I knew Little Blue was going to leave us a full week before he actually did. Not that he acted sick. He didn't. He ate well, drank plenty of water, was up and active. He had no wounds or sores, no breathing problems and his eyes were clear. Still, I knew. It was simple really, he had separated himself from the rest of the herd. He ate away from them, grazed and slept away from them and went to water long after the rest of the horses had left the tank area.
Every day for a week I looked for Blue in the morning, packing his hay on my back and hiking up and over the ridge behind the house. It was slow going for the snow was deep in places and I'm certainly not getting any younger. But I slogged along until I would find him grazing in the back valley all alone.
To see one of our mustang so alone is startling. They just don't leave each other like this. Unless...... And that is how I knew. Blue was preparing his friends and himself for a journey none of us could take with him. It was something he would do alone.
And so each day for a week I looked for Blue. I fed him in the places where he chose to be alone. I watched him, sometimes from afar and sometimes close enough to feel his breath on my neck as he curiously smelled my hair before walking off to be on his own again.
Then one morning when I came over the hill I didn't see him in the valley below. I put down my hay pack and began to search in earnest. I found him under a juniper tree, halfway down the ridge, legs curled under his body, nose touching the ground as if asleep. Blue had taken his journey.
I knelt down and touched Blues body. He was already cold. When I was a director of a sanctuary in an urban area, I would have taken some of his mane, then his body would have been removed by the tallow company, to be disposed of in ways none of us want to think about. But here, in this remote place, the horses live and die and that living and dying is with me always. I think its better this way.
While I ordinarily bury the horses that pass on. I felt compelled to leave Blue where he lay. And every few days, I go looking for him. Instead of bringing him my pack of hay, I bring a few large rocks which I lay on his body. It will take me a long time, this process of burial. But there are many ways to say good bye. This is mine.