Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In Memory of Trillion

Monday was a very hard day, not at all the day I had planned out in my mind. It started out in the same manner that it has for the last two years, walking to the barn with Trillion standing at the gate watching me. Trillion was the alpha horse in his group, and since I always feed his pasture first he was the first horse I interacted with every day since he arrived almost two years ago.

Trillion grazing with the rooster

I went about my usual preparations, filling my soaking buckets with hot water, scooping feed into feedbags, etc. As I prepare the first round of feed I'm always looking at Trillion and friends since they are often in my line of sight. I saw another typical scene, Trillion reminding Asterik that he is not going to jump the line and be fed first. It seemed to be a pleasantly routine start to the day.

L-R Faune, Winston and Trillion

As I was finishing the last of my food prep I looked out at the boys again. Instead of standing in his usual position with his head over the gate as he had been, Trillion's head was down, nose almost touching the ground. All of a sudden it seemed that something was not quite right with Trillion. I walked over with the feedbags and Trillion lifted his head up so I could put his feedbag on, but he did it without his usual enthusiasm. I put the rest of the feedbags on, walked back to Trillion, and he was just barely picking at his food. I immediately took him into the barn. He did not really act very distressed, no pawing, he never tried to lie down, he just wanted to stand there with his head down.

One of his favorite activities, a good roll

Amy carried on feeding horses while Jason and I looked after Trillion. His temperature was normal but his heart and respiratory rates were elevated. Something was definitely bothering him so we called the vet clinic. Luckily one of our main vets happened to be very close by and was at the farm within 20 minutes. While we waited Trillion just stood quietly. When the vet arrived we got bad news right away. He said he could not hear any gut sounds at all on right side and almost none on the left. Jason immediately went to hook the trailer up while the vet pulled blood. The vet left to go back to the clinic and start the blood work while we got Trillion on the trailer and went to the clinic. Trillion walked right on the trailer and we were at the clinic shortly.

I never could capture his big, floppy ears in a picture

More diagnostics followed at the clinic with an exam including rectal palpation and a thorough ultrasound. More bad news followed the examination. The two vets who were examining him were very confident based on the extensive ultrasound and palpation that Trillion was experiencing lipoma strangulation. Lipomas are not uncommon in horses, basically they are fatty tumors that form internally. Sometimes these tumors can have long stalks that can twist around back onto themselves, and 'strangle' anything that they wrap around, which in Trillion's case happened to be his intestines. The only thing that puzzled everyone at the clinic was how Trillion was acting. He never did anything other than stand quietly and act lethargic. I told them that although Trillion had a big personality he was definitely not a drama queen.

Napping with Sebastian while Asterik stood watch

The only way to treat lipoma strangulation is through surgery, both to remove the lipoma(s) and to potentially resection any of the damaged intestines. At almost 25 years old, even though he was perfectly healthy otherwise, no one was going to put Trillion through that. We decided to go ahead and try to treat him medically (vs. surgically) on the chance that he was experiencing an impaction and not a strangulating lipoma. Trillion was started on IV fluids, tubed with oil and water, given some medications, and then there was not a lot to do except see how he responded.

I remember taking this picture last summer. Trillion was napping with his head resting on the fence. His head kept slowly sliding down and pulling on his bottom lip.

Trillion never showed any pain response at all except lethargy. The vets said I must have seen the very beginnings of it since he was acting so perky and normal at the gate one minute, and when I looked out the next minute he was acting lethargic. He probably turned his body just right that the lipoma was pulled tight and the discomfort set in instantly. He continued to decline at the clinic despite the medications and fluids. He did not act any differently but all of his vital signs were getting worse, with his pulse rate going higher and higher. Within about four hours it became very clear that he absolutely did have a strangulating lipoma and that surgical intervention was the only treatment option. Despite the fact that Trillion was getting IV fluids his gums and tongue were starting to turn purple from dehydration. Trillion's entire system was being cut off by the lipoma and nothing was getting through.

Trillion enjoyed every minute of retirement

At that point a decision had to be made. Although Trillion had been very stoic through everything the vets said it was only a matter of time before he was going to be truly suffering (the word agony was used) from the pain. They said any other horse would have already been writhing on the floor and thrashing around. At his age Trillion was not a good candidate for either surgery or the recovery period after surgery which left only one choice, to end his suffering now instead of waiting a few more hours before he was really in agony. We said goodbye to Trillion and took his pain away. I'm honestly not sure if he was even aware of who was or was not around him at that point, but he left this world with dignity surrounded by me and many other caring people.

Enjoying a lovely spring day in retirement
Trillion had a great life. He was a very accomplished horse in the show ring. A Dutch Warmblood by breeding, he was a decorated champion in the hunter ring. He showed in the Regular Working Hunters which is the 'big leagues' of the hunter divisions. Trillion won at the biggest of the big shows. He was circuit champion at the Winter Equestrian Festival and at or near the top of the national rankings for a few years. On the rare occasion that I got to see Trillion do a relaxed canter through the field (as opposed to the galloping/bucking/farting that I usually see when the horses decide to move faster than a walk) he had an amazing canter stride. Rhythmical, fluid, lots of suspension and ground covering, you could just see him hunting around a course of 4' jumps with ease.

He suffered a suspensory injury on one of his front legs after all of that winning, and his owner chose to re-home Trillion at that point. That was probably the best thing that ever happened to Trillion. He ended up with the wonderful family who gave him a forever home and rehabbed him. They said both of their daughters could get him on him bareback together and canter him around over jumps. He continued to win for them as well. When the time came to retire him they chose to send him to us from Florida. Trillion had never loved the long Florida summers and they wanted him to let him retire in a more horse friendly climate.

Trillion watching two geese probably wondering what the heck they were doing in his pasture
I will never forget the day Trillion arrived. The big, shiny semi pulled up right as a big thunderstorm was getting ready to unleash. We unloaded Trillion and walked to the barn as the sky lit up from lightening. Trillion was very interested in all of the grass on the way to the barn. Jason and I had just put Trillion in a stall and were leaning against the door admiring him when a big clap of thunder boomed and then the light bulb burned out in his stall and he was in the dark. Jason and I were laughing saying that Trillion must be wondering what he had done to deserve being sent to this dump what with arriving to the fanfare of a thunderstorm and a dark stall. After that we always joked that Trillion said even though the place seemed dumpy when he first arrived it wasn't so bad after all.

Trillion grazing with Faune
Trillion was an outrageous flirt. One time Gwen the amazing farrier and I were talking about Trillion (she loved him as did everyone). We decided Trillion was the type that could go into a bar and leave with three women, yet have them all convinced that they were each 'the one.' That was just his personality. He also had the cutest ears, huge and floppy, that I tried to capture in pictures many times. No picture that I took ever managed to capture the awesomeness of Trillion's ears. Amy always said he reminded her of Winnie the Pooh because he looked like he should be carrying around a honey pot.

Today I had a very different start to my day than yesterday. Trillion was not there watching me walk from my house to the barn, and he was not the first horse I fed this morning. The whole day simply felt wrong from the beginning. Rest in peace Trillion, you were an amazing horse and you are missed by many.


Unknown said...

Aww sorry for your loss. He sounds like he was an amazing horse. At least he could rest with dignity.

stilllearning said...

This is a lovely memorial.

Trillion was very fortunate to have such nice owners and to end up at your farm. Sounds like he truly deserved and enjoyed his retirement to the last day.

IsobelleGoLightly said...

Rest Well Trillion... What a beautiful horse and a lovely tribute.

Anonymous said...

So sorry - he seems like he was an amazing horse - what a lovely personality. I would find that part of your job very hard as every horse has to go someday and you're likely to be the one there when it happens. I'm so glad you take such good care of your old friends.

Mrs. Mom said...

Our thoughts are with you all out there- two and four legged alike. Trillion will be watching over, I'm sure.

Beautiful tribute, to an amazing horse. Thank you for sharing so much of him!

Java's Mom said...

Oh Trillion!! How sad. Melissa, you are amazing that you caught his distress early and were there for him. That is the silver lining. And, beautiful tribute.

ZionFarm said...

Im sure it never gets easier to have to go through this- they are all so special in their own ways. I am so sorry for Trillion's owner and also for you to have to lose him at this time of the year.

You wrote a very nice memorial for him, and I know that he had a wonderful retirement with your farm.

RuckusButt said...

What a wonderful write-up, you clearly knew him well and that must be a comfort to his owners too. I'm glad he got to go so peacefully. Definitely the worst of the 'what it's really like' aspects.

I'm sure things will feel weird for awhile but it must also be interesting to see how herd dynamics change after something like this, especially since Trillion was alpha (I hope I offend no one by saying this).

Vivian, Apollo's Mom said...

Melissa- I am so sorry for the loss of Trillion- at least he did not suffer too much. My condolences are with his families- both his owners and you and Jason. You wrote a lovely tribute.

Jason said...

Without doubt, losing a resident is the hardest part of this business, and it definitely does not get easier with time. We really do treat, interact and bond with EVERY horse on this farm exactly as if it were our own. Trillion was the first face every one of us saw each morning as he waited at the gate next to the barn to get fed. He is very much missed by all of us.

We find solace in the fact that this farm is FULL of life and full of joy every day ....something that everyone who visits here comments on.

phaedra96 said...

Godspeed, Trillion. You will be missed. What dignity and what heart. Rest in peace. The rest of us will have to go on without you.

Funder said...

Ohh, I'm so sorry for your loss. It sounds like he was a fantastic fellow. His owners definitely did the right thing by retiring him to you, and yall definitely did the right thing at the end.

raphycassens said...


LuLo Designs/Blue Eyed Tango said...

So sorry to hear about Trillion Melissa and Jason. It's so sad to lose a horse friend (I have lost several in my life time). You never get "used" to it....each one is hard.
You're never prepared for that.....especially because he was the first you would see and the dominant horses are quite special. I think it's so wonderful how well you know each horse and how you treat them as your own. That really is amazing for how many horses you house there. Well done.

Amber McCarthy said...

Oh Trillion! I'm so sorry for your loss. Just keep reminding yourself that you did the right thing by not letting him suffer. The tribute is very well written. Sorry again:(

Gillian Farquhar said...

I'm so desperately sad about this. I send my hugs to his human families - and I say families plural, because Jason and Melissa are indeed our retired horses' family. I know this is true of Faune - who was one of Trillion's herd-mates. I hope you are all coping as well as can be expected. My love to all of you.


jane augenstein said...

Melissa, so very sorry to hear of the loss of Trillion. what a beautiful boy he was. It makes me tear up reading about him, what a beautiful tribute you gave him. Your job isn't an easy one knowing that the horses that live at your farm are in their later years. You are their angel to take care of them.
Blessings to you....

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. My Arab mare passed away almost 5 years ago from the same thing.

Unknown said...

Thank you to everyone for your kind words. It hasn't gotten any easier yet, in fact, this is the first time that I have been able to read the tribute & comments. Even though some time has passed I am still sobbing like a baby. Trillion was beyond amazing. Melissa did an incredible job of memorializing him, although words alone could not possibly do him justice. He had a personality bigger than his enormous ears and we were the lucky ones to have been chosen to be his "forever family". Jason & Melissa...there are not words to even begin to express how I feel about you. Thank you for the indescribable care that you gave him while he was at your farm. Thank you for loving him as your own. It didn't take long for our family to realize and completely appreciate that he was yours as well as ours. We are forever in your debt for what you did for him. Just knowing that he was with his friends in his last moments gives us great comfort. He could not have been more loved or cared for by anyone else on the face of this earth!
Thank you Trillion! Rest well, Buddy. You deserve it!!!!