Three days ago, news reverberated through the equestrian community that four horses had been killed in a horrific road accident in Scotland. The lorry they were travelling in had broken down, just half an hour away from its destination at Blair where the horses were due to be competing this weekend. Sitting on the grass bank at the side of the road, the owners watched helplessly as a truck slammed into the back of the horse lorry. Two of the horses were killed outright and two had to be euthanised at the scene.
As someone who has loved horses my entire life, I could only too easily imagine the devastation the owners of these horses must be feeling. The close bond that a rider feels to the horses they ride is very special. These riders and horses had been working together for years, building trust and a common purpose – trying their hearts out for each other. There is something innocent about a horse, something pure. The thought of their suffering is unbearable to those of us who know and love them. I can’t get the images and imagined sounds of this accident out of my mind. It has moved me to tears. At the same time I’m watching images on the news of the horrific events and terrible suffering of people in Afghanistan. So many awful things in the world – I question if the death of four horses should be taking any of my attention in the face of our human losses and global horrors. But somehow it does.
This poem from Ada Limon came to mind. A poem that I first read during lockdown, when I was feeling jaded about poetry. It gave me the same feeling I had as a teenager when I found a poem that cut through to my heart. Maybe it’s ok to cry about horses.
May 20, 2014
Six horses died in a tractor-trailer fire.
There. That’s the hard part. I wanted
to tell you straight away so we could
grieve together. So many sad things,
that’s just one on a long recent list
that loops and elongates in the chest,
in the diaphragm, in the alveoli. What
is it they say, heart-sick or downhearted?
I picture a heart lying down on the floor
of the torso, pulling up the blankets
over its head, thinking the pain will
go on forever (even though it won’t).
The heart is watching Lifetime movies
and wishing, and missing all the good
parts of her that she has forgotten.
The heart is so tired of beating
herself up, she wants to stop it still,
but also she wants the blood to return,
wants to bring in the thrill and wind of the ride,
the fast pull of life driving underneath her.
What the heart wants? The heart wants
her horses back.