Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Incredible Journey - Part 4

Thank you for sticking with this story so far. As I hope I've made evident, this events were among the most important in my life. This "anniversary week" is always a hard week for me, and talking about him has led to the revisitation of some of the happiest times in my life. If you're wondering, the series should be about six parts total.

Taco's life was transformed in October 2003, when he suddenly became one of only three horses living in what was once a barn filled to capacity (twenty five horses or so). My life changed a lot, too.

Me and Taco, October 2003

The barn owners were extremely accommodating; they treated Taco as if he were their own, and allowed me to come on weekends. I even got to ride their horses from time to time. I started a routine that lasted three or four years and went there once a week, every week. I think I missed a grand total of one weekend (due to the flu) in that amount of time. No matter the weather, I was there. I even went with stitches in my back following a small surgery, though I couldn't do much in the way of grooming or exercising. In short, there was almost nothing that would keep me away from him.

Taco did have a few bouts of illness in that time. In the summer of 2004, he had a pretty serious episode of colic. It was extremely scary for me, since he hadn't ever been seriously ill before then. He rebounded from it, but lost a lot of weight that he only partially regained. That weight loss wasn't a terrible thing - he was a bit pudgy before then, and being on the skinny side meant less stress on his old joints.

Later that year, he had a very strange episode of lameness. For a little while, we thought it was the dreaded laminitis, a devastating and potentially deadly form of lameness. However, what ever it was went away after a couple of weeks. It did come back the following year, leading us to believe it might have been some form of arthritis that flared up depending on the weather.

Winter 2004-05

Otherwise, Taco's life was a great one. These were his glory years. He stayed outside for hours and hours each day, an enormous upgrade over the short turn-out times he had when the stable was full. Eventually, he was kept on full turnout, weather permitting. He had a small shed with rubber matting and wood chips at the back of his field. His indoor stall, too, was spacious. It was good to keep him moving around.

Me and Taco, Spring 2005

He and I made thousands of little memories together, too many to ever list here. Some of my favorite moments were spent simply sitting in silence on a mounting block next to him in his big turn-out arena. Others were when I'd sit in front of him while he was on the cross-ties (which is usually not advised, but I trusted him with all my heart) and he'd lower his head and run his nose through my hair. In the winter, when turn-out wasn't always possible due to the weather, he became so riled up and full of life that you'd never guess that he was approaching forty years old. I remember having to turn him out in a snowy, icy pen for just a little while because of how stir-crazy he was getting.

Like most horses, he used to love to roll in the dirt in the summer, especially following an extensive grooming session. He'd grunt and groan and wriggle on his back. We always held our breaths while we waited for him to get up, but he never failed us. Tough as nails, that old man was.


I took him for walks up the road, and let him graze in the huge, grassy field across the street. I bathed and groomed him until he was spotless, as if he was the most valuable show horse on the planet. And, when I couldn't be there, during the school week, I'd e-mail the barn owner to find out what he'd been up to in my absence.

I had essentially grown up with Taco. At my Sweet Sixteen party (they were so popular back then), I had a candle on my cake dedicated to him. That was special, for it marked the first time ever that I opened up even just a little bit to others about my partnership with him. He had been with me since I was eleven years old - now, I was a young adult. He was the constant in my life through bad high school relationships, the sicknesses of people close to me, and all of the other problems that typically plague teens. I'm glad I was able to recognize that, and never - not once - did I take our relationship for granted.

Me and Taco, December 2006

For a long while, probably longer than I could have imagined, things were perfect.

Stay tuned for Part 5.


LauraK April 13, 2010 at 11:01 AM  

he's such a cutie :) He is so lucky to have someone to love on him and groom him like that. Unfortunately, some older horses just get shoved aside so it's great to see stories like this!

Frankie Furter and Ernie April 13, 2010 at 11:09 AM  

Taco's "Tail" sort of reminds me of the story... Black Beauty.
Bad for a while... with a wonderful life to follow.

Sam April 13, 2010 at 11:12 AM  

Frankie, I agree with you, and that's probably why I can't watch Black Beauty without bawling. Maybe I'll be crazy enough to watch it this week.

Sadly, though, unlike the end of the movie, things do come to an end in this story.

The Army of Four April 13, 2010 at 11:12 AM  

Always, always hold tight to those perfect times!!!
Tail wags,

Sue April 13, 2010 at 11:14 AM  

I don't want to read the next couple parts, but I will. You both look so happy in that last picture.

Anna the GSD April 13, 2010 at 11:26 AM  

I like your Santa hats! Such wonderful pictures you have of your time with Mr. Taco!

kissa-bull April 13, 2010 at 11:44 AM  

oh my goodness
i just caught up with part 2 and 3 and now this
my stomache is in knots. .
i so dont want the happiness to end
oh you are going to make me cry like a baby are'nt you

houndstooth April 13, 2010 at 12:03 PM  

At almost forty years old, I'd say that he'd been living right!

Anonymous April 13, 2010 at 12:25 PM  

Sometimes my mom gets all wacky and riled up like that and she's at LEAST 40,too! Then I haves to take her out and make her chase me around the backyard so's she'll settle down.

I luvs that picture of the two of you in your cute little Santa hats. It was good of him to humors you like that.

Wiggles & Wags,

Cyndi and Stumpy April 13, 2010 at 12:41 PM  

Ah, Sam...what an awesome life you and Taco shared. The two of you were so blessed to have each other. I don't want to know about the end.

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With KhattleDog! April 13, 2010 at 2:10 PM  

This is so just so enjoyable to read...

Even though we know the emotions driving it are a complex assortment...

Chris and Ricky April 13, 2010 at 2:58 PM  

I am so loving hearing this story! The photos of you with Taco are amazing - look at what your love did for him (and vice versa). I was glad to hear that the upheaval at the barn and the loss of your riding friends didn't end up hurting Taco - thank goodness the owners of the barn kept him there and allowed you such access.

AC April 13, 2010 at 5:15 PM  

What an amazing relationship. I can imagine how important that connection must have been during what's often such a rough stage of life.

That first picture looks like a painting. It would be so neat to have someone paint that for you!

Two French Bulldogs April 13, 2010 at 5:30 PM  

Great pictures and memories of your buddy
Benny & Lily

Gus, Louie and Callie April 13, 2010 at 6:26 PM  

What a great story.. You 2 look so great together..

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

Sara April 13, 2010 at 6:43 PM  

I'm always jealous of people who were able to create bonds with animals as children. I never had any pets in my life until adulthood. For some reason, I think animals and children can form one of the strongest bonds possible, and I'll never be able to experience that. Sounds like you did, in so many ways.

♥ Sallie April 13, 2010 at 8:17 PM  

They say that the best stories are told from the heart. The story of your relationship with Taco is, to put it simply, beautiful.

Love the Santa hat. :)

Kindred souls to be sure.

BRUTUS April 13, 2010 at 9:00 PM  

Enjoying your story, Sam. Horses figure so tightly into my young adult-hood, so you are stirring many memories for me, some beautiful, some bittersweet. Was Taco a quaterhorse?


Muttsandaklutz April 13, 2010 at 9:19 PM  

Your story is entrancing. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Stella April 13, 2010 at 11:49 PM  

Sam, this is a good story, but I am not too good at these cliff-hangers . . .you gonna make me cry?

Jo and Stella

KB April 14, 2010 at 10:04 AM  

It is obvious that you and Taco both gave and received to and from each other. It as a partnership in the truest sense. What a sweet old horse.

Kathy Mocharnuk April 15, 2010 at 10:13 AM  

wow, how great for him to have such a good friend and connection and how wonderful for you too...

Kari in Alaska April 15, 2010 at 4:30 PM  

I love seeing all the changes in the pictures!

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