1981-April 7, 2015
“Although it’s difficult today to see beyond the sorrow, may looking back in memory help comfort me tomorrow.”
Carmel, more often known as “Mel” to his friends, was in my life since at least 1996, when he was 15 years old and I was an undergraduate at UNH. Mel was then employed as a sometimes Pony Club mount for the two boys whose interest in horses was fast being outstripped by interest in other (more mechanical) objects. What was sort of funny is that he initially had joined this family intended as a mount for their younger sister, but after bucking her off a number of times, he quickly became the (larger and heavier) boys’ mount. Said sister went on to try for her USPC “A” and is now an accomplished veterinarian, working on attaining her surgical specialty, so I like to think Mel’s antics played some small part in teaching her to be resilient and to keep working towards your goals, even when things get hard.
Mel was also unique in that he lived all but two or three of his years in and around the Dover, NH, area, and so nearly his entire life story is known to me. It is pretty cool to be entrusted as the caretaker for an animal who has brought so many such joy and taught so much to so many. As I understand it, Carmel was the only son of a then 27 year old maiden mare (yes, you read that right) and a recently gelded Quarter Horse colt. The two were found in a paddock together shortly after the colt was gelded, and no one thought too much of it. Over the winter, the mare’s owner noted that she seemed to be gaining weight, so they began decreasing her feed accordingly. When the weight loss didn’t cease, she contacted the vet, who informed her that the mare was in fact in foal. Carmel was born the following summer and was given to a young woman who hung out at the barn at the time.
I bought Carmel in 1998, with most of my college graduation money. I knew this was not a decision that my father would support, so I just gave myself the speech that he would have given me, and bought him anyway.
Carmel and I competed at many events in New England in the late 1990’s through 2000, when I retired him from novice level competition. After that, he was leased to several Pony Club families and served as one of my primary lesson horses for several years. He officially retired at 27 years old, but I continued to walk hack him around his neighborhood in a bareback pad, often while drinking my morning coffee, until shortly before his passing.
Time may soften the sting of loss but my eyes still well up when I think of him. Letting go of Carmel was one the hardest things I have had to do in my adult life. I miss him every day. How lucky am I to have had this animal to care for for so many years.