Tuesday, November 26, 2013

In Memory of Snappy

Yesterday we said goodbye to Snappy. Snappy had been with us for many years and it felt like the end of an era at the farm. Snappy had a very quiet, unassuming presence about him and was always unfailingly polite and gentlemanly in his interactions with us. I think the best way to describe him is that he simply had a lot of class. 

Snappy started his life in Poland where he was born.  He somehow made his way to England and into the hands of an eventer.  The young man who was riding him at the time was hoping to climb the levels in three day eventing, and he had Snappy and another horse that he was competing.  The young man lost his life due to a riding accident on the other horse.  His parents decided they were going to try and stay involved with the sport of eventing that their son loved so much and keep Snappy. They had the legendary New Zealand eventer Mark Todd take over the ride on Snappy.

Snappy and Silky on the run; I just took this picture six weeks ago

For anyone who has not heard of him Mark Todd is one of the most accomplished equestrians in the world. He has multiple gold medals from both the Olympics and the World Championships. He has won Badminton four times and Burghley five times (Badminton and Burghley are considered to be the two hardest four stars in the world).  The FEI voted Mark Todd the Eventer of the Century in 2000.  In other words Mark doesn't accept the ride on just any horse. 

Mark and Snappy developed a good partnership and together they successfully tackled some of the biggest cross country horses in the world. However it remained very painful for the mourning parents to stay involved involved in the sport of eventing so they made the decision to sell Snappy. 

Snappy wound up in the United States with a new owner and continued to compete in the upper levels of eventing. In one of his first events with his new owner they met a cross country fence at a very bad distance.  Snappy valiantly tried to make the distance work but the jump was too big for the distance he had to work with and he flipped over the fence and fell. His owner/rider at the time said it was complete rider error that caused the accident. Snappy ended up with serious tendon injuries on both front legs.

happily grazing

After extensive rest and rehab Snappy, being the incredibly tough and stoic guy that he was, came sound again. His owner worried that he would be all too willing to go out and tackle more massive cross country courses, possibly at the expense of a severe re-injury. After briefly trying to retire him, which didn't sit well with Snappy at the time, he found himself leased to someone who was hoping he would be a good equitation horse. The thought was that Snappy could still have a job, just one that was far less demanding than upper level eventing. 

looking satisfied with his grooming attempts

Snappy was a star as an equitation horse. As long as you rode him correctly he performed to perfection. He qualified his rider for all of the major equitation finals including the Maclay final at Madison Square Garden. One of Snappy's quirks came out at the finals - he was not a big fan of indoor arenas. Throughout the rest of his career anything that took place in an indoor, from a horse show to a schooling session, was hit or miss with Snappy. If he decided he did not like the indoor arena he was in you were not going to do anything to change his mind. 

Silky and Snappy hanging out last week

While Snappy was showing everyone how it was done during his first year showing at the A hunter shows his future forever family had taken notice of him. The dad in particular loved everything about Snappy whenever he saw him. When he got wind that the possibility existed to purchase Snappy he jumped on the opportunity. Neither of his daughters had ever even ridden Snappy but he was so impressed with the horse that he just knew this was going to be the horse of a lifetime for them. He didn't tell anyone in the family that he was going to buy Snappy until after the deal was done. 

Lightning and Snappy on the run

Once Snappy became a family member it was time for someone in the family to actually ride him. The older of the two daughters mounted up for her first ride on Snappy while everyone watched with great anticipation. Snappy proceeded to dump her three times in their very first ride.

As mentioned above Snappy would perform like a superstar if you rode him correctly. However he had certain things that he simply would not tolerate from his rider, such as jumping ahead. If you committed one of Snappy's cardinal sins he would buck you off promptly.  Unsurprisingly Snappy's new rider learned quickly in that very first ride to stop jumping ahead, and he effectively cured her of that habit in one ride.  

Snappy and Silky

Snappy taught his new charge how to be a very good rider, and they embarked on a career in the children's hunters together. Some of their highlites included being circuit champion of the Children's Hunters at the Winter Equestrian Festival (which is one of, if not the most, competitive winter circuits in the country) and winning the World Champion Hunter Rider Children's Hunter Finals held at one of the prestigious end of season fall indoor shows. 

Snappy and Silky often napped together

In 2003 as they were winding up a very successful winter season at the Winter Equestrian Festival Snappy started showing signs of colic. He was rushed to Palm Beach Equine and wound up having a major colic surgery with ten feet of his small intestine being removed. His recovery was touch and go at first and his family had to hire a nurse to provide around the clock to care to him for over three weeks after the surgery.  As always Snappy's winning spirit prevailed and he ended up making a full recovery.

grazing with friends

After the colic surgery and recovery they decided that Snappy had given and done so much all his life that it was time for him to retire and not have anything asked of him anymore.  We met Snappy several years ago after he had been retired at his family's farm for a few years. 

grooming with Silky

When Snappy arrived at our farm he walked off the trailer with a been there done that attitude. Since he had literally been a world traveler another trailer ride was no big deal to him.  He settled in easily to life at our farm and continued to hang out with his pony friend Silky who is also owned by the same family.  Like many ponies Silky (we always call him Slinky because he is such a macho man) is a bossy little thing and is choosy about his friends. There was something about Snappy that he always liked and they were friends for a long time.  Because of his laid back demeanor and quiet confidence Snappy was always very popular with other horses although Silky commandeered much of his time. 

another nice day of retirement

If you just looked at Snappy standing around in a field he really did not look like much and he was not a horse that would catch your eye. He was a plain bay that, by the time we met him, had a swayback and did not look like the super athlete and world traveler that he was. However if you ever saw him pick up a gallop and run across the pasture you knew you were in the presence of greatness. Any knowledgeable horse person who ever happened to see him gallop across the pasture would literally stop what they were doing and just watch him in awe. All of a sudden this small, plain bay old horse transformed into an amazing athlete as he would race across the pasture. It was always a beautiful sight to see. His stride was huge, ground covering, fluid and full of power.

Snappy and friends enjoying the retired life

Snappy had been the picture of health all the years we lived with him. His teeth started to fail on him a couple of years ago and he had to come into a stall to eat a hay cube mash every day. He hated coming into the stall at first even though his pony friend Silky was already coming in every day to eat his own mash and was in the stall next to him. Snappy finally accepted the stall/hay cube mash routine however whenever he decided he was done and it was time go back out that was it. 

Snappy and friends

He gave us a good scare out of the blue a couple of months ago. He spiked a very high fever for no apparent reason. We took him straight to the vet clinic and aside from his fever all of his vitals were normal and all of his bloodwork was normal. He recovered quickly after some IV fluids and anti-inflammatories and was back at the farm running around the pasture with Silky and acting like nothing was wrong. We had a couple of weeks where everything was as normal as it could be, then his appetite started to become depressed. 

doing some fall grazing

Snappy saw the vet multiple times over the last few weeks as we tried to find a reason for his waning appetite. The poor guy probably felt like a pin cushion as he had so much blood drawn for various tests, all of which came back as normal. He was extensively ultrasounded as well and gone over with a fine tooth comb by two different vets. No one could find anything wrong yet his appetite kept getting worse and worse and he was losing weight. During this time we tried treating him aggressively with antibiotics, we tried anti-inflammatories, we tried steroids, we did a full course of GastroGuard, we treated for hind gut ulcers, we tried offering him all different kinds of feeds but nothing changed.  When he started developing areas of edema along his stomach we knew his time with us was drawing to a close.

Lucky, Snappy, O'Reilly and Thor

His owners graciously allowed us to make the final decision when we felt the time was right. It was a tough call because despite his low appetite he was still happy, interactive, and very social with his friends. However his weight loss was starting to accelerate and we had no desire to watch him completely waste away into nothing. Last week we decided it was time and made arrangements for the vet to come on Monday. Jason and I agonized over our decision to say goodbye to him all weekend as Snappy still acted so normal and happy.  It is a hard thing trying to balance the perspective that life is precious and should be respected and treasured along with the perspective that we didn't want to wait too late to make the final call. Nothing is worse than watching a horse really suffering when you know you could have prevented it.

enjoying retirement

As always Snappy gave us one final gift. On Monday morning as we were second guessing ourselves he let us know it was time. He essentially ate nothing at breakfast. When we put him back outside to spend his last few hours with his friends (we don't kid ourselves that any of the horses here want to spend their last few hours being groomed and fussed over by anyone) he didn't follow them off into the pasture. They all went way out to the back of the pasture, his buddy Silky included, while Snappy stayed up near the front by himself.  He stood with his head down and genuinely seemed to be letting us know that he was ready and it was time. 

All of his friends made their way back to the front of the pasture just as the vet arrived. Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe not. Snappy had seen the vet so much lately he had started to not be too keen on being caught when the vet truck was around. However he let us walk right up to him and halter him without a fuss. A few minutes later he left this world very quickly and quietly with his friends nearby. He was 30 years old.

having a good roll

Snappy led an amazing life that started in Poland and ended in the United States with a lot of world traveling in between. He was a top class eventer, equitation horse and show hunter. He was a winner at every discipline he was asked to do. He demanded a lot from his riders, but only because he was giving so much himself. He never asked for more, or probably even as much, as he was giving. In his last few years he was a kind, gentle and wise presence, yet he still liked to remind everyone of the athlete he was from time to time. It was a true privilege to know Snappy these last few years. I can only hope I end up leading as full of a life as he did, and that I can do it with as much class. 

Rest in peace Snappy, you are greatly missed.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your lovely tribute to a fine horse. My condolences to you, Silky and his family.

An American in Tokyo said...

Rest in Peace, Snappy!
30 years is a grand, old life and it sounds like you lived it fully!


Anonymous said...


RuckusButt said...

Beautiful and fitting tribute, as always. What a great horse. While it doesn't take away the pain of losing him for you and his owners, you can't hope for a better life and end of life than what you all gave Snappy.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Beautiful Melissa. Thanks for sharing Snappy's wonderful story.

foffmom said...

He was an amazing horse. And it does wound like your decision was perfectly timed. It would have been impossible to keep weight on him through the winter. He was fortunate to have so many caring people in his life, right through to the end.

Funder said...

What a beautiful obituary, Melissa. Snappy had an amazing life!

RiderWriter said...

What a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to a total SUPERSTAR of a horse! I think Snappy should have a book written about him - I just can't get over his career. To change disciplines so drastically and excel at all of them (no kidding about Mark Todd, he is the creme de la creme), despite serious tendon injury, is just incredible.

RIP Snappy. I know his family is grateful to you for all the care and concern you gave him while he was with you.