Sunday, March 24, 2013

In Memory of Winston

It is amazing how quickly things can change sometimes.  A few weeks ago Winston was a healthy retiree, happily going about life on his terms.  If you had told me then that the decision to euthanize Winston would need to be made soon I never would have believed you. However that is exactly what happened, as Winston developed some complicated health issues seemingly overnight, and after multiple vet visits at the farm, followed by a stay at the clinic, Winston was euthanized a couple of days ago.  

Winston being delivered to his new home shortly after his mom purchased him. That is the owner of the farm from which she purchased Winston holding the leadrope.

Winston and his mom at a horse show in Florida

Winston had enjoyed retirement with us for four years, although he and his mom had been together for ten years.  Winston’s mom had ridden and shown as a child when she was growing up on Long Island. As happens with many people she stopped riding when she went away to school and life took her in other directions. Like a true horseperson she eventually found her way back to riding after a long absence. 

afternoon grazing with a friend

everyone looking very interested in something

When Winston's group made the move to our new farm a couple of years ago he was one of the first horses to walk off the trailer. He liked to go go first.

Winston is a Thoroughbred and actually started his career as a racehorse. He was bred by Loblolly Stable and his sire was Vanlandingham. Vanlandingham raced in the 1984 Kentucky Derby.  During the Derby he fractured his pastern in his right front leg, and was out of racing for the next 13 months. However Vanlandingham returned to racing the next year and ended up being an Eclipse Award winner.  

grazing with friends

an early morning grazing session before the fog had lifted

napping with Faune

Unlike his sire Winston had a fairly short career as a race horse.  His Jockey Club name is the rather unfortunate name of Pig Trail. Given that his dam’s name was State Coed I have no idea where the name Pig Trail came from.  Racing under the name of Pig Trail, Winston actually managed to win a couple of races at Turfway Park.  However his calling in life was not to be a race horse, and he was sold off the track and moved to the northeast where he began his career as a show hunter.

waiting expectantly for breakfast one morning

nap time again

Winston leading the gang across the pasture

Winston’s mom went through a major life change in the time period right before she purchased him. She found herself in one of those painful periods of life where everything changes when her husband passed away.  A friend of hers was riding and she began going along to the barn with her to watch and to enjoy being around the horses. 

Faune, Winston and Lotus made a pretty picture together

having a playful afternoon with his friends

Winston and Romeo hanging out

After seeing her there several times and watching other people riding, the instructor at the farm asked her if she would like to ride herself. Of course she said yes, and she found herself back in the saddle after an extended absence.  Riding gave her something to enjoy and to focus on as she dealt with the changes her life was going through. In addition to taking lesson she began going to the gym and working out so she could be in the best shape possible for riding.  

making his way across the pasture with Faune and Titan

Winston loved to hang out in the woods

Winston and Titan were almost twins

After a few months of lessons, including starting to jump again, her instructor asked her if she would be interested in purchasing a horse for herself. Once again the answer was a definite yes, and the search for a horse began. Before they went to see Winston she had already looked at a few other horses that were not the right match for various reasons. When they went to the farm where Winston was living she knew she wanted to purchase him from the moment they first met.  She told me when she first saw Winston they shared a long moment where he studied her and she admired him.  She had an inner dialog with herself and told herself “don’t fall for a guy just because he is good looking.”  However everything went perfectly when she rode Winston and soon a vetting was arranged and Winston became hers.  

trotting across the pasture with Faune, Romeo and Asterik

early morning grazing with Romeo

At that point Winston was 13 years old and had been showing as a hunter in the northeast for several years. He had actually been sold to someone else a couple of months earlier, but that purchaser had ended up returning him to the farm as the young rider who had bought him ended up not getting along with him and fell off of him several times. Everything worked out perfectly for Winston as he ended up finding his forever home with his new mom.   The first thing Winston’s mom did was to change his name from Pig Trail to Winston. She was a history major in college and one of her favorite historical figures is Winston Churchill. So Winston is named in honor of Winston Churchill. I think the name Winston suits him and his personality much better than Pig Trail.

Winston with Faune and Romeo

Winston and his mom spent their first few years together in New Jersey, riding and showing. Winston was nicely trained and very experienced by the time she bought him and she said he was a real pleasure to ride. She described him as being very light to the aids and that you could almost think what you wanted to do and Winston would do it. The one thing Winston did not enjoy was trail riding. His mom said that when she would start down the trails that Winston would walk along for a few minutes, and then he would start trying to turn around so they could head back to the arena.  

Winston was not stranger to the vet during his tenure with us. He would go long stretches with no issues, and then he would find a way to do something to himself.  The pictures below are from a trip to the clinic a couple of years ago where he was x-rayed (above) and scoped (below).

His mom never tried to push trail riding on Winston because, as she said, “if Winston was not happy, I was not going to be happy.” I have to admit I laughed out loud when she told me this because it describes Winston perfectly. We found that the trick to living with Winston was that he needed to think he was getting his way and doing what he wanted to do all the time. Just like Winston’s mom said, if he wasn’t happy we were not going to be happy. We always had to make sure that Winston had at least one friend standing right next to him when he saw the farrier and when he came into the barn for any reason. 

grazing with friends

enjoying the snow with Asterik

Winston and his mom moved from New Jersey to Florida after they had been together a few years. They continued their partnership in Florida, riding, attending horse shows, and enjoying each other’s company. His mom told me that Winston’s trainer in Florida told her that when they went to horse shows they really needed to get Winston two stalls instead of one. Not because he was a big horse, but because he needed one stall for him to stand in and the other stall for his ego. She said his ego was so big there could not possibly be room for it and Winston in the same stall.

enjoying retirement with his friends

After a few years of riding and showing in Florida Winston started having a harder time holding up to the workload. They scaled back their riding, but after awhile it became obvious that the best choice for Winston was retirement. His mom was referred to us by her veterinarian who had another client that had a horse retired with us. Four years ago, in the spring of 2009, Winston made the trip to Tennessee from Florida and joined us for retirement. 

Winston made the most of his retirement years

Winston leading a charge across the pasture

Winston, indeed, had a huge ego and overflowing self confidence from the moment we met him, and it never waned. He definitely saw himself as a big man on campus. He became very strongly herdbound to his group of friends within about five minutes of meeting them. He quickly got to the point that he hated being separated from them for even five minutes.  On the days when it was his turn to see the farrier we had a certain routine with Winston. If he had to stand in a stall and wait Winston would get himself so worked up the farrier almost could not work on him. Winston trained us quickly and we always made sure that we led him in from the field and right up to the farrier, who worked on him immediately so that Winston did not have to wait for even one minute. When he was done Winston went back outside right away, no standing around in the barn waiting before or after his turn. Like his mom said, if Winston was not happy no one was going to be happy, and he trained us well.

I took this picture on Winston's first day with us 4 years ago

most of the time Winston had absolutely no complaints

We spent the last four years catering to Winston’s expectations, and it certainly feels very different to not have his large ego dictating how we go about certain tasks. However I have no doubt that Winston is carrying on in his usual style and that he is still expecting things to be done his way, and only his way.  Winston was a lucky horse that had a great life from start to finish, and I am sure it never occurred to him that life could be any other way. 


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear of his passing - he was a beauty and cleary a Horse of Strong Opinions - those can be the most wonderful ones. My condolences to his family, and to you.

C Tanner Jensen said...

Godspeed Winston.
I am so impressed by of loving attention that you give to each horse.

KY Chris said...

Another beautiful tribute. I always enjoy hearing about these amazing (and so lucky) horses. It is so wonderful that their owners loved them enough to assure their care and happiness up to the very end. May God Bless you all (and Winston's wonderful owner) and comfort you in the loss of your friend. With his personality, it sounds like "Winston has left the building" would be an appropriate statement!

RuckusButt said...

A charmed life indeed! He sounds like a fun horse to have known. I`m sorry for your loss and, as always, grateful to hear stories of such great animal advocates.

Lori Skoog said...

Winston was one gorgeous boy! Thank you for giving him such good care. So sorry for his loss.

CG said...

What a beautiful horse and what a charmed life he had! So sorry to hear of his passing.

Vivian, Apollo's Mom said...

I am so sorry to hear about Winston's passing. My deepest sympathies to his owner. He is at peace...