Thursday, June 24, 2010

On Losing a Dear Friend

Last night a very special horse died. He was eight years old, the son of my oldest equine partner, Dorika, and the grandson of her best friend, Nimbus. I have a number of horses twenty years old and older, horses that one might reasonably expect would die before a nine year old. But Figgy (Fagr) just didn't have that luck.

Figgy was a total surprise to me when he was born. I'd been disappointed when my mares both gave me colts, but when Nimbus' son managed a sneaky pasture breeding to Dorika after my husband died, I was delighted. He was a social, adorable friendly soul from the first moment. The first day of his life he came out to visit with children, dogs and everyone like he'd been around forever. When he was about four months old, however, we had our first cause for concern when his hind legs began catching as he tried to walk around. We had the American orthopedic vet see him and found out that he had subluxated patellas in the hind legs. We either had to do knee surgery on him or be ready to put him down when his legs locked up at about two years old. We did the surgery and he recovered very well, growing into a tall, athletic horse.

At four we began riding him gently and he spent a few years only working with the grooms and myself until we were sure that he could be safe for clients. We had a few adventures as he was growing. He spent some time not being quite sure where his legs were with the result that he and I ended up swimming in a canal one day during a trail ride with friends. He was the only horse I ever had who fell into a canal. I had to swim to one side of the canal to get out and he swam to the other, following us along the canal until we could come to a place where we could meet up about a hundred metres down the trail. I'll never forget how he called to me when he could see me in front of him, cantered to me and then stopped resting his head against my chest in relief at being reunited. Just a week later he tripped in a small ditch and he and I did a wonderful show of being horse and rider in a tumble drier...happily no one was ever hurt.

But lately he'd learned where his legs were and we began entrusting clients to him. We'd warn them that the enormous energy they could feel under them when they got on was just his natural collection and enthusiasm for life. He was wonderfully responsive and responsible. I don't believe he ever ran off with anyone. At the fastest gallop, the rider only needed to pull up a bit to say "Let's slow down here a bit" and he slowed immediately. He was a huge favourite, especially with teenaged girls.

Figgy adored his mother and brother and they lived together in one paddock, a happy little sub-herd among the larger herd. If one of them went out on a ride the others called out to him or her on his/her return, and they were happiest when all three of them got to work together. Figs' huge, huge walk was a joy to me and made him a great group leader because we could be walking out in front while everyone else was trotting to keep up.

The last time they went out together was just before I traveled for 10 days to see my kids in New York. Despite the fact that they were just ambling around the countryside for an hour, the next day they were running fevers and had runny noses. My farm was hit hard by a strangles epidemic in the area. While I was gone, his brother Nazeer got a huge abscess under his jaw (a complication of strangles) and when my ordinary vet couldn't be reached, another one recommended giving the horses an antibiotic, something that I never do with strangles. When I got back everyone seemed to be recovering ok, but suddenly about 10 days ago, Figgy was much, much worse. He seemed to have symptoms of laminitis, lumps were appearing in places on his body where they really shouldn't have been, and he was having problems breathing due to a nasty abscess deep in his throat. I had a good vet come to see us as soon as possible and he gave me the horrible news. Figgy's odds of recovery were maybe one in ten, but we could try with a new strong antibiotic. We did and he had the best nursing in the world, with massages, healing, cooling baths in our very badly timed heat wave...everything.

Yesterday morning he was nose deep in the bathtub where we soak our beetpulp and happily snorting water from his nose, a sign that the abscess in his neck has shrunk considerably. He was walking much more comfortably, and we were all delighted. Hopefully we'd beat the odds...but the odds beat us. Late last night he showed signs of serious distress and I could see that it was the end of his fight. I called my vet and then drove over to get the Big Blue Needle that would help him to find some peace. Figgy was a fighter to the end, but it wasn't right for him to go through so much pain. Jack told me that probably either an abdominal abscess had ruptured or there had been a cardiac embolism that had broken loose. Peace was the last gift I could give him.

Somewhere in the ether the souls of our horses meet up. He's with his grandmother now. She passed on some seven or eight years ago at over 30 years of age. But there are a lot of souls here missing them both terribly.

copyright 2010 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani


Lil said...

Godspeed Figgy. It has been an honor sharing the stories of your life, and meeting you before you left.

Wolfie said...

I am really sorry for your loss. He was lucky that he had you in his life, as you were lucky to have him.

Marion said...

I know the void you must be feeling in your heart Maryanne. You are such a kind soul. I am sure the 9 years Ziggy spent with you were better and more fulfilling than what other animals spend in their lifetimes. Bless u ;-)

Connie said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Our animal companions become such a vital part of our lives that the hole they leave behind when we lose them is a big one... may that place soon be filled with happy memories and peace.

Kerrin Koetsier said...

We are so sorry to hear about the loss of your horse, looks as if he was a precious part of the family.

Kerrin Koetsier
Parelli Central

Merri said...

: (
Happy trails, Figgy.
I think our souls meet up with our horses when we reach the ether, too.
- The Equestrian Vagabond

Fantastyk Voyager said...

I'm so sorry to read of your loss. Yes, it would seem that the older horses should go first but that's not often the case. It's a shame because he had so many more wonderful years ahead of him.

Breathe said...

So full of life, and what a wonderful post on him. I'm so sorry he moved on so quickly.