On Sunday, August 18, 2019, my precious Milonguero EC died from an aneurysm. He was 17 years old.
During the short two and a half years I owned Milonguero, he taught me so much. Sometimes love is a journey. I had been star-struck by Milonguero for several years, asking Dr. Galante every time I saw him when he would sell him. His response was always the same, “Milonguero is precious to me.” Yes, he was precious. Instead something more powerful happened when Dr. Galante passed away in 2017; he gave him to me. Out of the sadness of losing our mentor and friend came something larger than life, Milonguero EC.
I thought in those first days of him arriving to Railview Peruvians that it would be love at first sight and he would be the happiest stallion in the world with me because surely, he could sense that I had wanted him for years. Milonguero always knew how beautiful he was and had no false arrogance. He always moved in a way to say, “Of course you should be looking at me.” When Milonguero came to us after losing his person, in his eyes I was just another groupie for the Milonguero band. It took months of caring for him, leading him back and forth from his stall at night to the pasture he was in temporarily, riding him as much as I could, teaching him that he could indeed goof off with me. Sometimes love is a journey. Although he had mine probably long before I met him, I had to work for his love which made it more worth the earning. Once our bond grew, I felt like there was nothing we couldn’t do together. Bareback trail rides were among our favorites; second was showing together. When we entered the show ring, his elegant confidence radiated from him.
Before Milonguero, I was a strong rider with about 28 years of experience as an equestrian. Once he got a hold of me, I changed. Our bond grew and I adapted. When riding him I learned where to focus my eyes so that I was making only the movements in my body that were in harmony with him. I learned to feel his footfalls, his muscles, his mood, his desires. I learned to quiet my hands and use my body for the majority of my requests to him. I learned that riding that horse was like having wings.
Milonguero EC had a long show career. The weekend before his death, at 17 years old, he earned a first place in stallion breeding age 7 and older and the largest of honors, his Laureado in Champion of Champions Amateur Performance Stallions at the Northern Lights Peruvian Horse Show. A horse can only earn a Laureado by winning three different years, competing against current and previous years champions in that division. In 2018, we won the titles of double National Champion Open Performance Horse and National Champion Amateur Performance Stallion.
Milonguero was special. He had a king-like demeanor with a soft, playful heart. He was built to be a champion. Every king leaves a legacy and I have been wondering, what is his? He had no offspring. We thought we had more time with him and therefore hadn’t yet incorporated him into our breeding program.
In the people world, legacy may be judged on the amount of people a person has touched in their lifetime or the amount of money they built and the honorable things they did with it during and after their life. Milonguero EC was an excellent representation of the Peruvian Horse. He was exceptionally strong, well-tempered and well-gaited. To ride him was to love him. He was effortless, smooth power. He was arrogance and brio, the perfect willingness to please. Maybe his legacy will live on in the lives he changed. Mine, I know, is forever altered by his short presence in my life. I received him the same month I became a pilot. He made me a stronger woman and rider all while paralleling my journey of becoming a professional pilot. He was there waiting for me after every checkride and flying trip. He requested grace, confidence and strength from me. Any time either of us was lacking, the other would compensate. Life is a gift and I am realizing now more than ever that it must be cherished in the moment. I feel what is most wanting to be noticed is the sometimes-shocking impermanence of life. Milonguero was healthy one moment and following an aneurysm, three minutes later, was dead. When I was crying on his beautiful body, petting him while he took his last breaths, I asked him out loud “What am I going to do without you?!” The answer he gave my heart was simple, “Caring, Confident, Strong. I love you too, Aura.” Then he was gone.
The truth is, it hurts. I miss him every day I see his empty pasture. I know that no one can fill the place in my heart that Milonguero holds. Maybe his loss is an opportunity for my heart to grow even larger. I know everything happens for a reason and with adversity comes opportunity for growth. Three years ago, when I broke eight vertebrae in my spine, I was devastated. Looking back, I see clearly that it was the very challenge that led me to the decision to pursue my long love of aviation and become a professional pilot.
Milonguero died in the very same spot where I broke my back. My faith and optimism help me understand that we don’t need to have the answers. We don’t need to know “why” but instead know that this cycle of life and love serves a purpose much larger than ourselves. My daughter, Chiara, came to me when I was crying about Milonguero a couple days after his death. She looked at me seriously and said, “Mom, it’s time for you to share now.” I said, “Chiara, what do you mean?” She said, “When Dr. Galante died, he gave you Milonguero. Now, he needs him back in heaven and when you die, he’ll be there waiting for you. It’s time to share.”
Legacy? Milonguero’s is different for all of us. He taught me to be the best version of myself. He reaffirmed in me the importance of bringing out the best in the people around us. We must live and love like each day is our last. Be kind. Care.
Yes, Milonguero created a legacy.