Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An April to Forget

I have not been able to write this post for a month; the pain has been too great. April started like most Aprils with the anticipation of spring. It ended after the loss of three of our four horses and the realization that our lives were truly changing.

I wrote about the loss of our gelding, Flash, in my last post in early April. Flash had suffered from arthritis for several years but the last few months were much worse for him. When we realized that he could no longer enjoy his life we euthanized him. We accepted the responsibility and the loss knowing that we had done the best we could for him and letting him go when his pain became too much.

Just 10 days later our stallion, C.B., suffered a severe bout of colic. Over the last 18 months it had become harder and harder to feed him due to the poor condition of his teeth. The major part of his diet was a palletized feed made especially for senior horses; not a natural way for a horse to eat. Last summer he could graze on green grass but we could not allow him to eat any hay. I worried all last winter that we were approaching a more difficult time with him because I would find globs of “chewed” dry grass that he had grazed in his pasture but was not able to chew completely or swallow. I kept hoping that when the fresh grass of spring arrived he would be able to chew it like he had done last year. But as spring arrived, the globs went from dry grass to green grass and I knew he was no longer able to chew fresh grass either and we were on borrowed time. Then came the colic early one morning. It was obvious that the colic was due to an irreversible situation and it was time to let him go. I was un-able to locate a veterinarian at 6:30 in the morning so instead a called a neighbor who came right over and ended C.B.’s suffering by shooting him. C.B. died on the day before his 31st birthday. He had been a part of our family for nearly 28 years and the emptiness of his stall and his pasture is sometimes more than I can take.

A week after the loss of C.B., we came home from our weekly short trip to town to find our other gelding, Duster, suffering a severe bout of colic. Again it was obvious that his condition was catastrophic and our only option was euthanasia. No vets were available so we called a friend who ended Duster’s suffering quickly. At 10AM that morning when we left for town, Duster had been out grazing in the pasture. He was gone just 4 hours later. We have struggled to understand how it could happen like that. Our horse’s environment is not prone to colic. They live a simple life with plenty to eat whenever they want and lots of relaxed exercise wandering about their irrigated pasture. Duster was only 22 years old and had spent every single one of those days with us. He and Flash were sons of C.B. and had been with us since their conception.

All three are buried on the farm. Only Mandy, our 26 year old mare and daughter of C.B., is left. We were making plans to bring in the yearling heifers from Allison Ranch within a few weeks but made a quick phone call the night of Duster’s death and asked if they could bring the heifers the next morning to keep Mandy company. Mandy has adapted quickly and seems content with the situation. In fact she is handling it better than we are.

I don’t know where we are headed in this life but our horse owning days are coming to an end. My parents gave me my first horse when I was 12 and horses have been a continuous part of my life for 48 years. I sense that something much different is on the horizon but I have no idea what it might be. For now we will care for and love Mandy and give her whatever she needs to be comfortable and content. And when the time comes, we will let her go, too.

From Fleur Creek Farm