Today I died in a ditch with a six foot tall dark stranger.
He had wandered down from the olive terraces after weeks of suffering from a large tumor on his face.
His owner had not been able to face the prospect of putting him down when the original prognosis had been made so put him out to grass in our olive trees.
He was together with three other of his elderly friends and before the weather had changed from freezing cold to warm and now blasted hot, he was happy wandering the olive groves and grazing on the wild grasses and herbs.
Aramis and his friends had a stream running through their grazing and if I could wish any horse a happier last few weeks, months, years, I can think of no better place to rest out their last.
Aramis arrived at my door this morning, all six feet of beautiful bay coat stretched over arched bones, frothing from the mouth, gasping for breath, covered in flies, and swaying on tall and elegant legs. He was a beautiful beast with a tumor measuring two feet in either direction from his lower nostril up to his eyes. He could hardly breathe and was unable to drink.
Why would nature kill such a fantastic animal so slowly?
He had come down to find someone to die with.
I left him to call his owners and when I returned I found him collapsed in the small stream bed below the house. After several attempts to right himself he collapsed under the shade of a quince tree which is where I joined him with a cold, wet bath towel.
I covered his head and asked my gardener to bring a hose to cool him down and to rid him of the ever present stinging flies we have in Tuscany.
Once his head was covered and he was cool and the flies had stopped biting, he lay for half an hour just relaxing.
The vet had been called, his owners were on their way but after three really heavy sighs and lots of tears, he died and went somewhere where horses are not bitten or kicked but appreciated for their diligence and subservience and unquestioning love.
He has taught me a lesson never to be forgotten.