As I was showing some Presto pictures to a friend last week and talking about all of the trials and tribulations of the first few weeks of his life, they finally asked the big question: “Would you do ever breed again?”. Honestly, I’ve been thinking about this for a couple months now and it took me a while to really figure out how I felt.
I knew heading into this whole breeding adventure that the chance of losing a mare or foal (or both) is very real. I’ve been involved with other breeders and the breeding business long enough to know that even when you do everything right, it’s very easy for things to go wrong. I’ve bred before, and I didn’t exactly go into this whole experience with the naivete that many first-time breeders have. I knew the risks, and I even wrote a post about it last fall.
I consider myself a pretty pragmatic person, not particularly emotional or easily upset. But those two weeks where Presto was living very much hour-to-hour at the clinic, struggling just to stay alive… that tested me to my absolute limits. In my adult life I can think of two instances where I’ve sat in my car and ugly cried until the tears ran out: when my mom died, and literally every single day of those first two weeks of Presto’s illness. Emotionally drained doesn’t even begin to cover it.
If you had asked me then if I’d ever do this again, I would have told you no. I was raw, I was bitter, and I was spent. I’ve lost a horse before, but he was old, retired, and died peacefully out in the pasture. He’d had the most idyllic life that any of us could possibly script for a horse, really. The situation with Presto was different. He was young, he was special, and I’d had a hand in creating him. And while his illness came on suddenly, it dragged on and on and on, with constant ups and downs. It didn’t seem fair for that to happen to a foal, and it was a whole different level of heartache. Even though, in the end, he managed to come back from the brink and survive his ordeal, all I wanted to do was protect myself from ever feeling that way again. Then I realized how absolutely idiotic that was.
As human beings, we are always going to be affected by tragedy or loss. That’s the price you pay for loving something. And it almost seems worse, or perhaps just more frequent, for animal lovers. Dogs and horses don’t get to stay with us as long as most people do, and it’s never easy to lose something that is so important to you. But in the end, it’s the price we pay for all the joy we receive from them. Never breeding again isn’t a way to guarantee that I’d be safe from the danger of loss or tragedy… the only way to guarantee that would be to hermit myself away from all other people and animals and live a life of complete solitude.
Would I be feeling this practical about things if Presto hadn’t made it? I think eventually yes, but it would have taken me a lot longer to get there. While I’ll never be able to forget how I felt when he was sick, I’ve decided to try not to let myself be haunted by it. It took me until, well… NOW, as I’m drafting this post, to be able to go back and look at his newborn pictures and the ones from when he was at the clinic. It just wasn’t something I could face without re-living it.
The world keeps turning though, and while time might not completely heal all wounds, it does at least put a scab over them. I’ll never forget what happened, but I can’t allow my life and my choices to be dictated by things that are beyond my control. I choose to keep trying, to keep hoping, and to keep allowing my dreams to be untempered by circumstances beyond my control.
So… would I ever breed again? The answer is yes. Sure, I never want to feel that kind of devastation again, but there’s another thing I felt during all this that I haven’t talked about as much. That very first moment when I saw Presto’s little white foot followed by his little white nose, I fell in love with a horse. With those first adorable little nickers at us, when he was trying to figure out which of us was his mom, I fell in love with a horse. When he took those first few steps and wobbled his way over the top of the hay pile, I fell in love with a horse.
And at the end of the day, isn’t that why we do this? Isn’t that why we give our heart and soul and blood and sweat and tears to these animals? Sure, its a risk, but the reward – when we get it – is unparalleled. There is something remarkable about the privilege of loving a horse from the moment it takes it’s first breath, and that’s something that no amount of heartache can take away.