"Out to Pasture"
BY DAVID HEIDT
“I wish it would stop raining,” I thought as I unloaded my Polaris 4-wheeler
from the truck for what seemed like the hundredth time that month.
Once again I had donned my rain clothes and I remember thinking“ why
am I doing this?” The night before a lady had called to say her
daughter’s horse had died and she heard that we could help.
A year prior to that phone call my wife’s 34-year-old mare had to be
put down. Since we have a backhoe and a big field the burial
of her horse wasn’t a problem. The veterinarian said we
were very fortunate in that respect because disposal options in our
are a are almost non-existent. After further reflection he added
that he thought we should offer this service to others.
“Ugh,” I thought, but one year, several permits, a truck, a 4-wheeler,
many accessories and a lot of money later - here I am!
As I pulled into the driveway I had noticed old cars and rusty farm
equipment scattered around the property (junk, as my wife would
say). The house needed paint and the barn was on its last
leg, the deteriorated roof painting a picture of a family that had
seen better times. An older lady met me and, seeming more downcast
than the weather outside, led me into the barn.
see Missy lying just outside her stall door and the lady suggested
that going through the pasture might be best. I thanked her and
told her I could take it from there. She seemed relieved
to retreat back to the house.
With the 4-wheeler unloaded I hooked up the 4 x 8 sheet of rigid plastic
I use for a sled and headed around the barn.
Missy was lying
in a puddle with her head toward the door. Her teeth indicated
she was very old; a farrier hadn’t seen her in a long time.
She was never very big, maybe 14 hands, but lying there she seemed quite
skinny and sunken. When she was younger she must have been a very
flashy pinto, but now her coat was dull, her mane dirty and full
When I rolled her onto the sled I noticed something odd. Her shins
had no hair. They were smooth and shiny, much like my head, except for
a few scabs. I looked around and noticed the wood floor of her
stall was about 2 feet higher than the puddle in which she was lying.
The floorboard was worn smooth and round from her years of jumping in
and out. Judging by her shins, this had been hard to do
for a long time. Now not only was I wet, I was angry.
It didn’t seem like a load of gravel or a ramp with some cleats would
be a big deal because her food and shelter were inside, but the
water trough was across the pasture.
As I loaded Missy and my equipment onto the truck the lady came back
out to pay me. Then she hands me a shoebox and said her daughter
would like it to be buried with the horse. We talk for a few minutes
and I learn the daughter and her kids were currently living with
grandma here on the farm. It seemed to me their life was one big
After I got home I opened the shoebox. Inside was a sealed envelope
which said “I love you Missy” and “I miss you so much.”
The ink was blotchy and had run in a few places, but I don’t think it
was from the rain. On the back was more writing and more runs.
I can only speculate what the letter inside might have said: maybe
reminiscences of quiet trail rides through the forest or perhaps,
as a young girl, needing a neck to hug and a listening ear knowing
that Missy would never complain. Possibly the time the crowd cheered
as she was handed a blue ribbon and a bag of carrots for a job
well done. Speaking of ribbons, the rest of the box was
packed with them. Some were from Pony Club, some 4-H, and still
others from the county fair. There were lots of blues and
I buried Missy and her shoebox I was no longer angry, but sad instead.
It seems Missy was very special to her owner, but as she grew
older her responsibilities increased, priorities changed and time
available for her horse decreased. Missy had always been there
for her as she was growing up - how could she be gone? It makes
me sad to think Missy’s owner possibly didn’t realize how much the mare
meant to her until it was too late.
That particular “horse call” changed me. I began making an effort
to slow down and show some compassion. Many times people want
to tell me how special their horse was to them. I remember
one 40-something, somewhat plump lady timidly handing me a faded Polaroid
picture of a pretty teenager sitting bareback on a much
younger version of the horse we were kneeling beside. I
looked from her to the picture and back again. “That was over
20 years ago!” she said, as she began to smile through her
Maybe you know an old lady who needs a ride to the beauty shop or just
the tangles in her mane brushed out. Perhaps some old gent
that needs a puddle filled or a hard to reach spot scratched where
the flies are pestering him. Start today, because tomorrow you
might be making a phone call to someone like me. “How do you know
what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like
the morning fog - it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”
James 4:14, NLT.
So, three years and several hundred horses later I definitely know why
I’m still doing this. Eventually it will stop raining -
and sometimes there’s even a rainbow.