Thursday, May 9, 2013

In Memory of Chili

We said goodbye to a grand old man today. Chili was 35 years old and had a wonderful, long life with the best owners any horse could ever hope for. Over the course of the last several months it seemed that Chili had moved from one health issue to another, with the latest being treated for EPM in late March and early April. Chili had the most ideal response you could ask for during the course of his treatment and his symptoms completely went away. 

Unfortunately in the last 24 hours Chili entered a hard and severe downhill slide in an EPM relapse, with this go around appearing to be much worse than the first one. When Jason and I discussed the situation with his owners we all kept circling around to the same question. We could treat Chili again and hope for another great response to treatment, but should we?  He had bounced back from a few different things over the past several months, should we ask him to do it again? In the end we all decided that he was 35  years old, his body was simply wearing out, and it was time. It was time to say goodbye and stop asking anything more from his tired body. Although Chili still acted young in spirit his body was simply not keeping up with him anymore.

It is always amazing to me how the horses have a way of letting us know they agree with our decision when we are struggling to find the right answer. Despite his very wobbly hind legs Chili cheerfully ate his breakfast as usual this morning. Jason made the call to the vet to finalize arrangements for giving Chili a peaceful passing today.  One minute Chili was happily grazing away, causing Jason and I to momentarily question our decision about letting him go vs. treating him again, when he laid down quietly and told us he did not want to get back up when we asked him. The vet arrived about 15 minutes later. It is amazing how the horses always seem to know when we are conflicted and wondering if we have made the right decision. Without fail they have always given us a sign, a way to show us that it was ok, and they are ready. It is truly a gift to us and Chili kindly gave us that gift today.

Chili spent much of his life in Colorado. He was a ranch bred Quarter Horse with a big CE brand on his left shoulder. His purpose in life was to work cattle. The only problem with this was apparently Chili did not like cows.  The first time Chili's owners saw him his cowboy owner at the time was literally riding him through the town in Colorado where they had their ranch.  Apparently a conversation was started with his cowboy about him, and as it turned out they were looking to move Chili on to a new home where working cattle was not part of his job description. 

That year was 1993 and Chili found the perfect job with his new family. Chili safely carried them over some truly demanding trails in the Colorado mountains. Just as they were told Chili was smart, sensible, sure-footed, and afraid of nothing . . . except cows. His mom said the only time she ever had a nervous moment on him was when they were on a narrow, steep trail when Chili spotted a cow and began flying backwards! Thankfully they both survived the incident unscathed.

When Chili arrived at our farm many years ago he came with his friend Clay. By the time Clay passed 18 months ago they had been friends for almost 20 years.  Chili and his friend Clay had a lot in common, they were both chestnut Quarter Horses and they were both very wise old souls.  One time a few years ago Chili did not come up for breakfast with the rest of his group. We were very concerned about what we might find as we set off through the pasture looking for him, even at that point he was already a very elderly horse.  

We finally found Chili standing quietly in the woods and there appeared to be not a thing wrong with him. Of course this led us to the question of why was he just standing there quietly instead of coming to eat?  As we took in the scene we realized that Chili had somehow managed to step in a thick vine and he could not get his front leg out. Instead of panicking and causing the situation to deteriorate further (any horse person can think up all kinds of things that could have made that situation get ugly fast) Chili just stood there calmly waiting for someone to help him out. We managed to get him extracted from the vine and Chili looked like a chestnut streak as he madly galloped across the pasture to join  his friends for breakfast.

I don't ever remember Chili having a bad day. He was always a happy horse. The one thing Chili really disliked was his annual spring body clip. It is hard to believe that just last week I body clipped Chili and this week he is gone.  Chili never did anything mean or grumpy while I was clipping him, he would just constantly twitch, shift his weight, stomp at a fly, step forwards or backwards, things like that. Of course he did all of this with his ears forward and with a happy expression. 

Jason was forever making the comment that Chili looked like he was smiling. Almost every time we were around Chili Jason would always say "look, Chili is smiling."  Jason was also quite convinced that Chili talked with a slow Texas drawl and prefaced everything he said with "in Texas this is how we ."  Like clockwork I would always say that Chili had spent most of his life in Colorado and not Texas but this never seemed to matter to Jason. 

We will both miss Chili and his Texas drawl. However he was blessed to live a long, happy life with a family who loved him and provided him with the best of everything. He led a life well lived which is all any of us can ask for. Rest in peace Chili, and keep telling 'em how it was done in Texas.



Chili with his friends Clay and Fuzzy in the two pictures below. All three of them are deceased now.

Clay and Chili

happily grazing with his friends

 he enjoyed a pretty ideal retirement

Chili and Dutch

Chili and Wiz having an early morning grooming session

Chili on the run last fall

Chili leading the way in for dinner

Chili and Fuzzy

Chili, Wiz and Dutch

Chili and Sebastian, Chili had quite the swayback the last few years 

he never acted his age

Chili and friends emerging from the woods

Chili and Johnny

Sam and Chili


Anonymous said...

I am sorry for the loss of such a fine old horse - my sympathies to you and his family.

IsobelleGoLightly said...

A lovely tribute to a grand old horse. It's wonderful that in his life he had owners and caregivers that gave him everything a horse could wish for (except for the body clipping). A good, long life...a peaceful and painless end. You and his owners have given him a great gift.

jane augenstein said...

What a great tribute to a wonderful horse! Rest in Peace, Chili!

RiderWriter said...

I'm so sorry for your and Chili's family's loss. You wrote a beautiful tribute to him. I appreciate you sharing the good news that the horses really do seem to tell you when it's time, and bless Chili for giving you that assurance. Rest in peace, old man.

Lauren @ She Moved To Texas said...

RIP Chilli.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

This post got me a little bit. :(

The most carefree hours I ever spent in the saddle, were in the years I was privledged to ride a noble chestnut quarter horse gelding named Cowboy.

Many long winter rides on the beach with not another soul in view... just me and him. Totally trustworthy and kind, (gave me my first horse hug), though not above galloping until he felt like stopping.

Cowboy is also approaching the end, and due to ridiculous human behavior, I most likely won't get to say goodbye to him. So instead, I say rest in peace to Chili, and all fine, wise, lovable old chestnut quarter horses. Godspeed to you.

lytha said...

you're right it's a gift they give you when they help you with the decision. i don't think horses know what we're thinking, but maybe sometimes they tap that ability, when they need it. i think you should write a book because you have insights into horses that few of us have. maybe when you retire someday, you'll write it!