The filly arrived at my place in need of training. After four weeks, she was ready to return home as a gentle, respectful mount. When I called her owner to pick her up, he surprised me by asking if I’d like to keep her as my own.

It had been a dry summer and I suspect his feed costs were high. I happened to have a vacant pasture at the time, so I said, Sure!

Having recently moved to Texas from Ripley, Ohio, the birthplace of Ulysses S. Grant, I named her Cincinnati, the name of General Grant’s horse during the Civil War.

For the next fifteen years “Cincy” made her home in my barn, helping me train scores of young colts to navigate rugged trails and gather rambunctious cattle in wide open spaces. Countless were the times she carried me along canyon rims and down steep slopes into rocky ravines. On one occasion, she saved me from the charge of a buffalo bull!

Needless to say, it was mighty hard when I put her down last week. Her spine had acquired an infection that caused rapid weight loss and the deterioration of her rear muscles. After weeks of ineffective interventions, she continued to limp her way to the water tank. I winced each time I witnessed it. She was in pain and she was not going to get better.

A friend and fellow priest accompanied me on the day that I transported Cincinnati to the vet. This made the ordeal easier, but it also meant that I stifled my emotions as best I could—I am a guy after all.

After we arrived, I backed Cincy off the trailer and conferred briefly with the veterinarian. Then I handed my friend the rope. He lead Cincy to a holding pen and we drove off.

In the days that followed, I nursed regret over not clipping a snippet of Cincy’s mane or forelock to serve as a keepsake. Then, two weeks later, I received a package in the mail. The return address read, “Consolidated Veterinary Clinic.” Inside the envelope lay a woven section of Cincy’s sorrel-colored tail.

I’ve not yet decided where to display it. I might hang it from the brace above her stall gate. Then, again, it might find a home inside my house, next to a picture of Cincy silhouetted against a setting sun.

In either case, the barn will continue to feel empty, but my spirit will brim with memories of a stout mare that loved to lope and always knew the way home.

Cincy was a good horse. And she carried me to God.

04 / 03 / 2024
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