A great, white horse has passed from this life. Romeo, my beloved Lipizzan stallion, who had been the star of a hundred different demonstration clinics over the years, died last night of colic. I had him since he was a yearling when he was just a gangly, dusky charcoal grey colt. I trained him for several years on the ground and then for two more years under saddle. I taught him to bow and to lie down. I taught him tricks at liberty. Almost without noticing it, along the way a beautiful, shiny white soul, filled with power, intelligence, and nobility, emerged in front of my eyes. He was so gentle that most people never even realized he was a stud. He was a quick learner and a patient teacher. I probably learned more about my own limitations as a trainer from Romeo than from any other single horse. And in the end he always showed me how he could learn anything despite my own clumsiness, at times, as a trainer. I have never met a horse that could learn a task or lesson as fast as Romeo did. He learned everything in half the time that it took my other horses. He could blow the socks off of a judge riding dressage in one moment and the next moment be chasing cattle in a pasture, doing roll backs like a cutting horse. He might have been descended from the stallions of kings but he had a cowboy’s blue-collar work ethic. He was disciplined but knew how to cut loose and play as well.
Yesterday was a great day. I had taken him out for a ride. I hosed him down and he played around like a kid in the spray. In the afternoon, I had found a particularly sweet Honeycrisp apple in the fruit bowl in our kitchen. I took one bite of it and it was so sweet and delicious, I just had to share it with him. I walked out into his pasture and cut the apple into slices. He would get one, then I would get one. Every time it was his turn, I would feign running away with his slice. Then he would come jogging over, snorting and throwing his head back and forth as if to say: “Hey, it’s my turn. Not yours.” Six hours later he was gone.
I have owned a lot of horses but Romeo was the best of them. I ran my clinics and demos with him. He was the star of the show and like a business partner to me, earning his keep by wowing the spectators. When everyone went home, and we were by ourselves, he could act like a kid again and just nuzzle and play with me. He always took great care of me whenever I was on his back. He was a great white presence in everyone’s life at the ranch.
My hands tremble and my heart breaks this morning as I get ready to open the door on the porch that looks out on his stall. He will not be there today. I will not hear his nickering to greet me. There will be no toss of his great head and mane to let the rest of the stable know I am up. A great white light has gone out of my life. My beloved friend, Romeo, I will never forget you. There will not be a single day I don’t think of you. I will see you one day when I cross over and I know you will be waiting impatiently for me in heaven. When I come to get you, I’ll sneak a Honeycrisp in my pocket, my Sweet Stallion. God bless you for all the joy and wonder you brought into all our lives.