“Hark, how hard he fetches breath.”
—William Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part 1
“Hark, how hard he fetches breath.”
Another missed photo op, unfortunately. Philo bumped noses with a curious horse today. Horses experience a lot of the world through their lips and mouths, so the horse wiggled his lips on Philo’s fur trying to learn about him. Philo thought the horse was petting him, and kidney-beaned so the horse ended up scratching the base of his tail for him. :D
Several pro photographers tracked us down yesterday to snap shots of P in his sweater and fancy collar/leash at the horse show in Lexington, KY. Stylin’!
P made friends with a bunch of horse show kids and made it clear he doesn’t understand that he’s too large to sit in kids’ laps when they’re half his body weight. Sorry cute little blonde kiddo. He didn’t mean to scare you, haha.
P tried to take a nap in the middle of 8 horses waiting to enter the show ring.
P let a pony chew on and play with his sweater…while he was wearing it.
Up until 30-ish days ago the dog had never been around horses and was scared of them. Talk about immersion therapy ;)
On the eve of the Steeplechase, the night of the big party, the old chestnut horse was laid out flat at the back corner of the field. He’d be down for most of the day. For weeks, we had kept an eye out, watching for the signs that he was ready to go.
For the past year, he had dutifully babysat his pasture mate, a young 5 year old named Hasten, who had more mischief in him than brains. Samoens would muster all his energy to land a kick or a bite to teach the youngster how to behave when he was rowdy. But on this day, Hasten laid down beside him. On this day, Hasten came running to the gate and kept looking back at Samoens. On this day, Hasten knew.
As the sun began to set, the farm owner, dressed in a sport coat for the party he was hosting at his house that evening, came down to the barn. And the three of us walked out across the wet field to check on Sam. To listen for gut sounds, check the color of his gums, see if we couldn’t get him to stand, because lying down causes the gut to twist more when a horse is colicking. We moved the big horse’s legs and lifted his head. Kristy worked on his head, and Christian and I tried to lift him from his side. When we got him upright, but not standing; we offered him water. He wiggled his lips and sighed, but refused to drink or stand…or do anything but lie in the mud, looking at his side every few minutes and thrashing his legs – all signs of pain. A few painkiller shots of Banamine to the neck and a phone call to the vet later, and it was decided.
As we waited in the rain, alternating between trying to help Sam and sitting beside him caressing his face and neck, Christian told us stories. About how at his last show, a Grand Prix jumping course, he beat all the competition and won. About how after that show, he retired happily to Saddle Up, a therapeutic riding program for children, and that a woman from the program still came to the farm to visit him even after he come home from the therapy program. And now at 28, he was breathing his last. At home. In the arms of those who had loved him, championed him.
I’m not sure if Christian left because he couldn’t bear to see it or if the night’s prior obligations called him home, but eventually it was just Kristy and I in the rain waiting for the vet. Unprepared for a death in this way on this night, neither of us had anything waterproof to shelter us, but it seemed appropriate as the rain poured over us and the horse.
Sam struggled to his feet and moved out of the rain to the covered shed nearby, but his whole body swayed unsteadily back and forth, and it took all his effort to move his legs one at a time. The vet finally drove up the long gravel drive. He stepped out his truck also dressed in his best for another party in honor of Steeplechase. “You sure?” he asked. Yes. I held the tray of syringes and needles filled with clear and pink fluids. He warned us what to expect and asked if either of us would need to leave prior to. “I might cry, but I want to be here,” I told him. Kristy agreed.
The first syringe relaxed Sam. The second brought him to his shaking knees. When he was laid down flat and comfortable, the final syringe was given. He felt no pain or fear, but slowly slipped away from the world.
Kristy and I walked back to the barn through the field. There was something fitting about the way world was gray and weeping. We went back to our chores – feeding the horses, cleaning tack, getting the barn ready to be put to bed for the night. And then we noticed it. The setting sun had broken through the clouds and a rainbow arced over the green pastures of the farm. And we said goodbye to Samoens.