Cracked hooves wore a footpath along the fence line, just as the fence line wore a groove into his neck.
The idiot had been pushing against the top wire till it bled, pacing back and forth and calling out to the horses in the paddock beyond.
The breeder named him Beau Levant, but he wasn’t much of a dandy.
He looked like a CGI dinosaur, with a diplodocus neck sprouting out of huge, hulking shoulders. Riders at his local pony club used to call him T-Rex.
Others called him Ritchie.
Ritchie had belonged to a friend of my mother’s. In November 2002 we found ourselves in need of a paddock mate for a retired horse, lest the old fool put himself through the fence while my riding horse was off at competitions. And Ritchie was desperately in need of food. His owner had decided to sell him, and needed the condition our good grass could give him.
Four months later he was sold, having performed beautifully under saddle. His new owners didn’t seem worried about an old racing injury, the only souvenir from an abysmal career, that flared up occasionally and caused him to duck his head like a crank shaft to maintain momentum.
Three months after that, mum ran into the new owners in the supermarket. Ritchie was lame, unridable and about to be put down. He came back to our place the next day.
And on Thursday, 10 years after we thought we’d have to and 10 years before I’d be ready for him to go, he will leave for good.
There’ll be no last-minute rescue this time. Compounded pain from old injuries has made his gait slow and his breathing labored. The vet will arrive at 10am.
I’d hoped he’d last a little longer. I haven’t seen Ritchie in almost 12 months, and I wanted one last chance to see his teddybear ears swiveled toward me as he licked hands and pockets hunting for treats.
He is not particularly bold or impressive or even noticeable. But he is the nicest horse I’ve ever known.
If Arthur Weasley was a horse, that horse would be Ritchie. Lanky, kind, and intelligent in that rather specific way that the unkind mistake for stupidity.
He was — is, is until Thursday — intensely curious, poking and chewing at things until every knot, gate latch or belt-buckle is undone, every box unpacked, every bucket carefully flipped over and searched for carrots.
He could open the gate into the yard where the other, fatter, horse had to spend the night, but only did so sporadically, choosing to leave her in there on the days she had bitten him or stolen his food. Once, with the help of an equally pesky colt, he dropped the entire top wire of an electric fence, pulling the pins out of the insulators while the wire was still live.
The tendon that was bowed when we got him swelled and stiffened over the years until one foreleg was almost twice the thickness of the other. He and Prince (who I wrote about here) used to bob and limp their way to the top of the paddock at feeding time like an Anzac Day parade.
And on Thursday he’ll join that Prince in a matching divet on the hill.
Rest well, my friend. I hope the grass is sweeter where you go.