Whose Beauty is Past Change


Mark died today.

He was fine on Friday morning. Friday afternoon … well, I can’t go into it all now, it’s too sad.

He had colic. It’s a very painful blockage of the intestines. It’s something that he’s never had before. It’s not uncommon in horses. It usually resolves itself.  If not, the horse needs surgery or it will die.  Mark had surgery Friday night but his recovery didn’t go well. He had a  second surgery today.   They let me watch the surgery from a viewing area. I know that seems like a strange thing to want to do, but I did, and it was so extraordinary, it was really sort of beautiful. Isn’t that strange?

I had spent an hour or so, prior to the surgery, brushing and massaging him, waiting for the vet to make his rounds.  Mark had been heavily sedated all weekend but this morning, he had been taken off the sedation and he knew I was there.  He was very sick, I guess he was in critical condition, but he pushed his neck into the brush, again and again. He always loved being brushed.  I rubbed the inside of his big ear with my thumb, another thing he loves, and he pushed his ear against my shoulder. “Rub the ear,” he was saying. That horse had the ears of a donkey. He got lots of little bug bites in those big flappers.  They just got so itchy in the summer. So I rubbed and scratched his ears and his other favorite places. His withers are always a good spot. Under his neck.

I’ve blogged about Mark more than any of our other animals here on this blog. If you haven’t been here before, just type in “Mark” in the search box.  The time he photobombed our InStyle Magazine shoot is a good place to start. But I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that he had the softest coat. It was very unlike a horse coat, many who have petted him have commented on it. Maybe it’s because he was grey. His coat was soft like a spaniel’s coat.  And his muzzle, like all horses, was like velvet.  He was always a cuddly horse. If you saw me in his stall at the clinic today you might have thought there was a very touching reunion going on, but Mark always was a cuddler.  He just wanted to cuddle. Then he kept pushing at the stall door. I guess he thought I had come to take him home.

The thing is, he wasn’t a beautiful horse in the way that a show horse is beautiful, but he thought he was. He really did. And that made him so.  He was smart and he was quick and handy and super fun to ride, but most of all he loved people. And he had a great, great sense of humor.

Well, again, I can’t go into the whole story, but the vets and techs and all the people at New England Equine, where he was treated, are just amazing people.  It was determined that he needed to be opened up again today to see what the problem was.  I was told I could watch the surgery from the viewing area if I wanted to, and I did.

Does that seem strange?  I wondered about that, as I walked into the viewing area.  I thought, “Is this strange that I want to see my horse opened up?”  But I did. I sat in front of a window and looked into a massive empty surgery room.  I knew he would be pushed in on a giant table and for some reason I thought he would be lying on his side. But, after many minutes of waiting, the massive doors to the surgery swung open.  In came the table with Mark on it. He was unconscious. But this is what I was unprepared for. This is what surprised me so. He looked like a beautiful marble statue. He just looked so beautiful. He looked like an upside-down statue that they were wheeling into some kind of museum. Like a grecian statue of a great, great horse, a great flying, horse of mythology, a horse of the gods. He was on his back, and his forelegs were tucked up and tied in exactly the way that he held them when he was jumping, only higher.  His neck was stretched out and his hind legs were suspended on straps in such a way that if you turned him over it would look like like he was soaring up over a jump, like he was flying into the air.

It turned out that things were not as they should have been, so we decided that he would never wake up. And that’s the last I saw of him.

I’ve posted this poem on more than one post about Mark, because it’s as if it was written for him.

PIED BEAUTY by Gerard Manley Hopkins

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.



  1. lisa sage says:

    Oh Ann I’m just so very sorry! He’s always been my favorite. So sad for you!

  2. Joletta Windley says:

    I am so sorry for your loss — your love for all of your four footed family members has always been so evident in your blog — and I know that right now your grief must be overwhelming.

    Mark will forever be by your side — he has known incredible love and friendship and he will be in your heart and in the hearts of everyone whoever met him. His soul will surround you and the places he loved the best for it is only his earthly remains that are gone …he is forever a part of you.

    For those of us who never had the opportunity to meet him in person will miss him — your love for him came blazing through in your posts …and he will be remembered with great fondness.

    You and your family are in my thoughts during this difficult time.

    Best regards,


  3. ryder ziebarth says:

    Your pain and your love were beautifully and perfectly expressed, Ann. Mark was very lucky to have you, I can tell. This post left me in tears, missing my Elliot. I’d blow into his nostrils after sucking on a peppermint, and give the rest to him. We loved each other, too. So I get it. You must hurt beyond all comprehension.I’m really sorry for you, but so glad you could see how majestic he was, even in his death.

  4. Oh, no. Not dear Mark. I struggle to find any words that might provide even a drop of comfort in the face of such a huge, huge loss and terrible sorrow. Ann, I am so very sorry. So many of us have dearly loved him, through you. And smiled at how you called him “my boyfriend,” and at how charmingly stoic and noble he looked dressed as The Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. What you’ve expressed above is one of the most beautiful and things you’ve ever written, and the most heartbreaking. The image of you cuddling him in his stall at the clinic and your description of him as that magnificent, upside-down sculpture are such poignant and memorable tribute. I think many of us will never forget your words about him, and your wonderful photos of him. Thanks to you there is a little bit of a wonderful grey horse-person living on in many hearts. What a terribly sad day for you and your family. I am so, so sorry. Rest in peace, dear, wonderful Mark.

  5. Wendy from Wisconsin says:

    Dear Ann, I am so very sorry for your loss. Everyone on the blog knows how much you love all your animals, but it is particularly sad when one has to leave the family, as they are like our children. They ask so little of us, yet they bring immeasurable joy and love to our lives. Mark knew how much you loved him by your being with him until the end and making his passing a loving one. My thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time, and I hope the love of your other animals will bring you some measure of comfort. Warmly, Wendy

  6. What a beautiful tribute. I have always enjoyed your stories about him. So very sorry for your loss.

  7. OH, Ann,
    I’m so very sorry for your loss. I know losing any animal who we consider family is very much like losing a human friend or family member. Your thoughts of him are lovely, deep and sensitive. You had a real “heart to heart” connection. I never knew him, but in your beautiful “eulogy” I feel as if I’ve known him as long as you have. That kind of love in your heart can only come from above. May you always have happy memories that make you smile after the grief passes.

  8. Oh Ann,
    My heart hurts for you…… I am so sorry you had to go through this, and lose your beloved friend, Mark.
    So unexpected, so sudden – so final.
    His spirit will forever be with you – when it is still, you will feel his breath on your neck, and hear his knicker in the wind.

    All of us here, have grown to love that big grey horse.
    We will all miss him, but as I believe there is a GOD, I too. believe that we will all one day be reunited with all our FUR friends that have touched our lives through the years. They are gifts to us here – for such a short time, but they remain in our hearts forever….

    I know you are not into hugs…but this time – sweet Ann, I am sending you Hugs and crying right along with you.

    Thank you for sharing Mark with all of us….
    Run free in green pastures, like Pegasus across the skies….

    Loys of love,

  9. Cathy H. says:

    Ann, so so sorry, i cried knowing how much you loved him and how much you will miss him!
    Take care of yoursef!!

  10. Rose Ward says:

    Ann, So sorry to hear about Mark. Please accept my deepest condolences. He knew you were there…he wasn’t afraid, we should all be that fortunate when our time comes. And no, I don’t think it was strange for you to want to be there for the surgery…You are an EMT, granted, equine anatomy is not the same as human, but you and Mark were together such along time, you probably did know him inside and out. Again my condolences….RIP Sweet Mark <3

  11. What a beautiful tribute. God bless Mark, and you, too.

  12. Ann, So sorry to hear this very sad news. I feel so bad for you.Now I know why you had to rush home from the Cape on Thursday. It sounds like you have many good memories with Mark.

  13. Mary Ellen Fosso says:

    So sad to hear of your loss of Mark. What a beautiful and touching tribute!

  14. Ange Chmura says:

    Oh Ann~I am so sorry to hear about Mark’s passing!!He was a special boy,and yes,a coat always so soft!And quite the character,he was!!One of my favorites that have lived here,I won’t forget the 2 of you and that special bond between you both!!Big hugs!! Hmm,I wonder,Remember Chris Sacco that worked for us,how he kept a photo of Mark in the tractor cab here,of him sticking out his tongue?!!Chris will scratch his itches while he’s up there now w/Simba!!Once again,so sorry!!!

  15. Oh my Ann,, I gasped when I saw the first sentence. You were with Mark thru to the end and that should bring you some comfort. I know there are no words to take away the pain and tears, but we all mourn with you for your dear Mark.

  16. Ann, I am so very sorry to hear about Mark’s passing. This blog has always been like a family to many of us; sharing the good, the bad and everything in between. Please know that we all grieve with you and if there was anything we could do or say to ease the pain we would say it. You and Mark are in our thoughts and prayers.

  17. Kristin Lowe-Hale says:

    Such sad and unexpected news. Thank you for sharing this wonderful fellow with us over the years. Prayers for Mark and your family.

  18. ” … like he was flying into the air.”

  19. Oh, Ann. OMG. This is so shocking, I can’t find words. Mark looked so fabulous when I saw you at Steep Rock in May, it’s difficult to process that this post is true.. Having trouble seeing to type this…..what a wonderful horse….what a wonderful friend for you ….I am SO SORRY.
    The folks at New England Equine are truly wonderful, but sometimes nature will have its way.
    Good you were able to say goodbye to Mark, and terrible to say goodbye so soon.
    Please know I’m thinking of you both.

  20. Colleen in mn says:

    Oh no! My heart stopped when I saw his photo and the heading on your Facebook page. I am very very sorry. These animals fill us with love and our grief is proportionate.

  21. I am so sorry for your loss. Clearly he was an estimable guy and treasured family member.

  22. Having known, loved and lost best friend horses….

    Having known, loved and lost best friend horses, I am so sorry for your loss of your dear friend. It took tremendous courage and caring for you to be there for him during his last moments,,,,,I am sure he knew and was so comforted by your presence. I can hope for you the intense grief of your loss will be quickly and forever replaced by wonderful memories of the times you shared together.


  23. What a lovely tribute for a handsome horse. I’ll never forget those lashes!

  24. Ann, I am so sorry…I know how much losing a pet is, they are a huge part of a family!!!! Keeping you and your family in thoughts and prayers….Mark is now galloping in Rainbow Bridge!!

  25. So very sorry, Ann.

  26. I am so very, very sorry, Ann. Xo

  27. I’m sorry, Ann.

  28. So sorry Ann. Mark was a beautiful horse.♥

  29. My deepest sympathies, Anne. So eloquently put. I will try to remember to re-read this when I face the end with my beloved Tucker. I’m choked up just thinking about it. Why do animals touch us so deeply? Mark was already in heaven when he found your loving home and heart.

  30. Kristin from Mpls says:

    Ann I am so so sorry for your loss. I am totally crying for you and your family. He was so beautiful and regal, and I will miss your great videos and pics of him. Many of us on here don’t know you from being a friend “in person”, but I know we all care and love you from afar. Many prayers for you today as you grieve today and for a long time in the coming. XXOO

  31. So sad for you Ann – and your recent Vine posting beautifully captures you both.
    To have Loved is to have Lived.

  32. Oh Ann, I have tears running down my face, I am so sorry for your loss. Mark, a beautiful horse and a gentle soul – he was lucky to have you as you him.

  33. Deanna Meadowcroft says:

    So sorry about the loss of your great friend and family member. He was beautiful. A friend of mine has a plaque on the grave of her dog that says “If love could have saved you, you’d be here forever”. I think it’s often harder to lose an animal friend than a human. Pets give you such unconditional love.

  34. RIP dear Mark, so very very sorry for your loss Ann xx

  35. Oh Ann,

    I saw this because we are mutual FB friends with Heather Watts. But, after reading this most deeply touching post, not even knowing anything, I have tears streaming down my face. I am so, so sorry for your loss. My dear kitty, Peaches (also a very cuddly cat) had this same kind of intestinal blockage and also required surgery and then he nearly died from the surgery over two years ago, but somehow he pulled through. (after all, cats do have nine lives, they say). He is with me right now as I’m writing this… purring softly on my desk… Our animals are the most precious things on earth. Better than any other human could possibly ever be. Just pure love without all the BS. My sincerest condolences, and wishing you great strength moving forward from your loss. my best ~ Laurel Bern

  36. Pat Finnerty says:

    Ann, so sorry for your loss! I know how close you were to Mark.

  37. Dear Ann, I am so sorry. Tears came to my eyes while reading the story of your beautiful bond with this most wonderful creature. I know that your kindness and devotion spoke volumes to him.

  38. Beautiful tribute. So sorry for your loss.

  39. Catherine says:

    Dear dear Ann, your post has made me cry at work. I am so so sorry for your loss. Mark was a beautiful horse with a beautiful soul and the connection you had to each other was, and still is, profound, loving and inspiring. What a lucky pair you two were to have found each other. Love to you both now.

  40. I grieve this unjust loss, Ann, with deepest sympathy for you.

  41. So sorry for your loss – what a wonderful tribune to a beautiful animal.

  42. Ann, very sad news indeed.

  43. Betsy Madlem says:

    Ann: Stunned. Heartbroken. Sympathetic. I’m so very sorry to learn of Mark’s death. Like so many of us loyal followers of your blog, Mark was my favorite of all your animals. Your memories will sustain you but your heart will always ache with his absence, as you well know.

  44. Liz Forbes says:

    Ann, Sorry for the loss of your friend, I know how hard it is to lose a horse, friend, my Becky died in my arms of colic, vet at stall side, very sad….keep the good memories….hugs, Liz

  45. Lisa from Chicago says:

    Ann, I am so sorry to hear you lost your beloved MArk. I so enjoyed your stories about him. He will be missed, but never far from your heart.
    God Bless.

  46. Mary Beth McGrath says:

    So sorry to read your latest post about Mark, Ann. Have you ever read “The Chestry Oak” by Kate Seredy? A quote from that book, which I read as a horse-crazy 12- year- old, and have reread many times since, kept coming to mind: “As long as there are hearts to remember, nothing fine or noble will ever die.” Thinking of you.

  47. Amy Coulter says:

    Is there anything sadder than the loss of a horse? They are so different, so special and the bond so deep. I appreciate so much the way you honor him in this piece. When I lost my horse I was so lonely and profoundly sad. I share your grief and love what you have shared in this piece.

  48. Ann – I don’t know you and didn’t know Mark — but I feel like I do and I did. A friend had this post on her Facebook page yesterday, which is how I come to be sending you my condolences along with all of your friends. The video of you and Mark is so wonderful; I am so terribly sorry for your loss.

    This sad event has served as a reminder to me not to wait to do all the things I hope to do with my own gray, Wolfie. Our horses are such wonderful gifts in our lives. From reading your blog, it’s clear that you celebrated your time with Mark every single day. And I’m sure he knew that, all along. My heart goes out to you.

  49. The are so big….and yet so fragile. Losing them is the worst kind of nightmare.

    Peace be with you.

  50. oh Ann. I am stunned to read this news and so sad for you. If it makes you feel less weird, I had a horse who had 2 colic surgeries and I watched both. He pulled through, but I retired him after the 2nd surgery and lost him later to a leg injury. I always thought Mark was beautiful in every way and enjoyed vicariously all the FUN you two had together. He had a great life with you; he was loved and he loved you in return. Thank you for sharing his generous soul with us through the years. He will be missed and remembered. xxoos

  51. So sorry to hear of Mark’s illness and passing. It was clear in your blog over the years what a special and wonderful companion Mark was and how much his presence will be missed. So glad you were able to be together for a nice long last cuddle. Sending hugs and healing energy your way.

  52. Susan Reid says:

    I’m crushed. It is my worse fear that they will suffer. They can be so stoic and strong.
    I’m glad you were there to the end to protect him from that.

    I’m so sorry Ann.

  53. Ann I’m so sorry. So sad. Colic is so cruel. And I’ll admit to forgetting how bad it can be, some can walk through it, there’s surgery, you get lulled into thinking it doesn’t kill.

    Mark was your perfect horse. Your lifetime horse. I’ve been enjoying re-reading your posts of him. Your partnership was epic. May you enjoy all the memories as you mourn his departure. But only from the physical world, he is always with you.

  54. Ann, I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved Mark.

  55. Christine says:

    So sorry for your loss. Losing a pet is never easy. They are a part of your family and a part of your heart. So shocked to read that Mark had taken ill so suddenly. I think everyone on the blog knew just how special he was and how much you loved him. Thank you for sharing so many wonderful stories of him and of all your pets.
    Christine xo

  56. Marsha from Massachusetts says:

    Speechless… Mark was awesome, he was loved, he will be missed, my thoughts are with you,

  57. Oh, Ann, so very sorry to read this news. Myself, and the rest of your blog readers loved Mark so much.

  58. Dear Ann, I have rarely ever posted to a blog, but when I read about your loss, I felt compelled to do so. I lost my dear 20 yr. old Percheron mare in 2007 to colic. She was and will always be, the most beautiful animal I ever laid eyes on…like Mark, not descended from refined European bloodlines, but rather a draft horse from the country…but with unusually long legs and a stunning flea bitten grey coat. She was the apple of my eye, and I do not believe I will ever love or be in love with another horse as I was with her. She was every little girl’s horse fantasy…enormously grand of scale and with an absurdly wavy tail and mane…she was like something out of a medieval dream. I miss her every day. I don’t know why, but I have always been partial to a grey…my deepest sympathy to you for your loss. Rest peacefully, dear Mark.

  59. liz martin says:

    Dear Ann,
    Wow- how extraordinarily sad. He gave, and got, great love. I will pray for your comfort as you miss your beloved friend Mark.
    And -I will wait patiently to see your Hildy bought to life by Meryl Streep. Extraordinarily wonderful!

  60. Hi, I am so sorry for your loss. I enjoyed your Mark stories. Thinking of you.

  61. I am so sorry for your loss.

  62. Charlotte says:

    Ohhhhhh Ann, I’m soooo so sorry for your loss. I only came across this post now – so sad.

  63. Also conveying my very belated sadness – only just found your blog in my quest to learn about you and your family. You are all such very special people! My animals wander in and adopt me at will – I try to provide them love and fun every day. It makes my life so much better to know you do the same for your animals and you give so much inspiration. Mark was SO blessed to be your “boyfriend”.

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