Final Goodbye - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 12-21-2013, 10:12 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: A small town in NY
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Final Goodbye

The fall air was crisp, and I tugged the zipper of my Carhartt a bit higher. My mind was whirling with a million things I needed to get done before hippotherapy started for today. The barn seemed deserted, although tack was brought down for the program. E must already be here. I thought.
I hurried upstairs to grab tack for the two horses who needed to be exercised - C, a Haflinger who always behaved better during therapy with a little work beforehand, and S, a fat old QH who was my best friend. I had been working with him under saddle since July, and for about two years before that. The idea was that maybe he would be happier if he lost some weight and had some time off from therapy to be ridden properly. I wasn't exactly thrilled when the BO had asked me to start riding him - a 22 year old ex-lesson horse who had to be practically dragged around the ring during therapy was not exactly my dream horse.
But I was wrong.
To my surprise, he came alive under saddle. He moved out at the trot beautifully, and seemed excited and delighted to work. After finding out that he used to jump, last month I had set up a little crossrail and he was more than happy to pop over it. I had never seen him so happy.
Smiling just thinking about him, I descended the stairs to find E, who looked slightly frazzled, with several half-groomed horses in the crossties. "What's going on?" I asked.
"I forgot - they're supposed to be making a commercial for the farm tonight, and all the therapy horses have to look perfect." She explained hurriedly.
Setting my tack on one of the racks, I asked, "What can I do to help?"
"Well, G's feathers need to be hosed, and R needs a pretty serious grooming..." She paused. "Were you planning to ride?"
"I was, but it's okay. This is definitely more important."
She hesitated for a minute. "I want C to behave during therapy, so maybe you could still ride him? A couple of the girls are on their way, so they can help me with some of this."
"Sure thing." I picked up the saddle and his bridle again and headed for his stall.
"And if you want to ride S, he has a lesson in fifteen minutes for the commercial, but you might be able to squeeze in a little session after." She called.

A horse is a mirror to your soul. And sometimes you may not like what you see. - Buck Brannaman
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post #2 of 15 Old 12-21-2013, 10:12 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: A small town in NY
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On the way back to the barn with C, we passed the outdoor arena. I could see S picking up a slow, careful jog for his rider, who was grinning from ear to ear. S had his ears pricked and looked to be enjoying himself. What a change!
I quickly put C away and went to see if E needed any more help. “Nope,” She said, surveying the nicely turned out horses. “Now go get out your pony!” She smiled.
I found him in the crossties with his previous rider petting him, the huge smile not faded from his face. “How was S today?” I asked him. “You guys looked awesome out there!”
“Good.” He said, still stroking S’s neck.
I pulled the endurance saddle from S’s back and placed the close contact on. As his rider said his last goodbye, I smiled to myself thinking of what a wonderful therapy horse S was. He could carry any rider – screaming, kicking, bouncing kids or stiff, heavier adult riders. He was just a solid, plod along guy for them.
I mounted and warmed him up, slowly and carefully even though I knew I only had twenty minutes. I asked him to trot, on a loose rein at first and slowly gathering more contact. I was pretty happy with how the workout was going and decided to ask for more contact.
The problem with S was that, even though he had lost a fair amount of weight, he was still a fat horse with no bend. I would ask him to lower his head and give a bit of inside bend, and his trot would hollow out and he would lean on my hands. For countless laps, we quietly fought until I finally felt him give the slightest bit. I allowed him to walk, a bit frustrated that I had no more time to work on it with him. “We’ll get it yet, buddy. You just need to lose some more weight, and gain some muscle, and then it’ll be easier for you to get that bend.” I rubbed his neck. “We have all winter to work on it. It’ll just take some time.”
Time. If only I had known that time was not on our side.

A horse is a mirror to your soul. And sometimes you may not like what you see. - Buck Brannaman
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post #3 of 15 Old 12-21-2013, 10:15 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: A small town in NY
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Therapy started and finished in a whirl of parent interviews and cameramen everywhere and kids laughing at pony snorts. Everything had gone well. By the end of it, though, it was late and I was tired. Leading the last mare over to the barn, I could see my dad’s car and him mouth, “Hurry up!”
Grumbling, I took the mare into the barn. As I clipped her in the crossties and hurried to untack her, E came in behind me. “E, I hate to ask, but I’m in a hurry and my dad is already pissed we finished late. Could you finish for me?”
“Yeah, no problem.” She said absently. Suddenly turning serious, she said, “F, I need to tell you something.”
“What’s up?” I asked, a little concerned by the tone of her voice but continuing to grab my stuff.
“S is down in his stall…and we’re going to have to put him down tonight.”
My first instinct was to run, to deny that this was happening. If I didn’t see it, if I didn’t ask any questions or details or even why, it wouldn’t really be happening.
And that’s what I did.
The wind whipped at my wet cheeks as I headed for the car. I just wanted out – and fast.
Entering the car, my dad didn’t even realize I was crying until I could no longer keep my tears silent. “What’s wrong?”
“S…They’re putting S down.” I began to sob.
Of course, he asked why. And of course, I had no idea.
“Do you want to go say goodbye?”
No I didn't. Goodbyes were final. Goodbye meant the end of something. He turned the car around anyway.
As I got out, the vet nearly hit me with her truck. I wish she had. I thought.
I found a small crowd around S’s stall. I could see S laying in his stall, a gash above his eye from where I assumed he hit the wall when he went down.
I began to cry harder, and felt several people put their arms around me. A woman I didn’t even know embraced me. “I loved him.” I cried softly.
The BO patted the spot next to her on the ground, near S’s head. I stroked his face gently, reality forcing its way in. I watched the vet try to move his back legs, but they were stiff as boards.
Tears streaming down my chin, I asked the BO, “Did I do something wrong? I didn’t bring him in warm.”
Very seriously, she answered, “Not at all. F, you made these last few months some of the happiest ones of his life. He got his last ride with his girl – exactly how it should be.”
I realized I couldn’t go through watching this. Sure, I had seen other horses be euthanized before, but not my horse. I stood up abruptly. “I have to go. My dad is waiting for me.”
Several people offered to drive me home, but I politely refused. It was the denial part of me again. If I didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. My heart ripping in half, I took one last look at my baby. His eyes were closed, and his breath came in uneven, heavy snorts, as if each one was a struggle.
And as much as I didn’t want him to leave me, I didn’t want him to suffer. So I let him go.
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A horse is a mirror to your soul. And sometimes you may not like what you see. - Buck Brannaman
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post #4 of 15 Old 12-21-2013, 10:17 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: A small town in NY
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I was showered with support and love. The BO gave me his bridle and a lock of his tail hair. Others sent sympathetic texts or pictures of him. Everyone rallied around me, and I was grateful.
I spent a lot of time in my room the first few days, doing a lot of thinking and a lot of crying. And I finally came to a conclusion.
I was going to miss this horse and all of his little quirks – his split ear, his droopy lip, how excited he would get to canter or pop over a little jump. I was going to have memories of trotting around the front lawn and his nose in my back and spending an hour on a snowy October morning trying to catch him in the pasture. But instead of being angry that I didn’t get more time to spend with him, that we didn’t get to show in the spring or canter bareback or explore the new trail, I decided I was going to be grateful for the moments I did get to spend with him. All the days where I had a frustrating day of school, or if things at home weren’t perfect, I had run to him. Days I felt like everyone was against me or days where the pressure of life was grating on me or days I felt like harming myself, he was there. He was that solid presence that made him a perfect therapy horse – whether you were special needs or just a lonely girl.

***This is based on a true story. It’s been just over a month since S passed away from skin cancer. And every day I wake up with a pain in my chest knowing that he’s gone. I cried a little thinking about writing this. I cried a little while writing this. I’m tearing up now just typing this. But every day I’m healing, and I know that someday I’ll see him again, and then we’ll never have to say goodbye.***
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A horse is a mirror to your soul. And sometimes you may not like what you see. - Buck Brannaman
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post #5 of 15 Old 12-21-2013, 10:28 PM
Join Date: Sep 2012
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This is very well written! Thank you for sharing your story, it sounds like you two were great friends. Its never easy to lose a friend, especially a horse friend. I am very sorry for your loss.
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post #6 of 15 Old 12-22-2013, 03:33 PM
Join Date: Jul 2012
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I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story.
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post #7 of 15 Old 12-23-2013, 12:41 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you guys for reading this. I was just hit so hard by his death. One minute we were trotting around and a few hours later he didn't have the strength to stand. But I'll always be able to cherish memories of him, and if I was able to go back and do it again, I wouldn't change a minute I spent with him.

A horse is a mirror to your soul. And sometimes you may not like what you see. - Buck Brannaman
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post #8 of 15 Old 12-23-2013, 02:10 PM
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That was beautiful - thankyou for sharing and making a difference xx
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post #9 of 15 Old 12-23-2013, 02:26 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2013
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Very well expressed experience. Thank you for sharing it with us.
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Born Once, Die Twice. Born Twice, Die Once.
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post #10 of 15 Old 02-24-2014, 04:26 PM
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: TX!
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Thank you faiza for taking the time to write your story here.
You wrote so well, I felt like I was there with you! Your words painted such a strong image/feeling....
I was getting teary-eyeing just reading it, I can't imagine what it must have been like for you.
Thank you sooooo much for sharing with us...*hugs*

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"I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also."~Martin Luther~
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