welcome Caitlyn’s horse Cav to the farm recently.

What lesson was the greatest I learned from Azteca? Tenacity and Heart. And the will to endure.

He sustained an injury years ago that should have ended his life. He and I worked for 14 months to get him to a place where he could enjoy retirement. The road was long and not without pain and yet, he endured. He taught me the importance of showing up every day and living in every moment. He did that so well.

With love in my heart, and along with many who cared for him, we said goodbye to Azteca this morning.

Thank you to Elaine + Keith for getting him to the hospital so quickly, and for loving on him and caring for him all these years. Learning how to say goodbye to an equine family member is never easy, but the people that have been a part of their care have made this process and journey very full of love and I am so grateful for that.

Azteca lived out his days in beautiful green fields. This photo was taken about a year ago when he was 18, courtesy of Elaine Raleigh who cared for him in his retirement.

Thanks Caitlyn for being on the phone with me through that decision. Through all the ups and downs in my life I always know that I have you to count on to help me make compassionate decisions with both love and common sense equally included. That is the actual definition of a person being in your corner. I appreciate it, and obviously – ditto, for life.

Learning how to goodbye to an equine family member

Wishing this soul a heaven full of fields with dandelions and great trails

I am sad today because making this decision is never easy. I am sad because I wish he could have lived to 29 and not just 19. But I am comforted by the quality of life that I know he had. I am grateful to the people who helped me give that to him. And I am very grateful to him for making my life more full by being in it. Learning how to goodbye to an equine family member was how I started my day today, I am concluding it with sadness and much love in my heart.

Rest easy, my friend. Love you. ❤️

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