I can not even begin to wrap my head around how crazy this entire year has started off, and it’s only March!!!!
I forewarn you, if you’re reading this… very sad things are coming up. So be warned. It is almost impossible to comprehend what’s been happening.
I know I’ve been pretty quiet lately – failing at my blog posting not due to lack of things, but on the contrary, due to soooo many things happening all at once.
This has been a roller coaster of a year that started off with my truck dying, buying a new car, having my boyfriend’s car stolen, deciding to get a new house, closing the deal and moving all within 2 months… and now we are moved into an amazing new place that is beyond gorgeous and more than either of us could have ever imagined. I have a new job, leaving my job that I enjoyed for the last 5 years, too.
The whole time that all these changes were happening, other events have been happening simultaneously that have been some of the most impossibly difficult to deal with in my life – and having been through abuse, cancer, and more in my life…. I cannot over emphasize how hard this has been to deal with.
It’s taken me weeks just to finally get up the will power to write this post.
Let me start with a trip down memory lane… to January 2007. I headed out to look at a $600 Hackney Pony in the middle of nowhere over 3 hours from home. He was a bit scrawny, undermuscled, obviously not used or ridden or really in any kind of program. The 10 year old pony was also carrying strangles, little did I know.
He was hitched up to the owner’s rickety duct-taped together cart with a harness partially composed of bailing twine, and I was told it had “been a while” since he was last driven. Down the long dirt road the pony went like a pro, and immediately I said SOLD.
That long dirt road has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. Knowing Luke and having the privilege to be around him has been one of the greatest honors I, as a measly and unaccomplished amateur horse owner and competitor could have ever been bestowed.
Then, a few years later, as a birthday gift to myself, I headed out over 2 hours away, in 2010, to take a look at a chestnut horse as a new riding mount for me. I was so reluctant to get a riding horse again, because I had soooo many issues with previous riding horses. I was very nervous to get invested into another riding horse, because of all the serious issues.
So, I went to look at the great big 16.2 chestnut 11 year old and … it was immediate love. SOLD once again.
3 years after bringing home Luke Skywalker the hackney, his new best bud Chewbacca came home, too. The two bonded pretty instantly. They were both capable, quiet, and smart, working alone, and when they were together, they went and did everything together. They were totally bonded and for a long time, they lived in the same paddock together.
My two perfect horses- easily two of the very best horses I’ve ever know, and two of the very best horses God ever graced this planet with. And I was lucky enough to have them both as mine.
In December 2017, we moved to a new barn. Chewbacca had been at the same barn since I owned him, and Luke had been at the same barn for over 9 years as well. Luke was a happy go lucky kind of pony that got along with every horse. Chewbacca was not.
I worried so much about how the two of them would adjust to a new herd of 14 others, when they had been living alone together for so long. I figured really Luke would be fine, but I worried about Chewbacca.
Happily, they adjusted instantly. They were both so happy to have a new group to hang with and large fields. I couldn’t wait until the summer grass grew in and the horses got their first opportunity to run through the tall fields.
^^ Day 1 at the new barn. So happy.
^ A sunny day in December with the horses waiting at the gate for me, knickering and happy, looking for more food because obviously 3 pounds of carrots is not enough…..
So all was well. Life was progressing forward with my boyfriend and I, and the horses were happy and settled.
^ Two weeks after moving into the new barn, all was well.
A month later, Luke and Chewbacca were doing fine in the herd, no interaction issues. But, right around Christmas time I did notice Luke was losing just a bit more weight than I wanted him to be losing. I upped his treat rations to include some more weight building support. He was always an easy keeper, so I figured no big deal of course.
And then, it all changed. Another two weeks passed, and January 2018 was upon us, and Luke was still losing weight. Very odd for him. Ponies in general were always just easy keepers, and Luke was always more inclined to be obese than anything.
He was eating quite a bit of hay, of higher quality and higher quantities than he had been before, and now he was also eating far more grain in a single feeding than I’ve ever fed him, plus weight building supplements that he’s never needed before.
Another two weeks, into the end of January, I was alarmed because Luke was still losing. The vet was out and did several blood work tests and we talked about options and possibilities and a support strategy. Turned out, the blood work was all normal. No infection, no liver issues or kidney issues, no malabsorption problems. He had been heavily dewormed, his teeth were in good condition, and he was eating a ton of food.
Luke was only 12.2h, and he was eating more grain than 16.2 Chewbacca, and he was still losing. I mean… within a month, he went from a body score of a 6, to a 3. No exaggeration. I cannot, for his sake, even share a photo of his body condition, but I was taking them weekly to track progress.
Luke was emaciated. He looked like he hadn’t been fed for months.
An aggressive support plan was initiated and I was doing everything I could for my special and perfect sacred pony that had been my blessing in life for 11 years, but I also had to be realistic – which meant Luke was now on a time line. The clock was ticking.
If improvement was not made with the support I was providing, I would have to reevaluate what was happening to my pony. I hoped throughout the month of February that he would improve. I wanted to drive him again this year, even though I had bought a car, which meant I’d have to sell my horse trailer, which meant no more showing. Still, there were plenty of trails near the new barn, and Luke was scheduled to be on them this summer.
As it was, by the end of February, Luke’s condition was critical. I cannot share the photos of him, but if you’ve seen a horse with a body score of 2, you will know what I was dealing with. For two months, I did everything I could. Everything feasible for me, and fair to him. In a matter of 8 weeks, Luke lost over 20% of his body weight, dropping from 600 to just over 400 pounds. It was the worst thing to deal with – just futilely trying to support him in any way I could and watching him fail.
After talking to the vet repeatedly, the only real conclusion we could assume was that Luke had cancer. It was obviously highly aggressive and quite literally eating him alive from the inside out. He was skin and bones and had developed some abdominal edema in the last week. I could also hear him breathing sometimes (granted not often), but the sound of his breath passing through his airways was totally abnormal in the first place.
The date had already been set previously just in case. I figured if there was improvement, I could always cancel the vet appointment. I held off on calling the livestock remover until the last minute.
On Friday March 2, 2018, Luke went off to be an angel in God’s herd. I was at his head, and I reminded him I loved him and I was sorry for what was happening to him.
The vet had told me that Luke’s blood pressure was critically low. He was dying. He would have been dead in a day, maybe a week. He was 21, and had been my beloved pony and dream driving horse for 11 years.
There never has been, nor will there ever be, an animal as amazing as Luke.
He was loved, and he will always be remembered, treasured, and missed.
And, to make that fateful day even harder, a second decision was made – and not lightly.
Since 2015, Chewbacca had been lame with bad suspensories. He was getting slower as the years passed, and he had always been Luke’s protector, friend, and companion. They had been together, bonded, and faithful companions with each other for nearly 8 years. They have lived alone together for almost half that time. There was no way I could separate them and put Chewbacca through the loss of his friend, while watching his bad legs swell and bother him.
Chewbacca was once (well.. more than once…) referred to a saint for dealing with me. I rode him, jumped him, taught him to drive, hauled him all over creation to take him to events. He was a Saint. And he became an Angel.
The single hardest day in my life, the saddest thing I’ve ever had to deal with- was losing both Chewbacca and Luke at the same time.
I have some small level of consolation knowing that Luke would have been dead in a day or two – probably at night, alone, with only Chewbacca keeping guard. I wanted to be able to say goodbye to him, and I did. Additionally with Chewbacca, my peace of mind does come from believing that I did all I could do to support him for years in comfort despite his lameness, and that I provided him – them both- with the best life I could.
It’s a small comfort, but still, a comfort.
For me, it’s been almost two weeks. The barn is different now – they aren’t at the gate to greet me. I don’t get to hear Luke’s high pitched whinny or Chewbacca’s quiet nicker any more. I don’t get to run my fingers through their coat and mane, or feed them or just hang out with him.
Dixie and Jesse are still there, and I am looking forward to driving Jesse this year on those trails I mentioned, but there is an emptiness at the barn – especially considering I did sell my trailer, and Luke’s harness, and his cart will soon be gone as well.
I have no intentions of getting another pony his size at any point in the forseeable future. If I ever do, I will happily buy new equipment when I can do it properly – truck and trailer and all.
For now, I just want to move forward with life with my boyfriend and see what else can possibly happen this year. I pray for only good things. I know all things happen for a reason, and I also know that Luke and Chewbacca are both safe and happy and loved by God who made them so perfectly in the first place. I also know I will see them again, along with the other wonderful horses I’ve loved and lost in my life like my wonderful first horse, Lady, my beloved 2nd horse, Lickety Split – not to mention cats I’ve loved and lost, too.
One day, I will see them all again.