It’s been just over a week, and I still instinctively look for Lincoln as I drive into the farm towards the paddock. His dark green feed bucket still sits in the feedroom with the others because I can’t bring myself to move it. It still hasn’t completely sunk in that the big hole he left isn’t temporary.
Lincoln was the horse I saved from my very first auction. Fresh out of my own traumatic accident, I decided to go all in and go save a horse from New Holland Sales Stable, an auction notorious for being a dumping ground for horses in terrible condition who were headed to slaughter.
As I was walking the aisleway, he caught my eye and I stopped walking and gasped at his hip bones jutting out. I thought he was too far gone; I wasn’t equipped to save a horse like this. I tried to turn away, but his eye caught mine and he wouldn’t stop staring at me. I have now attended many auctions, and I have seen many many horses who have a look of resignation and despair. Not Lincoln. It was like he was imploring me not to leave without him. Like somehow, he knew that there was more to life than anything he had ever known if he could just get out of there. I remember saying under my breath “stop looking at me” as I tried to walk away.
We outbid the kill buyer, and I went from a plan to help horses who had just fallen through the cracks to jumping into the deep end of horse rescue. We wouldn’t know the extent of Lincoln’s scars until we spent more time with him, but we would soon learn that he had endured both physical and mental abuse. He had lived his life as an Amish work horse, basically as a slave. Not all Amish horses are treated with cruelty, but many are, and Lincoln’s scars showed evidence of a very cruel past.
Lincoln was with us for almost 5 years, and we watched him learn to trust, give humans a second chance, and become who he was always meant to be. In the last couple of years, he was able to live out in a very large field with a herd, and that is when he really came into his own. I walked that field almost daily, and there were times when he would approach me and want to interact and times when he made it clear that he just wanted to be a horse and not bother with me. It was on his terms, and that was okay. He earned that right.
He had the biggest heart. He always had his eye on his herd members. He was right by Teddy’s side for the last 5 years, so loving and protective of him, but not afraid to put him in his place when needed. They were so close they would rather eat from the same flake of hay than separate ones.
And wisdom. Man that horse was wise. If I was sad or out of sorts, he would approach me and look into my eyes, and I could see that deep soul. It was almost like he was telling me that no matter what I was going through, I could overcome it. I can’t tell you how many times a volunteer was dealing with a heartbreak of some sort or just a really bad day and asked if they could go see Lincoln. He had a way of absorbing our pain. Just being in his presence was healing.
As tender as Lincoln was, he was every bit as tough. In the last few years as his arthritis started causing swelling to his spinal cord, there were times when he could barely walk. At one point, a vet gave us three days to say our goodbyes. That was three years ago. He was a fighter; not about to give up this incredible life he had come to know. When it was time, he let us know. He was strong and brave, and he comforted us in those last hours.
There is no doubt Lincoln touched everyone who met him. It was not a secret that he was a favorite to so many of our followers who only knew him through social media. A badass with a tender heart, he was the epitome of tenacity and resilience and everything I strive to be. So, as I cry while I write this, I know what Lincoln would do if he were here. He would look into my eyes with that intense look he gave me at the auction as if to say, “I’m good….now get back out there and keep doing what you do”. And that’s exactly what I’ll do, only now I’ll do it knowing that there is a beautiful soul running free from pain with that gorgeous mane blowing in the breeze watching over me and waiting for me on the other side.