Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Terrible Landing In Paradise

(Shiloh and Red during a parade in '03.)

When you have an old horse you always wonder, is this the year I'll lose him? How many times did I wonder that about Red--too many to count.  And, every time I traveled, I worried that it would happen while I was away.

It did.

(Shiloh and Red.)

In my mind, I always wanted to hold him as he passed. Comfort him as he passed.  Thank him and thank and thank him.

This winter was very hard.  It got cold in late November and it hasn't warmed up.  Last month, I found Red down in the snow and he couldn't get up without my help, so I made a decision to keep him stalled.

Yeah, he didn't like that.  Every time I went out, he'd greet me at his gate and demand I open it.  Usually, when the weather was a little better, I would.

But now-- I couldn't.  At least, most days I couldn't.

(Shiloh and Red)

It took 6.5 hours to fly to Hawaii from Portland.

 (Sophie and Red. Sophie at 4. Red 29.)

When we landed, my phone started to receive text after text after text.

(Dear Lord, I'm crying now.  This is so hard to write.)

"We need to call a vet out. Red isn't doing good."
"There is a vet coming. You need to call me ASAP!"
"We have to put Red down."
"We're doing it now."
"His heart rate is at 100 and normal is 40."
"T (my riding friend) is here, too."
"Red was put down."
"Did you get my message?"

(Sophie and Red when Sophie was about 4.)

There were more messages, from friends, but those were from my daughter, Shiloh, who had to make the decision.  Red had started out as her horse, and then became Sophie, my granddaughter's horse, and had lately become Catherine, my younger granddaughter's.

Shiloh never had to make a decision to put a horse down, but she did the right thing.

 (Sophie and Red being ponied behind Cowboy.)

I called Shiloh and the vet was still there, so she handed the phone to her.

"Hi. This is Dr. Pederson.  I'm so, so sorry you're having to hear this. was the right thing to did so well by him to keep him going this long....I've never worked on a horse as old as him....he looked good for his age.... I took his tail hair for you and we send it out to make an angel for you...complimentary.  Yes, there will still be some for you to have to make something else.  ....It was the right decision, we could have done a lot of expensive tests, gut sounds... I've never seen a horse pull out when they've gotten that far."

Of course, I was bawling at that point.  All the other passengers looked very uncomfortable.  We had, after all, just landed in Paradise.

My very first thought was how cursed I was that it would happen then.  Why me?  Why now?  Why Red? But then I wondered, did it happen like this for a reason?  Did I ask too much of Red to make it through this god-awful winter?!?  Did he leave the world when he knew I'd be gone?  Will it be easier for me to mourn his loss in Hawaii--away from it all--with the distraction of the ocean? 

Could I have been there?  

Should I have been there?

 (Sophie riding independently at 6 years old.)

But it was what it was.  Death is so unpredictable.  I had wanted to give him a chance to make it through the winter, and he had been doing pretty well....considering.

(Sophie riding alongside me as I pull one of my youngest granddaughters, Ariana, behind on Red.)

You know how Facebook puts up your memories.  Well, yesterday, the morning after we arrived home, this memory from exactly a year ago came up--Catherine riding Red and Sophie riding Penny.

That was a wonderful, mild winter.  He looked awesome!

The night I got home, I went out to see my herd in the dark.  As you know, we're a family.  We all feel each other.  Cowgirl was laying in the snow, near the round bale.  I dropped to my knees and  hugged and hugged and kissed her.  After that, I went to Cowboy, he was standing, but he moved his muzzle over to my mouth and I kissed and kissed him.

Horses are so emotional.  It was as if they were all telling me of the loss.

Now, we all  have to go on without him.

I'm not sure what that's going to look like yet.

(Red, last month.)

But I'm hoping sadness will turn to happiness and gratitude....  

I'm hoping I can incorporate some part of his character into my own....

Because he was a GREAT one.

**Thank you all for your condolences in the last post.  I haven't been able to respond to your comments yet, but I will.  

**For those wondering how old Red was in human years--like I was, here's a chart that converts it.  Red would have been around 111.

More pics:


  1. Oh I am so sorry Linda! I totally understand what you went through- I was away and Ed could not get in touch with me. I tried to relax but I worried. All was well for me.

    This must have been so hard and such a shock when you landed. (((hugs)))

    All that said, I believe that Red knew it would be too hard for you to be there. I truly do. He loved you and you loved him. What more could anyone ask for.

    1. Thanks, Teresa. Yep, it was a shock. There were so many near misses in his life, I kind of got into thinking he'd always pull through. He was a tough guy.

  2. I have tears in my eyes reading this; Red was truly one of the great ones. ...and so integrated into your family with your daughter and then the granddaughters. You did the right thing; and I can't help but think that maybe he did choose to leave when you were gone. People do that too. What a beautiful horse he was. Hugs.

    1. Thanks, Annette. He really did touch so many lives just in my family, and Red had a family before us, too. It seemed everyone knew him in our area. He was trustworthy at all stages of his life and was a go to horse for beginners. He was even loaned out for a therapeutic program. His reputation proceeded him and we were so lucky to have had a life with him & to then care for him in old age. What a great, great honor...and I miss it.

      Years ago, I wrote a poem about his former owner dropping him off to us. She ran out of the barn crying, got in her car and left. I was amazed & felt so horrible for her. Red stood at the end of his run, for many months, looking up the road that's she'd come down--as if he was waiting to be picked up. I always felt a little like he wasn't mine back then. And, now, here I am letting him go. I'm the same crying woman.

  3. Replies
    1. Me, too. I can't stop. Or, I should say, I stop, but then whenever I think of him, I begin again. When does it end?

  4. Oh Linda, I am so, so very sorry for your loss. It would be hard any which way, it's never easy. You were so blessed to have him in your life ~ and he just as blessed to have you. Make something special ♡ Love & hugs for you and yours! Give those other big guys of yours a hug for me....

    1. You are right when you say I was so blessed--there wasn't a day that I didn't know that. Thank you SO MUCH for your kind words.

  5. Waterworks here too...the coulda/woulda/shoulda sure tear us apart and keep us awake at night. I think it's part of the healing process. I was scarred as a child (lost pets while on vaycay) and still fear for the loss of beloved animal family members when we are gone too. It must have been extremely hard to be so far away, and receive such heart wrenching news. I've never had to make that hard decision with our horses...I hope you find comfort in knowing how much Red was loved & cared for, and that the decision to lay him to rest was made out of love.

    1. I'm so sorry you lost pets when you were away. We did, too. Mish, the Irish Wolfhound I grew up with, died when we were away for the weekend. Our cat also disappeared. We were devastated. So, maybe that is why I always worry when I leave town. I could easily feel sorry for myself, since I'm home 98% of the time, but I'll try not to do that. I was blessed for almost 15 years with him. That's pretty sweet.

    2. You were both blessed, and that is most definitely sweet!!

  6. Family. That's the truth. I'm so very sorry.


    1. Thanks, Bill. Yes, they are definitely family! And they live so long, too!

  7. (((Squeezy Hugs))) my Friend, so sorry for your loss. Shiloh & the girls must also be devastated, & I'm sure you're consoling them too (Moms are always Moms, & thank goodness for that, said by me as a Mom & as a Daughter) - my deepest condolences.

    1. I haven't seen my granddaughters yet, but their mom told them. We're going to their house on Saturday. I hope to have a keep sake piece made for all my girls who loved Red. Shiloh was devastated, the more so for having been there and also having made the decision. She and I spoke a lot while I was gone and we've been together every day since I got back. This experience has made her decide to breed Cowgirl this year. Cowgirl always LOVED Red, and Shiloh wants her to love another horse just as much.

  8. Oh Linda that is so very sad. Sorry I missed your first post on this yesterday.
    37 is a wonderful lifespan for a horse and he surely was loved greatly right to the last moment.
    I always hope that I can be there for the passing of my horses or dogs, and it doesn't always happen but when it does, it helps to ease the grief for some strange reason.

    1. Yes, there would be a happiness knowing I was there to comfort him. My friend was there to help Shiloh--as was the vet--but Shiloh took a while to make the decision because she knew I would want to be there--she knew how much I loved him. She was torn up about it, but the vet didn't think they could keep him alive until I could get home--so the decision had to be made, and she made it. I was sad for Shiloh--that she had to heartache about me AND Red, but that's the kind of person she is. Hey, and I have Red to thank for some of that, too. He molded her in many ways. Red was a big horse--and she was a little girl when we first got him. It took her a while to be able to throw her saddle way up there by herself. I left her to do it one day and I rode off into the arena and didn't watch any of it. I'll never forget the feeling I had when she rode into the arena atop of Red--she'd saddled bridled, and made her way in. From that day forward, she was my INDEPENDENT riding partner! It was glorious!

  9. Oh honey, I'm so sorry...this post has me crying right along with you. I know the loss you're feeling, and it will get easier, and you will start smiling at all those memories that you've got with Red. What a prince he was for your kids, your grandkids - oh bless his heart! Death sucks. I just hate it. It's so damned permanent. But like you said, it is what it is. We can't go back and do things differently, no matter how much we'd like to. I still remember the night we put Kadie down, and I still wish I'd done some things differently. Instead of standing by, I'd sit down and cradle her head in my arms and just tell her again what a blessing she was in my life. Seems like we always do this to ourselves - at the time, we do what we can and then later we condemn ourselves for not doing everything perfectly. But they know! They know how much they were loved and have so much trust in us. They are so much better, and accept death with so much dignity, that we'll always look bad compared to them. You loved Red, and he knew how much. When I look at his pictures, I always think he's just adorable. That cute little face, and those perky little ears, those kind and soft, brown eyes...he lived a charmed life. Wish I could be there and share some stories with you about our beloved horses.

    1. What a sweet comment. I've been reeling a bit, so now I'm coming back to read these again. There is no perfect way to say goodbye. The special care he needed for the last 4 years of his life was my real goodbye. I loved every minute of it and he came to appreciate it. We had a language of our own. I miss speaking it.

  10. It's devastating to lose a horse like Red. He was a sweet boy. he loved you all as much as you loved him. He's at peace now running in green meadows and drinking from crystal streams. He has no pain and is young again making new horse friends where he I'd. He will be watching over his human family and his herd too.

    Beautiful pictures of a wonderful boy.

    1. That's a wonderful thought! I like to picture myself seeing them again. :)

  11. Oh Linda I'm so sorry for your loss. I remember Red very well with him accompanying you on various trail rides usually like as an extra horse for someone to ride over the years. You gave him a good life with him living so many years. He lived longer than most horses on average do. As soon as the weather gets warmer and the snow melts we'll have to meet up for a trail ride. I think you'll love to meet my new horse Artax (new since I last saw you).

    1. Thanks, Alexa! I need to meet Artax. He sounds like a one of a kind golden boy.


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