When You Lose a Horse, You Lose a Dream.

“I hadn’t realized how much I had envisioned him there. I thought that once we got the small barn built that he would be there. Right there in my back yard.” Abbey looked at me as she said this, with the pain still in her eyes.

A horse is not a pet. It is not the same as a dog or a cat. And while losing a pet may be heartbreaking it does not in any way resemble the disaster that is losing a horse.  This is the story of such a loss. This is the story of how Abbey lost Fred whose official name was Canción (Spanish for song). Here is the song of Fred and Abbey.

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“I was looking for an advanced horse to learn on. My coach took me to see a horse and the minute I saw him I fell in love. I thought he was the most gorgeous horse I had ever seen. He was exactly what I wanted and when I tried him I had a perfect ride. His owner told me that to get the flying changes all I had to do was to give him a poke.  I was so inexperienced then that I did not understand he meant a poke with my leg. So, I set off at the canter and across the diagonal I just gave him a poke with my fingers, on his neck, for each change. And he did it! He did two’s and three’s! I’m embarrassed to admit that now but I learned the proper aids later and I realized that changes were his gift.”

But despite having fallen in love with him Abbey soon found out Fred was not such an easy ride.

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“There was some behavioral stuff I had not signed up for. For example, in the warm up at shows he would have major fits but when we got into the ring he would be perfect.”

Abbey decided to go outside of the box to try and get Fred over some of his behavioral issues. She dispensed with the double bridle and rode him in a snaffle with no flash, she tacked him up in his stall instead of in the crossties, turned him out with a herd of horses and only rode him outside not in the arena.

“I turned his world around and over the next year and a half we formed a great partnership.  We continued on and he saw me through two pregnancies. When I was riding him and pregnant he would not put a foot wrong.”

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Abbey and Fred continued along together and over the years he matured into a senior citizen. At the age of 23, when Abbey had owned him for 13 years ,he began to show some signs of his age. Abbey tried several conventional and also alternative therapies to keep him comfortable. But then he developed an odd wrinkle.

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“He seemed to be having some senile moments.” Abbey told me. ” He was oddly spooky. I gave him a break from work and then started to bring him back. One day when I was riding him, it was quiet with no wind or noises, the ride was going beautifully and then, out of nowhere, I was flying through the air like Superwoman.

On the ground I was laughing and crying at the same time. I cried because I knew it would be my last ride and laughed because it had been the same on one of my first rides. I had flown through the air like Superwoman.

So, I retired him. I did not want to lease him or part board him because I knew that he had finished with the working part of his life. I still lunged him for exercise and brushed him and kept him in the same barn. He was not a horse that could be turned out 24/7. I was so lucky that the owner of the barn, Morgan, treated him like one of his own.”

Fred seemed happy with this arrangement. Then on Sunday September 10, 2017 Abbey got a call.  Fred was colicking. An attack of colic is very serious for a horse and it means that the horse has some intestinal problem, possibly a blockage, or a twist. Sometimes it can resolve on its own but it is very painful for the horse and if it does not resolve it requires a major surgery.  Fred had already had colic surgery before Abbey bought him and had many episodes of colic while she had owned him but most of them had resolved with some pain killer and muscle relaxants. When she got to the stable she could tell by the expression on Morgan and the vet’s faces that this was a very serious episode.

“The colon had prolapsed and at the age of 24, I was not going to send him for a trip of over an hour in the trailer to the veterinary hospital for surgery. This was not a financial decision. I would have remortgaged our family home if I thought it could cure him but I knew at his age he would not survive the surgery and even if he did he would not survive the recovery after surgery. “

The vet gave medication to ease Fred’s pain. Morgan and Abbey sat down outside to talk about what to do. They both hoped that maybe Fred could pull through, just one more time. But it was not to be.

“We had him in the arena to walk him and he dropped to the ground and put all four legs up in the air.” This is a position that horses in severe intestinal pain will adopt to try to ease the pain. They managed to get him up again.

“It’s  time.” The vet said and he and Morgan gave Abbey a final minute alone with Fred.

“He ……” her voice was choked with emotion as she told me this. “He dropped his head onto my chest and I cried out in emotional agony.”

When a horse is euthanized the vet will give a sedative and once sedated he will then inject a massive dose to stop the horse’s heart. The horse will usually collapse to the ground within seconds. This is not at all like having a dog or cat euthanized. Horses are such large, majestic animals and when they go down you have to stand back out of the way and just let them go. And then… they are gone.

“I know it was the right decision to say goodbye. It was the quietest most peaceful send off. He was so ready. Once he was gone I was ok. I drove home at 2 am and did not cry.”

But the next morning her young son Sam came into the bedroom.

“I had woken up and panicked. I’m never going to see Fred again! Sam looked at me and knew something was wrong. I told him Fred was gone and he exploded into tears. He kept saying ‘It’s my fault. It’s because I gave him too many apples on Saturday.’ I said, “Absolutely not. You gave him a wonderful last gift.”

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Like many of us who have lost horses it has not been easy in the days and weeks that followed.

“It has been hard and I have not communicated how much of a difficult time I am having.  When I am at the barn I get flashbacks but each time it gets easier. One day I’m ok then next day I’m not ok. I miss him.”

Abbey is leasing a Grand Prix schoolmaster and also has a young horse coming along. She says that having these horses has helped a lot with her grief. And why is it that losing a horse is such an overwhelming grief? They are not pets. They are not natural companions for humans. We are predators, hunters just like dogs and cats but horses are prey and in nature would flee from predators. But the horse has agreed to be domiciled. The domestication of the horse and humans learning to ride horses changed the course of history for humankind. The relationship with a horse is both a working relationship and a friendship.

“They are amazing beings.” Abbey said. “They give themselves to us and allow us on their backs which is amazing in itself. They don’t have to.”

It is hard to explain the emotional devastation to those who do not ride or have horses Abbey told me. “They can’t feel what I’m feeling so I don’t want to talk about it. And I don’t want to do an ‘over the rainbow bridge’ post on Facebook. I wanted to find a respectable way to let people know. “

When you lose your horse, you lose the dreams that went with that horse. Abbey and her husband had just bought a property with ten acres in the country and they plan to build a small barn for a few retired horses. Fred was to have been one of them.

“My dream was that I would have him, my best friend, in my backyard. That dream died with him. “

 Canción (Fred)—August 1994-September 2017

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59 Comments Add yours

  1. This is a beautiful, heartbreaking story. Thank you for telling it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      It is a story that most horse owners can relate to. Thank you for commenting.

      Like

  2. Joyful2bee says:

    Such a sweet story of horses. I am so sorry for your lost.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I will pass on you’re kind words to Abbey( the owner of Fred). She has been very touched by the reactions of kind hearted people.

      Like

  3. David says:

    It’s a tough, tough moment for anyone who’s had the privilege of being in the company of horses. My daughter, Tara, experienced that long ago. She actually began as barrel racer. At the time, she was riding a paint that belonged to her instructor. They were magic. In their first competition, Jasper slipped on the final turn. Tara, fortunately, only suffered a broken leg. Jasper shattered his front, left cannon bone, just above the fetlock. The fetlock was also badly damaged. It took Tara more than a year to regain her confidence to ride again. (She was only 11 at the time.) When she decided to ride hunter/jumper, Tara was a natural.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I’m so sorry to hear she had this hard life lesson so early. thank you for sharing this.

      Like

      1. David says:

        It’s still in the back of her mind all these years later … she’s 23 now. When she competed with one of her horses coming off a bout of lameness, this past summer, you could tell the Jasper accident was in the forefront of her mind. But, Tara did fine and so did Happy Girl. Happy Girl was a little “what lameness?” 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Irene says:

    Your story brought me to tears. Thanks for friendship with Fred with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you for this kind comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. lulu says:

    What a beautifully told story, Anne.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you. It is sad but it is all part of having horses in your life and there are so many joys with them that the sorrows are worth it.

      Like

  6. Cathy says:

    Lovely posts Anne leueen. Like all. Following your blog. 😊😊👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the posts.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cathy says:

        I sure did! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  7. That was such a beautiful tribute to Fred from Abbey. I kinda got teary eyed as I read it. I can only imagine the tremendous bond and harmony they had with each other in their many years together<3

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you for this very sympathetic comment. Abbey is reading the comments as well so she will see your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautiful tribute to this horse and his girl. 😢

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you. Abbey is reading all the comments and will appreciate yours.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Barbara Raw says:

    Beautiful, moved me to tears, a heart wrenching story, much the same as I went through with my mare a few months ago. Their spirits live on in our hearts xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I am sorry to hear you lost your mare. It is a heartbreaker and I have also been through it myself. Thank you for leaving this sincere comment.

      Like

  10. Tara says:

    This has me in tears. I can’t imagine ever having to go through this but I know one day I will. RIP beautiful boy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I’m afraid it is part of a life with horses. Thank you so much for your comment. Abbey has been reading all the comments and is very touched by them.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. That is heartbreaking!! I am so sorry for your friends loss! A horse is not the same as a pet- they are our partners and friends and losing them definitely is like losing a dream. We can only love them every day because we never really know when their time will come to an end. Mister recently had a bout of colic and even though it was mild and a painkillers helped him, it still was a reminder! Send her my thoughts and well wishes for being able to get through this difficult time and remembering all the good times they had. Having other horses will definitely help her get through it though and to get to a new normal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you so much for your kind and sympathetic words. Abbey is reading the comments and I know she will value yours.

      Like

  12. 03lin19rai16 says:

    Losing a horse is unlike any other loss, because the horse partnership is unlike any other bond. Thank you for sharing. Loss is proof of having a relationship of deep significance. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Yes it is a unique partnership and I am glad you have experienced this as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Arlene Goldman says:

    Oh Abbey I am so sad for your loss. Fred was such a beauty. I’m so sad he did not get to live out a longer retirement in your ‘backyard paddock’. My thoughts are with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This is heartbreaking, and a feeling I know far too well. Condolences to Abbey

    Liked by 1 person

  15. What a beautiful story but also so sad. I’m so sorry for Abbey’s lost. This has been written beautifully though and will stay with me the rest of today. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you. I have asked Abbey to read the comments so I think she will be so touched to see all of them and the outpouring of sympathy.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. This post genuinely brought me to tears. I have never myself lost one of my own horses but I can imagine.. it’s at times like this we have to be most selfless and that is exactly what Abbey was. Thoughts are with her and thank you for such a beautiful post x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Yu are most welcome. I’ve asked Abbey to take a look at all the wonderful comments. She will appreciate them all.

      Like

  17. I am not a horse owner, reading this story I can certainly understand the grief. What a beautiful testimony! Prayers and blessings for Abby!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you! Abbey will be looking at the comments later today and she will appreciate your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. starboundeq says:

    Making that decision to let them go is so hard. I been there mtiple times. I’ve been able to save some and I’ve had to say goodbye. The hardest part is when they have been a partner to you and together you have helped each other grow in a way no other relationship can do. I feel for Abby and I’m happy for her that she has new friends to help her through this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you so much for this comment. I am encouraging Abbey to read the comments as so many horse people, like yourself, have come forward with their sympathy and shared memories.

      Like

  19. (HorseLover4Ever) Elizabeth says:

    I am so sad for you, Abbey… ❤ My love and thoughts are with you and Fred. Thank you for telling us about this, Anne-even though I am filled with grief when I think of Abbey and Fred, what a lovely story this was, of the love and bond Abbey and Fred had!!! ❤ I will remember this story forever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you so much Elizabeth. I will make sure Abbey sees you comment and I know she will be touched.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Avery says:

    It is one of the hardest things. Something that eventually brings all horsemen together. I am so sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Abbey asked me to write something about her loss of Fred because she couldn’t bear the thought of a Facebook post being all that was said about him. The response to this post has been wonderful. As you said it brings horsemen together. We all know and have shared this pain. Thanks Avery, I will pass on your sympathy to Abbey.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Avery says:

        I totally understand what she means. That is why I posted on the blog and use songs for it.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. This post was so lovely and yet so sad. I am so sorry to hear about your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you and just to be clear it was a friends horse that died not mine. She asked me to write something about him as a tribute.

      Like

  22. I lost two horses in quick succession through poisoning and it was devastating. I can relate to your pain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      That is terrible! Abbey asked me to write something about Fred and as a horse owner who has been through it myself I was honored to be able to write this post for her. I will pass on your sympathy to Abbey.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. A very poignant post Anne and I can understand how Abbey feels. I have been around horses for many years and the bond with all the horses I have known was always very strong because the friendships were based on unconditional mutual trust and love. Fred had a good life and he looks like a beautiful soul. A horse’s lifespan is usually a lot shorter than ours even though they live on forever in our hearts. Please pass our best wishes to Abbey and thank you for sharing this beautiful post xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you so much and I will pass on your sympathy to Abbey. She will appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you! The lady who asked me to write the post as a tribute to her horse will be happy that others( and perhaps some non-:orsey people) are seeing it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. dray0308 says:

        You are welcome!

        Liked by 1 person

  24. A beautiful tribute. And it’s true – when we lose a horse, we lose the dreams with them. I lost my heart horse nine years ago (as of Halloween this year). He was only 8. My dreams were that he would grow old with me and after many years of competing together, that one day he would teach my future children to ride. I still miss him terribly, but the sharp edges of the grief do wear down over time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you. I will pass on your comment to Abbey and I know she is very touched by the response to the blog and how many horse people have suffered the same painful loss.

      Like

  25. Jeff Rab says:

    Wonderful, loving, painful, inspiring story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you so much. I am passing on the comments to Abbey to let her know that people have been touched by the story.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. horsewisdom8 says:

    I broke down at ’emotional agony’. I have been in her shoes. When I lost my gelding I expected the Earth to stop rotating. I couldn’t understand why everyone was still going about their business. I was a wreck for the best part of a year, nearly 7 years on I struggle with the loss. So yes ’emotional agony’ is an accurate description. Bless this lady, and her love for her wonderful horse x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you for this beautiful comment.i have been there too! I will pass on your comment to Abbey.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Nilzeitung says:

    Happy End!!!!!!!! (*L*)

    Liked by 1 person

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