We had a sad goodbye again, this time to our friend Leo. Leo had been retired with us for seven and a half years. He was definitely a fixture in our lives and at the farm.
Leo's mom giving him a well earned pat after another beautiful round at a show
Leo's loss was something that was planned yet not planned. We had noticed him standing with one of his hind legs placed awkwardly a couple of months ago. There wasn't anything obviously wrong, he would simply stand with his left hind leg slightly to the side which he had never done before. Other than that he looked and acted completely normal.
Leo and his mom hacking at a horse show. Before the helmet nazis get started his mom now wears a helmet for every ride.
We had the vet out to examine Leo, and upon palpating his back we realized he had injured a disc. Treatment was very straightforward. A few days of bute had him completely back to normal. However the vet warned us and his mom that once a horse begins having that type of issue they tend to reoccur, and over time the incidents become more significant. Due to some other factors we all agreed that more aggressive treatment was not appropriate for Leo.
Leo showing us how handsome he was on the first day we met him
Leo's first two buddies at Paradigm Farms, Poco the pony (now deceased), and Sparky the donkey
Leo enjoying his retirement
We made a plan with Leo's mom. If we saw any hints of Leo's hind leg being off to the side we would give him some bute. If bute had things back to normal within a day or two Leo would continue enjoying his retirement. If at any time Leo appeared to be having trouble carrying out his daily activities and keeping up with his friends, or if symptoms progressed despite being on bute, we would make the decision to let him go at that point. We wanted to give him as much time as possible while also avoiding a traumatic situation for Leo. Happily all was well for awhile.
Leo grooming with Homer
Leo grooming with Apollo
Leo and Elfin going for a run
Leo and his mom first met in 2005. She had just come to the end of a lease on a horse and was looking to buy a horse for herself. She had tried a few horses and not found the right fit. Leo's mom and her trainer were at a horse show when they met Leo. Leo was a Dutch warmblood who had just converted to the hunter ring after showing through 4th level as a dressage horse. Although he had only been jumping for six months, he acted like he had been doing it forever.
Leo going for a run around the pond at my parents' Windy Hills Farm
Levendi, Leo and Trigger relaxing
His mom's trainer showed her the horse she was going to be trying, and his mom thought Leo was so beautiful she snuck over to where he was stabled to admire him. As she watched him munching hay in his stall her thought was that she couldn't believe she was going to get to ride this beautiful horse, much less possibly own him. Her trial rides on Leo could not have gone any better. She instantly felt at home him with him, both riding him and being around him. A couple of days later Leo was officially hers, and ten years ago they became a team.
Leo and his best buddy Chance
Leo and Chance
Leo and Chance having a grooming session
Leo and his mom had six wonderful months together before they entered an extended period of rehab. His mom took him to a few horse shows and Leo was always foot perfect, and his mom always had a great time. Leo was truly the perfect hunter. He was beautifully trained on the flat thanks to his extensive dressage background, and he would pick up a canter rhythm in his opening circle and keep that exact rhythm all the way around the course. He was a beautiful jumper and also a beautiful mover, so he won the hacks as well as being a winner over fences.
Leo and Chance
Thomas and Leo
Leo and Chance
After they had their perfect first six months together Leo began to colic one day. It quickly became apparent that his colic was serious, and he was immediately taken to surgery. Two things were learned during Leo's colic surgery. The first was that he had a strangulating lipoma causing his colic, and it was removed. The second thing they learned during Leo's colic surgery was that this was not his first surgery. There were very obvious signs that he'd had colic surgery before, also for a strangulating lipoma.
Leo and Chance
another great day of retirement
Leo, Chance, Rip and Ritchie
Leo and Moe playing
Moe and Leo playing
Leo and Hemi having a nap
After six weeks at the clinic Leo was finally fully healed and ready again for a slow return to work. During one of his first rides it became apparent that one of his front legs was bothering him. This was something of a mystery since Leo had been out of work and largely stall bound for over five months. Diagnostics revealed a suspensory injury. This injury was on the leg that was noted to have some scar tissue during a pre-purchase ultrasound. However the sellers said he had "never had any issues with that leg." Since Leo was sound and in work at the time they took them at their word. However, here he was with a torn suspensory in that very leg.
Leo playing with Grand
Leo playing with Elfin
Less than a week after being cleared to return to work after five plus months of rehab for colic surgery and subsequent complications, Leo's mom began the 18 month process of rehabbing him from his suspensory injury. Leo's mom did everything right. She took longer than she needed to take for every phase of his rehab, and when Leo was ready to return to work she sent him to a rehab facility for him to use the aqua-tread. His mom said the only time she ever saw the whites of Leo's eyes was the first time he was on the aqua tread. She said when the owner of the rehab facility turned the aqua tread on and Leo found himself in deep water on a moving treadmill, he panicked. Leo's version of panicking was to show the whites of his eyes, breathe heavily, and look scared. The owner of the facility talked quietly to Leo and within a minute he was happily walking along on the aqua tread.
Leo grazing on a pretty fall day
Ritchie and Leo
During the entire period of stall rest, hand walking, and then tack walking, Leo never needed a drop of sedation. He was always the perfect gentleman. Finally, after 18 long months, Leo was cleared to return to full work. His mom slowly brought him back to full flat work. After a few months they began jumping very small jumps, nothing bigger than two feet. Leo and his mom attended a couple of horse shows, still showing over small jumps, and all seemed to be going well. Leo was back to his old self, jumping around in a rhythm, taking wonderful care of his mom.
Leo and Chance
Leo and Trigger
One day when Leo and his mom were schooling on the flat at home, he took a few steps that felt very funny. The vet was called immediately. It was the same leg, the one the sellers said had never given him any trouble, the one his mom had just spent more than 18 months rehabbing after rehabbing him for 5 plus months after colic surgery. His mom said she knew that he would be retired as soon as it was confirmed that it was the same suspensory in the same leg bothering him. That was over seven and a half years ago, and when we met Leo.
Leo giving a "wheeeee" buck as he, Levendi and Apollo run through the pasture
Chance, Levendi, Leo and Moe
Leo lived in our local area so he only had a short trip to our farm. He immediately began working the crowd, shaking hands, kissing babies and influencing horses. I always said Leo was the ultimate politician, he was always trying to broker a deal or be a sphere of influence. Over time he became part of the establishment at Paradigm Farms, and Chance became his main friend. Leo was really picky about who he would hang out with most of the time. Leo wanted a friend that was content for him to make all of the decisions. "We're going to graze here. We're going to hang out over here. We're going to take a nap here." This arrangement worked well for both Leo and Chance. When Leo wanted to play with another horse he would park Chance somewhere and go play for a few minutes. Then he would go back over to Chance and resume making all decisions for both of them.
Leo grazed, napped, galloped, played and groomed with his friends for almost eight years. He had a wonderful retirement until the disc issue appeared. As I mentioned, we had laid out some guidelines with Leo's mom for treatment and decision making. Everything was fine for a couple of months. A couple of times we would notice the left hind placed a little bit to the side, we would give him bute for a day or two, and then everything would be normal for awhile. We noticed his leg to the side last week, and per usual we gave him some bute. However the next day the leg was a little farther to the side. It was getting worse instead of better despite the bute. The day he wasn't quite keeping up with the horses we called his mom and the vet, and we all agreed it was time. We all wanted to avoid allowing the situation to escalate to a trauma scenario where Leo was down and couldn't get up, and we were clearly heading towards that scenario.
We let Leo go peacefully in his pasture with his friends nearby. Leo obviously knew this day was coming as it was apparent he had made advance arrangements for his best buddy Chance. One of our recent additions, Convey, also a chestnut gelding like Leo, immediately stepped in to fill the role of Chance's friend. Leo the politician was like that, he was always brokering deals and making arrangements. He liked to have a say in everything that went on.
We were blessed to have Leo in our lives for seven and a half years. Leo was beyond lucky to have his mom for the last ten years. He could not have asked for more from his human. After only getting to enjoy Leo from the saddle for six months, she then spent two years rehabbing him through his various issues before giving him a long and wonderful retirement. Leo took advantage of her generosity and enjoyed every minute of his retirement.
After almost eight years with Leo it is strange not to have him cavorting in the pasture. He is undoubtedly still brokering deals and kissing babies, making sure he has a hoof in everything that is going on. I imagine he is trying yet again to convince Poco the pony that he wants to concede all of his decision making to Leo. Poco didn't want to do it over seven years ago and I'm sure he doesn't want to now. I'm also sure Leo is still trying, he really liked to get his way.
Rest in peace Leo, we miss you.