Last weekend, as I introduced him to my sister and her husband, I knew Glitterman’s days were numbered. I might even have suspected, in my heart, that his days were numbered in single digits. And yet, despite bracing myself for this, I find it to be among the most difficult losses I have experienced at Old Friends.
Glitterman was just a little bay horse, maybe 15 hands, and pretty sway backed. Time and the effects of gravity were apparent on his body. His knees were large, misshapen, and of late, painful from arthritis. He had lost his front teeth and as a result his tongue was always hanging out. If you saw him recently, sway-backed, with his tongue out and his shaggy coat I guess you’d have a hard time seeing him as a successful racehorse and the sire of millionaires Balto Star, Glitterwoman and Champali. And here is the funny thing: I always told people Glitterman was a millionaire on the track. I am not sure why I thought that, because he wasn’t. But despite his swayed back and knobby knees, his demeanor and his attitude made me believe he must have been.
Glitterman always had attitude. He let you know what he wanted and how he wanted it. Back scratching? He moved so you most easily reached exactly where he wanted you to scratch. Peppermint? Nope, he’d rather have a carrot. Company? Maybe not really, not today. When he first came to Old Friends, Glitterman lived in a paddock on the hill, and I clearly remember how aggravated he was by having Makors Mark pastured across the way. He hated that horse. He’d prance back and forth at the fence, his neck arched and his tail in the air like a banner, glaring at the other, larger stallion and stating his case as to why he was the better man. How could you NOT think he was all that and then some?
As time passed Glitterman’s arthritic knees became more of an issue. Although initially he wasn’t too uncomfortable, his mobility became relatively limited. He could walk from his stall to the small round pen outside his barn, where he’d survey the neighborhood, nap, and munch his hay. His immediate neighbors—Dan, Flick, Ogygian and Clever–didn’t bother him, making his previous response to Makors Mark all the more extreme. He loved carrots and enjoyed visitors. Sometimes, if he felt particularly good, he’d show off a little bit. He couldn’t really prance anymore, but he learned to plant his back feet and kind of do a little mini-bounce on his stiff front legs, with his neck arched and his ears pricked. Not quite the same as before, but he got his message across. He was still bad.
As is often the case with the stallions, Glitterman’s favorite visitors were kids. But even there Glitterman was just a little different: he preferred toddlers. Show up with a 2 year old in diapers who was barely talking, and Glitterman dropped his head right to their level and took carrots as gently as can be. I think, as he got older and less mobile, he preferred smaller folk, the ones he knew couldn’t hurt him or make him to move too quickly.
But what I remember most about Glitterman, the part that makes this so hard, were the times I visited him alone– no carrots, no other people. He’d limp over to the fence, lay his head on my shoulder and sigh, for just a moment allowing someone to take a little bit of the burden off his achy knees. I always considered it a privilege to do that.
I am left with the question-is it better somehow to know the day is coming and prepare yourself as best you can, or is it easier to have the end come with no warning and no time for contemplation? I don’t know the answer, but I can tell you this: I will miss Glitterman. I will look for him instinctively and always in that little round pen that will forever, in my mind, be his.