As y’all may be aware, I lost Rocco. I should say, we lost Rocco, as he was loved by many.
I can only speak to the empty space I and my little band of horses are struggling with today as we try to adjust to a new reality. Where there were three, there are suddenly two. And me.
Rocco. Rock Star. Roc em Soc em. Also known by his registered name: A SmokenTucker, was a 16 year old quarter horse with a heart as big as Texas. He was a supreme athlete and the full brother of a world champion reined cow horse. He was born and bred to give dreams a place to blossom.
And none of those things are the best parts of Rocco. Like all horses, he was a flight animal. By nature and within his deepest soul, he was a wild animal with a lot of natural enemies. To handle Rocco, even in the simplest ways, one needed to have a relationship with him. Otherwise, he wasn’t interested in being touched, blanketed, haltered, saddled or ridden.
Nine years together.
I met him 9 years ago and fell in love with him on that day, during that first ride. You know when you have that feeling? That sense of belonging? That unique intimacy horse people feel with the souls in our care? Such was the feeling with Roc and it was immediate.
I couldn’t afford him when we met for a lot of complicated, life likes to throw curve balls, reasons. I was on a horse shopping trip with friends and offered the ride on a sale horse as much out of the hospitality of the seller, as any other reason. But in that ride he built his very own nest, deep inside my heart.
I rode him again at a clinic with Russell Dilday a week later. And our bond grew. He offered me a cautious eye, that slowly relaxed into trust. He showed me his super horse skills. All I had to do was think about what I wanted to do and he would offer the try. He was incredibly sensitive and giving when he trusted his handler. I felt at home on his back.
I couldn’t afford him.
I suffered over how to bring him home, but knew it would happen. Rocco needed a special kind of home. His quirks could make him dangerous in the wrong hands, and I feared him landing in a kill pen if he was mishandled. He needed a forever home for his own safety. He got that with us.
Rocco didn’t just come to live with me. He became best friends with my dragon, Chance, helped teach my kid to ride and carried me on endless adventures on trails and in competitions. He achieved scores in the 60’s at 3rd level in Dressage to add to his professional resume of money winning cow horse and he moved with us from California to North Texas and finally, Austin.
When he trusted his rider, Rocco would take on anything, even if he was scared himself. He was the bravest horse I’ve ever met. One day a giant bull dog tried to eat Dixie. I pointed Rocco at the problem and he herded that beast like a steer, even reaching out to take a bite of him. He saved our little herd dog and scared the heck out of the bully.
Rocco had a near fatal run-in with colic about 4 years ago and required surgery to save his life. He’s had 4 episodes since and somehow I always knew he would be the first to cross the bridge among our 3 beloved horses.
And so he has, leaving Chance, Holly, me, David, Jake and a large following of fans and caretakers to find our way without him. We are better for the gift of the last 9 years, but that’s small comfort just now. Rocco was special and touched everyone he met with his incredible presence and sensitive heart.
The thing about great loss is it leaves one feeling suddenly very alone, even when they aren’t. I have two amazing horses depending on me. My family, my friends and my colleagues are all still here and very supportive. But that void, that appeared out of nowhere, in the midst of a busy and engaging life, has forced me to pause and feel my own heart beat for a moment. A long and lonely moment.
I want nothing more right now than to feel his insistent attempts to pick my pockets and see the tilt of his beautiful head as he tries to peer inside them for cookies and carrots.
Goodbye my friend, I love you forever. Thank you for trusting me.