Writing From the Right Side of the Stall

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Archive for the category “euthanasia”

Rabbit Hole

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There’s one serving less of beet pulp soaking in the yellow bucket this morning.  An empty halter, and an abandoned rainsheet, on a straw bale in the barn.  Her absence is everywhere.

(That ought to be enough foreshadowing to induce you to stop here, gentle reader, if you don’t like stories that don’t end well.)

Trixie came to me as a freebie yearling, from a very nice, knowledgeable small breeder of Thoroughbreds.  She was not destined for a racing career, so needed a home.  She was nicely put together, and a lovely mover, but there were three strikes against her right from the start.  One, she was congenitally swaybacked.  Two, her dam — through no fault of her own, from what I could tell — had produced two or three other offspring who IMG_20150823_094449hadn’t made it to the races.  (That usually makes buyers at a yearling sale hesitant to take a chance, especially on a filly with, um, unusual conformation, despite the fact that there have been several very successful racehorses who were swaybacked.)

And three, she was a chestnut Thoroughbred mare.  That’s not a curse from a racing point of view, but certainly something of a hindrance in the sport horse world, where there’s a widespread belief that chestnut mares are … well, legendarily squirrelly.

With then-two-year-old Parker on stall rest with a hind ankle injury, I was looking for a project.  I was thinking of a three- or four-year-old off the track, but when Trixie came along, I thought, well, a yearling is a clean slate, and that could be a very good thing.  I did do my research on swaybacks before I agreed to take her:  though it’s a saddle-fitting challenge, it’s not actually an unsoundness, and most congenitally swaybacked horses are just as sound and capable as those whose vertebrae are more conventionally designed.  Plus, I admit, I thought she might grow out of some of it;  they don’t call them ‘yaklings’ for nothing, and many an ugly duckling at 15 months turns out to be a stunning specimen later.  (She didn’t grow out of it, but that was okay.)

The chestnut mare thing didn’t scare me particularly either.  My horse of a lifetime was a copper chestnut with chrome.  I’ve worked with a lot of chestnut mares, and I like their feistiness.  But in all honesty, Trixie turned out to be every bad cliché of a chestnut Thoroughbred mare, ever, temperament-wise.  That assumption has to come from somewhere, after all.

Trixie was a skittish little thing when she first came home to me, but I initially chalked that up to her having not had a lot of handling;  when it became clear she wasn’t a candidate for the fall yearling sale, she stayed out in the field while her compatriots were brought in and given a crash course on being haltered, groomed, led, and otherwise fondled and harassed by humans.  I started to work a little at a time on her ground manners.  It took months before I could safely pick up her hind feet, and I never did get her to cross-tie reliably.  Unfortunately, the flightiness she exhibited as a yearling never really went IMG_20160805_193854away.  It was progress by centimetres with her, with just about everything; she was quick to panic, and when her fearfulness took over, her brain shut down.  She did learn new skills, but because her panic button was so hair-trigger, it seemed to take her far longer  than average to assimilate information, and she had more trouble retaining that information than most, too.  The typical horse, after some time off, picks up right where she left off in her training, but Trixie always regressed to square one, so I would have to repeat the same lessons over and over.  I wonder now whether she didn’t have a bona fide learning disability.  She behaved in some ways like a horse who had been abused, but I knew for a fact that she never had been.

But when she wasn’t a hazard to herself and others because she was freaking out, Trixie could be a terribly sweet soul.  There was no malice in her; she never meant to hurt anyone, and if she was feeling confident she would be the first to approach you, lick your hand, and ask for wither scritches.   My student, Sarah Bernath, who’s in the photos above, fell in love with her gentle side, and was the first person on her back — a development which took far longer than usual for a young horse, given the amount of time it took for Trixie to accept wearing a saddle and bridle, and learn to longe without resembling a 1200 lb. orange marlin on a hook.  In Trixie’s universe, there were lions, tigers, and bears in every corner, and a pole on the ground was cause for hysteria…. every. Single. Time.

IMG_20170116_114318And then, of course, there was the challenge of fitting her saddle.  That took some experimentation.  She not only was swaybacked but also had massive shoulder-blades, so she was a seriously weird shape.  I tried a number of ways of filling in the hollow in the middle of her back to prevent a saddle from bridging, finally settling on some customization of an EcoGold half-pad that I was lucky enough to win in a little Facebook contest.  When I received the pad in the mail, I noticed that it had openings on each side, with velcro closures; that meant that you could remove, replace, and move around the foam inserts inside.  I contacted the company to ask whether they had other thicknesses of foam for the pad, and they very kindly sent me, without charge, all of the other inserts available for that shape of pad.  With a bit of fiddling, I came up with a pad which was thinnest near the withers, thickest in the middle, and sort-of-medium thickness under the cantle.  The saddle sat rather high on top of the resulting pad, but it sat level, and it seemed to work.  (Many thanks again to EcoGold.)

Essentially, Trixie’s problem was not her back … it was what was between her ears.  Though we did get her started under saddle, progress was always one step forward, five steps back; she remained volatile, untrustworthy, and uber-sensitive.  She would stand to be mounted but lose her shit when a rider’s right leg touched her side in search of the stirrup.  I’m a bit old and creaky to be ploughed into the ground repeatedly, so I relied on brave volunteers to get on her … and if they could ride out the first 90 seconds, then usually Trixie would take a breath and become willing to be piloted after that.  We got as far as cantering her under saddle, a couple of times.  But I gave up all hope of her ever becoming an event horse; she was simply too fearful.  Athletically, she was more than capable — hell, she was by far the nicest mover of my gang of six.  Mentally, however, she just didn’t have the tools.  I decided I would be happy just to make her a productive citizen of any kind. 

So I kept chipping away at her, in hopes that things would improve with maturity, despite the urging of my boyfriend to stop putting effort and energy into her.  “What am I going to do, just relegate her to pasture potato and feed her till she’s 30?”, I said.

IMG_20160120_003444Some horses just seem to be born under a black cloud.  In addition to all of her other challenges, Trixie’s tendency to shut her brain off at the slightest hint of stress, resulted in this (left), the winter before last.  I had hung a new feed bucket on the fenceline of her field, since she was now turned out with her BFF, Vivian (a bay OTTB filly a year Trixie’s junior).  I belatedly realized I had not taped the handles of said bucket, which all good Pony Clubbers know you must do to avoid horses getting their halters snagged on the bucket and panicking. 

The electrical tape was up at the house.  I went up to get it.  20 minutes is all it took.  She got hooked on the bucket, freaked out, went through two fencelines, sliced the shit out of the front of her knee, and galloped in blind hysteria all over the property, leaving a trail of blood in the snow.  The bucket eventually surrendered, and even more eventually Trixie was caught along with her BFF, but the knee needed stitching, and after that it was three weeks of frankly hellish stall rest, with her leg trussed up like a Christmas goose in an attempt to keep her from popping the stitching.  Medicating her was a daily nightmare, and every-other-day bandage changes required sedation that didn’t always work.  It healed beautifully in the end, but the whole event was kind of Trixie in a nutshell.

So I wasn’t surprised when, this past November, Trixie developed a persistent, but otherwise minor-looking, snotty nose.  Just the one nostril.  She’d had a similar bout of respiratory infection the previous fall, and it had cleared up on its own.  This one didn’t.  And while she was otherwise healthy, it began to influence her energy level; she just seemed a little subdued (which, given that it was Trixie, wasn’t an entirely unwelcome thing and I was loathe to mess with it at first, I admit!).  Knowing what a gawdawful patient she was, I hesitated to consult my vet because I knew antibiotics would likely be prescribed.  By January, though, I caved, and my worst fears were realized:  the Rx was two weeks of twice-daily sulfa pills, which had to be dissolved in boiling water, mixed with baby food, and syringed into her mouth.  Suffice to say it was a battle (Every.  Single.  Time.) and occasionally I lost.

So we went through 250 pills or so, some of which actually got into her (some is still decorating the walls of her stall), and still had a sinus infection.  At this point, my vet recommended more aggressive treatment.  Which is when we went down the rabbit hole.  I should not have been surprised.

I don’t have any photos of my heavily-sedated Trixie with two holes drilled into her skull.  It was fairly awful and I held her head, but had to look fixedly at the stall wall, lest I get tunnel vision.  We irrigated the sinus directly with a pump and hose inserted into the holes.  Water and crud and blood splattered everywhere and began to freeze to the stall floor.  My vet introduced antibiotic into the sinus cavity, and we put her back on the sulfa as well.  And a week later, we repeated the irrigation with a device that was not unlike a pressure washer.  More crud came out, but the radiographs showed more had stayed in. We tried a second, long-acting injectable antibiotic.  Couldn’t seem to get ahead of the infection.  I think we irrigated it three times in total, each episode a little more miserable than the last.  She would perk up for a day or two, and then the discharge would return.  Somehow, the simple snotty nose had become something life-threatening.  (And of course, the bill was starting to add up, too …)

IMG_20160224_122648And then the culture came back from the lab, showing that the infection in her sinus was fungal.  Which meant that there was nothing more, medicinally, that we could throw at it.

The only other treatment option, at that point, was an invasive bone flap surgery which would have had to have been performed at the University of Guelph’s large animal hospital:  open up a much larger hole in her skull to scrape out all the infectious material from her sinus.  It would have been invasive, would require weeks of hospitalization, and would likely cost me $4000 to $6000.

If it had been any of my other horses, I would have found the money somehow.  But any of my other horses would have tolerated the hospitalization and the treatment.  I couldn’t see how Trixie was going to.  Hell, I hadn’t even been able to successfully get her on a trailer, so even getting her to Guelph was a fantasy.  And the kicker, according to my vet, was that when the infection was fungal, the success rate on this surgery wasn’t great.  Often, the fungus found a way to come back.  

So I cried.  A fair bit.  I had often joked that I needed a way out for this sweet, frustrating, troubled mare, that I could accept with a clear conscience.  I didn’t really mean it.  With all of her quirks, I still was very fond of her.  And she was only seven, with years and years ahead of her.  But there were no good answers at the bottom of the rabbit hole.IMG_0303_1 trixie july 2017 (1)On Trixie’s last day, towards the end of February, I did all the expected things:  carrots, cookies, grooming, fussing.  Took a chunk of hair from her tail.  But Trixie wanted to hang with her BFF, out in the field, more than anything — she had spent a lot of time confined to her stall during treatment — so mostly I left her alone so she could do that. 

She went down with better grace than she had done most things, and quietly breathed her last while I shivered, standing watch.  My vet was fantastically kind in making the arrangements.  

And it’s taken me till now to complete this blog post about Trixie, because she broke my heart a little.  I’ve had to put three horses down, now, in the seven years I’ve been at this farm, and that is just too fucking many.   And to some extent I squirm at all the animal memorials all over social media; I didn’t want to inflict my sadness on everyone.  But at the same time, I don’t want the life of this horse to have been absolutely unacknowledged.  Only a handful of people met her, and even fewer loved her — just me, and Sarah, really (and Vivian, who is soldiering on).  She was a hard mare to love.  But she was here, and she was real, if only for an ill-fated few years.  

I gave her her registered name, which was Mexican Wine, after the Fountains of Wayne song.  It’s a fatalistic little tune.  

 

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Rocknroll Memories

In racing, it’s the trainers and the drivers (or jockeys) who get all the press and all the credit when a horse emerges as a superstar.  But it’s the overworked, underpaid grooms, or caretakers, who bond with these horses and devote themselves to their every need, who live out of suitcases for months at a time, who clean harness and shovel shit and know their horses inside out, and sometimes check themselves out of the hospital to be there for a race …. and then watch them head off in triumph to the breeding shed.  

They’re also the ones who, when their charges are unexpectedly euthanized far too young, sometimes have to find out through Facebook.

My friend Sarah Lauren Scott is one such caretaker.  She was the unsung hero behind the career of $3 million pacer, Rocknroll Hanover, winner of the North America Cup, the Meadowlands Pace, and the Metro Pace in 2004 and 2005, and she was shocked to hear, last week, that her horse of a lifetime had suffered a fatal bout of colic.  He was only 11.

There were lots of articles published about Rocknroll Hanover’s demise which dissected his racing talents and featured quotes from his owners and the management at the breeding farm where he stood at stud.  This story, however, is about a woman and the horse she loved.  It’s an expanded version of a column I wrote about her memories of ‘Rock’, for the United States Trotting Association.  The photos are from Sarah’s collection on Facebook.

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Of all the people who were shocked and saddened by Thursday, March 14’s news of the untimely death of champion pacer and sire, Rocknroll Hanover (Western Ideal – Rich N Elegant), no-one felt the loss more keenly than the young woman who experienced his two-year odyssey at the very top echelon of the sport first-hand.

Sarah Lauren Scott, of Milton, Ontario, was the caretaker for the burly colt she called Rock, from almost the beginning of his two-year-old campaign, down to his final triumph in the Breeders Crown as a sophomore, and remembers every detail as if it was yesterday.

“I had just started working for Brett Pelling in 2004, and he told me there were two horses coming up from New Jersey – a free-for-all trotter, and a ‘wild two-year-old’,” Scott recalls.  “He gave me the choice of which one I could take on.  I said I’d leave it up to him, and I ended up with the two-year-old.  The reason everyone considered him wild was that he had gotten loose at the Meadowlands, destroyed the paddock, and stopped the whole fourth race.

“When Rock first came off the truck, I thought, ‘He doesn’t look as bad as they were saying’.  He was kind of awkward because he looked like two different animals – very heavy in front, but lean and athletic behind.  But he didn’t act like a two-year-old.  He was actually quite educated and well-mannered.”

Well-mannered might be a relative term, for Rocknroll Hanover did have one worrisome habit:  he spent a lot of time on his hind legs.  So much so, in fact, that his new caretaker soon decided that it was safer to lead him with a 30-foot longe line clipped to his halter, rather than a standard leadshank.

But she insists, “His rearing was never nasty.  He was just playing. I just preferred to be overprepared.”

With just two baby races under his belt, yielding a first and an eighth place finish, the inexperienced Rocknroll Hanover made his Canadian debut in a two-year-old condition dash at Woodbine, after a single qualifier at nearby Mohawk.  He finished a respectable but hardly dazzling third in that August effort, which was enough for Pelling to enter the colt in the following week’s elimination for the $1,211,800 Metro Pace.  Once again Rock stuck well enough with his peers to finish third and squeak into the final.

Given his lukewarm efforts to that point, it’s no surprise that the colt left the gate in the September 4 Metro Pace final a lightly regarded 31-1.  History, of course, records that Rocknroll Hanover, in rein to Brian Sears, rode the helmet of Ron Pierce and the considerably more experienced Village Jolt, and then powered past them in the stretch to prevail by a length in a then-world-record 1:49.4.

“That was pretty special,” says Scott, simply.  “All the talk had been about Village Jolt.  We just felt lucky to have even gotten into the final.”

Rocknroll Hanover turned three in a snowy paddock in Ontario.  “He came out in the spring looking like a hairy teddy bear with a big belly,” says Scott.  “But it didn’t take him long to get fit.” He began his sophomore campaign with a New Jersey Sires Stakes win and from there quickly became a superstar, winning both the $1.5 million Pepsi North America Cup, and the $1,000,000 Meadowlands Pace.

“It was a dream come true for me to be there at the Meadowlands Pace with a real contender.  He had earned everyone’s respect by then, all the other trainers.  Everyone knew he was something special.”

Soon Rock had legions of admirers.  “I really enjoyed sharing him with people,” Scott remembers.  “I’d bring him over to the fence so he could be admired and people would pet his nose.  They were just in awe of him, and he was always a gentleman … I never had to worry about him doing anything dirty.

“He was a once-in-a-lifetime horse, no question.  I can’t say enough about how smart and classy he was.”

Scott established a strict routine with her charge, which included, after he suffered an episode of tying up, either early-evening turnout or hand-grazing.  That became the pair’s quality time together, when the shedrow was quiet.  “I’d park around the back and turn my car radio on.  It was usually either Andrea Bocelli, or Sinatra.  And it would just be me, Rock, and my dog, every night.  That was our downtime from the spotlight.  It’s probably my favourite memory of him.

“You know, I was young, and I had moved down to the States by myself to work with him during his three-year-old campaign.  So he was my family.  I did a lot of growing up.  I learned to stand up for myself.”

The only disappointment in Rocknroll Hanover’s career was the 2005 Little Brown Jug (won by P Forty Seven). Scott almost shudders at the memory even now.

“That was an absolute heartbreak on a lot of levels,” she says.  “First of all it was extremely hot.  He was in the last heat and had to leave from the six hole.  A shoe slid off the side of his foot and I saw his head come up and I could just tell he was sore.  We had to get him reshod between heats. Very stressful.  It was hard for me to send him back out because I knew he wasn’t 100%, but there had been so much build-up all week … fans coming to take pictures of him, everyone expected him to win.”

Rocknroll Hanover finished third in the Jug final, and the experience soured Scott on heat racing, but fortunately the colt bounced back beautifully.  “That was good management,” she says.  “He was as fresh at the end of the year as he had been at the beginning, and that’s part of Brett’s genius.”

Rocknroll Hanover ended his racing career with a bang, capturing his Breeders Crown division at the Meadowlands by one and a quarter lengths over Leading X Ample, and retiring with a bankroll in excess of $3 million.

Scott made her way back to Ontario, having had her fill of the spotlight for the time being, but she has kept close tabs on her favourite’s offspring and has gone out of her way to work with them when possible.  “I took care of World Of Rocknroll for a little while, and I paddocked Pet Rock last year for the Confederation Cup.

“People say he stamped his babies, but to me, they’re all very different.  I keep looking for my Rock in all of them, and I see pieces of him, but I haven’t seen the whole package yet.  Look at Rock N Roll Heaven – they used to call him ‘little hot dog’.  And then there’s Put On A Show, who’s so dark and sleek and aggressive.  I follow them all very closely.”

The depth of Scott’s dedication to Rocknroll Hanover is also evident by the collection of memorabilia she treasures.  “I kept everything,” she confesses.  “I have numbers, blankets, saddle pad numbers with his name on them.  I have his yearling halter.  And I have the last set of shoes he wore, from the Breeders Crown.

“I last saw him in 2011, and I never imagined that he would be gone so soon.  I’m just devastated … I couldn’t even have talked to you about this yesterday.  But I’m glad I kept these things now.  They’re all very special to me.”

Intestinal Fortitude

How to provide an update to my gentle readers, those of you who hang upon my every dulcet word?  I know I haven’t been posting, and if you don’t want to be bummed out you might not want to read this one.  Fair warning.

Like the rest of North America, manners and civility are much on my mind thanks to an overdose of Downton Abbey.  Never mind, my dear, we all shall muddle through.  Muddling is pretty much all I ever manage, and especially so over the past month.

I’ll spare you the garden-variety whining about winter.  Canada has admirable universal health-care, a degree of gun control, a tolerant and mostly-secular society, and is in a whole bunch of ways an excellent place to live … and winter is just the trade-off.  So be it.  I’ve been through enough of them to know that winter eventually ends, and unlike a lot of people who get very depressed in February, I tend to look at it as the light at the end of the tunnel.  (It’s November that really gets me down.)

My difficulty with generating any witticisms stems from a more sober realization I had to make a few weeks back.

I had a lovely pony mare.

She came with the name Nysa, but that always sounded to me like a bad straight-to-video Disney heroine, so she was nicknamed Trouble (because she was, you know, a pony) and it gradually became her true name.  Despite that, she was actually the least evil pony I’ve ever met — a gentle little bay Hackney/Shetland cross, just 11:3 hands, who had been abused in her early life (I never understood just what sort of asshat would feel compelled to thump on such a petite creature) and needed a home.   She was so squirrely when we first met that I could barely get a hand on her … but as she learned to trust me, I discovered she was canny and clever, great with kids, and an exceptional nanny pony for the two weanlings I (she) have raised.  She was patient and tolerant with each of them up to a point, but she never hesitated to teach them some manners when necessary, a quality I admired in her very much.  Neither Spike nor Parker would be half as nice a horse today were it not for her tough love.

Trouble was also a holy terror with dogs.  They never invaded her space more than once.  I once saw her bowl over a 150 lb. Newf who was foolish enough to venture into her territory.  The Newf, who had never been one to learn lessons the first time, was uninjured but absorbed a whole new respect for equines that day.

Trouble was never much more than green-broke, through no fault of her own — it’s just that her Hackney blood made her a hot little thing, and I never found a hotshot kid who was small enough, and could stick well enough, to get her going properly.  They grow kids at such a size these days, by the time they have the skills to ride something like Trouble, they’re six feet tall.  It’s a shame, because I always suspected she would jump like a little stag.  (Most Hackneys can.)  I did try to get her going as a driving pony, but we had an Unfortunate Incident on the day we first soloed with the cart.  Okay, a trainwreck.  My neighbour let loose his dog, who ran right under poor Trouble’s feet while she was trying rather nervously to concentrate on pulling my little Greenhawk breaking cart … and let’s just say it didn’t end well.  She never quite recovered, and neither did the cart.

I may have mentioned that she had issues with dogs.

There are so many more stories I could tell you about Trouble; we were together 13 years and there were lots of them.  She was lion-hearted enough to stand up to Toddy’s initial hostility (and 16:3 hands of copper Thoroughbred bearing down on you with ears laced back and teeth bared would have put the fear of god into most ponies — but she just dipped and dodged across the pasture and stayed just out of reach of those teeth till he relented).  She was the consummate babysitter for any horse on stall rest, accepting that she had to be incarcerated in the adjacent stall, until company was no longer necessary.   She knew her job and did it with quiet competence.  And she was absolutely the perfect size for hugging.

Like most ponies, Trouble was a case of laminitis looking for a time to happen, and eventually, it did, despite all my best efforts:  thyroid meds which sped up her metabolism, to some degree, and a grazing muzzle to limit her access to grass (which only worked until she managed to ditch it, and she was very, very skilled at ditching it).  Also like most ponies, Trouble was as tough as nails, and she bounced back from each episode with her usual determination.  We sort of fell into a routine of, uh-oh, ouchy feet again, better incarcerate her in a stall and put her on bute and give her a couple of weeks, and then she’ll be back to normal.  And for 10 years or more, that was our reality, Trouble and I, and neither of us minded all that much because she always bounced back.

Until she didn’t.  Chronic laminitis is not something you cure, as a rule.  With each episode, there’s a little more damage to the laminae, the fringey, frondy tissues that attach the interior of the hoof wall to the bony structures inside the foot.  And there comes a point of no return.

unicorn_rainbow

Trouble reached that point this fall.  Weeks came and went with no improvement, and as we wore on into January I could see that her toughness was wearing thin.  Above all, laminitis is a miserable, painful thing, and after years of being stoic and relentlessly cheerful, Trouble was finally starting to look weary, stressed, and drawn.  I kept hoping she would rally.  When we had the first decent snowstorm of the season, I was delighted, because it meant that she could be turned out in a small paddock and be knee-deep in snow, which frankly had always been the most therapeutic thing I could do for her feet. The constant cold always relieved her discomfort and  made winter her best season … and with no worries about grass overload she generally had a comfortable few months without the accursed grazing muzzle.

But this time, the snow made no difference.  Neither did the inadvisably high doses of bute she’d been on.  And I knew it was time.

The horror of putting a horse down in the winter, in this part of the world anyway, is that there’s not much prospect of giving them a dignified burial, what with the ground frozen.  Instead I was faced with calling the ‘deadstock guys’.  It’s a call I’ve had to make once before, and I’ll just say this:  if you never have to make that call yourself for one of your animals, count your blessings.

And I don’t want to go over all the wretchedness of the whole thing, but at the risk of going into TMI territory I will say that of course Trouble came out of her stall that afternoon more cheerful and willing to walk on those poor feet of hers than she had in weeks.  Because, of course, that’s what they do when you’ve made the decision.  She also did not go gentle into that good night.  It took three doses of what the vets still call ‘blue juice’ (though it hasn’t been blue in ages) to finally stop her heart, and it was pretty much the most awful, awful euthanasia I have had to witness.   I’m not blaming my veterinarian, because I know there’s always a possibility that an animal won’t respond to the usual dosage in the usual way.  But still, she didn’t deserve so drawn-out a death.

It’s part of what we sign up for, when we take these critters into our lives.  Mind you, I have friends who have gone miles out of their way to shirk that responsibility — to the point of giving away geriatric horses who have served them unbelievably well, to people they don’t even know, just to spare themselves the discomfort of having to put them down one day.  I don’t have a lot of respect for that.

And I’m grateful that we at least have the option of a kind death for our animals.  We don’t yet have that right for our fellow humans (though I hope that Canada will arrive at it eventually, probably long before the United States does), and that makes you ponder the whole meaning of the word ‘humane’.

hybrid-founder-open

But still, I’m verklempt and probably will be for some time.  Hell, I have critters who’ve been gone for 10 years that I can’t mention without my voice shaking.  I don’t buy into the Rainbow Bridge nonsense any more than I buy into the Pearly Gates, and I don’t expect to see Trouble again, so please, no platitudes of that nature if you comment.  But I hope I will always be able to remember the particular quality of her nicker, the way that unruly pony mane flopped over to the left side of her neck no matter what I did to try to train it otherwise, her pony kisses, and how she would curl up her tongue and suck on it after she’d had a sip of water — it was the cutest damn thing and I’ve never seen another horse do it quite like that.

In a way, Trouble donated her organs, which is also some solace.  I asked my farrier whether she could contribute to laminitis education in some way, and he was very keen to assist.  Not to put too fine a point on it … after her death, he arrived as promised to harvest her front feet, which he is freeze-drying to serve as teaching tools.  One in vertical cross-section, the other in horizontal slices, demonstrating the anatomy of the disease.  There was no way I could stay there for the harvesting — I excused myself and went to the library, coward that I am —  but I think I will want to see the end result when they’re ready.  I’ve seen freeze-dried limbs before and they are fascinating, but I’ve never held one in my hand that came from a horse I knew and loved.  Wish me a little intestinal fortitude on that one.

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