I just read that Elmer Bandit, the 38 year old endurance horse, passed away on February 14. The decision to euthanize was made after Elmer was found, unable to get back to his feet, while out in his pasture. Attempts were made to get him up, blankets put over him to keep him warm, but as bad weather moved in, the decision must have become clear.
I followed Elmer's last years, reading various articles about him on The Horse Journal, so, felt I knew him. I admire his owner/rider Mary Anna for doing what they both loved, right up to the end. Elmer was one of the lucky ones. He had a mission in his life and he lived doing what he loved, with someone who cared about him, with him all the way. Mary Anna had often said Elmer would tell her when it was time to quit endurance events, but he actually never quit. They had cut back their rides in '09 but still managed to get in a few.
Elmer Bandit makes me think about older horses. These days, horses are living longer, often will into their thirties. People who own horses need to keep in their minds that they may be caring for a senior horse for many years. They should be dedicated to that issue and how they will choose to handle it.
My friend called me the other day. We hadn't talked in a long time. Our friendship began over horses. Lori told me she lost her old guy, Boy, just before Christmas. He was one of her first horses, bought when she got into horses over twenty-five years ago. Boy was in his late twenties.
Lori told me she noticed Boy had been acting odd that morning. He wasn't one to fidget but he kept walking, acting uncomfortable.So, she walked him from the field into his stall. Being the dedicated horse owner she is, she checked his vitals then called her vet. Unfortunately, before the vet had returned her call, Boy had fallen in his stall, seized, and quietly passed away. Lori was with him, as she had been all of his life.
We all hope we can do that for those we love. Doesn't always work that way, but when it does, we feel blessed. Boy had a good life with Lori. Well taken care of, enjoyed as a riding partner, and nurtured. He was one of the lucky ones.
Another older horse in my memory is Koko. I only knew Koko for the three years I worked at the stable. She was one of the originals. Koko, even in her thirties, still enjoyed taking a child on her back and participating in classes on her good days. She passed away in the field where she'd lived for many years, surrounded by her herd buddies.
Whatever your view on end of life issues for yourself, or your horses, the main thing I keep with me is the responsibility of doing what is right. When the time comes, I hope I can make the right decision, though sometimes the decision is taken out of our hands.
Happy trails Elmer Bandit, Boy and Koko! May you enjoy pastures of green lush grass and bright sunshiny days!