Saying Goodbye-Twice and a Hello!
In memory of Amber and Mara and a welcome to Maisy, Taffy and Kaia!
It has taken me until now to be able to write this post, but as a fellow horse lover (not just a business owner) I feel it’s important to share these moments with my fellow horse lovers because I know that most of you have been there and understand. I have cried over the phone with many of my customers about their losses with horses that could not be saved, so I am sharing my moment with you. On Wednesday July 26th, I had to make the very tough decision to say goodbye to two of our old ladies, Mara the pony and Amber the mini. As both were in their early 30s, they were expectedly having issues the last couple of years with the last couple of months being particularly challenging for them.
Mara was having escalating pain issues (due to advanced arthritis and losing her sight, among other things) and Amber was having difficulty eating after having eight teeth pulled in March. Both had been fighting muscle threadworms the last couple of years (which is part of aging horses and can only be maintained, not healed, per the advice of multiple vets). Our decision was made after Amber stopped eating for the third time in the last two months, which meant that each time I had to find something new for her to eat as she would not go back to eating the same food. It seemed she was blaming the food for her issues, and not her advanced age and expired teeth. As she and her partner (Sandelee) could no longer eat hay, it was getting to be very challenging to find something she would eat. Sandelee, of course, took advantage and ate everything that Amber refused to eat and is now on a bit of a diet until her weight is under control. We had already previously decided that if we had to say goodbye to another horse (after losing Max last year) that Mara would also be laid to rest, since her issues and pain levels were becoming unmanageable. And even though Sandelee is the oldest of the bunch at almost 36, she still seems to be determined to live more life, although her feed is mostly coming from a bucket. And even though she has been through three “choke” issues and could have another one at any time, she just doesn’t seem ready to leave us yet. Parting with her “sister” of 30 plus years has been hard on her, but our other mini girl, Nina has been a great comfort to her and after a few weeks of grieving (with lots of hugs and loves from her people) still seems content to stay with us for a while longer, though since Amber left us, the stress and grief from losing Amber, is still very visible. This last year has definitely put her in her “declining” years with more issues arising and its more of a focus on managing issues than fixing anything.
Did you know that horses stand “vigil” like elephants do? As most of my years have been spent in a stall boarding situation, having horses stand vigil is something new to me. Even the horses we have said goodbye to in the last six years since moving onto our own property didn’t warrant a herd “vigil”. It was clear when we said goodbye to Mara and Amber that we were going to have to give the others an opportunity to say goodbye. Sandelee was of course my biggest concern, since at 35 she might have decided to leave us as well after experiencing the grief of her sister, Amber, leaving us. After our vet came and did her part, we allowed the horses access to the dearly departed. Sandelee stood over Amber’s body for an hour, wandering just enough to get some shade and then returning to her side. Nina follower her closely and kept an eye on her. Grace and the boys were with Mara and stood close, with young Sven pawing at Mara’s body and licking her ear, as if he were kissing her goodbye. As I went to move the horses so the bodies could be removed, I could see great sadness in Grace’s eyes, tears streaming down her face. The boys weren’t as attached to Mara and hunger won out.
As they went out into the field, Grace stood at the gate for a few moments, dropped her head in sadness and let out a big sigh, and slowly turned and followed the boys out to eat. For the next couple of days I would see her standing near where Mara’s body had been, head hanging, eyes mostly closed, tears on her face and a great feeling of sadness hanging over her. Even though Grace is a “herd collector” (anything within vision is her “herd” and needs protected) I didn’t actually think her and Mara were that close. Even though they were a “herd”, they weren’t what I would call “buddy buddy”. Grace’s grief said otherwise. I think it was one of the most heart breaking things I have ever seen, and she refused to be comforted by me for quite a long time. She grieved herself into stomach issues (that took a long time to heal when she first came to us) and she tends to stress easily over “missing” horses so it was no surprise when this happened. Thankfully tummy, calming and hormonal herbs have helped with that greatly (Tummy B Calm, Calm Down Now and Too Much Mare). Grace is finally back to being herself, but it took some time and thinking on my part about how to address her grief and resulting physical issues.
For Nina and Sandelee, they spent several days standing forehead to forehead comforting each other. Sandelee spent the first day crying out often for Amber but between Nina and her herd of two goats, Sandelee seems to have stabilized much more quickly than Grace. I guess age and experience have their benefits.
Its amazing how things turn out sometimes, and I feel particularly blessed in this case. Just a few days after saying goodbye to the two girls, I received a phone call from a long time friend and customer who needed a “safe space” for her two year old mini girl, Maizy. Maizy is completely deaf (a new experience for us) and has been struggling with mystery issues that her owner, Pam, was having a hard time addressing and needed my help. Maizy came in all spit fire and challenging Nina and Sandelee but Nina seemed up to the challenge. Sandelee was separated out (but just next door, turnout wise) and in no time Nina not only was “besties” with Maizy, but when I put them all in my back yard to “mow”, Nina stepped in and taught Maisy some manners and how to respect the old lady…something I never expected Nina to do as she tends to be quite shy and non confrontational! Maizy also seems to have given everyone something to focus on (other than just grief) and I can certainly say it’s helped our household as it was tough to say goodbye to two of our fur babies at once! She is a sweet little doll who is fitting right in with our herd and over the last few months I have made much progress in figuring out her issues. In the meantime, I am very appreciative for the joy she has brought to us in a time of grief.
In addition, in August we also happily added Taffy (20ish year old mini) and her four month old daughter Kaia to our herd. Kaia is a sweet little bundle of joy while Taffy (a long term breeder) hasn’t quite figured out how to be a spoiled and loved on elderly lady but she has been very good for helping teach Maizy some herd manners. Though I have had to say goodbye to many horses (since I am not afraid to take in the really tough cases), I’ve got to say, this time was harder than most but the new additions have helped greatly is healing our broken hearts and giving us something new to look forward to.
So this article is in memory of all those fur babies we have love, and lost…especially the equine kind that seem to hold a most special place in our hearts.
Details on helping Maizy, Taffy and Kaia in part 2