Thursday, November 12, 2015

In Memory of Silky

We recently lost our oldest resident on the farm, he was 41 years old at the time of his passing. It is hard to say that you weren't expecting it when a 41 year old pony passes, but in some ways it was a genuine surprise. He was feisty, bossy and active right up until his last day. His name was Silky, but we always called him Slinky. It all began when the shipper that was bringing him to our farm called to let us know that he would be there at X time with Slinky, and from then on we always thought of him as Slinky. 

Silky, otherwise known as Slinky


Slinky was a very lucky pony, having spent most of his life being a part of the same family, teaching both of their daughters how to ride. He was a grandson of the famous pony stallion Cymreag Rainbeau who was a prolific sire of many famous hunter ponies. Slinky found his way to well known hunter trainer Jack Towell's barn as a young pony. It was there that his family found and purchased him for their oldest daughter.  

Slinky and Baby acting frisky

Slinky grazing with friends Lucky and Snappy

Slinky and Lucky


Slinky and his young charge showed in the pony hunters for awhile. He never ribboned in the conformation classes and rarely in the under saddle classes, however he tended to shine over fences. An incident when he was at a trainer's barn in Colorado left him with a severely injured left front leg. The injury was so severe it was partially severed. His family sent him to the University of Florida vet school so he could have the best of care from a team of veterinarians around the clock. He was there for three months. He was still unsound when he left the university clinic. His family turned him out in a friend's pasture for a couple of years, assuming his career was over.

Silky and Lucky

fall grazing

Pony sized blankets often come in colors that little girls like. Jason always called him "Slink in Pink" whenever Slinky had his blanket on.


After Slinky had been turned out for a couple of years their younger daughter was in need of a pony to ride to help her build her confidence.  They'd had a hard time finding the right pony, and everybody started wondering if Silky might be up for the job. Silky was pulled from his pasture, and amazingly he was sound. He and their younger daughter immediately became a team.

Slinky

Slinky grooming with Lucky

Snappy and Slinky enjoying some down time


Slinky and his new young rider became a force to be reckoned with as a pair. They won extensively, especially in the pony equitation and medal classes. Silky and his young rider were so unbeatable over fences that a competing trainer formally petitioned to have Silky banned, claiming he exceeded the maximum height for a large pony. No one could beat them in the ring, so they tried to find a way to just keep him from competing at all. Slinky was re-measured, and was found to be under the maximum height for a large pony. He and his young rider continued their winning ways despite the attempt to derail their partnership.

Silky, second from right, grazing with his friends

"Slink in pink" grazing with Duesy and Lightning

Silky grooming with Snappy


After the younger daughter outgrew Silky, he was returned to semi-retirement. After taking care of both of their daughters the family was not interested in selling him. They would occasionally let people borrow Silky if they had a child that needed a confidence boosting pony to ride, but he always returned to his family, who at this point had their own farm where he lived.

enjoying a nap with Snappy

Silky, far right, enjoying a spring day with Lucky and Lightning

Silky


We first met Silky not quite 8 years ago. His family had sold their farm and he had gone to a family friend's farm to live out his days. The friend was a world class endurance rider, and Slinky was living with her internationally competitive Arabians. For some reason Silky decided he didn't like living with this group of Arabians.  He expressed his unhappiness by terrorizing the world class endurance Arabians he was supposed to be babysitting. They were terrified of Silky. He would literally chase one of the horses down in the pasture and pin them in a corner and start kicking. When his behavior continued to worsen instead of improve Silky had to go, and he had to go now. His family had already retired a couple of their other horses with us when they sold their farm, and they begged us to take Silky in as they had to move him immediately. We said yes.

Silky hanging out with Lucky and Snappy

Silky, Lightning (also an Arabian, but apparently Silky liked this Arabian), Lucky and O'Reilly hanging out this summer

Snappy and Slinky galloping through the pasture two years ago; he was 39 in this picture


That was coming up on 8 years ago. We weren't sure what to expect when the shipper called and let us know he was a couple of hours away with "Slinky."  We anxiously awaited the arrival of our fire breathing pony-dragon.  His entrance into our lives was not nearly as dramatic as were expecting. He walked quietly off the trailer and into a stall. He seemed a little reserved and defeated, but he was very polite. He had a sheet on, and when I pulled it off to get a good look at our new charge I was quite surprised to see a really skinny pony lurking underneath that blanket. He was thin enough that we had the vet out for him the next day to check him over, run some bloodwork, and run a fecal. Nothing amiss was found, and we think it was simply the stress from him being so unhappy with his prior living arrangements. No one could ever figure out why he took such a strong dislike to the little herd of Arabians.

Silky on the run

Silky and  Lightning, his Arabian pal at our farm

Silky and Lightning


Given that Silky was already in his early 30's when we met him, we were certainly not expecting to have a long term relationship with him. However Silky seemed to be ageless (except for his teeth, his teeth definitely gave away his age). Although he made sure his horse friends new he was the boss, he was never overly aggressive or inappropriate in any way in his interactions with other horses at our farm. He gained back a lot of much-needed weight, and continued to carry on with life on his terms. He grazed, groomed, played, napped and generally did whatever he felt like doing. 

Slinky and Duesy galloping through the pasture this past April; he was 41 years old when this picture was taken

Lightning, Noble, Silky and Lucky

A few years ago it became apparent that Silky had largely outlived his molars, and he began coming in to a stall for a few hours each day to eat hay cube mash. After a couple of days, once he knew what his new routine was, he would be waiting for us at the gate each morning. We would dump his mash into his bucket, open the gate to his pasture, and Silky would escort himself to the second stall on the right. When he was done you only had to put a hand on his neck and walk with him to the pasture. He was always smart like that. Once he new the routine he didn't need any guidance, he just put himself wherever he needed to be. If he'd had the ability to open and close gates and stall doors he wouldn't have needed us at all, he would have just put himself in and out. 

As the years passed and Silky continued to march through life looking amazingly sound and being very healthy, it began to feel as though he were ageless. Each year we would wonder if it might be our last one with Silky. When he made it to 38 we really began to wonder, but aside from his teeth and the extensive grey hairs on his face he looked and acted like he was 5. Then  his 39th year came and went, as did his 40th, and Silky was still bossing everyone around in his pasture. Finally, as he neared the end of his 41st year, his time came. 

Silky went from acting like a youngster to needing us to make "the" decision in the span of a day. We knew things were not good when he wasn't waiting to greet us at the gate to escort himself to his stall for his mash. Instead he was down in the pasture, looking very uncomfortable. We immediately loaded him on the trailer and rushed him straight to the vet clinic, we weren't waiting for a vet to get to us. Sadly, all of the news was bad; vital signs, gut sounds, blood work, rectal exam, reflux from the ng tube that was passed, the news kept going from bad to worse. When the pain began getting dramatically worse despite pain medication, we made the only reasonable decision there was to make, which was to let him go.  He was only a few months shy of 42 years old.

I have visions of Silky now alternately terrorizing some Arabians up in horse heaven, and then baby sitting a scared little rider and teaching them how to jump a course of jumps. Whatever Silky is doing, he is doing it by living his motto of go big or go home. Rest in peace Silky, we miss you.

9 comments:

IsobelleGoLightly said...

What a wonderful tribute to a fantastic pony.

EvenSong said...

So sorry for the loss to all those who cared for Silky. Hugs.

An American in Tokyo said...

Wow, what a long, long life!!
I'm sure he enjoyed the last quarter of his life in retirement at your farm. :D

Rest in Peace, Silky!!

Kate said...

What an amazing story, and an amazing pony! My condolences to you and Silky/Slinky's family. Love the Slink in Pink . . .

the7msn said...

The "obituaries" you write for your residents always leave me in tears, but they also leave me heartened to know that an owner allowed them to live out their lives in the peace and happiness of your pastures. All horses should be so lucky.

RuckusButt said...

I never thought of Slinky as a pony. Of course I've seen his photos over the years, and looking at them on this post today, I see it. I guess his presence made him larger than he was :) Ever since your first "Slink in Pink" post way back, every time I saw him in a picture, my brain would think "Slink in pink!" even when he wasn't in a blanket. He lived a blessed life with such great owners and Paradigm looking after him his whole life. His owners are exceptional, even among the great people who retire their horses with you. That is a big commitment and they did so right by Silky.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Ugh - you got me again Melissa. I adore your tributes but they always tear me up. Thanks for sharing Slinky's story. Sounds like a life well lived :D

Lori Skoog said...

Slinky was a very beautiful boy and had such a good life with you. Thanks for the care you give to all your charges.

RiderWriter said...

I don't know why I read these.... I ALWAYS wind up bawling. Well, I guess I do know why - they're sad but it always does my heart good to read about equines that have been as loved and cared for as the horses and ponies in your charge. Rest in peace, "Slink in Pink." What a marvelous long life and lucky pony!