An Unexpected Loss

It was a warm day for January, the sun was shining and the hubs and I each had just finished a fabulous riding lesson.  My instructor and I stood at the fence and watched the activity in the arena.

“Are you friends with Sue Hanson?” she asked.

“Not really friends” I replied “I know her socially, we have a lot of the same circles and people in common, I’m acquaintances for sure but we don’t ride together.”

“She passed away this morning of a heart attack” she told me.

I stopped and tried to reconcile the name of the woman we had just discussed with the news she had told me.  We must be talking about a different Sue because my mind couldn’t make the pieces fit.  The Sue I knew is in love with her horse, kind to everyone and very much full of life.

The words slowly sunk in and the sad news began to form in reality.

I know that Sue was a wife, a mother and a nurse that worked in the hospital nursery.   I know these things in my head but how I know Sue in my heart is as a member of our local horse community.  A community that regardless of the large number of people in it, is still pretty small.  Sue had been so active with her beloved horse Johnny.  They had the most beautiful relationship and had gone on many adventures together.  Sue trailered Johnny across country to ride in “The Best of America by Horseback”, she rode the AHA heart ride at the beach every year, she was big into Parelli and had taken courses and clinics at their centers and with their instructors, they were always in the local parades together and I have many a friend that had camped with her or just spent the day on the trails.  I watched her give demonstrations for natural horsemanship with Johnny and I’ve seen her carry the flag for the national anthem at area horse shows and events.

On the drive home from the lesson I cried.  The tears surprised me because I really
hadn’t known her very well.  In reflecting later on the grief I was feeling it occurred to me that I was incredibly sad over not just the passing of Sue but the loss of the bond that existed between her and her horse.  She had spent years working with Johnny, years building that trust, creating a partnership, solidifying that bond and making memories and in a moment it was gone.  People understand death, they know what happens, but animals just know that one day you never come back.  How many meals will Johnny go through before he realizes she is not the one that will be bringing his dinner anymore?  Who will be bringing his dinner?

RIP Sue.  You were a light in our equestrian community, inspiring many through the  beautiful relationship you had with your horse.


  1. You brought to mind something so sad – the inability to tell our beloved pets what is happening or has happened. I wonder at their limited understanding and how it affects them. Even though I didn’t know this woman, it touched me, too.


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