When a great horse dies, it strikes a particular but ill-defined chord in me and I suspect many others which is hard to explain or define.
Not so much a sense of loss, though there is a measure of that.
Nor is it a morbid contemplation of mortality and the finiteness of things.
It is more a sensation that somehow we are reduced in a strange way in the sudden absence of a fellow animal, a great thing of beauty.
It was so in the case of Northern Dancer who died in 1990.
The Dancer, not much taller than a large pony, almost won the Triple Crown. He went on in retirement to become the greatest stud that ever lived.
I was in the crowd that day in 1991 when the Canadian Triple Crown winner Izvestia fell after three-quarters of a mile, shattering his hind leg in three places. He had to be destroyed there and then.
The same evanescent feeling struck me this week with the death of the Canadian show-jumping champion Hickstead of a ruptured aorta in Italy at age 15.
Hickstead was born in the Netherlands, a Dutch Warmblood stallion, though not very big. He overcame a difficult youth to become the best show horse in the world.
He and his rider Eric Lemaze won millions and at the Beijing Olympics took individual gold and team silver medals.
Fighting to control his emotions at a press conference this week, LeMaze said: "What these horses do for us is incredible. They become part of our family; they really change our life."
Generally, it has not been a good year for horses.
In the United States, ranchers and farmers are complaining that there are too many horses around, that wild mustangs, for a long time jeopardized and targeted by pet food canners, are destroying crops and pastureland.
Slaughtering wild horses is still illegal in the US but there is pressure on the federal Bureau of Land Management to organize horse culls on open prairie lands.
In our own west, some breeders are having to put down their horses or sell them for next to nothing because the costs to maintain them are skyrocketing.
Earlier this year, producer Sean Prpick brought us the story of one breeder who had to sell her American quarter horses to an Alberta slaughterhouse. She received death threats from the animal rights people.
Our relationship with the horse is complicated, intimate, sometimes violent. We have asked everything of it, from breaking the soil of a new country to fighting our wars in foreign ones.
No one has better described the magic and frustration of our relationship to our horses than the Canadian writer Lawrence Scanlon. His book on the horse gentler Monte Roberts deftly probed that relationship.
As does the currently released documentary Buck, which tells the story of Buck Brannaman, the man on whom Robert Redford's The Horse Whisperer is based.
Brannaman as a child was as abused as some of the horses he tries to repair; his father beat him every night with his belt.
A shy kid, he found great empathy with the horses around him. And he has made it his life's work to train and re-furbish riding horses.
He never raises his voice, never strikes an animal, yet the horses he trains do everything he commands. The film is about horses and a man but it has a Buddhist-like quality that tells us much about life itself.
A few years ago, I was thrown by a feisty young quarter-horse in Saskatchewan and broke my right arm. It was entirely my fault, the horse being terrified of this strange creature on his back, pulling at the bit in his mouth.
I haven't been up much since. Being more preoccupied with motorcycles.
But come spring, that all changes.