My day started out well enough. I worked, then I planned on going with my best friend to see our first mule jumping competition. On my way home from work, I got a call from my coach. She runs a horse shipping business so she was on the road when she called me. She said that the caretaker at her farm had noticed that Lena seemed extremely lame and she wanted me to go check her out before the vet came by later. My heart was on the ground as I drove to the farm.
Lena has had mild flare ups of Laminitis in the past, but nothing this serious. Her 27th birthday was supposed to be this year, so I knew she was getting up there. I just never thought that the time would come this soon. Lena was moved to the pasture with the mares because she could no longer handle the climb up and down to the creek to drink water. The mares had been bullying her, but a courageous little burro stayed by her side and seemed to ward off the younger, sounder bully mares.
Watching her walk was painful. She moved with the slow, agonizing steps of a horse that had obviously foundered. Her hind legs were carefully tucked beneath her, her hindquarters leaning behind her in attempt to take the excruciating pressure off her front hooves. She let me pick up her a front hoof and I could see that her soles had noticeably dropped. I could almost read the pain in her dark eyes as I scratched her withers.
This is the wonderful little mare that taught me how to pick up the canter. This is the horse that put up with my unbalanced aids and wobbly hands. The horse that made me work so hard to learn the leg yield, took me from my first schooling show to the top ten at Arabian Youth Nationals, taught me that working hard is more important than being talented, and showed me that confidence and patience can overcome any obstacle. This is the horse that made me fall in love with dressage.
Our vet came to the same conclusion as we had, and my coach and I tearfully decided to put her down. She was not going to recover to a decent standard of living and we couldn’t bear to see her in this much pain. I walked her to the back pasture where she was to be buried, a journey of two-hundred feet that took over fifteen minutes in her halting steps. As we went she gently nickered to the other horses in pasture and whinnied to those farther off, as if she was bidding her last farewell. I braided her mane at the spot and gave her one last pet and a kiss on the forehead, then the vet gave the injections and we laid her to rest.
I cry for her at the oddest moments.
My dear Lesson Horse Lena, you will be missed.