Thursday, May 03, 2012

If you keep that horse long enough, he'll either die of old age or you'll have to make The Hard Decision

My Pal Al had to have his sweet old stud horse put down this week.

He'd only had him for about seven years, but it was long enough to become very attached.  But the Old Stud was the kind of horse who was very easy to love.  Most people did not even know that he was a stallion because he was so mellow and well-behaved. *

Pal Al has owned a grand total of three horses in his life.  He's a city boy, and didn't get his first horse until adulthood- basically the opposite of my upbringing.  His first horse (now buried in our backyard, beside the freshly dug grave for the Old Stud**) was a QH gelding who taught him so much.  That horse was the kind that patiently carried his rider to horse shows and trail rides and lessons with trainers.  Now Pal Al has one gelding left, who sadly has not quite bonded with his person.  Which is nobody's fault but just goes to show that sometimes a partnership works and sometimes doesn't.

This guy has had not one but two wonderful relationships with an equine partner.

It doesn't make their passing any easier.

With his first horse, the good ol QH, it was quickly established that this horse was a keeper.  Even after the QH was not being ridden anymore, there was never any question as to this horse's future.  He'd be with his owner for life.

And inevitably, when you keep a horse for the rest of his life, you will be facing his death.

The problem is that horses rarely die of old age anymore.  (***)  When horses were beasts of burden, they didn't live to be old.  They were either worked to death or sent off the the fur farm.  Few people could afford the luxury of keeping a retiree out in the back field.  I don't know what's a worse fate - drop dead on the job, fur farm, or wasting away in a field, ignored.  But these days horses are not tractors and we're allowed to love them and take good care of them and keep them long after they're not useful anymore.  We have great nutrition and vet care.  They live long.  Sometimes they live so long they don't die on their own.  We have to make The Hard Decision and it's the most kind thing we can do.

My first pony was considerate enough to just quietly die in her sleep.  All I had to do was cry my 15 year old heart out.

It does not get easier.  I've had to put a few horses down.  I don't regret it.  I did the right thing.

I have three horses in the corral right now whom I have no intention of selling.  They're all keepers.  I plan to enjoy them thoroughly and give them a good life, work with them, have fun with them, and do all I can to keep them healthy and fit and content.  And I'm well aware that this means saying a final goodbye years down the road.

I'll take it.  I'll face that, if it means I get to live with those horses.  It is absolutely worth it.

Pal Al is grieving and there have been many tears shed out here at the Ol Homestead.  But I keep telling him, that old stallion got another seven years of retirement that he may not have enjoyed, because Pal Al bought him from an auction full of meat buyers.  Lucky horse.

And lucky man for having had the experience of having those horses in his life.

* I do think it's quite possible for a stallion to be well-behaved.  Having testosterone is no excuse for being a jerk.  It's all about what you expect of him, and it's a lot more work keeping a stallion in line but it can be done.  I've seen it.  And this old feller was exceptionally sweet.

** There are two horse graves on this property.  Neither are ours.  I've never buried a horse.  And that's an interesting practical discussion for another day, not today.

*** How do we dispose of horses now compared to the old days?  How are they better off?  Again, another discussion for another day.

***&*&*&^%%^^*****  I am now going to go outside and have some fun with my horses!


mugwump said...

Your horses are very, very lucky.

KD said...

I've got a 16 yr old and a 25 yr old. I, like you, will love, ride and take care of them to the end. My condolences to your Pal Al.