Sunday, February 24, 2008

Another Day Off and More Memories

Slop and Snow

I suppose I could have ridden on a hack today, but the footing is still pretty bad. It's just not fun when you have to keep your eyes open for every step your horse takes along the way. The arena is largely snow free at this point, but very, very wet. As I've said before, I hate riding in it when the hoofs dig up the base clay layer. And it can get slippery when we hit the clay.

I remember little things as I think about my horses. Sudden Impulse, Si, was a lovely 4 year old Thoroughbred I bought as a dressage prospect. He was a plain bay but made up for his lack of flash with wonderful gaits. The dealer I bought him from had discovered his extended trot, and Si (registered name: Idaboy) loved to do it. He also had a lofty canter and in the 6 weeks I had him I fell in love with how he moved. Even better, he was an angel out on hacks. The last day I rode him, we encountered a herd of deer on the way and he simply stood and stared at them, completed undisturbed.

But, soon after that ride--might have even been the same day, Si colicked. At first it didn't seem too bad but as time progressed he got worse and worse. The vet did all he could, and finally, at around 10 PM left, with Si in the indoor arena and me camped out on a cot in the aisle of the barn. All was quiet until some time after midnight when Si took a turn for the worse. The vet came back and within and hour we had an appointment for potential surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center. I had to call on someone else to supply the trailer as my tow vehicle was home, a good 30 minutes away. (1 hour round trip) It took us nearly two hours to drive to the Center and once Si was there, it was clear he was a surgical case.

We drove home and after a sleepless night, I finally got a phone call from surgery that he had pulled through just fine, suffering from a simple twist. Within the week, I trailered him back home for his recovery.

It was about two weeks later that things went wrong. Si was on the mend, being hand walked and grazed every day--kind of a bounding beast on the end of a line--and we had taken out his surgical staples.

I found him in his stall, depressed and colicking again. The vet wasted no time and sent us back to New Bolton at once. This time I trailered him myself.

There was no option and again, my boy was in surgery. At first the vets were optimistic. Part of his intestine had died, so they resectioned it and put him back together, hopeful of a full recovery. But it was not to be. Within a day or two, he was just not doing well at all. I got the fateful call that he needed a third surgery. The vet needed to know what had gone wrong, and since it is a teaching hospital, he told me there would be no further charges for treatment.

We had a long and painful discussion on Si's chances for both a full recovery, and a healthy, happy life afterwards. I made one of the hardest decisions I can recall. If there was just something wrong from the last surgical procedure--a slipped stich, etc.--then we would continue. But, if more of his intestine had failed, there was no point in even bringing him out of the anethesia and he would be euthanized on the table.

That afternoon brought the worst news I could have gotten. My sweet, young boy was gone.

It still pains me to think of how sad it all was. Si was a loving, gentle, talented horse. But, I have consoled myself with the thought that I was destined to be his caretaker. He had been neglected as a racehorse prospect--probably suffering some parasite damage that might have contributed to his problems--and he had found love and respect in my care. One of the greatest gifts he gave me was his reaction when I brought him back to the farm from his first surgery. When he saw where he was, he was so excited and happy, he practically tried to climb out the front of the trailer. At that moment, he validated everything I had hoped for him--he knew he had finally found a home, a place in the world, and all the love a horse could ever want.

I still cry when I think of him, for he will always own a piece of my heart.


  1. jean, i wasn't expecting a weepy -- tears falling here, and i don't often do that! have a hug

  2. What a sad story.