How Am­rieh showed the way

Only with age and wis­dom did I come to ap­pre­ci­ate how much my mother’s horse meant to me.

EQUUS - - Truetale - By Laura May­lene Wal­ter

My mother bought Am­rieh, a chest­nut Ara­bian mare with a half-star on her fore­head, when I was a young child. Am­rieh was spir­ited, but she was also gen­tle and wise. She proved a trust­wor­thy mount for my mother, who had started rid­ing in her late 30s and was anx­ious about get­ting in­jured. The mare was so de­pend­able that even­tu­ally my mother en­cour­aged me to ride her in­stead of the school ponies. I quickly grew to love Am­rieh’s smooth trot, her rolling can­ter and her steady, smooth at­ti­tude on the trail.

By the time I was 11, I gave up sad­dles en­tirely and took to rid­ing Am­rieh bare­back. I was fear­less, whether can­ter­ing in cir­cles in the ring or rid­ing out on the trail, where we could re­ally let loose. My mother, ever the wor­rier, wouldn’t al­low me to go on the trails alone. So if I had no one to ride with, she would sim­ply walk next to me.

My fa­vorite trail ended in a grassy field that gen­tly sloped up­ward---the per­fect place for a good gal­lop. My mother would stand off to the side and shield the sun from her eyes, watch­ing as I pointed Am­rieh up­hill and let her burst into a run. I squinted into the wind as Am­rieh’s mane rip­pled in my face. I couldn’t imag­ine how my mother was con­tent to stand by and watch, or how she could ever be afraid of rid­ing in the first place. When I was on Am­rieh I knew I could trust her. She’d take care of me.

At ev­ery sta­ble we boarded, Am­rieh quickly be­came a fa­vorite. One sta­ble man­ager begged to use her for lessons; oth­ers praised her in­tel­li­gence and heart. One woman hinted to my mother that she’d like to buy Am­rieh for her son, who had taken a bad fall and was now horse shy. While we un­der­stood how our sweet mare could help a fear­ful rider trust again, we had to pass. Am­rieh was ours.

Am­rieh re­mained healthy and lively deep into her 20s. Fi­nally the day came when she could no longer be rid­den. But she was still ours, and we cared for her just as al­ways, show­ing up at the sta­ble with car­rot slices and sugar cubes. I went off to col­lege, but I still made time to visit the barn dur­ing my trips home. My mother, mean­while, was strug­gling with can­cer. Through­out her treat­ments, one of her goals was to re­main healthy enough to con­tinue spend­ing time at the barn. Horses were her one true love in life, and even if she didn’t feel well enough to ride, she could still spend time around them.

In the end, my mother’s can­cer was far more se­ri­ous than any of us had known. She passed away when I was only 20. The loss dev­as­tated me, and in the midst of my grief, I also felt guilty for not pay­ing more at­ten­tion to Am­rieh. I knew she was in good hands at the board­ing barn, and I con­tin­ued to mail the check ev­ery month. But my col­lege was two hours away, and I didn’t have the emo­tional en­ergy to make much time for her. The last time I saw her was dur­ing a win­ter break. I brought my cam­era and stood next to Am­rieh in the pad­dock to take a selfie with her---this long be­fore the term “selfie” even ex­isted---as if part of me knew I’d never see her again.

A few months later, Am­rieh fell ill and had to be put down. I was study­ing abroad in Eng­land at the time, so this news trav­eled across a vast ocean to reach me. Later, I learned that the sta­ble owner had dug a hole on the prop­erty and led Am­rieh up to it. The ve­teri­nar­ian in­jected her and she fell into her own grave. This sounded un­real to me, like a hor­ri­fy­ing fairy tale, and so some­times I think I must have it all wrong. Surely my mother’s beau­ti­ful horse didn’t just crum­ple into the ground.

I mailed a fi­nal check to the sta­ble own­ers, but I never re­turned to see TREA­SURED MEM­O­RIES:

The au­thor posed with Am­rieh in the early 1990s.

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