Letting Go

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    Not long ago I wrote in my blog about my visit with Ziggy, a rascally warmblood gelding owned by my good friend Debbie. He was foaled in Debbie’s tidy backyard stable 26 years ago, and since then he’s been a prominent character in the life of everyone who knew him. His antics made him that memorable. But so did his athletic ability. Ziggy could do pretty much anything, from cross-country jumping to dressage, hunters and trail riding. He also did a lot of tricks, but he was usually the magician who conjured them up.

    Though Debbie rode and showed Ziggy, I spent quite a bit of time on his back, too. During the 1990s (as I type that date I begin to feel old!) he was my go-to horse when I needed a mount for something fun, different or peculiarly challenging. Debbie was always generous with Ziggy and he was always up for what I had in store. His spunk and spirit was limitless. I’m certain that’s the reason he remained fat, fit and cantankerous despite his advanced age. Even after he lost his sight due to cataracts and complications from eye surgery, he continued to be scrappy and domineering.

    Life with Horses - Letting Go
    Years ago a group of wild horsewomen put together a drill team of Trakehner horses. I was invited to join. Who did I ride? Ziggy. That’s us, on the outside.

    Though he seemed invincible, Ziggy finally confronted an insurmountable foe: colic. He was humanely euthanized last week.

    He’d been colicky for several days and hadn’t responded to multiple vet visits and repeated treatments. An exam revealed he had a huge blockage with a firm mass in the center, probably a large stone (enterolith) or a tumor.

    The day before he was euthanized, I went to Debbie’s house to help support her. At that moment, Ziggy was still comfortable, thanks to the most recent administration of pain meds. This oasis of calm was the perfect opportunity to rationally consider all the options for further treatment. Yet though Debbie asked for my advice, I didn’t want to tell her what I’d do in her situation. Honestly, I think that major, costly medical decisions concerning our horses should be very personal ones, providing the owner is a conscientious steward of their horse. And Debbie is certainly that. So instead I stood in her kitchen and talked to her as a horse-loving friend. We commiserated about how tough it is sometimes to be a responsible horse owner: We fret over minor wounds, deliberate over choices in supplements and shampoos, and worry over subtle changes in gait and appetite. But in exchange for such anxiety we get a deep, lifelong bond with a loyal, courageous horse.

    When I left her house, Debbie was at peace with her decision. Ziggy had lived a full, remarkable life. He’d been loved. And he’ll be one of those horses people will talk about when they start reciting the most memorable horses they’ve ever ridden.

    The next day, Ziggy’s symptoms worsened. Debbie had vowed not to let him suffer, so she made one more call to the vet. Then just after dark she led him from the stall where he was foaled 26 years ago. She whistled and spoke to him as always, so he could follow the sound of her voice. And with one last pat she let his spirit go.

    Farewell, Ziggy, my frosty-maned, stout little friend. Munch on that pasture grass until we meet again.

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    8 COMMENTS

    1. I am so sorry to hear of you and your friend’s loss. It is so hard to make decisions about our loved ones and hope that you make the right one.. They patiently wait for us up in Horsey Heaven and become our Guardian Angels awaiting our arrival..

    2. Ziggy sounds like a really cool horse and Debbie is the kind of owner I’d wish for if I were a horse.
      A hug to her and to you. No matter how right the decision to euthanize is, it is never an easy one.

    3. For me losing my horse was one of the hardest things I will ever go through, so I’m extremely sorry, but at least he can be happy again in heaven.

    4. That is so sad, but it is always better to let them go in peace with you by their side instead of suffering.

    5. I am so sorry for your loss. But I respect Debbie for cutting loose of her attachment to Ziggy enough to make a (hard)decision, that is inevitably the right decision. I am in those boots right now…and letting go of a horse you have loved and spent many years with is not easy. But sometimes you have to…

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