A friend of mine, Susan, was telling me about how wonderful her husband Jim was with one of her senior horses, Torney.
Torney is a 38 year old Arabian mare. She has Cushings and has had it for a few years. Now that it has become harder for her to stand for long periods in the pasture, they put her in a beautiful stall designed specifically for her comfort.
They have rubber mats on the floor, 4-6 inches of cushy shavings, a hay bag full of her favorite hay, an automatic waterer, and a bucket low to the ground for her grain and supplements. They also take her out for walks in the pasture to say hello to all the other horses, and they sometimes leave her there for short periods to enjoy the good weather with friends.
Susan’s husband Jim never really was a “horseman” as he called it, but he liked being around her horses and would help out around the farm. He never had a desire to ride, and never interacted very much with her horses personally. And they were always “her” horses when he talked about them.
Somewhere along the way though, he bonded with Torney. And little to Susan’s knowledge, they had a connection he hadn’t shared with her until now. He did this all on his own.
One night Susan saw Jim walking out of the house with two pillows and two blankets and he said he’d be in late and not to worry. She had no idea what he was doing. When he hadn’t come in, and it was now midnight, she went looking for him.
His truck was still in the driveway so he had to be on the farm. Then she saw a light on at the barn so she went to investigate. Low and behold, there was Jim curled up in Torney’s stall sitting with pillows behind his back and a blanket on his lap. And there was Torney curled up with her head in his lap on the second blanket.
Susan was shocked and thrilled all at the same time. She asked him what he was doing and he said, “I thought she might like some company as her buddies are in the pasture and she’s in here lying down a lot”. So sweet! She said ok, and left him to be with Torney.
He stayed all night. The next day she also noticed that Torney’s coat was clean and beautiful.
If you have seen a horse with advanced Cushings you’ll know that their coat gets long, matted, and sometimes curley. And it’s hard to manage.
Well, Jim had spent all night combing and brushing out her coat, turned her over when she had difficulty, and did the other side. He even brushed out her mane and tail and trimmed what he could.
Susan said you could just see how happy Torney was to have all the attention and to be so beautifully groomed when she went out to the pasture. She said it looked like she pranced out to the other horses to show herself off. She was old, she was sick, but she was still happy.
This lasted a few weeks before they realized they had to put Torney down due to complications from Cushings. But those last few weeks Jim spent every night in the stall with Torney and made her last days very happy ones. She was not alone, she was with family, and she knew she was loved very much!
Her story brought tears to my eyes and was so touching. But it made me think about all the good and the bad that comes with holding on to a horse for its lifetime.
You get all the good times:
- learning to ride together
- hanging out and becoming friends
- laughing and having fun figuring things out as a team
- new adventures together
- and becoming so tightly nit and bonded that they are a huge part of your family and your heart
But there are not so good times:
- watching when they get sick or hurt and trying to help them
- seeing them get old and not be able to ride anymore
- working harder to make sure they have the correct feed, supplements, etc… as they age
- handling physical issues as they come up due to age – teeth, gut, feet, etc…
- and worst of all, being there when they pass
I am so glad that there are horse people out there who buy a horse and own them until they pass. It is a thankless job, taking care of a horse for its lifetime, but I’m here to say, “Thank You!”. Your horse does appreciate it.
It is so kind and good hearted for your horse to be able to be with their loving owner/best friend for their entire lifetime. Especially at the end. It has to be so comforting to be able to have your family and best friend with you at the end. To comfort you and love you as you pass on.
I know how important it is for humans, why would it be any different with your horse.
If you’ve ever owned a senior horse, you know how many special items, supplements, and food you need to keep them healthy and comfortable. Sometimes it can be a chore and sometimes even a lot more expensive. But it’s worth it.
Our horses give us so much love and learning during their lifetime. We owe it to them to give it back to them, especially during their senior years.
Just like us when we age, our horses’ bodies need different stuff. Like mixing water, supplements, and special grain into a mash when they have lost teeth. Or using low starch grains, soft clover hay, or supplements for their health. So many different solutions for whatever ails them.
I’ve heard the expression, “you can always tell a lot about a man by watching how he takes care of his mother”. Well, you can also tell a lot about a person by watching how they take care of their horse.