The struggle draws to a close.
It has been a long week and as I write, it is still not over. My beautiful horse, bless her, is dead.
We had driven my mare up to the veterinary hospital and after the vet had looked her over and taken some X-rays it was very obvious that the decision we feared was about to be made. She would not be coming home with us. At some time today, for her the lights of life would go out never again to be turned on.
The vet had explained. To us the medical situation. A disease was eating away at her lungs and she was losing the capacity to convert oxygen into energy. Her rate of breathing was already high - often exceeding 50 breaths per minute. We were told that undoubtedly the breathing would become even more laboured. She was losing her ability to breathe, or put it another way, she was dying. The coughing came in spasms Some times it was one dry rasping sound at a time, sometimes the coughs would come in bursts There was no recognised treatment for this awful disease. In putting her to sleep we would ease her distress. It was no longer a question of: ’if’, rather a question of: ’when’.
I had lived for month with the scenario which was now evolving. Since the first announcement that she had a hardening of the lung tissues I had refused to accept the situation. I clung to the days when she was well and when she could go for half an hour or so without one cough. But then there were the times when she stood and coughed and when her head slowly but surely drooped down towards the ground. At such times, helpless I had to stand and watch.
Yes, there was a medication which was usually given to humans who were having a kidney transplant. The humans would take three tablets per day whereas my mare had to take sixty six tablets a day. We ground them up and fed them to her in a mixture of sugar beet and treacle. On some days it was necessary to feed her by hand because she refused to eat the stodge. When it was my turn to don the plastic gloves and feed her, then I would bribe her with a juicy pear or two. Maybe I would drop into the stodge a few pelleted horse treats. Whether those tablets made any difference remains very much a question in my mind.
Whatever, each morning as I arrived at the yard she would come over to me. Of course t was all cupboard love, she wanted the treats in my pocket. She knew I would be playing with her. She knew she’d get a wash and a groom, She knew she’d get a walk in hand along to where the green grasses grew. I’d chat to her. I’d stroke her. I’d give her a kiss or two. I’d spoil her any way I could think of. In return she would give me a little lick. It felt good to be with her.
What I had planned for her last months of life was a compromise. She would be 140 miles away on a friend’s clean grass land. I’d have to drive almost three hours to be with her. But at least she’d get a second chance amongst new faces and new ideas. Even the vet would be different. I wasn’t really happy about the situation which I had arranged but I knew she had already been sentenced by the folks presently surrounding her. They already had written her off. At least she’d be safe for a while.
Dealing with the vets and the insurance company I found to be very distressing. Whenever I started to speak I could feel my voice breaking. My eyes would water with tears, my chin would pucker and my voice would disintegrate. Then suddenly I couldn’t form the words. I had to turn away. The embarrassment could be acute especially for whomever I was talking to. Finally the tears would run down my cheeks. To an outsider, it must have been like watching a grandfather cry.
My dubious decision was not to stand by her as the final needle delivered the anaesthetic. I could not have done it. I wanted to remember her as she was once and not as an inert corpse laying lifeless on the ground at my feet. I chickened out. I hope she forgave me.
The love and understanding of a horse is not a blessing which every horse owner comes to enjoy. It is a two way emotion between two creatures of very different species. It is a touchie feelie thing experienced through the finger tips. It is a form of non verbal communication expressed through the thighs. It is incredibly sensitive and intuitive. If there is such a thing as telemetry then surely it can exist between horse and rider.
Sooner or later a horse comes to realize that it is utterly dependent upon the human for its comfort and well being. Sooner or later the rider becomes aware that his or her safety comes largely as a gift from the horse held between the thighs. Together horse and rider should make a couple.
Discover this powerful bond of mutual trust and you are indeed blessed. But get ready for the tears when it is taken away.