I met Shadow in 1993. My dad had just moved on to a big farm property owned by a family who had a bunch of sheep and a horse, Shadow. I was a horse-crazy teenager, and after determining that she was safe to be around and that her people didn’t mind, I frequently visited Shadow in her field, giving her a pat or a carrot whenever I was around. At one point, Shadow was bred, and she took a hiatus from the farm and came back with a big, unruly colt that I tried (with her owner’s permission) to work with (unsuccessfully).
As the years went on, I left for college, moved home, got married, and eventually got a horse of my own, who I kept out at the farm as well. To help offset the cost of Cricket’s board, I helped around the farm and helped take care of Shadow. She was a sweet and gentle horse — good for the farrier, quiet to work around, easy to ride. (Not always good for the vet, though — she did not like to get her vaccinations!) I got a second horse (Ellie), and my responsibilities with Shadow increased after her owners moved overseas. I rode her around the farm a good bit, especially as Cricket grew up and Ellie recovered from a serious injury. Shadow was good, quiet and reliable as a mount, and I eventually taught my sister, Jo, and then my husband how to ride on her.
After a few years, the owners of the farm decided they wouldn’t be coming back, and they wanted a new home for Shadow. Since we had been caring for her, they offered her to us. I didn’t really need a second horse, let alone a third, but we wanted to be sure she’d be safe and well cared for. We wanted to give her a good home. So, we bought her — for $500, including her saddle (it was the best horse money I ever spent).
Shortly after that, we left that barn for another one, bringing all 3 horses with us. We made a wonderful home for our horses in this new place, with our friend, Jill, to look after them every day. Dan would ride Shadow on the trails and I would ride Cricket. In the summers, Shadow used her quiet, gentle manner to “work” at a summer camp where she taught lots of children to do everything from ride for the first time to conquer a complex cross country course of jumps.
The years went on, Benjamin was born, and I left my career to stay home with him. It was hard to find the time to dote on each of the horses, and we found a girl to lease and enjoy Shadow. I also started teaching riding lessons, and Shadow became the best, safest, most reliable teaching horse I ever knew. She always took care of her rider — she didn’t spook, or misbehave, or take advantage of anyone’s fear or lack of knowledge. She would also, though, make a rider always ask her to do something the “right” way before she complied — she didn’t ever let her riders slack off, and she wouldn’t respond if they weren’t clear about what they wanted. She made them work, but when they did, they were rewarded with an enthusiastic, careful partner for their chosen adventure. She continued to be a favorite at camp, and helped many kids learn to ride and jump and try new things. She was a star.
She taught so many people so many things over the years, and she was a kind, sweet and peaceful spirit. This morning, we had to say goodbye to Shadow. I am so sad that she is gone, and even more that I wasn’t there for her when she left us. I am glad that she got to say a last, whinnied goodbye to her friends Cricket and Ellie, and I am so grateful that our friend, Jill, who loved her and has cared for her all these years, was with her and took care of her this morning. I know that she knew that she was loved.
I feel so lucky to have had her in my life — this horse who came to me kind of by accident. She will be missed and always remembered. She was a friend, teacher and partner to those of us who knew her, and she will never be replaced.
One of Jill’s nephews once saw Shadow, in all of her fuzzy winter glory, out in the field, and he was overcome with excitement at getting to meet a “white stallion” (she was a palomino mare, but who’s counting?). Her existence on this planet brought so many people joy, in so many ways. I will miss her so very much.