Merlin's Story begins with his mom Sally. Sally is a fiercely independent mare. She is a bit pushy, and not too enamoured of people
and fellow equines, but she is a wonderful parent to her offspring.
Sally doesn't need help. She takes care of herself. Doesn't like nosey humans prying into her business, watching and advising and offering clumsy help.
For that reason, Sally doesn't signal that she is about to give birth. She knows she'd get stuck in a stall on some beautiful June night, when
she'd rather be outside, wander around, graze a bit, have a nap under her favourite tree.
So she avoids all the usual signals people look for. Always makes them think there is still a way to go. "Not yet, noooo. Another week at least!"
And she fools us every time. One morning we go out, and there's an extra four legs with a little body stuck unsurely on top of it running through the paddock in Sally's wake.
We round them up, mom and the new kid, and we do our ahhh-ing and ohhh-ing, and for a little while Sally lets us make a fuss and praise and congratulate her. She does seem proud.
In June 2005, Sally had a lovely daughter, Hopi ("the Peaceful One"). Here is a picture of her showing off her accomplishment that first day.
In 2006 Sally is to have another foal. "Not yet, noooo. Another week at least!," we say confidently, sure that this time we'll be there at that special time, and watch a new little horse leap into the world.
On June 14, in the morning, there's an extra four legs with a little body stuck unsurely on top of it running through the paddock in Sally's wake.
It's a boy. Dark and handsome, with a white blaze on his forehead.
We name him Merlin, because there is something quite magical about him, and because he survives the first few days, which are tough. One leg is injured from birth, it seems mom accidentally stepped on him, and he is having some difficulty getting nourishment.
But he makes it! He is spunky, and quite independent (where does he get that from?!), and soon mom is chasing after him, trying to make sure he doesn't get into any trouble.
After he is weaned, it is time to find him some new buddies to hang with. There is Zorro, a gentle two year-old standardbred, for example. Zorro shares a paddock with a couple punkish ponies that tend to bully him a little. When Merlin is added to the mix, Zorro becomes his protector, and all seems well.
When it comes down to it, Merlin probably has enough spunk to look after himself. Once he gets cornered at the big round hay bale that serves as buffet, and he takes a couple steps and flies right over it. What a horse! And he's only 5 months old! We know that soon he'll be clearing the fences, out to explore the big wide world.
Only: it doesn't happen like that. This is how the story should go, because what makes stories stories are adventures, little horses leaping over the haybale, and then leaping over the moon.
Merlin loses weight when he should be gaining weight. He has severe bouts of colic, almost on a monthly basis, and several times we feel that he isn't going to make it. We do the usual things, we have a wonderful vet on stand-bye, we get him the best feed and supplements, and medicine when required, and pain killers when there is a bad episode. And more medicine, and more pills and more potions. And more.
He is a brave little fellow, and he puts up with it all. Stuck in the barn when the other horses are out playing in the snow, he doesn't give up. He comes back after one episode, and then the next. We check on him every two hours day and night, because we don't want to find him cast in the morning after a night of pain. We are mom now. We talk to him endlessly, we stroke him. He gets a designer coat to keep his thin little body warm.
And so it goes. For weeks.
On February 26, 2007, at 8:30 am, God takes back the gift that was Merlin. A ruptured bowel is something even a sorcerer cannot overcome.
We talk him across the divide, and try to tell him how much he is loved, and how grateful we are for the joy he brought to our lives, and how sorry we are that we were unable to keep him from harm, and how he will soon have the most wonderful pasture in which to roam and graze, and the most beautiful moon over which to leap.
Merlin is buried at the edge of the hayfield, in the shade of the trees.