Roommate Horse (her real name was Marvalena) was laid to rest last weekend due to chronic lameness issues. She had had surgery on her right hind annular ligament in April in the hopes of fixing her suspensory, but the surgery was not successful. At her age (23) and with her given maintenance requirements, I felt it best to let her go while she still had a spark in her eye and a dignity in her spirit. But I would like to write her whole story, so that when I am old and Alzheimery, hopefully there will still be an Internet and I can come back here and reminisce.
Marvy lived at the stable where I learned to ride and jump, Double Eagle Stables in Spokane, WA. She was owned by a friend of mine, Shawna, who had purchased her as an unbroke 2 year old and grown up with her. Shawna loved Marvy to pieces, but Shawna went out into the world to make her own way and her own life, and left Marvy at Double Eagle in the hands of her mother, Lee Ann. Lee Ann prefers a "kick ride"-type horse, which Marvy absolutely was not, and never would be. So Marvy sat for a while, loved and well-cared for, but unused and out of a job.
I came back to Double Eagle when I moved back to Spokane after a stint working as legislative staff in Olympia. I began boarding my hunter gelding at Double Eagle, and Lee Ann generously offered me the opportunity to catch ride Marvy as well. We hit it off very well. Marvy was a SUPER sensitive, thin-skinned TB. All that horse wanted to do was canter--a huge, powerful canter. She wasn't a bolter per se, but her brakes weren't great, so it was easy to see why no one else was really interested in getting on her. She would quickly get bored trotting around the arena and would look for opportunities to bash your leg into a fence post or support beam so that she could sproing into a strong canter because "You kicked me! OFF WE GO." That mare--always a thinker.
One of my Top Five Equestrian Accomplishments was a successful canter-walk transition on her. Seriously. :]
Lee Ann generously signed guardianship of Marvy over to me when I moved to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, so that I could move her with me and continue riding her. We had some great rides with friends. Marvy also facilitated my first forays into dressage. In fact, my first dressage saddle, I bought for Marvy--and thank god for that. You know a dressage saddle is a good fit for you when a cat jumps up the arena wall and your Marvy TELEPORTS about 20 feet to the side and your legs stay underneath you like you are standing on the ground.
She even saved my life once, kind of, when we were trail riding and walked around a corner with no stirrups and no hands on the reins and got almost-hit by 3 speeding mountain bikers. They screeched to a stop, and she didn't even blink.
She also saved my life another time just by being her when I agreed to go on a trail ride with friends, all of whom are now ex-friends, because their version of "trail riding" was more like "leaping downhill off the side of logging roads where there is totally no trail; just slide your horse on its butt down through the pine duff." Her heart and athleticism kept both of us safe, even though I was so scared I was just clutching the saddle horn and sobbing.
|This was on the way to that fear-ride. Thank god for High Alert Status.|
When I needed to focus on Roxie's growth and development, I only had enough time to devote to one horse, so I leased Marvy out to a kind woman who just wanted to trail ride. This woman was older, and very sweet, and was not a great fit for a horse like Marvy. Not trying to be mean, just stating the truth. This lady didn't know much about horses, but she did bring a competent friend with her to the test rides, and I was confident at the time that they would be fine together with a little supervision. Even though she had spent some of her younger summers on a ranch, Marvy had been a jigging mess on trails when I first started working with her. She had gotten over that and would walk on the buckle down our local bridle paths.
|Like a real trail pony. :)|
I will say this, though, as a cautionary tale--YOU ARE ALWAYS BETTER OFF EUTHANIZING A HEALTHY HORSE rather than letting it out of your sight.
Things you learn.
Anyways. Long story short, I went and picked Marvy up. She was swaybacked, rain rotted, malnourished. And she practically dragged me into my trailer--she was no dummy, and she knew that help had arrived.
|The day she returned. She looks like she has been in a concentration camp. This photo makes me cry tears. Never again will I lease out or rehome an oldie.|
After a year of good feeding, grooming, vet and dental care, chiropractic and massage work, hand-walking and ponying her, I wanted to try some light riding, so I would saddle her up and make her carry me down to the mailbox (it's 1/10th of a mile). She was so so happy to have a job, even a light one like that.
I gradually started riding Marvy for slightly longer periods, trying to build muscle on that poor old swayed back, and she was so happy to be working again. Our first attempts at trot, though, told me something was wrong. I initially attributed it to stiffness from age and poor care and so much time off, but as she got fitter and the off-ness became more pronounced, I took her into the vet.
|At the vet.|
You know the rest. We did surgery in April of 2015, which was a bad idea. It was highly unlikely to be successful, but I felt like I owed the poor girl a chance at soundness and health after my bad leasing decision had endangered her. The surgery was expensive, and was really rough on her, and the recovery was awful. She was stressed out and would not eat, and then she came home and had to live in a 12x24 pen for 3 months. I turned her out after that, trusting her to take it easy on herself but knowing that movement was going to be the best thing for her chances of recovery.
I took her back home and turned her out in my enormous hayfield with Roxie. It meant that Marvy could no longer have grain, but she was so so happy to have a pasturemate to hang around with and to stand over her while she slept.
|Hanging out together|
As winter came on, we got a couple of icy spells where I worried for Marvy. I didn't want her to fall, but I worried I may have missed my window to let her go. Thankfully, the lord works in mysterious ways, and we had a week of 45+ degree temperatures at the beginning of December.
It was important to me to lay Marvy to rest here at my home. No more trailer rides, no more vet clinics, no more stress. I owed her the honor and privilege of being the first horse to have a final resting place with me. I found a man with an excavator just down the road, and my dear friend (and Marvy's vet and chiropractor) Erin agreed to do the honors.
Saturday was the best Last Day a horse could ever have. There is a public link to the Facebook album here, but if it doesn't work, Marvy had all the grain and carrots she could eat. I fussed over her (which she hated) and groomed her (which she also hated) and put a red bow in her forelock and told her she was beautiful. I thanked her for all the times she had carried me and kept me safe and taught me things, and I apologized for letting her down. I told her that she was going to go to meet the ones who went before, and I don't know why that's how I phrased it, but she seemed to understand. She willingly put her head in her nice leather halter and followed me out to the hayfield, to her final resting place near my round pen. She was very brave. She was a good girl for the shot of tranquilizer, and was munching on her last carrot when Erin put in the catheter. When it was time to go, Erin inserted 2 big vials of pink juice while I stroked Marvy's forehead and told her she was so good and so brave and such a sweet girl. I watched as the light left her eyes. Erin then gently took Marvy's halter from me and guided her slowly to the ground. We stroked her face as Erin checked for a pulse. There was none. It was so peaceful and perfect.
I sat with Marvy for a little bit after Erin left. I stroked her face and neck some more, and gently closed her eye. The excavator man came back within the hour. He had asked me in advance not to be there for the burial process, but I watched through the curtains as he gently lifted and lowered her into her grave. He was very respectful, and he did a great job.
The earth where she lies is perfectly flat. In a year or two, you won't know anything had ever been disturbed. That's why it is important for me to get this all down. Losing a horse is surreal. You still have all their tack and all their things, all the photographs and videos, and all your dreams that never came true, but there is nothing really tangible left and you start to wonder if maybe you dreamed that horse. Maybe she was never really there.
Well, she was here, for sure. Marvy was not a particularly cuddly or loving mare, but I will always remember that she was so kind and so full of heart. She got a bum deal, and I will never forgive myself for that, but what's done is done. I'm not sure if finally doing right by Marvy was enough to make up for doing wrong, but she taught me a valuable lesson, and you know what they say about lessons learned hardest.
Bye bye, mare. See you on the other side. You were good.