Do you still have Eli? How old is he now? How is he doing? And how long do horses generally live?
Eli will turn 22 on April 17th, 2012. He’s still going strong, though he has a few issues typical of aging horses, such as a bit of arthritis in his neck. Like humans, horses are living longer due to advances in medicine and care. With proper care, many horses live well into their thirties. I’m hoping Eli will be one of them.
Do you still ride him?
I do. It’s important both physically and mentally to keep him moving, provided he’s willing and comfortable, which he still is. If that changes, I’ll reassess, but for the time being, he’s still enjoying his work. And it’s good for me, too. As long as I stay on him, of course.
Throughout the book you make reference to Eli as a substitute for the child you weren’t able to have. There’s clearly a big difference between having a horse and having a child, but there are parallels, too. Can you share some?
The first thing that comes to mind is the cost. Horses are expensive to maintain, especially in the suburbs of metropolitan areas like New York. Regardless of where you live, you have training costs and vet bills and shoes every five or six weeks. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a barn and some land, you also have monthly board bills – anywhere from $300 or $400 all the way up to $2500 or more.
Aside from the money, horses require sacrifice, both in terms of your time and your resources. That was one of the most healing aspects of owning Eli for me, the fact that he needed so much from me. You can’t put your horse in the garage or the attic when you get tired of him the way you can golf clubs or skis. There are times when I don’t feel like getting up at 5 a.m. and driving an hour on icy roads to see him, but I’m never sorry to have done it once I’m there. There’s a healthy kind of selflessness that goes hand in hand with parenting, and I was able to experience at least some of that through Eli.
There’s also a strong bond between us, one that only grows stronger with time. I’ve always encouraged his displays of affection. I find them a constant source of joy in my life.
You say in the book that you can hardly remember your life before Eli. Do you think much about what your life will be like after him? Do you see yourself buying another horse?
It’s really hard to say. On the one hand, I can’t imagine starting over with a new horse. On the other, I can’t imagine not having a horse. For the time being, I just hope I can keep sharing life with the horse I already have.