Friday, May 27, 2011

Saying Goodbye is Never Easy

Well, the day I never wanted to arrive, shockingly came on Thursday, May 19, 2011. This is the day I never knew how to face. My palomino gelding, Sunset, was laid to rest. I received a call towards the end of my work day from my mom, saying I should probably get home. He was colicing, and it did not look good. Normally, this horse will colic 2-3 times a year, and he has always come out of it, so in my head, it was just another one of those times. I expected to arrive at the barn, walk him around for a few minutes, and then put him back in the stall and thank God that he did not choose that day to take my horse from me. Unfortunately, that was not the case. My mom had already did the necessary actions that a vet would have done - mineral oil, shots of banamine, walking him without stopping. When I got there, I took over walking him at a rapid pace because he was trying to lay down. When a horse colics, that means there is pain in their abdomen, and their natural instinct is they want to lay down or roll. That is their way of relieving the pain. For some reason, my horse had a tendency to do it every few months, and it was always scary. But luckily my mom has tons of horse knowledge, and always knew what to do! You can read more about colic in horses HERE.

Anyone that has ever lost an animal they have owned for many years will understand the pain. As a tribute to Sunset, I will share his story with you:

My mom received a call from our farrier back in April 1991 and told her she needed to come and look at this horse that he had. A family was selling him, and he thought Sunset would be the perfect match for us. Now at the time, my mom was nearly 9 months pregnant with my brother, so she could not ride this horse when we went to look at him. So I was the lucky rider, I was 11 years old at the time. He was quiet and easygoing and very laidback. I was a little nervous about riding new horses at that age, but I wasn't scared to ride him. We liked him so we traded another horse and some cash for our new horse, Sunset. When my brother was an infant, my mom would put him in the snuggie and trail ride Sunset. She trusted him enough to put a baby on him while she would ride at the same time, so therefore, I trusted the horse from the first time I rode him. Within a couple years, I had put dibs on "my horse" and would rarely let anyone else ride on him. He was absolutely the best horse I had ever ridden. He had the smoothest little trot and a slow, collected canter. I would ride that horse for hours and hours on trails around our home and Brown County. I showed him in 4-H for several years. I would always love it when he won his halter classes, and western pleasure classes. I did contest him, but he wasn't ever very good because he was so slow. But it was still fun to try and make him canter as fast as he could to get the best time in the gaming events. We went camping many weekends throughout my childhood and into my older teenage years. When I got pregnant with my oldest daughter, I rode this horse up until I was almost 7 months pregnant. And the only reason I didn't ride up until I was 9 months is the fact that is was winter, and there was no way I was riding in the cold! When my oldest was 3 months old, we took our first cruise on Sunset with her in my snuggie pouch. I trusted this horse with my life, and I knew he wouldn't hurt the newborn baby either. I continued to ride him with her until she was too big for the snuggie, then she rode with me on my saddle until she was big enough to ride him on his own. She actually learned to ride on him and showed him her first year in 4-H. My little one also rode him some last summer. My girls also rode him together, or double as we horse people call it. I rode Sunset in the fall parade almost every year until 2 years ago when I had to relinquish him to my oldest daughter. It was bittersweet ~ she was on MY horse, but I knew she was in good hands because he took good care of her. This horse also had a fabulous sense of direction. He also knew when we were headed home, headed back to camp, or headed back to the horse trailer. In the instance of the parade, at the corner of Main and Morgan Streets in our town, this horse would turn left at the corner and instantly pick up speed. That was the halfway point in the parade, so he knew he was downhill (not literally) on the way back to the fairgrounds. He had completed 50% of the route and he was homeward bound, and he knew it. I told my daughter what he would do, and I don't think she quite believed me. But as soon as he rounded the corner with her on his back, his high speed kicked in and I remember her telling me "Wow, Mom, you were right!" Now if I could only get her to realize that and say that Mom is right all the time... Anyway, this horse would also pick up speed when we were headed home on trail rides, or back to camp in Brown County. He would take his sweet time, and slowly move his feet when headed away from where ever we were, but hang on tight when we reach that halfway point and start to head back! This horse also liked to drink mountain dew. It was a tradition that I would drink a mountain dew at a horse show, or while camping and save the last couple drinks for him. I would pour it out close to his mouth and he would lap it up, all while usually covering me in the drink I shared with him. But I didn't mind. He was such a good horse, I had to share my drink with him! He also had a natural stance for posing for the camera. Almost all the pictures I have of him show him with his ears perked up, and happy. I even have a few silly ones as well. Like this one:

Yes, he was quite the poser! And with an owner like me that loves to take pics, well, let's just say it was a pretty good combination. Back to his story ~ I could go on and on for hours, and even days, about what a good horse he was. Our family has SO many memories of him and all the 20 years he spent with us. I remember a time that my mom, my brother, and I went to Brown County. My brother was probably about 7 or 8 years old, and my mom MADE me let my brother have him for the day. I griped and complained and whined ALL DAY LONG because I couldn't ride MY horse. Looking back now, I'm glad my brother had the safe horse because I wouldn't have wanted him to get hurt on something that wasn't as safe as my baby. My best friend told me she had alot of many fond memories of this horse, and that she remembers the couple times she was lucky enough to get to ride him. Like I said, I rarely let anyone else have him because that's how much I loved this horse. He was mine, and yes, I admit, I was selfish with him. Very selfish! The last couple years, Sunset has really started to show his age, and remind us that he isn't 9 years old anymore :(. We had to really baby this horse, and take extra care of him. I wasn't able to ride him about the past 3 years because his back couldn't take the weight like it used to. Not that I am heavy, but my 60 pound daughter is much lighter then her ole Mommy. We couldn't ride him in the hot weather because he couldn't handle the heat like he used to. I could ramble on about this horse, but that's just a few stories that come to mind at the moment. I am forever grateful to God for bringing this horse into our lives when he did. I am grateful for the many people Sunset taught to ride, and for the many fond memories he has left our family and friends. We have been so blessed the last 20 years when we bought this 9 year old horse, and laid him to rest at 29 years of age. His best horse friend, Murphy, was waiting in horsey heaven for him. So at least now they get to be together without any pain or suffering any longer. I miss this horse, and I will miss him everyday until I see him again someday. He wasn't just a horse, or a pet; he was a member of our family. People reading his story may not understand our bond with him, but I promise it is a bond like no other. After I realized that the fight was over, and putting him down was our only option, reality hit and I started bawling my eyes out. My last memory of him was him walking off into the Sunset to be buried next to his best horse friend, Murphy. I watched him be led off into the sunset, and it was a beautiful sunset that day. I don't think that's a bit ironic; I think God gave us a beautiful Sunset that day to let us know that our Sunset was ok and He would take good care of him for us. Another image I have in my head is that my daughter Mindy, who died 8 years ago, finally gets to ride her Mommy's horse. And if he can teach her to ride, then it was worth him going to Heaven, so she can have him. After my horse left, I sat in the grass for 30 minutes, just sat there in shock. My oldest daughter couldn't stop crying, and my youngest daughter told me I could get another Sunset. It was sweet of her, and I gently told her that yes, mommy can get another horse, but never another Sunset. Because our Sunset was certainly irreplaceable. Once I drug myself up from the grass, I went and sat in his stall for what seemed like an eternity. I sat in the stall with the gate that needed replaced (he was a little too playful with it at times), but there was something missing ~ my baby horse that would never stand in that stall again.

I will end Sunset's story now by saying thank you to this horse, thank you to God for letting us have him for 20 years, thank you to my mom for buying this horse and taking good care of him for as long as she has, and thank all our friends and family for their kind words on that tragic day. Life will never be the same without our Sunset, but at least he lived a wonderful life, and we loved him as much as he loved us. RIP Sunset's Son, you are loved and missed every single day.

This is Sunset and I in 1998 - my last year of 4-H

I carried the flag to the National Anthem my last year of 4-H on Sunset. I always liked this picture because the camera lens caught the sun. This, is proof to me, that my horse does live on in Heaven.

One of the few I could find of our 4-H years together - English Gelding Halter Champion

One of the many parades I rode him in. I believe this was in 2005.

Me & Sunset - Parade 2006

My little one sitting on Sunset at 4 years of age

Another one of my favorites - my girls both riding Sunset together

Me & Sunset - last time I rode in the parade 2007

My mom & I in the 2007 parade

2009 - My oldest rode Sunset in the parade. I love this pic because it shows my mom hugging Sunset, and my daughter being taken care of while riding that year. The bay mare I am on is a substitute since my horse was "taken" that day :)

My baby girl leading Sunset around by the halter

My ultimate favorite pic ever taken of him. My oldest is 3 in this picture. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this picture. We were camping that weekend and she rode him by herself and with Mommy too.

One of my favorites - She showed Sunset her 1st year in 4-H 2009. This is the way I love to remember Sunset - with his golden color shed out, ears perked up, and ready for the show ring!

My sweet little girl drew a picture for me at school. This was her mommy leading her horse Sunset. She is learning to write words correctly so it's not 100% right, but what she wrote actually reads "My mom horse died. He was sick." Now if this isn't a tearjerker, I'm not sure what is.

Sunset & Murphy - they were best friends and they are together once again.

1 comment:

SDFarmWife said...

So sorry to hear about Sunset Janelle! He was really a great horse!