“When your horse follows you without being asked, when he rubs his head on yours, and when you look at him and feel a tingle down your spine.. you know you are loved.”John Lyons
When you walk into the Ironwood barn you feel the energy. One of the biggest energies that you feel is Frankie’s. Frankie was one of the brightest and lovable horses you will ever meet. He was kind, understanding, funny, dorky, stubborn, and bubbly. When you would groom Frank he would tell you who’s boss. He would use his nose and push open the stall door. He wouldn’t try to escape just him saying “Ha I did that!” He spent his time with residents like nobody else. He stopped, thought, and reflected on every interaction with everyone. He was the most intelligible horse ever. He knew how to open the doors in the arena with his nose. He also knew how to turn on the water spigot if he wanted water. He also knew that when someone needed a shoulder to cry on, he was the one. I know that I’ve cried on his shoulder many times. He just understood even if you didn’t.
Today Ironwood is mourning a loss. Today Frank the horse has been laid to rest. He was 28 years old, which is about 90. He was at Ironwood before it was a school. He gave a life full of service and love. As he got older it started to show. Last winter he had a really hard time and struggled to keep up with the other horses. So as this winter comes, the vet and the barn team made the hard decision to lay him to rest. He died peacefully in a field where all horses that have been put to rest over the years lay.
After the burial, Ironwood residents and staff came together to celebrate him with a ceremony. Many residents wrote a speech or poem to commemorate Frank. Frank was a kind, gentle horse, who loved everyone for who they were. Over the years he helped hundreds of Ironwood students get through one of the hardest parts of their lives. All of his original herd had passed and been replaced with other horses, but Frank showed determination that he would stay one last winter. So as spring came, he was trying his best to keep going. He was one of the most stubborn horses that had ever lived.
In late spring, his retirement from riding and EAP was official. He would live out the rest of his days grazing and enjoying himself in the pastures. This summer he suffered a lot of pain. His joints and bones creaked when he walked and he was having trouble eating. So, after years and years of showing up for us, we had to show up for him. As everyone said their goodbyes, we knew deep down that this was the best option.
Frankie was born June 18, 1995, and was laid to rest Thursday, October 19, 2023. He lived a long life full of love and kindness. Although Ironwood will not be the same without him, he’ll still be here in spirit. Losing someone is very hard. Losing someone you took care of day in and day out is even harder. Many of us are reaching out to our community members at Ironwood to be able to cope with the loss. If Frank was still with us he’d just look at one of us in a funny way and push his muzzle into our shoulder. He would be saying “Go on, keep going, you’ll do great, I’ll be fine… I love you.” He had such an amazing impact on everyone and was the best. People come into your life for a reason, a season, and a lifetime. Living in a world of constant loss is difficult. You might lose a book or a paper, or an animal or human. Everybody loses something.
As Ironwood residents it’s hard to lose someone and not have the people you love close. What I’ve learned is that reaching out is really helpful. Reaching out is such a vital skill that most people don’t use. They keep their thoughts and feelings inside afraid of what people might think. When you reach out you’re vulnerable to the people around you. It helps so much. Just one sentence can change everything. “I need help.” Those words and others really can help during a hard time like this. People come and go in your life all the time but you putting yourself out there will bring the people that matter most close. It’s really hard to lose someone, reaching out makes sure you don’t do it all by yourself.