I was watching telly the other night, entirely unprepared for the message on my mobile. It was from stable-owner Wendy, announcing the death of Nicky Newman. It was not unexpected news, but you know how it is – someone you love is terminally ill, and you know that their dying is just a matter of time. When it finally comes, though, you’re still not ready for it. That’s how it was for me.
Nicky Newman was not my horse, but he was a resident of The Harmony Barn for a good twenty years, so all the volunteers knew him. He’d come to the barn with a broken pelvis. I believe he slipped on some ice. The vet thought he should be put down, but Wendy worked her magic with the herbal supplements, and slowly but surely, Newman made a full recovery. What happened next was beyond anyone’s expectations: Wendy’s daughter Corri began to train with Newman, and ultimately, they not only competed, but won quite handily for a number of years.
They were the same age, Corri and Newman. As the years went by, and Corri’s interests extended beyond the barn, the amount of time she spent with Newman decreased somewhat, but her love never wavered. Many times, I watched as Corri groomed Newman, and walked him out to graze. She would stand by patiently, obviously enjoying the quite time they were sharing. Once – and only once – when Corri was trying to teach me how to post, she gave me a lesson on Newman. I knew what a big deal that was: Newman was her horse, and she was the only one allowed to ride him.
Newman was 34 years old when he died. We all knew it was coming: by then, he was pretty decrepit, and mostly blind. But he’d been such presence in the stable for so many years, I think we could all be forgiven for hoping that death wouldn’t be coming any time soon. Those 20 years went by much too fast.
Upon receiving the news from Wendy, I went immediately to Facebook and sought out Corri’s home page. What she wrote about him was so moving to me, and so beautifully said, that I’m going to post it here in its entirety:
“I’m not even sure where to begin or how to even manage a thought today. All I know is at 7.36 this morning I got the call that shattered my heart into a million pieces over you.You were my first best friend who loved me no matter what, and together we were unstoppable.
Thank you for always loving me.
Thank you for being there when boys sucked.
Thank you for being there when my attitude sucked as a teenager.
Thank you for reaching a big goal of Versatility Champions when we were both just 16.
Thank you for being there when I came home from college.
Thank you for allowing another man to love me and you loved him too even if he was a city boy.
Thank you for loving our boys and taking them for their first rides and always being so careful when they were running around your feet.
Nicky Newman there are no amount of words to thank you for the last 20 years of your love and friendship. 33 years is a hell of run baby. You go run free and play hard with Bubby, he’s been waiting 6 years to have you by his side again.”
If that doesn’t sum it all up perfectly, I don’t know what would.
Thanks for the memories, Mr. Newman. I know that you and Rebel will be the first ones to greet Corri when she gets to the Rainbow Bridge. Until then, may the wind be at your back, and the fields rise up to meet you.