Hearts in the Sand

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The sun had already set as I slowly drove through the trees and down the sandy driveway to my yard. I had met my friend at the corner and we had driven to Williams Lake for shopping and dinner but now, possibly for the first time, I didn't want to come home.

Bypassing my house yard, I drove past the gate and parked close to the barn, turned the key off, got out and put one leaden foot in front of the other, glancing at the old round pen to my left but walking instead to the barn to feed my stallions, one in the barn and one in a pen behind. It was then I saw the first heart drawn in the sand at the door of my barn. 

I knew what the significance of the heart in the sand was... Thinking about that, I forked feed to Little Wolf and Wolf, then plodded by the old round pen again on a path across the arena to check and feed the broodmares. Usually my two pretty fillies, Perfect and Cameo, lifted my spirits but tonight I doubted they would. Feed them I must though so I shuffled along eyes to the ground . . . and stopped. There, in the harrow drag-track across the arena, was another heart, carefully scribed, carefully positioned so I would see it when I crossed the arena.

Hearts in the sand. I knew who drew them . . . and why. "I thought they might cheer you up," he said later. Well, no - the hearts in the sand didn't cheer me up but I so appreciated the effort because, you see, I had come home that evening to one less horse. Destiny was gone.

Wildwood Destiny entered my world on April 20, 1993 and immediately captured my heart. The first foal for my good mare, Wildwood Tamarac, I had great expectations for her. Her sire was an own son of Doc Bar and double bred King; her dam was sired by Solanos Peppy San. I was sure she would be a reining horse and had plans to train her and compete in the NRHA Futurity in Oklahoma City in 1996.

April 20, 1993 - Destiny born to Tamarac
But my talented little bay mare was "destined" to overcome adversity time and time again. Savaged by her mother when she was only a few hours old, lost in the mountains when she was two, sustaining a traumatic shoulder injury at three and surgery and three pins in her leg at four years old, we missed the futurity. I entered the reining pen only a few times before breeding her. Again, she faced pain, the pain of losing her three week old filly. 

Destiny and her first born, Lace.
Through it all she remained cheerful and tough - really tough. She learned to not only survive but thrive and went on to gift me with wonderful trail rides, beautiful foals and a charming stable presence. Last year she raised her last foal and I did not breed her again, believing she would be with me for several years of retirement. I was wrong. A sudden debilitating lameness left me only with a choice I did not want to make. For the past few months I spent time with her every day, moving her to grass, penning her alone at night so she would not be hurt running from the others. She was never far from me and she always greeted me with ears up and often whinnied, making a difficult decision even more difficult.

On July 12, a vet humanely euthanized Destiny at home. I lost a very special friend and the fourth of what I call "The Dynasty". 

The morning after I discovered the 'hearts in the sand', I walked to Destiny's grave by the fence east of the house. There I found another heart - this one outlined in river stone - and inside the heart, a "bouquet" of grass and alfalfa in flower. While my friend had kept me company her husband had tried his very best to ease the pain he knew I would feel when I came home to an empty pen. Thank you, my friends, for lifting my heart just a little...

And now life begins without Destiny, although I still imagine I see her face looking through the rails at me with her ears up and her nose stretched to my hand as it was when I said goodbye. I can still feel the softness of that nose although she has been gone for a week. 

Destiny (center with head up) with her family 1999
Duchess, Mahogany (at back)
Tamarac and Silk (mare and foal upper right)
Kokanee, Promise, Whisper and Harmony)
Duchess, Mahogany, Tamarac (Desiny's maternal ancestors) and her little filly, Lace, are buried on myold property in Armstrong and Destiny is here in the Chilcotin but I like to think they are together now as they were in the photo above. And the legacy of this fine maternal line still lives . . . in Legacy and Legacy's offspring. Last spring Destiny's daughter, Legacy, foaled out a beautiful bay filly that I named Wildwood Perfect Six because she is the first of the sixth generation of this line of Wildwood mares. Perfect, Legacy and Legacy's siblings - Whiskey, Sable, Honor, Magic and Breeze - carry the genes of this fine mare. She will never really be gone.

I took the photos below on July 12, 2012, the last day I spent with Destiny. The first is of Destiny with Legacy and Perfect - I thought she should meet her granddaughter. In the second photo, Destiny is looking off in the distance. What is she thinking here? That she would like to trot over the hills like she used to? I hope she's doing that now. 
Legacy, Perfect and Destiny

Those hearts in the sand have been erased by the footsteps of her stable mates (somehow fitting) but my memories of Destiny will live on. For nineteen years she was part of my world. Now a river rock 'heart' marks her final resting place. I go to see her there every day. Miss you, girl. Rest in peace.