Goodbye, Old Man
This weekend we said goodbye to Max, our 29 year old paint gelding who joined our herd about three years ago and helped teach our grandkids how to ride. Max was a grump, no getting around it. But every night he ran whinnying to the gate, bucking and tossing his head, eager for his evening meal. He was pushy, bossy, full of himself, but he had a way of stealing his way into peoples’ hearts and will be greatly missed.
It wasn’t a surprise that Max finally joined our Heavenly Herd, because he had a very rough year this last year, and it was obvious his time was coming to an end. With every issue that popped up, I threatened to call the vet, and Max always rallied. Colics, multiple leg injuries (that old man body didn’t agree with that young heart!) but in the end it was something I hadn’t experienced that was the last call. It was a deep chest choke.
As typical, as soon as cold weather hit, I had been soaking all of Max’s feed, hay, extra salt, etc as Max did not like to drink enough water in winter. He also was a “wind sucker”. I learned from my husband (who has chronic digestive issues) that cold water hurts to drink. Max is not the first horse I’ve had that has had this issue. As a rule, I no longer give dry buckets to my horses. But occasionally if I’m in a hurry and they are outside eating grass, I’ll give them a bit of soft pellets to munch on for a snack. This day happened to be one of those days and we think that is where the problem started. I gave the horses a bit of pellets at lunch time, and went out shopping. When I came home to feed dinner, Max was in distress and obviously having issues. I thought perhaps he was just having another one of his gas colic episodes but I also knew it was worse than normal as he was also salivating heavily. I gave him his typical double dose of Tummy B Calm in a syringe with some added No More Pain Plus which historically dealt with his gas colic issues, and while it didn’t completely “fix” things, he seemed to be more comfortable and since it was now well after dark, I decided to wait until morning to re-evaluate his situation. So after several checks during the night with no change, sadly by the next morning, he was worse. As soon as anyone would answer a phone, I was calling around to find the first person who could come out and see him. I already had the heavy feeling that it was something not easily fixable, and it was time to say goodbye to Max.
We are very fortunate in our area to have a multitude of equine vets, and so I have a few places I can call to find someone available in an emergency. Even with that, it was another 2 hours before a vet could arrive. Dr Ally was amazingly compassionate and common sense. After discussing Max’s age, and all his issues in the past year (and his current condition) it was agreed that the treatment would be just be a short term “patch”, with the risk of causing more damage that would cause more issues in the long run and the best choice for Max would be to have him join our Heavenly Herd.
When you do what I do, which is to take on some of the toughest rescues I can find, you have to make these decisions. I have had a few horses that made that decision for me, passing suddenly. I have also had to make the tough choice of when to make that decision for them…balancing out their issues with what makes for a happy life. Max has spent the year telling me he still wanted to be with us. But this time, I could clearly see he was “done”. His body was old and tired, and it showed. As I look out my window, and see the rest of my herd, I see horses that have so much life left in them, and horses I will probably lose in the next year or two. Someone recently asked me how I do it, how I say goodbye to so many horses. It’s tragic and heartbreaking, I have to admit. But its also so rewarding to give horses a space to live a little bit longer, a little bit healthier, to get to be horses, to simply be loved. I used to do all the training, lessons, etc of working horses and it was very rewarding to turn a problem horse around. I think, however, that as I’ve gotten older, (with my own health challenges that come with that) that I appreciate and respect the broken horses more…especially the seniors. They have stolen my heart. That is why Wild Horse Products came about, through helping broken horses become as healthy as they possibly can, and as a way to help support our herd of rescues.
This month it wasn’t just our barn that suffered a loss, but I’ve also heard back from a couple of customers who have lost horses as well. So this month’s code is in honor of those loved ones lost. They will be greatly missed.
Use the code “HeavenlyHerd” for 10% off your next order. Feel free to share it will a friend. Use it as often as you like, until the end of the month. (5/31/22)
Give your ponies a big hug, we just don’t know how long they will be with us. Make every day a memory.
Thank you everyone for your kind words, and your stories. Max wasnt my “heart” horse, I lost her several years ago…but he still left his imprint, as they all do. The goal of my business has never been to be the next “Smartpak” or on the shelf type of product, but to be a very personal business that helps other horse lovers help their horses be as healthy as possible. I have spoken to so many people over the years that had been through the vets, the medications, the hopelessness that I have been able to help. A few horses were helped too late, I heard back from many horses about being improved, and lots of horses healed. Unfortunately I only hear back from a small percentage of my customers (thats normal in a business) but I very rarely hear “you didnt help my horse”, and I can easily say its because people sometimes dont listen and follow my advice. I know I can’t heal everything. Max had issues I improved but couldnt heal. The damage was already done long before he came to be a part of my herd, but he definitely improved! Unfortunately I havent figured out how to heal old age, in my animals or myself. Maybe one day…
I am sorry for your loss. It is somewhat less painful when you see that the sparkle is gone from their eyes and they are ready to cross the Rainbow Bridge to greener pastures. Several years ago I was faced with the choice of putting my first horse, who happened to be my ‘heart’ horse down.
I got Cody when I was 12 years old. We was a “green” ride and bucked me off on a regular basis. By the time I aged out of 4-H, he and I developed an unbreakable bond. Cody was the best accent to my senior pictures! My boyfriend (now husband) used to saddle up Cody and have him at the end of the road waiting for me while I was attending college. When I would finish my drive home from college, riding Cody was the first thing I got to do! 😍
On a cold, snowy morning; I received the call from my dad. (I was never allowed to move the horses from my parents’ house. As long as the horses lived there, my parents knew I won’t go far. Unlike my sister who moved out of state.) “You better come up to the barn. Cody won’t come in for breakfast.” I packed up my 2 kids and made the short drive to my parents’. My husband was butching cows with a neighbor and would be gone most of the day.
When I arrived at the barn, Cody stood outside in the shin high snow looking at me. I grabbed his halter and a lead and trudged through the snow to get him. While standing there, nothing appeared to be wrong with him. No blood, no labored breathing, no sweating from pain, just a perked eared horse. I put the halter on, attached the lead and turned to lead him in the barn. He just stood there like a statue. He would not step forward. My dad ended up snapping a lunge whip behind him to get him into the barn. As he starting into the barn, I knew right away something wasn’t right. Cody wouldn’t put any weight on his front end to move forward. He basically reared up and walked on his back legs to make his way to the barn. 💔😢
After getting Cody into his stall, I started examing the front legs looking for swelling, heat, flinches when I touched him, picked his feet… I found nothing. I made a call to the vet. The only vet we had in the area… It was a late Sunday morning, naturally there was no answer.
The vet did return my call. He asked me what I wanted him to do. I told him I wanted him to come and tell me what was wrong with my horse. I waited several hours for the vet to show up. As I waited I hung out in my parents’ house with my kids (an infant and toddler). I never suspected the vet would find what he did. I never thought an injury that I couldn’t find could be so serious. I never for a second thought I would have to say goodbye to Cody that day… Which also happened to be my 25th birthday.
The vet found that Copy’s hurmus bone was broken in his front right leg. The vet was a matter-of-a-fact kind of man who said given Cody’s age and the seriousness of the injury it was best to put him down. 😭
My dad threw out ideas of trying to fix the injury like hanging him from the rafters until the bone could heal. The vet explained the success rate of that was not very high and would be an extremely LONG road. There was no good way to cast the leg to prevent movement. There was just no financially logical fix for this. Granted Cody was in his mid to late twenties… But he didn’t have any preexisting health problems. From all the love I had for him, I didn’t want him to suffer or feel ANY pain! I agreed to put him down. The sparkle was still in his eyes… It took multiple injections for him to let go and finally pass. After the 1st one, Cody looked at me with a “I’m not ready to go” look. It’s been about 10 years now and I still wonder if I made the right choice.
I have so many memories with Cody. He was by my side in my senior photos, engagement photos, my expecting photos, even my son’s first birthday pictures. I rode him down the aisle at my wedding. Now he in tattooed on my left shoulder blade. I still don’t celebrate my birthday as it is the anniversary of the most painful day in my life.
I have lost horses before Cody and since Cody’s passing… I have had new ones come live at my barn and a handful leave my barn also. But none of them have had the same hold on my heart as Cody.
Oh Jody, we horse people know only too well how to love this deeply, and the cost we pay in tears when its time to say goodbye to them. You write very well. Even though it is a sad story, hearing the details of how events transpired, as you do so well, helped me as a reader. Bless you for your kind and generous heart. It takes courage to love so well
I so sorry to hear this, but you’re right that it was his time, and letting them go is the last kind thing we can do for them.
I’m so sorry for your loss, I too lost my old man somewhat recently. Cody was 29, I’ve had him since he took his first breath and on that day I promised that cute dun colt I would have him until his last breath. Unfortunately where I live, the availability of veterinary care is limited and poor, so I had to put him down myself – by far the most difficult thing I have ever done, but I would not let my once in a lifetime best friend suffer. I feel very blessed to have had this amazing horse in my life, he made me a better person!