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Celia Downey's touching memory: My Horse Cutter

The last 19 of Cutter Downey's 32 year life were spent with Celia at the Downey farm on Russell Creek. It was a wonderful bond, as only those who truly love animals can know. There would come a time, she knew when she would have to let go. That time came in 2017. This is the story she writes which includes that time: My Horse Cutter
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By Celia Downey

The events of this story occurred on the farm lands surrounding Russell Creek in the Northern parts of Adair County Columbia, Kentucky. The events span the Fall of 1992 through the Winter of 2011.

Six years later during the Winter of 2017, I am finally able to share the story about Cutter, my mare. Mysteriously in the Fall of 1992, the mare landed in Adair County Kentucky and became my Blessing in Life. We explored the lands most days, spanning almost twenty two years including Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Cutter was the perfect size, we fit perfectly together. Cutter, my majestic black mare had more common sense and tolerance than most people. She had a calm solid soul with soft eyes, and understood every word spoken between us.

Someone, somewhere way before me had "raised her right". I wished with all my might I could meet the person who lovingly nurtured Cutter from a Foal

The problem was in the catching of Her Majesty. If she did not want to go riding, she was not caught; therefore, we did not ride. Many times I threw the hidden apple in hand on the ground and stomped around back to the barn. Cutter tossed me her squinchy eye while munching the apple thrown down. Tossing the apple to the ground symbolized our gauntlet. It Was On. She usually won.

I learned the trick of catching Cutter came from outsmarting Cutter; by taking nothing to catch her. No lead, no halter, no apple in hand, while slipping into her field. She smelled it. So I put slices of apples in a tight lock bag. That too was ridiculous. The tactical capture maneuver involved a casual walk past Cutter with that apple gripped in hand while looking away and offering the fruit to Sweetie or to Gym. Cutter snuck close then and if lucky I could grab her tail and hold on. Then Cutter was got, as in caught. The next step required sneaking the other hand to pull the two hidden grass strings from my riding boot. I looped one around her tail and drooped the second around her muscled neck. She thought she got caught, so she was caught and I won from a combination of her misperception and my conniving.

As time went on the mare began to interpret the black riding boots as a signal that the riding game was on. As a result, the catching of Cutter required big time finagling to get her caught. Eventually when Cutter allowed her lovely self to get got we pranced to the barn for her bridling and saddling ceremony in the lot.

I always knew Cutter knew those two strings were hidden in my boot. Or on the other hand, was she just gaming me? Cutter was smart enough to play. Hmm... Cutter, a true adversary. Cutter was the most head strong individual I had ever encountered except for my husband. He brought her to me in 1992. Huh, Imagine that.

Cutter and I explored the fields of the bottom lands and the high lands surrounding Russell Creek during the Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. She walked and I rode until Cutter snorted, spotting a place she wanted to graze or to drink from the creek. Afterwards, back in the saddle, we trudged onward into the unknown, like the fields behind the house. One spring day we spotted an old drooping deer stand high in a dead tree overlooking our creek and fields. Reflecting over those years, we had watched that deer stand get old and deteriorate, falling down into the ground, then suddenly it was just gone. We pondered if a deer had ever been caught there or had the deer escaped the Hunter's Bow? Hmm....Time is Elusive.

I learned Cutter had come from out West and had been a cow cutting horse... That made sense since she liked to watch the cattle and to sniff the calves. Eventually I came to Believe the mare's Western background was true. Her official name became Cutter, derived from my thoughts of her herding cattle out West, a "Cow Cutting Mare". After time Cutter became Cutter Downey. On our rides through the fields I envisioned scenes of old Western Cattle Ranching movies where horses herd the cattle across the roiling rivers and protect people from cattle stampedes.

I thought a whole lot while riding Cutter. The riding with her was really about being with Cutter, loving the land and away from the stressors of life. Several times we rode across the fields to visit the Wisdoms, our neighbors. They were always very kind and said it was fine for us to ride across their land and around their pond. The ride was beautiful in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. One wet crossing required a little jump, but Cutter smoothly jumped the jump then broke into a slow trot, while shaking her head, snorting into the sun, a gentle wind puffing through her black mane. She enjoyed the memory of her cattle days while trotting over to see our neighbors. She remembered the times the neighbors gave her Christmas Pears. A good friend in town learned about Cutter and gave her a few ripened Pears and Apples too. Those visits are some of the most cherished of mine and Cutter's time together. Later, while riding back to our barn, I often wondered how "those people out West" had ever caught Cutter when Cutter did not want to be caught. It could not happen... Hmm.

Cutter's and my favorite times were the winter rides, scanning the brown fields scattered with snow and drizzle. She wore a Red Sherpa Blanket Under Saddle with Black Bridle Silver Trimmed. . . I wore an old black riding gig consisting of a drooping cowboy hat with long weathered Australian coat, pockets full with Sugar Pears. From a distance one could not tell where she stopped and I began. Together, we explored the frozen bottom lands of Russell Creek, Cutter with her head in the air snorting white smoke with a tinge of lather showing beneath her saddled coat. Cutter, although up in years, loved our slow snow treks to check her cattle. Her ears twitched forward on the walks, interpreting the code sounds between the cattle. Sometimes we sheltered under the Russell Creek Bridge, listening to the cattle talking in the fields while the cars and trucks thundered overhead.

One winter evening we lit a little fire under there and roasted two apples and one pear. Later, from my hand, Cutter munched the fruits, one at a time. I inhaled the Myrrh of her; cooked apples, pears, and lather, watching my horse standing there. Me watching her, she watching me. The stars peacefully aligned, the Magical Blessing of Cutter's Memory under the star lit bridge, the palpable peace of Bethlehem.

From the dusk overhead a voice said it was time to head for home. I led Cutter, lead rings in hand, crunching across the frozen bottom land while the blinding snow turned to sleet. She protected by Sherpa Red. I protected by my riding gig. Together we merely appeared as a silhouette in the storm. We arrived at her stall safe and warm. Thank You.

Years later, Cutter was in the last times of her life. We both knew she was thirty two years of age. However, we still went on gentle excursions to maintain Cutter's quality of life. She enjoyed the outings. Our walks gave her purpose on this earth, crossing the shallow creeks to see her cattle. Some evenings when the snow was sprinkling and the sky was grey, I could not see where the snow stopped and where her muzzle began. Gym, her foal, was the first to see Cutter's muzzle turning grey, her coat matting regardless of grooming, her hips protruding. "Her age", he said to me. Sweetie saw it too. Both sister and brother stood back letting Cutter eat the Sweet Feed and Alfalfa first. Nothing worked. Cutter's Doctor quietly said,"Cutter may not last through the Winter. Cutter is 32 years of age, you have to prepare for this." I turned to Cutter and inhaled her munching the sugar coated apple prepared for her. "You wil be fine", I whispered in her ear and wiped a tear. Cutter's Doctor gave Cutter a vitamin shot and everything needed plus special feed. Cutter's doctor tried to turn back the hands of time for us both. The only thing I could do was to give Cutter love mixed with grief and an apple. Aging is the Relentless Battle.

Towards the last times of Cutter's life, the Star shown most bright in the deepest of nights. Sometimes I heard Willow the Cat rattle the window screen. On a particular night and from a deep sleep, a stir then a flash at my heart awakened me. I looked at Jack, who had not moved, unusual. Huh, Imagine that.

Wearily rising so as to not awaken Jack, I slipped into the riding gig; old black riding coat and hat. The twinkling of the Star guided my boots as I tiptoed into Cutter's stall. She lay in the lit corner waiting for me. Kneeling while reaching for her in a shimmering stream of gold, I cupped her grey muzzle into my hands, wrapping myself around around her warm muscled neck, and lay in the hay next to her. She said, "My time is near for leaving and I want you to be prepared. I may not last through the year or even the evening. I do not know." With my face on her head, Cutter and I fell asleep together. Cutter, my most precious companion and blessing in this life... Or did we float through our starlit fields, she munching roasted apples or a pear? It was a haze.

Hours later I awoke in my bed, freezing beneath the comforter and with the alarm buzzing. I never sleep till the alarm. Leaving for work, I noticed my black riding gig covered in straw and hay by the door. Riding boots toppled over. Huh... Cutter was grazing by the pond and seemed at Peace in her World. Willow the Cat ate her cat food as I swirled to work. All was good for that day but it changed. I had an undefined and an uneasy feeling. Every day was filled with making sure Cutter had quality in her life in that she had good feed, warmth, and safety. Regardless, it happened suddenly.

On an early Sunday afternoon late in December I discovered Cutter laying in the field with her cattle, in the frozen thistle. She was trying to get up. She lunged and fell back, she could not get up. Calmly and knowingly I slipped to her side, tried to help her to stand, but without success. She and I exchanged knowing and aching looks... Sitting by her side and rubbing Cutter's face I called her Doctor who quickly came. She told me it was time to Euthanize Cutter. I understood. Cutter understood. No one in the neighborhood could bear the loss of the mare. Respectful silence fell over the Russell Creek Valley.

I realize that one must love enough to allow suffering to end. I loved Cutter enough to let her leave. With my head on Cutter's grey muzzle I inhaled the smell of her while whispering into her ear, a secret for us to hear, the time and place for us to meet again. She relaxed then disappeared from my arms leaving us empty. My Horse Cutter is waiting in that special place until our next adventure across the fields. That old black riding gig is a treasure from Cutter Downey's memory, more precious than the diamond at the bottom of the sea.

Cutter remains my Blessing in Life. Imagine the Ride. Be Kind to Animals. Be an Advocate for Animals. Animals have no voice. Make sure Animals have food, water, and shelter every day of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.

Addendum: Today in a flash of winter's sunlight I glimpsed a scant of gray in Jack's muzzle. Huh... Catching my breath I gave Jack the last bite of our cheese sandwich and wrapped another blanket around him. Time is Elusive... We'll see My Dear.

Celia Downey. Winter December 21, 2017.

- Celia downey

This story was posted on 2017-12-24 08:10:12
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