Although no one wants to spend time around a holiday saying an unexpected goodbye, we ended up having to do that with Darby on Wednesday. Darby had a host of health issues that had been manageable for several years, the most notable ones being Cushings/PPID and EMND (Equine Motor Neuron Disease). We had noticed some very small changes in Darby's habits in the last couple of weeks, and when things started coming to a head in the last couple of days we made the decision with his mom to let him go.
Darby a few years ago with his mom
Darby was a thoroughbred gelding who started his life at the track. After what would best be described as an unimpressive few starts at the track he found his way to an eventing barn. While he was at that barn he found his way into his forever family. Originally Darby was tried by his mom's daughter as she was looking for a horse to lease. However she was 5'10" and Darby was not a tall horse, so his future mom ended up trying him instead. They got along well and his mom purchased him.
Darby on his first day with us checking out Jo the goat
Darby looking very alert out in the pasture
Quite a few people had ridden Darby at the barn he was at prior to being purchased by his mom. He was not a horse that did well with a lot of different riders and as a result he came with a lot of baggage. At times he was unwilling to work and he was already to fight when pushed to do something he didn't want to do. It took a long time and a lot of patience from his mom but eventually they built up a mutual trust and a strong relationship. She learned that he was not the type of horse you could force to do anything, that never ended well, and that he thrived on praise.
A few pictures of Darby with his beloved Ogie, the very first horse he attached himself to at Paradigm Farms.
People in carts on the golf course tried to round him up but of course that only scared him further. He galloped across the greens and jumped the same fence again to get out of the golf course. He then proceeded to gallop up the road towards the interstate. Meanwhile back at the barn everyone had mobilized. Some people were trying to keep track of where Darby was going, others were hooking up a trailer and another boarder was trying to stop traffic on the road.
As Darby galloped down the road he thankfully chose not to get on the interstate and instead wound up in a school yard right next to Taco Bell. Hence Darby's "run for the border!" At that point he finally stopped running and just waited to be rescued. Moments later someone arrived with a trailer, Darby was loaded, and he made it back to the barn unscathed.
After Ogie passed Darby attached himself to Alex for the last three years. Below are a few pictures of Darby hanging out with his special friend Alex.
Coming out of the woods on a summer day with Alex
napping in the sun with Alex
Darby came to Paradigm Farms a little over four years ago. We learned a tremendous amount from Darby in the last four years. Maybe the most important lesson we learned was that sometimes we have to accept that we cannot make every horse look perfect no matter how hard we try. Darby's weight was a constant struggle and we definitely went all "mad scientist" in the feed room trying to come up with the perfect feed for Darby.
What we finally had to learn with Darby was that managing his mental health had to come first before anything physical was going to change. Darby originally came to us on phenobarbitol to manage seizures and help with his anxiety. We found him to still be an incredibly anxious horse and started working with our vet for other options for him. We finally settled on fluphenazine and he lived very happily on it for the last few years. I once told his mom that if Darby was a person he be famous for his creativity and works of art, and he would also live with his therapist literally on speed dial.
Darby on the run with Alex and B-Rad
enjoying a good roll
meal time with Alex and B-Rad
During our time with Darby we learned the same lessons that his mom did. We couldn't make Darby do anything he didn't want to do, be it standing for the farrier, having a bath, or anything else. We had to arrange the circumstances so that Darby was happy to participate in whatever we were trying to do, otherwise the results were disastrous. Darby was a really insecure horse and was at his happiest when out in the pasture with his friends. The moment we interfered and removed him from the pasture his anxiety would go up exponentially. We learned the key to Darby's happiness was that whomever was serving as his BFF at the time could not be more than six inches away regardless of what you were doing with Darby. Originally he attached himself to Ogie,and after Ogie passed he immediately attached himself to Alex. So we made sure that Ogie, and then Alex, was standing about six inches away for every farrier appointment, grooming session, vet appointment or dental appointment Darby ever had at our farm over the last four years.
Darby, Alex and B-Rad
hanging out with Lighty and B-Rad
grazing with Alex and B-Rad
I think the person who cannot be recognized enough in Darby's story is his mom. She was incredibly devoted to him and nursed him through many injuries and illnesses in their years together. I've always said that Darby in many ways was like a cat with nine lives, except without his mom he wouldn't be have had his nine chances. She learned how to work with his quirky personality and bring out the best in him. Darby has never wanted for anything in the 15 years he has been with his mom. No matter what we ever asked for in the four years Darby lived with us his mom was never anything but gracious as she granted our requests, and at times we asked for a lot.
Since we set our routine around Darby when we were feeding or doing other things with his group we have felt a little bit lost since his passing. I told Jason I felt like I didn't even know where to start when feeding his group without him since of course we always started with Darby. Everything is so different without Darby's presence.
We knew on Tuesday afternoon that something was really, really wrong when Darby was off by himself and not with Alex. In the four years we had known Darby he didn't ever do anything by himself. We didn't even wait for the vet to come, we just loaded him on the trailer and took him straight to the clinic. That was how alarming his behavior was. Less than 24 hours later we made the decision to let him go. We knew his various health issues were finally reaching their tipping point. Although we probably could have waited a week or two it would have been to ease our guilt and not to make Darby feel better. With some supportive care from the vet he had perked up some but he was still dull and listless and his bloodwork held no good news. If there were two adjectives we would never use to describe Darby dull and listless would top the list. It was time, and he was ready.
I have no doubt that Darby has again welded himself to his beloved friend Ogie who passed a few years ago. The one thing I know for sure is that Darby isn't doing anything by himself. Rest in peace Darby, your antics and escapades will be remembered by many.
grazing with Alex and B-Rad
galloping through the pasture
nap time; Darby is in the very middle flat out on his side
A sight we saw often with Darby, taking off through the pasture with his feedbag still on
trotting through the pasture with B-Rad
Darby's ears got adorably fuzzy in the winter. I tried every year to take a picture that captured them in their fuzzy cuteness but I never quite succeeded.
Light, Alex and Darby
grazing with Alex on a pretty fall day
hanging out with Jason on a rare snow day
napping with Alex and Sam
Darby and friends coming out of the woods
grazing with friends
Darby on the run
Darby with Alex and B-Rad