We lost another horse yesterday—Timmy--one of our old saddlebreds.
Between the tears, I experience moments of quiet satisfaction knowing Timmy had a charmed life with us. He was born on our farm, raised here, and even broke to ride here—never saw any other place or part of the world. He had a club foot, so we never asked him to carry us over the countreyside. His life revolved around lazy days in the pasture, nights in his stall, and, in general, enjoying a simple, relaxing life—one with no human demands.
Always a well-mannered horse, Timmy was a fixture here at our farm for the twenty-two years of his life. His stall stands silent without him, and though I have not detected any behavioral changes in the other horses because of his absence, they must know he’s not there in the pasture with them. Again—with the death of another of our animals—our place is not the same: I look around the barn and pastures, and the palette has changed--forever.
I have only one regret.
In order to try to save his life we had to transport Timmy to a veterinary surgical facility an hour’s drive away. I regret we had to remove Timmy, in his most painful and fearful moments, from the only world he knew: from the stall he had known for so many years, from his barn, from the pastures, and from all that was familiar to him: the wandering cats, pot-bellies, and us.
As we led him down the driveway to the horse trailer, his eyes grew wide, even as he was sedated with painkillers. Even being led down our drive must have been scary for him—he had never been out of the pastures or the barn; he had never walked on macadam before. Likewise, he had never expected to be lifted by four strange men and locked inside a horse trailer with its rattling, body-jarring ride.
Had I known, then, that surgery was not an option for Timmy, that he had a huge, inoperable tumor that hadn’t raised its ugly head until just two days before, we would not have swept our horse from the only world he knew into what must have been, for him, a strange and frightening environment. We would have put him to sleep where he felt safe, loved, and comfortable: in his barn, the barn where he was born and raised and fed every day, the barn where Julie, Lucy, and his new friend, Bo, lived beside him. Had we known the outcome, we would have let Timmy die in his world-home.
During the hours it took to drive to Quakertown, wait for the surgeon to arrive, do the ultrasound that discovered the tumor, and make the diagnosis, Timmy’s condition deteriorated rapidly. Though we wanted to bring him back home to end his suffering, doing so would have caused him even more misery. So, in that strange, horse-scary place, we euthanized him, calming him, patting his neck, whispering how we loved him, and covering his wide eye so that he couldn’t see the death needle.
That Timmy died outside his familiar world is our only regret. But we can feel good about having kept Timmy, with his club foot, his foundered front feet, and his roaring trachea, as our pet for 22 years. Many a horse person would have sold such an unserviceable animal to the auction where he would have likely gone to the butcher.
We are grateful to have known Timmy, to have taken care of him, and we are privileged to have witnessed his equine antics in his pasture. Bo will surely miss him as much as we will; Bo and Timmy always groomed each other’s withers, as brother horses often do. Though Timmy was seventeen years older than Bo, he could keep up with the young feisty horse. The two played together, play-biting each other and annoying each other like little kids until the lush grass lured them from play. Likewise, Timmy and his full sister, Lucy, hung out together much of the time—just lazing in the pasture side by side. Timmy seemed always to be a comfort to the other horses, assuring them in his sedate manner that there was nothing to be upset about, that this world was a good, safe world.
We brought Timmy’s body back home and buried him—in his world—next to Fancy, his mother Lillie, Nicky, Fax, and Merry.