It has been a tough couple of months in the Johnson house. By tough, I just mean we had to put to two old friends in our horse herd down. Not the way I envisioned us reducing our horse herd.
First was Tuff. Tuff was an Appaloosa gelding named by my niece, Megan, right after the movie “8 Seconds” came out. It fit him just right. He came to us from our friend Marilyn Wachel. In 1994, we went over to buy a foal and he was the first on to walk up to us, I decided that all things being equal…he was for us. We took Tuff and his mama (ended up buying her, too!) to the house and the rest is history. Once I started riding him, he spoiled me for riding two year olds. I compared everything to him after that and nothing measured up. After three days in the round pen I could take him out in the pasture and lope circles as pretty as you please. He just picked things up really fast. He also was a pretty good teacher. I worked him over with spurs pretty good one time (pretty ashamed of myself after, I have taken them off and not worn any since) and he was still willing to do whatever I asked of him. He taught me the word forgiveness, horses don’t have our thought processes…but I learned that if he was still willing after what I did to him……that was forgiveness! Over the years he raised nieces, nephews and my kids. He was always the faithful babysitter. Never giving them more than they could handle, despite the legs flopping up and down on his sides! My girls didn’t ride him as much, but he was always ready whenever they were…didn’t matter how long he had been turned out to pasture. I could get on to ride and he was all vim and vinegar, ready to travel at whatever speed I needed.
About five years ago he came home from my brother-in-laws with eye problems. They had taken him to the vet and were told he had cancer around both eyes. We cared for the issue, but over time it just got worse. Last month I took him in and was told that they would have to take an eye out. I really couldn’t see him wandering around with both eyes out, because I knew that would be the case eventually. So Felicia and I prayed about it and in the best interest of an old friend, we had him put down. He was 18 years old.
This last Tuesday, we took Showtime in with colic. Showtime was a 2 year old miniature that Felicia says was for our girls on their 5th birthday. Over time I have come to realize that it was just her moment of insanity, I mean who in their right mind would own a mini? I laugh at that statement now. When we first got him he was supposed to be a back yard horse (I know, redneck hillbilly), but he wore a trail on the back fence wanting to be with the other horses. So one day, I just turned him loose with the big horses. He never missed a beat and they never bothered him. He ended up being our babysitter for any weanlings we had. Annie was the first and they played together all the time. He used to bite her on the knees and she would drop down on her knees to bite and play with him. In fact the only problem I had with him was that I never could catch the little turd! He would not touch feed if you were within 50 feet of him, always on the lookout. The girls and Felicia could walk up to him anywhere, drove me crazy! He ended up hanging with us for 8 years, a babysitting yard ornament. Last Sunday, we noticed him rolling around a lot and since we had wormed him the week before we thought we better check on him. Good thing we did, he was colicing. We spent all day walking and putting mineral oils in him, to no avail. So Monday morning I loaded him up and took him to the vet, where he spent until Tuesday. Tuesday Dr. Ben told me things were not getting any better, so we went ahead and had him put down. He was 10 years old.
Neither time was easy walking out of that barn, but we (as horse owners) have a responsibility to take care of them. To make decisions based on their best interests and not our own selfish desires. Tuff looked really good, but was in pain and constant irritation. It was our responsibility to make him as comfortable as possible. And if we couldn’t do that, then we had to put him out of his misery. Showtime was a little easier decision to make because he was colicing, he was suffering. I would encourage any horse owner to think of their horse first, make decisions based on what is best for your horse…not you! Is it really fair to keep that poor, skinny 35 year old horse that you can’t keep any weight on? What is their quality of life? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think all old horses need to be put down. My point is, life is hard and sometimes hard decisions have to be made. Make sure you are for the horse and not yourself.