The End Of The Race

in #life4 months ago


Many years ago when I moved onto my farm there was a grey horse out in the pasture. She was a beautiful Polish Arabian and while I did my college homework I would stare out the window at the glorious creature. The mare so encapsulated that slightly untameable spirit that horses descending from the Middle East embody. She was always tossing her head, arching her neck, and prancing around like she was dancing a duel with an unseen djinn.

The mare had a bit of a sad story though, she was born in a field on our place to the farm's previous owner and spent the first eight years of her life on the precipice of starvation and under the assault of a mentally ill, abusive man. My soul often contracted as I heard the tales of how the unbalanced creature would sneak into the field, crouch down, and spray the curiously approaching horse in the face with fly spray. Apparently he would do this while holding onto a lead rope that was attached to her halter and let her drag him around the field. I believe this happened, for the first time I walked into the field with a lead rope in my hand, Angel, as the mare was named, started trembling and ran straight through a four foot section of field fence. I remember feeling so bad that I had caused her so much terror, but I had no way of knowing she would react that way, as I had petted the pretty creature hundreds of times over the same fence.

You see, my husband bought that horse for me when she was nine years old by paying our neighbor's cell phone bill. I'd always wanted a horse as most girls do, and spent most of my childhood pretending to be one. You could often find me wandering around in my grandfather's herd of horses as a kid, as I had no fear of the beasts. They seem to know that I love them and am no threat to them.

Angel though, she was a mess. The first thing I did was join up with her. When I was barely an adult I had the privilege to watch Monty Roberts, the horse whisperer, work horses. The way he talked with them through movement and stance appealed to me so much as a kid. I still have his book that my mom got me, it's one of my favorite tales. When I was small most people I was around broke horses into submission, I just wanted to be friends with them. And friends I became with my silvery Polish Arabian. We both spent a fair amount of time in the big railroad tie and recycled board round pen that my husband built me. I made a flag out of a jack pine sapling and a bandanna and I went about desensitizing and partnering with my friend. Soon her terror of ropes had abated and I could wander out, halter her, and lead her around wherever we wished to go.

It was then I discovered that I was pregnant with my daughter. In fact, I spent the next couple years in a stage of pregnancy and couldn't work with Angel-girl. What she did get was a stable home, plenty of food, and lots of peace and tranquility. I'd like to think she enjoyed this time, as she was also a companion to our old gelding, Corizon.

Years went by, and before I knew it Angel was 17 years old. It was then that my dear friend and amazing horseman Mike showed up with his trailer and told me to go grab my horse. That man trained my mare for me. Due to her age and harsh beginnings, Angel had some quirks. She'll probably never excel at turning to the left, and in fact we have some hilarious video of her spinning in circles for fifteen minutes when you went to put your hand on the saddle horn to mount. She was like a trout that swam in circles with a disabled fin, but with time and patience she became a fantastic trail horse.

One of my favorite rides was in the woods behind our farm, a 1200 acre chunk of state and paper land full of logging roads and all manner of things that would freak out any green horse. While I was astride Angel we came upon a bull moose, she just snorted and continued on without a bit of a flinch. She loved to go.

Time has passed, and Angel has aged as we all have. My kids are teenagers, I am nearing my fourth decade of life, and Angel, she's just plain elderly. We think she is somewhere between 26-30, and I noticed a couple months ago something that made me sad. During the winter Angel lives with my daughter's paint mare Gemma. They both always got along so well, but suddenly Gemma started ostracizing Angel, as herd animals often do to the weak and infirm. Then a few weeks ago, easy keeping Angel started looking like she was wasting a bit. I've had senior horses before, I know what it means when they start fading. The night before last she started laying down and getting up a lot. It got really bad yesterday, and through a lot of consultation and care that strong girl of mine is still going. She's just old and her systems are starting to go. There's nothing that can be done, save the one thing that all humans who care for animals get to do. I won't let her suffer, but dang if it isn't hard to face the end of a constant, beautiful presence in all our lives.

I would like to think that I gave her a wonderful existence after her precarious early years, and I had secretly hoped that I would get her well into her thirties, as my sister-in-law's Arabians tended to be long lived. However, who knows the damage eight years of abuse and starvation had on her, and even if I get her to pull through this bit of illness, I know that I can't let her go through another winter. Being an animal caretaker has moments of all out soul-punching agony.

Through all the sadness though, I am so thankful we got to hang out as long as we did.

And as some of the time, this image was taken on the author's first digital camera, many years ago.


You are so good with the four-leggers, my two legged friend. This made me very sad, and yet hopeful you can have more time with her. These inevitabilities of life do really suck. That yin and yang of being with, and then letting go, and the wonder if it is ever worth it. And of course, the answer is always yes. And this one, you really did save, and give an extraordinary life. Besides the obvious of daily love and devotion and hay, she got to see a MOOSE. Not many people can even say they've seen a Bullwinkle in the wilds. I'm happy for her, on so many planes. I shall never understand the mistreatment of animals, since all they give back is love. Even if you have a reason, due to life stuff you didn't sign up for, there is still no understanding of it. I'm so glad she got you in her life, and you have given her such a grand time of it. I'm hoping for more time, but understand that all you want is the best for her. My hero, the b'kat horse whisperer. Thanks for an emotional, and uplifting story, all in one. Cheers my two legged friend, The FlatPan of I Am

You are right, my equally two legged friend, it is always worth it:)

Sorry I am so slow in replying and such, it has been one of those whirlwind Kat no sit and stuff crazy cycles of doingness. My Angel girl is hanging in there, but this bout of stuff really took the stuffing out of her so to speak, I am glad that spring is on the way, she needs a weather reprieve.

Speaking of reprieve, I hope all is well in the West side lands of dd and hh dwelling, I just stuffed a date bar into my gullet and have to run out to run the 'brare. There are some big changes coming in my life, you'll probably laugh about it as I am already so crazy busy, but I figure as we only get one spin around the washtub that is fleshly existence that I might as well give as much a try as possible.

Peace Out le Pan de Flatness!

It's always so hard to let them go. We ran a retirement boarding stable for many years and one thing we learned. Horses that had gone through the 60's, 70's and early 80's often got colic a lot at the end of their lives. The reason was poor or non-existent worming practices. Because worming was only done 4X a year in the 60's and 70's and into the 80's a lot of gut damage was incurred from the worms. As the horse aged, the damage became a big problem.

Due to her rough start in life, I suspect this is part of the problem. But you have given her a wonderful life and while she may not have lived as long as you might have liked, she had a quality life.

Oh wow, you guys really are the greatest! You are so right about it being hard. My first horse was my mom's horse when she was a girl, a thoroughbred named Frisky, and even though he lived to be 35, it was just so hard to lose him. Running a retirement facility for senior equines must have really been awesome and tough at times.

Angel has pulled through this bout, but like you said I have a feeling this is the product of her rough start. She's a tough girl, but I will not let her suffer either. Parasite control is such a battle, I bet especially so for you all back in the Eastern half of the country. Our harsh winters and drier (sometimes) climate helps keep things from exploding too much and be manageable, although anthelmintic resistance can be a bit of a challenge.

And I am rambling, thank you so much for your reply, it meant a lot:)

You have my deepest sympathy. Losing a member of our family isn't made easier when they have 4 legs and a coat of hair.

Thanks JT. At least she pulled through and I get to hang out with her a bit longer, but it's also nearing the end and it sucks.

beautiful work :-)


my daughter :-)

AWE! I love it! Thank you so much for sharing!!!

I'm too late for a proper upvote, but I sure appreciate your horse tale. Animals become one of the family, and it's so sad when they get old and infirm. I'm glad she had you to look after her all these years.