Rainbow Bridge – When Greatness is Acknowledged

Symphony (Photograph by Hepsi Richards)

When animals arrive at Rainbow Bridge, it is an age-old tradition that their greatness is acknowledged because as we all know, all animals are great and we are pretty lucky if we get to have them in our lives.

All animals are awarded ‘The Goodest Boy/Girl Award’. I mean let’s face it, what animal doesn’t like to be told that they are a good boy or girl? This happens on arrival at Rainbow bridge and as each animal walks through the gates, all their pain, discomfort and illnesses are forgotten and left behind. They each receive this special acknowledgement and this enables them to move forward with a clear mind and a confidence for the next stage of their lives. But to basically summarise it, their greatness is always acknowledged.

Symphony

Symphony – AKA the Red Rocket or Orange Princess, is a 19-year old Chestnut Arabian mare. Her owner Hepsi has described her as head strong, cheeky, flirty and also her best friend.

They have been through so much together and just as Symphony and Hepsi were getting into the sport of horse Archery, Symphony suffered a serious foot injury that was so severe, that she had to retire from being ridden. There are some owners that would not have kept a horse that they could no longer ride or compete on, but not Hepsi. She made sure that Symphony had the best love and care and had plans for the little mare to enjoy the rest of her life with her as a retired horse.

Symphony’s foot improved better than anyone had dared to hope and although she still couldn’t be ridden, she continued to live her best life with Hepsi and their relationship grew even stronger.

Best friends forever – Symphony and Hepsi (Photograph by Matthew Benson )

Dee Dee

After Symphony’s accident, a new horse came into Hepsi’s life – a 3 year old mare called Dee Dee. Both Dee Dee and Symphony got on very well with Symphony giving Dee Dee advice on how to flirt with the stallions (or even geldings if they were desperate). No-one can flirt quite like a mare, they have it down to an art form.

New mare on the block – Dee Dee (Photograph by Hepsi Richards)

“I will teach you everything that I know. I may not be able to take my human out riding on my back, but you and I can have such fun and I can teach you all the important stuff like how to get your human to do exactly what you want and how to be the perfect moody mare.” Symphony whispered in Dee Dee’s ear one day.

Dee Dee eagerly took in whatever Symphony told her and the two became inseparable in the short space of time that they were together.

“Quick! That mare is showing off her bottom, look at her – the cheek of it!” Symphony whinnied furiously through the stable door and then stomped her front hooves a few times to make her appear even more dramatic. (Everyone knows that stamping your hooves makes you look good. If I had hooves then I would stamp them as well).

Dee Dee wasn’t quite sure who she was looking at but decided to stomp her hooves as well and finish off the display with a few dramatic tail flicks. “She is showing off because….” Dee Dee stuttered as she couldn’t think of a reason and then added “Because she has got new shoes on her feet!”

Symphony nodded her head vigorously, “Yes and she is showing off her bum to the geldings in the yard!”

The two mares enjoyed their gossip sessions. They were good girls really but just liked nothing better than bitching about the yard dynamics such as who had the best bum, the best shoes or who had no shoes at all and who had the largest feed bucket. It’s a bit like office politics except politics for horses if you see what I mean.

Things were going very well for Symphony because she had got to enjoy her retirement with her new sister and was happy in the knowledge that her beloved human Hepsi, would get to bring on such a fine young horse like Dee Dee and Symphony could supervise it all in the background, while still enjoying being loved and cared for by her favourite human. It’s all any horse would wish for really, to be loved even when age or fitness make it impossible for you to work.

But as with life, sometimes it can catch you by surprise with events that are out of your control and that is when you truly learn how to treasure and love what you have, while you have it because as Symphony discovered, it can all change in seconds.

Time to say goodbye

One day Symphony was in the stable with Dee Dee and both mares had been enjoying a rare silence. Dee Dee was happily munching on her haynet while Symphony had been somewhat unsettled and was pacing up and down.

“Ouch!” Symphony let out a deep groan and kicked her hind leg in the direction of her belly as if to reprimand it for hurting her. Her beautiful orange coat was dark with sweat and she looked utterly exhausted.

“Are you OK?” Dee Dee turned and frowned with concern at Symphony, “Your belly is rather swollen!”

Another wave of pain caused Symphony to tense up and groan loudly while a helpless Dee Dee could only look on.

Once the spasm had passed, Symphony looked at Dee Dee and said, “I think we need to talk…”

“I haven’t known you long but you were meant to come to be in our family. The right horse is often guided in just before the old horse is guided out – you are the right horse for Hepsi.

“I trust you will carry our Mum into the future, you will look after her, keep her safe and never buck with her on your back. I have had the best and most magical life with our human, we have learned so much together and I was totally her orange princess.  Now it is your turn to take her down a new path of adventures and horsemanship, but always remember how lucky you are to have a human that takes such special care of you. Not all horses are so lucky.”

As Dee Dee looked at Symphony with kind and calm eyes, she replied simply, ‘I won’t let her – or you, down’. The two mares stared at each other for a few minutes before the time had come for Symphony to leave.

Now horses are quite matter-of-fact when they have to leave their families to cross over. They are intense, intelligent and soulful creatures and they take no comfort in being kept on this earth when their bodies tell them that it’s time to go.

Rainbow Bridge

A large and majestic white greyhound stood at the gates of Rainbow Bridge. He busied himself by looking at his checklist and marking things off with his pen, putting a tick here and there, occasionally scrubbing names out and adding notes beside them. He looked important, like so much depended on him and in a way, it did. His name was Bowie and he was also known as ‘The Gatekeeper’ of Rainbow Bridge.

Bowie – The Gatekeeper (Photograph by Fran Forbes)

Basically, Bowie admitted each and every animal into ‘The Bridge’ and made sure that they knew what to expect and were not frightened when they made the transition. Usually after some initial hesitance and nerves, animals transitioned smoothly and Bowie never tired of watching them get their health back with each step that they took and so becoming the best version of themselves.

A little black terrier with a wiry coat, a long plumy tail, stumpy legs and a head far too large for his body, trotted up to Bowie to see who was on the list for that day. He had been assigned as part of the welcoming committee to greet them. Wearing a red spotted bow tie clipped to a red leather collar, he looked jolly smart indeed.

“What’s up Bowie – what’s occurring?” The terrier grinned at him before doing a few frantic circles in the grass and lifting his leg to pee over a rather nice branch that happened to be there.

“We have a very special guest today.” Bowie gave a firm nod to the terrier before adding, “A very very special guest indeed and I hope you are ready for her!”

Digging up the soil with his hind legs after his pee, the terrier cocked his head to the side, “I was born ready.” Then he decided to pee again but having used up his urine supplies, he did what most dogs do and that was to do an invisible pee – just to prove a point.

An Aussie shepherd was keeping everyone entertained by doing some sort of bottom scooting Olympics. Rocky the kelpie laughed raucously as the Aussie scraped his bum on some gravel. “That’s gonna hurt if you keep doing that!” Rocky shook his head and laughed.

“This my friend, is Rainbow Bridge and nothing hurts here!” The Aussie dog barked firmly. It was true as well, bottoms could be scooted all day and just for the fun of it and no pain would come of it either. And it didn’t take long for Rocky to join in the scooting and pretty soon a few more were racing each other to see who could reach the old oak tree at the end of the path.

Twelve black horses stood in the corner of the field eating grass. Their coats were so shiny that one could be forgiven for thinking that polish had been used on them. Their tails blowing gently in the wind, you could hear them contentedly munching on the grass. A black miniature pony stood guard by the fence ready to take further instruction while the horses quietly grazed.

Bowie had been interrupted by a chocolate Labrador who was asking about the meaty bone collection in the dog area. Now even at Rainbow Bridge, dogs will still salivate at the thought of a tasty bone. Only Labradors have somewhat more enthusiasm than the average dog about their food and both equally on earth and at Rainbow Bridge, food and Labradors go together like cheese and wine.

“Order as many bones as you like but make sure everyone that wants one, gets one!” Bowie said firmly as the Labrador wagged his tail happily and then farted because he was so excited.

“Excuse me a minute….” Bowie halted the conversation as the little terrier came running up to him and whispered in his ear.

“She’s coming….”

Bowie took a deep breath, straightened himself up and gestured at Rocky the kelpie to do his part. Rocky stopped dragging his bum along the floor and waved to the mini pony in the field who then gestured to 12 black horses that had been patiently waiting all morning for their part in the operation. 

One by one the horses slowly marched in single file to the gates of Rainbow Bridge until the 12 horses were lined up in two rows of 6, all directly facing each other and Rocky at the front and the miniature pony right at the end.

They impatiently moved from hoof to hoof and had started to twitch with excitement. Something was happening, she was close, they could feel it and they could just tell.

“Are you ready?” Rocky nodded at the horses.

With some stomping of their feet and some snorting, yes they were ready.

Arrival

You couldnt hear anything at first, not initially anyway, maybe just some soft ‘thuds’ on the grass but that was about it.

Bowie stood with his gaze fixed into some particularly fluffy white clouds and then quite suddenly he started to wag his tail. “She is here!”

The sky lit up so bright that Rocky had to cover his eyes and the terrier even put his terrier spectacles on.

“I have arrived at last!” A beautiful chestnut mare declared as she emerged from the clouds, walking slowly but elegantly over to Bowie. Giving a welcoming whicker, she lowered her head to the large white greyhound and acknowledged him as the Gatekeeper to Rainbow Bridge.

“Hello Symphony, we have been waiting for you.” Bowie smiled at her.

Symphony nodded approvingly, “Nice set up you have here.”

“We like it, I think you will as well.” Bowie grinned and wagged his tail. “How are you feeling Symphony?” He asked the mare.

Shrugging, Symphony replied, “I’ve felt better to be honest, tummy is still a bit sore.” Staring at the huge gates of Rainbow Bridge and then looking at Rocky, she asked, “So what happens now?”

“You get better, that’s what happens. Now if you will follow me….” Rocky said to her and nodded towards the two lines of horses that were waiting for her.

“Will I be OK?” Symphony asked Bowie.

“There is only one way to find out.” Bowie reassured her.

As Symphony slowly started to walk through the gates, with each step she took she became lighter, her tummy less bloated and the pain lessened and as she walked past the two lines of horses, they each acknowledged her elegance, presence and greatness.

When she reached the end of the line up, she looked back at Bowie, the terrier and Rocky, gave her tail a flick and then turned to face the miniature pony in front of her. The miniature pony nudged her gently and said “Good Girl!”

Symphony stared at the field in front of her – lots of other horses had appeared from nowhere, their ears pricked forward as they waited for her. Symphony looked to the field in front of her before breaking into a slow trot, then a canter and finally into a gallop to join her new herd.

Rocky smiled to himself as he caught sight of Symphony prancing around the field, showing off with her tail held high, lifting her hooves high off the ground as she did so, before disappearing into the distance with the other horses.

No more pain for Symphony (Photograph by Hepsi Richards)

“Do you think her human will be OK?” The terrier asked Rocky.

Rocky looked thoughtful, “Yes, her human is going to be just fine.” And with that, the terrier had to be content.

Almost immediately after Symphony had gone, Bowie’s phone rang, “Hello, Bowie speaking – Yes, greatness has been acknowledged.”

Back at the stables

Dee Dee stood quietly in her stable, her kind brown eyes gazed at the space that was once Symphony’s. She wondered how her human Hepsi was coping as both she and Symphony had been on the most amazing journey together and had seen each other through thick and thin. The bond between a decent human and their horse is strong and is a connection that can’t be easily broken.

She fondly remembered how Symphony would tell her about her career in horse Archery and would embellish the story about how she was an Arabian Princess and Arabian royalty had admired her from afar. So you see the girls got on exceptionally well and there was no doubt that the gap that Symphony had left was huge.

Hepsi and Symphony competing in horse archery
(Photo provided by Hepsi Richard – photographer name to be provided)

Dee Dee took a few slurps of water from her water bucket. She suddenly looked upwards towards the sky, then giving a sudden and friendly whicker of excitement. She swished her tail a few times and said quietly, “I see you Symphony, I see you.”

A few days after

Hepsi was utterly broken hearted over losing her best friend and don’t ever think that a horse can’t be a human’s best friend because any horse lover will tell you that they can. To gain the love, friendship and trust of a horse is a huge privilege and one that not all of us are lucky enough to experience. A horse and rider are a prime example of a good team – they work as a team, they communicate as a team and they ride as a team.

One day Hepsi was in Dee Dee’s stable, wrapping her arms around her neck, she cried quietly into Dee Dee’s soft fur. Hepsi wondered how she would manage without her beloved Symphony, the yard just wouldn’t be the same without her, how can one horse leave a gap far bigger than the stable they were in?

Giving Dee Dee a gentle rub between her ears, Hepsi turned around to leave. Feeling a nudge on her back, she laughed as Dee Dee repeatedly rubbed her head up and down Hepsi’s back before lifting up her face and curling her lip in a way that only a horse can when they smile. And for the first time since Symphony had left, Hepsi was able to laugh.

“I may not be able to fill that gap but I will create a pretty good area of my own.” Dee Dee silently pleaded, “I will safely carry you and promise to always look after you – and it all starts from now.”

Hepsi wiped her eyes and decided that it was time to go. She had planned to do stuff that afternoon, she was quite busy in fact and had not intended to stay so long at the stables. But there was something comforting about being with Dee Dee. Her smell, her quiet unassuming nature and the way in which she felt safe with her new horse. She hadn’t noticed it so much when Symphony was alive, only now when it was just the two of them that it became apparent.

“OK, I will stay a bit longer, just another hour mind you….” Hepsi kissed Dee Dee on her neck and rested against the wall, “Did I ever tell you about the time that Symphony flirted with a gelding?”

And as Hepsi started to tell Dee Dee the story, both human and horse began to pave their way to their own special relationship and magical journey.

The End

Dedicated to Symphony – The Orange Princess, the Red Rocket, all round good girl who was a special horse and so very loved.

Hepsi and Symphony (Photograph by Katherine Waddington)

This story has been written and published with the kind permission of Hepsi Richards.

Parts of this story have been changed and are fictitious. Any resemblance to real horses/people and dogs are purely coincidental. Except for Hepsi, Dee Dee, Symphony, Rocky and Bowie.

Samantha Rose (C) Copyright September 2021

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