When It Is Time to Say Goodbye

On the early morning of November 23, 2000, with temperatures plummeting to an unseasonably –10 degrees Celsius, I opened the stable door, turned off the alarm and began the morning chores as I have done with regularity every morning. It was the American Thanksgiving holiday and in a way I too was giving thanks to these two American bred Morgans for the last time. The routine was kept the same, but this was no ordinary day. It would be the last morning that I would feed and water two old and dearly loved friends, H-Loli and Serenity Intrigue.

We often joked about them as being “the old folks – grandma and grandpa” and the silly sign posted by their reserved paddock fence announcing, “an old stud and a cute filly live here”. It gave us all a chuckle, visiting tourists and friends alike.

Soon the stable would be quiet, except for my soft whimpering and private tears, waiting for the veterinarian and backhoe to come and do their respective solemn duties.

Loli was hugged and cradled with my arms wrapped around her neck for a long farewell goodbye. I had shared her life for 20 years, never with complaint, but always with wonderment and gratitude. I can never recall a time of reprimand for an infraction. They say no one is perfect, but Loli had been an exception when it came to obedience, trust and tolerance.

She had been one of our foundation mares and without doubt, the best. She had come through so much this past spring, battling a massive infection to her face that almost ended her life then. Ironically, her heroic story published in Equus Magazine would make the newsstands this very day.

Intrigue on the other hand still stood defiant of being pampered. He only wanted to safeguard his sacred mare. I let him keep his stallion ways, and snuck a gentle pat of his long thick flowing mane when he wasn’t looking. How sad it seemed that the sassy fat stud who was like a “Hoover” now at feed times, would no longer shine in our stable after eleven years here at the farm.

It had been more than a year when we first had thoughts of ending his loneliness and misery when he seemingly lost all interest in eating, spending his days languishing and lying in his stall, making few attempts to rise. It wasn’t until our veterinary made the suggestion of moving him to the open stall paddock that H-Loli occupied at the time. The theory was that by having more room and access to an open paddock twenty-four hours a day would be beneficial for his aching joints. Reluctant to put the veteran stallion with the old broodmare, we decided it was worth a try as euthanasia was our only other option. Within a week, the old boy had found a reason to live again, a job to do, and he never looked back.

It was Loli who had accepted the cranky old man and brought him much pleasure in companionship. They soon became inseparable. You couldn’t take one away for grooming or whatever, without the other tagging along. If momentarily out of sight, each would pace and whinny frantic calls of location to each other until they were reunited.

Stiff with the ravages of arthritis, the old stallion still shuffled along standing over Loli like an old soldier protecting his mate as she lay for hours in the wet sand paddock, finding relief for her old laminitis hooves.

Every day was like the last, as I watched the two comfort each other in their obvious continuing pain as the medications were losing their effectiveness. With that cold cruel Artic wind blowing from the north and the ground cover freezing faster now, the decision to spare these wonderful Morgans from the grips of winter became overwhelming. Still it stabbed at my heart to make that phone call after having a frank discussion with my veterinarian days before. Even he was reluctant to do the deed at first. Like me, he too had observed the tenacity of these great horses, coming through so much the last few years as we admired their spirit, watching them enjoy each other’s company like an old married couple. Now in their thirties, how much more could we ask them to endure without it being a crime of conscious to let them go on? So it had been mutually agreed that the two would go together, peacefully and painlessly.

Below is a tribute to each of them, reflecting their lives and contributions they have made to our farm and for the good of the Morgan breed.