Sunday, March 27, 2011

In Memory of Ogie

“Our horses do not see themselves as the old and disabled they may have become, but rather as the mighty steeds they once believed themselves to be.” This is a quote I have borrowed from Lori at Sunkissed Acres (one of the saviors of Miracle). It sums up perfectly how Ogie saw himself, and how I saw him as well. Ogie was 29 years old, a chestnut thoroughbred who competed in eventing.


Yesterday evening Ogie was absolutely fine, he came cantering up for dinner along with the rest of his group. This morning Ogie was lagging far behind everyone as I called them up for breakfast. He was unable to walk in a straight line and was attempting to stagger his way up to the other horses. He seemed to have no idea where his legs were. We’re still not really sure what happened to Ogie but his neurological symptoms were severe. He staggered around in circles trying to remain upright. He fell down once but managed to get back up.

After the vet examined him she said that she did not think it was an option to attempt to treat his symptoms, especially since it would have taken several days to do extensive tests to try and determine exactly what was going on.

Ogie and Alex last April

The vet ruled out encephalitis, west nile virus and Potomac horse fever simply because all of his vital signs were normal and she said any of these typically present with a very high fever. He had no signs of injury anywhere, not so much as a hair out of place, and no areas of heat or swelling. His symptoms were so severe he was a danger not only to himself but to any horse or person around him. He could not be transported to the clinic, nor did the vet feel he would be safe in a stall. He also would not be safe to stay in the pasture. There really were no options except to end his suffering.

Euthanizing Ogie was one of the hardest experiences I have had on the retirement farm. Watching him staggering around, trying with everything he had to stay upright, was heart wrenching. While waiting for the vet I couldn’t put him in a stall as I feared he would fall down and get wedged and never get back up. I also didn’t feel like I could turn him loose in a paddock or leave him in the pasture as I was scared he would collapse on a fence and get hurt. So I walked with him, trying to stay out of the way while at the same time attempting to steer him away from fences and other immobile objects.

I never knew Ogie in his prime when he competed in eventing. I met Ogie after he had been abandoned and starved while in his 20’s. He was on the upswing when he arrived at our farm but we had the pleasure of watching him continue to come back to life. He gained weight, he grew in normal looking hooves, his coat went from dull to shiny. He never regained a top line, he had a swayback and he was a devoted cribber, but for some reason when I looked at Ogie I was always able to see the horse he once was. He still had incredible power from behind and a beautiful, huge gallop stride. It was so easy to envision a young Ogie making short work of a cross country course.

Ogie could be very aloof and do an excellent impression of a grumpy old man. But when you would least expect it he would wrap his neck around you and give you a hug, or rest his chin on your shoulder. He was very bossy and demanding towards his people and he expected his wish to be your command. I’ve always said I never wanted to ride Ogie. I have no doubt he would have taken me around any cross country course safely. But I also have no doubt I would have had very little say in how we got around the course!

There was something about Ogie that made other horses see him as their security blanket. Quite honestly I’ve never understood it as Ogie tended to act like he could take or leave other horses. They certainly couldn’t leave him though.

The first horse to fall in love with Ogie was Mister the Mini. Mister was 36” tall and he became obsessed with Ogie from the moment they met. Mister quickly decided that he was in charge of Ogie and took control of his life immediately. Ogie could not go anywhere or do anything without Mister's approval. One time I saw Ogie make the mistake of trying to hang out with a couple of other horses and was not anywhere near Mister. Mister marched over to Ogie, reared up, grabbed Ogie's lip, and lead him back over to a place in the pasture he approved of. If only I'd had my camera with me at the time! I’ve wondered a few times today if Ogie and Mister have been reunited and Mister is once again in charge of Ogie.

Mister standing watch while Ogie napped

Ogie and Mister

The next horse to fall in love with Ogie was B-Rad. When B-Rad arrived at the farm he immediately latched onto Ogie and for months he could not bear to be more than a few feet away from him. We joked that Ogie was B-Rad’s security blanket. After a few months B-Rad branched out and became BFF with Alex but he always had an affinity for Ogie.

Ogie and B-Rad

The third horse to latch onto Ogie was Darby. Once again Ogie served as a security blanket and Darby could not function if Ogie was more than a few feet away. Darby’s attachment to Ogie was still very strong and I worried how Darby was going to handle life without Ogie. Interestingly after looking for Ogie for awhile today Darby latched onto B-Rad this afternoon and was carrying on with life.

Darby and Ogie

The story of our time with Ogie cannot be told without talking about Karen. Karen is an amazing horsewoman and talented rider. I’ll brag on her here and embarrass her a bit. Karen competed at the top levels of eventing for several years and has galloped around Rolex. To put it mildly Karen is a really good rider.

More impressive than her equestrian skills, Karen is one of the most caring and compassionate people I have ever met. Jason and I both find her to be an inspirational person and anytime I would see a message from Karen in my inbox I would start smiling. No matter the topic at hand, anytime you talk or correspond with Karen she always manages to make you feel good about yourself. The world needs more people like Karen in it, but at the moment I’m not thinking clearly enough to truly convey what an amazing person she is.

After being told about Ogie, turned loose in a pasture, abandoned and on the brink of starving to death, Karen became Ogie’s Patron Saint. Thanks to Karen Ogie had the chance to remember what it was like to have food and water. She had the vet out for him and she had a farrier work on his horrendously neglected feet. When she was confident he was stable enough to make the trip from Northern Alabama she brought him to our farm.

Ogie has been living in retirement with us for over four years and Karen has happily paid his bills. He wasn’t her horse. She didn’t ride him, show him, or enjoy any of his talents during his younger years. She just took him into her fold and became responsible for him when everyone else had literally abandoned him. Karen never gave us the opportunity to ask for anything. She was always asking if Ogie needed anything. “How are his blankets holding up Melissa? Should I buy him new ones?” Thanks to Karen Ogie never wanted for anything in the last few years.

As I was walking back to the barn after saying goodbye to Ogie I was feeling overwhelmingly sad, inadequate and helpless. The tears were flowing freely. Miracle spotted me as I walked near her paddock. She flipped her tail up over her back and started prancing around and whinnying. This is what she does when she wants attention. In spite of myself I smiled. It seemed so appropriate when I thought about it, one lost soul making me smile as I mourned another lost soul. Ogie came here as a lost soul looking for a place to thrive. He did, and he left a hole in our hearts with his passing. I will always think of Ogie as the mighty steed he believed himself to be. I miss him so much.


Anonymous said...

So sorry for his loss - and to his friends and family as well. Glad he was well and happy almost up to the end - a lucky horse to have finally gotten the care and retirement he deserved. My Noble was swaybacked and cribber as well - they seem to have shared the same generous spirit.

Bif said...

Thank you for sharing so much of Ogie's life with us. You and Jason really do such a wonderful thing, in your topnotch care of these worthy beasties... I wish all horses had a Karen and Paradigm Farms if their own caring owners were not able.

Funny how his story restores faith in people on the one hand, on the other makes you want to really take to task the people that didn't do right by Og.

Seindria said...

Oh man that's so hard to read. :(

It sounds like what happened to my friend's Arab mare a few yars back. She was fine, then they found her down in the creek, flailing about. Nothing obviously wrong with her...

My thoughts and prayers go out to you guys and Ogie's mom and Ogie's friends.

Jason said...

We care for each of the horses on this farm as if they were our own, and we really do miss them when they are gone. But with the exception of Miracle, we have it pretty easy because horses are our business and our living.

People who habitually rescue animals deserve a lot of kudos in my book. Neither Melissa nor myself could do what Karen (or Lori over at Sunkissed Acres) do and have done. We would quickly wind up hating the world.

lara said...

I'm so sorry for losing Ogie.He was special! Sorry it was so terrible for you, too. You and Jason really are the best, and treat all of these horses like your own. It makes me happy knowing they're all so loved - by their owners and 'angels,' like Karen, and by you and Jason.
A horse could live at the Shangri La, but it wouldn't be anything without love

Sandy said...

What a beautiful tribute! I'm sorry for your loss but I'm so glad that he was loved and will be missed.

Vivian, Apollo's Mom said...

I am so sorry about the loss of Ogie. I remember well when he came to you and you related his story to me. I have watched him thrive over the last few years in your pictures and I even met him once. Thank God, Karen, and you guys for giving him a wonderful life for his last 4 years. I have rescued several animals over the years and even my dear Apollo was an extremely underweight mess when we bought him from the woman who had imported him. I too also get extremely traumatized by the cruelty some people impose on defenseless animals. I do what I can... So thank you for all you do and for taking care of my boy so well. My deepest sympathies and support for your grief.

Lori Skoog said...

So sorry to read about Ogie. He sure had some sweet pals at your farm. Thank you for giving him "the good life."

RuckusButt said...

Thank you for sharing, I know it must be hard. Somehow, it feels very meaningful that you write, and we read, about these amazing horses and horse people. I am grieving myself today and so am unable think straight enough for a proper comment.

Melissa-ParadigmFarms said...

You know RB I completely relate to you saying you are grieving and you feel like you can't think up a proper comment.

Any time we lose a resident I struggle when I write about it because I am writing while the loss is so fresh and quite frankly my brain isn't working well and I'm sad. I made the comment to Jason yesterday that to really do justice to Ogie and Karen (or any resident that passes) I need to write about it a few weeks or months later. Then I'll be able to remember everything I wanted to say and do a better job of conveying my feelings through the written word.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, you did a wonderful job of conveying your feelings through your grief. Although Ive only "met" Ogie through your blog and photos, Im sitting here sobbing like a baby. Id probably be a puddle of mush on the floor if I had known him personally. Lovely horse with an even more lovely owner. They should all be so lucky.

Dana Ramsey Maxwell said...

What a wonderful tribute to Ogie, thank you Melissa.

Funder said...

I'm so sorry for yall's loss! :( He sounds like a fabulous fellow, and he brought joy to so many people. RIP Ogie!