Today is a milestone in the history of Spring Farm CARES. Today we said good-bye to Viva, the horse responsible for starting this all. Viva was born March 20, 1985 after co-founder Bonnie bought her very first horse, Kazinka, only to find out later that she was pregnant. Viva arrived 3 weeks late as Bonnie slept beside Kazinka in the barn in sub-zero weather awaiting his arrival. His birth changed the course of Bonnie’s life and planted the seed that became Spring Farm CARES. Viva and Dawn arrived at the farm exactly at the same time. Destiny brought all of the ingredients together, and 34 years later it is amazing to see where we are and who we’ve become. And one stubborn, obstinate magnificent horse set the course and loved this farm as much as anyone ever could.
Viva lived his whole life here on this farm. He was loved since the day he was born. And he lived a life that very few horses get to live. By all accounts, Viva should have died two years ago when we discovered that he had a huge mass in his abdomen. He later had other medical complications on top of that. But, he made it clear it was not his time to go. He pulled through enormous odds and kept on trucking. Each winter, we thought it would be his last. But he lived for spring and the hope of green grass. In the end, it was his legs that gave out. He squeezed every ounce of usefulness out of the body he was born into.
It was clear that Viva never actually really wanted to go. He loved his life and this farm with all his heart and soul. From the hilltop on which he resided for the past 34 years, he could look over the entire farm. He watched enormous changes and growth over the years. He was proud of what we have become. He felt he was a part of it all and indeed he was.
Viva lived with three mares for over 20 years. Two of them, Story and Harriett, both passed in the last few years. That left Viva and Belle as the last of the hilltop herd. Sadly, Belle now finds herself the sole survivor. Our hearts ache for Belle today as she said good-bye to her last companion, the pesky gelding who the mares constantly had to keep in line, but who was her friend and companion nonetheless.
Just after Viva was euthanized, Belle came close to pay her last respects. As she fully understood that he was gone, she suddenly spun around and looked up the hill to the pasture on the hilltop. Ears perked, nostrils flaring, and watching with wonder at something we couldn’t see. It was then that we realized, the ghost herd had come to pick him up. She knew they were there. She could feel them. Belle herself is not in good health. We will find a new buddy to join her on the hillside. We know it won’t be the same. And we also know that Viva and friends will be watching over her, and the entire farm that he helped create.
He told Dawn before he left, “Look, it’s gonna have to be up to you now to carry this forward. Don’t drop the ball now. My energy will still be here forever with you. But don’t mess this up.” No pressure there. The dream will continue. The mission will move on. And the stubborn gelding that always from day one did things in his own way on his own time, will always be a part of the very heart of this mission.