I’M FEELING A bit emotional as I share my Lacey passed away peacefully in her pasture on Nov. 13.
Always a willing, athletic and agile horse, at age 31 she’d been suffering a growing severity of arthritis throughout her joints, especially in her front legs.
While I’m filled with sorrow, I’m also thankful for the more than 20 years I had the privilege of calling this beautiful golden Palomino, with her flaxen white mane and tail, family.
Daily, she brought a smile to my face and was a source of great joy. I’ll forever miss her.
Her death came as surprise, since the days leading up to it she seemed her usual happy self, even frolicking in the pasture a bit the day before. However, I knew she’d been bothered by the increasingly cold nights; her body language asking for her winter blanket by pinning her ears back and motioning with her head to her back. After years together we’d gotten to know each other’s body language fairly well.
That morning was wonderfully warm and sunny. Looking out my family room window I saw her take longer than usual to lay down in the pasture, likely due to pain and stiffness in her arthritic joints.
Once on the ground she rolled on her back — all four hoofs in the air — to scratch it in a seemingly blissful moment before laying on her side and falling asleep.
When I saw her still sleeping soundly a few hours later, I walked out to the pasture to check on her.
It was the first time she’s allowed me to get close to her while laying down. She barely lifted her head as I greeted her with a soft, “Hey Lacey girl,” and began gently stroking her side. I knew she wasn’t well and put in an emergency call to Dr. Melissa Board, who, thankfully, was able to answer.
She asked if I thought Lacey was colicking, a common, and often fatal, condition causing great abdominal pain. I said I didn’t think so. Other than her not coming to her paddock when I fed her breakfast, which happened occasionally since she had pasture grass available 24/7, she hadn’t show signs her belly was in pain, such as repeatedly kicking or biting at her belly, pawing the ground, stretching out to urinate (but unable to), pacing, sweating, having an elevated pulse rate or repeatedly lying down, rolling and getting up (or trying to).
Dr. Board was on her way to see another client’s horse, but, she said she’d get to my house right after she finished. Neighbor and horse owner Kevin Reding happened to be working on the front gate of my neighbors’ across the street, so I asked him to help me try to get Lacey back on her feet, knowing the best thing was to get her up and walking if she was colicking. Together, we tried to help her to stand, but she wasn’t willing to try, so we stopped. I sat next to her, loved and stroked her.
Instinctively I knew she was dying. I believe she chose that sunny day and place, in her pasture, to lay down and die.
Dr. Board arrived about 4:30 p.m. We discussed the situation. She said she could give Lacey some “heavy duty pain meds to see if that would help her get on her feet and hopefully recover.” But, at Lacey’s age, we both agreed it was kinder for Lacey at that time to help her fall into a permanent deep sleep.
I continued stroking Lacey’s head and face until the life in her eyes was gone. I walked away because I didn’t want to see if her body’s muscles did any spasming or movements as it shut completely down. Dr. Board stayed with her.
Later, when I met Dr. Board at her truck to pay the bill, I saw she’d been crying — a good reminder how difficult the process of putting an animal down is for our animal loving veterinarians, too.Lacey was the last of several horses and ponies who I cared for until their death. As I aged, and the debilitating effects of Multiple Sclerosis progressed within me, I’ve been purposefully simplifying my life. Still, I’d love to ride. The greater reason for me not getting another horse now is due to the rapidly rising high cost of food for both humans and animals. I simply cannot afford it. A sad reality for most of us today, isn’t it?
I’ll leave you with my idea of a perfect day. My previous home for almost 20 years was at the end of Olson Road and adjacent to the Cassidy Creek DNR land. I would saddle up Lacey and we’d go long-trotting along the dirt road to our favorite wooded trail, which took us around and back to the dirt road where we’d walk back home. An invigorating and fun hour for both us.
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Saturday of each month.
If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at email@example.com at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.