The Silver Linings In Life And In Horse Ownership

They say every cloud has a silver lining. Being a mom of two active children I never really had time to think about that saying until after my gelding, Eros, passed away in February 2013. I was fortunate enough to have him for 17 years. The day he died was a very sad time for me and one I still think about often. What’s the silver lining in that? Let me explain.

In the fall of 2012, Eros was 27-years-old and seemed to be handling his senior years quite well though his vision was clouded with cataracts. He adapted well to this and we still went on trail rides. However, on a cool day in October, something was “off” with Eros’ front hooves. He would show tenderness one step, then be completely sound the next. It was baffling. Pulling his shoes set off a series of events that still makes me cringe. Full-blown laminitis in both front hooves! A horse with laminitis is one of the most painful things to watch. I bared my teeth and gathered to the strength to get him through this. Every day, sometimes multiple times per day, I would go to the barn and ice his entire legs and hooves and administer pain meds. I also put foam pads on his hooves to make him more comfortable. This is a difficult task when the horse refuses to lift his feet because of the pain. I was tired. I was angry. I was confused. How did this happen? Nothing had changed in his feeding regime. Being an engineer, I was constantly looking for a cause. The stress of everything led me to come down with shingles on my leg. I let it go a bit too long and the pain sometimes was unbearable. If you have never had it, it’s like an electric shock going through your body. I would still go to the barn and come home and ice my leg. I prayed for some relief for both of us.

Eros and Jacob

Eros and Jacob

January was a cold, nasty, snowy month. My 4-year-old son, Jacob, would come to the barn with me. He was only in school half-day so it fit well into our schedule. It became our routine to care for Eros then have lunch together. If Eros was laying down in the stall, Jacob would sit next to him and tell him stories. He would also get handfuls of hay and hand feed it to him. Giving him sugar-free peppermints was also one of Jacob’s favorite things. He would get the giggles when Eros would take the peppermint, flip his tongue over and stick it out and make a sucking sound. It made the whole situation a little bit better. Thankfully, Eros soon became sound enough to walk outside. Jacob wanted to show him how to make snow angels. Eros stood there quietly watching my son play. It amused me when Eros would pick up mouthfuls of snow and Jacob would copy. Eros and Jacob were content together and my son was learning what wonderful creatures horses are. I was happy.

The happiness I was experiencing was short-lived. Eros was sound for a few weeks then suddenly he had bouts of colic. After one long night, she suggested we do an ultrasound to see if we could get an idea as to what was going on. I had a sinking feel in my gut it wasn’t going to be good. Mother’s intuition I guess. The vet began to cry. He had a lipoma (tumor) wrapped around his intestine. I couldn’t stand to see him in any more pain so I called my husband and told him to bring get the kids from school to say goodbye.
Euthanasia is ugly. There is no way around it. Eros was so sedated he didn’t know which end was up. He did still manage a soft whinny when the “girls” in the pasture came up to say their goodbyes. Burying my face in his fur while he took his last breath was precious to me and no one can ever take that away. I still can feel his coat in my fingers. The vet theorized that secretions from the tumor had caused the laminitis. Case closed for this engineer.

So after all of that, what is the silver lining? My son and I shared special time together with our horse even if the circumstances were less than desirable. It was such a joy watching Jacob and Eros together in the snow. I just wish we would have had more time. Those two could have become best friends. But I still cherish the photos and videos I have of the two of them. Thank goodness for technology. I’m hoping that Jacob will look back at the pictures and videos and remember how special Eros was.

Written By, Heather Benedict. Share this on Facebook if a special horse has touched your life as well!

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