To that end there were a couple of relevant comments made in the post about Trillion (all of your kind comments were very much appreciated, they really do give your spirits a lift). One was that this must be one of the worst parts about having a retirement farm. Truer words could not be spoken. As Kate said in her comment, every horse has to leave us at some point. We go through this more than once each year. Many of the retirees here are young and retired due to injury, but of course there is an aging population here as well. When you have a high number of horses in their 20's and early 30's death is inevitable. It is also inevitable with younger horses retired due to injury as quality of life issues usually come into play at some point. To be really frank, it gets worse every time. After the first time you know what to expect and what is coming. You know how hard it will be, and making the decision to euthanize an animal is something that does not come easily to Jason or to me. Feeling like I am playing God is not something that I enjoy.
I experience the same aftermath each time. The sadness, the feeling of loss, reliving your decisions trying to be sure you made the right ones. I can truthfully say I don't think we have ever made the wrong choice when it comes to euthanasia. However the most lingering effect for me is the paranoia. When you are surrounded by a happy, healthy horses every day it is easy to get lulled into a sense of complacency thinking that nothing will change and they will all live forever. Then something happens such as with Trillion to remind me of how fast things can change. Now tiny things send me into an instant panic. For example, this morning when I was feeding one of the groups Snappy wasn't standing at the gate waiting. I think my heart rate immediately shot up to like 180 or something as I thought "Oh my gosh he isn't here, something has happened, I can't deal with this again . . . " I ready myself for a frantic search for Snappy only to realize he is standing behind one of the hay feeders, partially blocked from sight, happily eating hay. It will take awhile for the paranoid, somewhat irrational responses like that to subside.
Someone asked about how the horses handle it and the effect on herd dynamics. For the other horses left behind when one of their herd members passes it is quite painless for them. The herd hierarchy doesn't really change. Trillion was the alpha in his group so everyone simply moved up a spot, no drama at all. One of the mares retired with us, Harmony, originally travelled to us from Canada with another horse, Lacy. Harmony and Lacy had the same owner and these two horses had lived together for something like 15 years. They were VERY bonded to each other. They made the trip from Canada sharing a box stall in the trailer. They had to share a stall together in the barn. Being physically separated from each other was cause for major hysteria. The only way they could come in the barn was to be led in together, and they had to be put in cross ties looking directly at each other or put in the same stall. However when Lacy passed away Harmony never missed a beat. She moved on with her herd and never looked back, we were genuinely shocked at how easy it was for Harmony to move on. It has been two years and Harmony just picked another herd member to become hysterically bonded with. I think that is the advantage of living in a group instead of just with 1 or maybe 2 companions.
I guess the summary of all of that rambling is that it is a lot harder on the humans than the horses when death happens. Well, what a downer of a post. I hope everyone has a nice weekend. I am hoping for extremely quiet and uneventful around here.
Harmony and MyLight
Elfin and Leo