Julie discusses a common headache horse owners have to deal with at this time of year
I lost my lovely mare this summer. She had been with me for nearly 25 years. I know lots of us go through this with our much loved veterans and it is so hard. I can only hope that at the end I got it right, and didn’t cause her unnecessary suffering out of a sentimental wish to keep her with me as long as possible.
She had been happy and healthy throughout her time with me — barely a day of lameness or the need for a vet. I was really hoping she could last a few more years, because although I hadn’t ridden her for some time, she was still indispensable around the yard, radiating her own very special aura of calm around the others. But this year things started to go wrong.
First there was an episode of choke, which I had never witnessed before and which is really alarming to see. The vet came swiftly and cleared the blockage but she did warn me there would be a lot of blood and there was. At least half a bucket. It was not very reassuring to be told that we didn’t need to worry until there was a bucket and a half!
She bounced back quickly from that, but a few weeks later I noticed a substantial amount of blood in her urine. The vet came out again, and ran lots of tests, but couldn’t identify the problem. She did seem fairly well in herself. And that cleared up quickly.
She seemed to be enjoying the summer, out at night with her friends and in the shady stables during the day. Then she simply stopped eating. After a couple of days I rang the vet yet again, thinking we were near the end of the road and I had to be a grown up about making the right decision. We talked through the end of life options, but something stopped me from booking an appointment there and then. And by some miracle, that evening she started to eat again. When I turned her out, she even cantered away up the field, full of life.
I think of the next two weeks as a bonus and a blessing. Knowing she wouldn’t go anywhere, we decided to give her the run of the farm. It was so lovely to look out of the kitchen window and see her grazing on the lawn, or to be out in the yard and have her amble across to say hello. A lot of the time, though, she was happy to stand in the corridor outside her companions’ stables, just chilling with them in the shade.
Then one sunny July morning, I went to bring her in from the field and she didn’t want to move. But left to her own devices, she brought herself slowly down to the stables after the others. And I looked at her and knew. She held my gaze and as good as told me it was time. She was put to sleep that afternoon. I held her head in my lap, it was very peaceful and absolutely heartbreaking.
Credit: Julie Gaukroger
Credit: Ti Media
Molly, my little horse of a lifetime, has left a massive hole in our lives. Unfailingly good natured, never putting her ears back in anger, polite and mild mannered but the best of fun. I still find myself picking up a feed bucket for her along with the others, or expecting to see her head pop up over the stable door. To have a horse like her was such a privilege, and I hope that in her own horsey way, she knew how much she was loved.
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