The Ghosts that Haunt Us

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Wallero | Santa Fe, New Mexico


I burst into tears the day I signed the ownership papers for Wallero. The tears were not tears of happiness but regret.

I knew in my heart that I had made the wrong decision to buy Wallero. Desperate to own a horse again after twenty years I turned away from my instinct.

Imported from Germany, Wallero, like Dino had been abandoned after his owner’s death. Left in a field alone for over a year with little human contact and no equine connection at all, Wallero arrived in the United States a damaged soul. With a penchant for bolting and an unsettled look in his eye that rarely abated, I wrongly believed I could bring him back to a state of peace as I had done with Dino. Dino had been seven; Wallero was twelve. Too much isolation, too much questionable treatment had marked this horse.

Prone to fearful and dangerous outbursts when his only instinct was to run, Wallero’s demons defined him. Indeed, I believe Wallero suffered from an equine brand of PTSD. Still, somehow through all the terrifying bolts, through all the groundwork done to ease his unsettled soul, through a hairline fracture in my sacrum, I refused to throw in the towel entirely and sent him to a retirement ranch.

Even in the aimless desert hills, though, Wallero could not outrun his ghosts. A dangerous incident when Wallero threatened a farrier in the field led me to make the most heart-wrenching decision of my life. I put the horse I thought I could save down.

Though I was wracked with misplaced guilt and devastating sadness, I understood that I had made the right decision when I received the following letter from my veterinarian:

Dear Anna,

I am so sorry the experience with Valero was so fraught with difficulty. I believe you went far beyond the “extra mile” to give him the best life possible. I am in complete agreement that this was the best way out of an unsatisfactory situation.

Indeed, he was treated with kindness right to the end, and that’s the best we know how to do in this imperfect world.

I wish you all the best.

Wallero is buried on the retirement ranch site. His spirit runs free, free of the demons that tracked him in life.