Last month I sat down to write a blog on how to be helpful when a friend’s horse dies. It was a difficult blog to write, and I felt a sense of dread thinking of how terrible it would be if I had been in my friend’s place.

Well, I had to say goodbye by my heart horse yesterday.

I made the tough decision to let my 19-year-old hanoverian mare finally rest after battling a sudden onset of anterior enteritis. The entire ordeal feels like a blur now. Belinda was so sick, and then there would be moments at the hospital where we would feel so hopeful for recovery. But then she’d stumble again. The vets did their best to guide me through the emotional turmoil as I watched my mare struggle for four long days.

In the end, there was nothing they or anyone else could do to help me come to terms with the fact that I was losing my heart horse.

The pain is raw and all encompassing. It’s hard to focus on anything else. But through the thick of it all, I know my girl isn’t suffering anymore. And even though it’s so tremendously difficult to continue on without her, I am so thankful for the good years and memories I have of her. She’s helped shape my life in so many ways. She brought me so much joy. I took pride in taking care of her and when I wasn’t at the barn with her, I was always dreaming and scheming about what we would do the next time I was with her.

It’s hard to describe the bond and the partnership between a horse and its rider or owner to someone who isn’t a horse person. There is a level of love and respect there that I’ve never experienced with another living being before. What’s tough is knowing there will never be another Belinda. While I am positive I will open my heart up to horses after her, there will never be another connection quite like the one we had. It is unique and it is powerful. I feel so selfish in my anguish now, wishing that I had all the money in the world to have made her better, that the doctors could have found a greater outcome, and that she hadn’t gotten sick in the first place.

I am thankful for the people in my life who have helped her and me and us at different points. I am thankful to my barn owner who cared for her like she was one of her own. I’m thankful for the network and support of my barn family. I’m thankful for the phone calls and text messages that came from friends all over.

I’ll never forget Belinda and the light she shined into my life. She made everything better. And I’m grateful to have experienced the bond I had with her at all, even if it felt like it was cut too short.