Thursday, March 31, 2016

In Memory of Clayton

Sadly we had to say our goodbyes to Clayton two weeks ago. In some ways we had known the day was coming for almost two years, in other ways it was still a surprise.

Clayton was bred and born in Canada in 1990. He was half Selle Francais, 1/4 Thoroughbred and 1/4 Percheron. Somehow Clayton made his way to a horse dealer in upstate New York, and that was where he and his mom met each other. Clayton's mom had ridden as a young child. She didn't show or pursue serious riding goals, she just had fun with her horses. She stopped riding when she was in high school, however she felt the pull of horses again in her late 20's. 

this photo was used to create the painting below

"PUNCH" is a 60" x 36" oil on canvas painting of Clayton by Patricia Powers. As gorgeous as this replica is (scanned from a notecard) I would love to see the original painting.

Clayton's mom purchased a horse and found herself back in the horse world. She rode and enjoyed her new horse for 13 years until it was time to retire him. Then the search began for another horse. She found herself at the horse dealer's farm in upstate New York. She originally purchased a different horse from the dealer. However, when it quickly became apparent that the horse had some serious issues the dealer allowed her to return the horse and pick out another one. That horse was Clayton. 

Clayton showing off in the dressage arena

Clayton winning a high score award at a dressage show

Clayton and his mom met each other at the dealer's barn in February 1996, a little over 20 years ago. Clayton was very green when his mom purchased him and she wisely always made sure that she and Clayton were under the guidance of a good trainer as they progressed in dressage. His mom said the thoroughbred side of Clayton never really showed up under saddle, he was kick along quiet. Every now and then he liked to squeal in protest and do little bucks when his rider would insist that he start working and engage himself. His bucks were little and did nothing but make you laugh, with one exception. One time when his trainer was riding him across the diagonal she asked him for a lead change. Clayton threw a huge buck and sent his trainer airborne, the only time Clayton ever did anything like that. When his mom told me that story I said "I'm sure Clayton felt really bad after it happened, that is so not him." His mom said "no, I don't think he felt bad about it at the time!"

Clayton at a dressage show

Clayton with his mom and dad

Clayton and his mom showed together through First Level dressage, and he showed through Third Level with his trainer. Clayton's mom always tried to keep the focus more on training and enjoying their time together. Although they were always in a program with a good trainer, she limited the number of shows Clayton attended. 

One of the first pictures I ever took of Clayton. He and Kennedy being rambunctious on their first day at the farm.

napping with Rocky, Kennedy and Stormy

grooming with Kennedy

Their riding and training was interrupted a few years into their relationship when Clayton was kicked by another horse. Clayton was kicked just above the knee, and this resulted in a spiral fracture and an infection. Clayton's kind and patient personality allowed him to make it through the rehab. He had to be cross-tied in a stall for three months and he could not be allowed to lay down. Clayton made it through the 90 day healing period and made a full recovery. He was able to return to his dressage training.

Oskar and Clayton

hanging out with Largo and Stormy

a quiet moment with Stormy

About ten years ago Clayton started to not be as comfortable with his work under saddle. Diagnostics revealed the presence of ringbone. Despite the best efforts of Clayton's mom and her team they were never able to keep Clayton completely comfortable in his work and their riding days came to an end.

Clayton and Kennedy

grooming with Stormy

on the go with Stormy

Although their riding days came to an end Clayton and his mom continued to enjoy each other's company. She still enjoyed grooming Clayton and simply spending time with him. Clayton faced another health crisis a couple of years after he retired from riding. He began to have reoccurring bouts of uveitis in his left eye. Once again his mom spared no effort or expense in treating Clayton. He ended up at Ohio State having a cyclosporine implant placed in his left eye. It helped for awhile, but then the uveitis began flaring up again. The only option left to spare him the pain of the chronic flare-ups of uveitis was to remove his eye. In general horses adapt amazingly well to the loss of an eye, and Clayton was no exception.

grooming with Toledo

grazing with Stormy and Toledo

grazing with Stormy

After being retired for a few years, his mom decided that Clayton would be happier if he could have a lot more turnout. He was still living at his training barn where the turnout was very limited. It was a hard decision for his mom to retire Clayton with us in Tennessee after seeing him almost every day for 15 years. Clayton also had to leave behind his girlfriend, a mare named Marlie who had been his neighbor for several years. His mom said one of the hardest things in her decision to retire Clayton with us was breaking up his romance with Marlie. I hope Marlie did not get her feelings hurt when she heard that Clayton had moved on with his life and was having a great time with his new friends. 

grazing with Rocky, Toledo and Largo

grazing with Toledo and Stormy

grooming with Largo

We met Clayton in January 2010. He traveled to our farm from Ohio, along with another horse from his barn named Kennedy. Clayton and Kennedy wasted no time settling in to life at our farm. Clayton's mom aptly described Clayton's personality as the Wal-Mart greeter of horses. Clayton could never have too many friends and he liked every horse he met at our farm. He especially loved to play with Toledo, and Stormy almost instantly decided that he could not live without Clayton being no more than ten feet away from him.

playing with Toledo

grooming with Largo

For a little over five years Clayton made the most of every day. He grazed, played, groomed, and hung out with his friends. He became the definition of herd bound and hated being separated from his group. As much as possible we always brought everything to Clayton in the pasture. We groomed him in the pasture, when weather permitted the farrier trimmed his hooves in the pasture, etc.

Clayton living the retired life

Donovan and Clayton

hanging out with Stormy

Quite by accident we discovered that Clayton's kidneys were not functioning optimally about two years ago. We ran some bloodwork on him for a completely unrelated reason. We weren't sure at first if the sub-optimum kidney function was chronic or acute. We took Clayton to the clinic to have his kidneys flushed with IV fluids. His bloodwork remained unchanged so we knew we had a chronic issue. The vet told us there was any number of reasons why an older horse might not have optimal kidney function. Other than treatment with IV fluids if needed,regularly monitoring his kidney function through bloodwork, and monitoring his quality of life, there wasn't much that could be done.

galloping through the pasture with Rocky

grooming with Kennedy

Clayton napping with Donovan

At first we worried about it constantly. Each time we re-checked his bloodwork we worried that things would be worse. Clayton never acted like there was a thing wrong with him, and his bloodwork never changed. Our vet would always report that his bloodwork was still "abnormally normal." After awhile we stopped worrying about it constantly and no longer held our breath each time we checked his labs.


foggy morning grazing with Rocky

hanging out with River

Two more years went by before anything changed. Two weeks ago Clayton wasn't being himself in the pasture. We had just rechecked Clayton's bloodwork a couple of months ago and nothing had changed. We had the vet out to check Clayton over and pull blood, hoping it was just an off day. When the vet called with the news that Clayton's bloodwork indicated he was in full renal failure it was a hard blow to take. After two years we were all convinced that Clayton was going to be the comeback kid again, just like he was with his leg and his eye. Our vet had told us all along that would not be the case, but it is easy to get lulled into complacency when all is right in the world for two years. Clayton's mom, as she always did for Clayton, made the best and most compassionate choice she could for him. We all agreed it was right to let him go before he found himself in a serious crisis, and that day was coming very soon. 

 Clayton (far right) with Kennedy, Walon, Toledo, Donovan, Johnny and Oskar staring hard at Ewen wearing the cone of shame

napping with Stormy

a group nap

Clayton was a very lucky horse. He was under his mom's loving care for 20 years. During our five years with Clayton we never heard the word "no" from his mom. Whenever we asked for anything for Clayton the answer was always yes. And that was how Clayton lived his entire 20 years with his mom. Whatever Clayton needed was exactly what Clayton got. When Clayton needed his mom to make the hardest decision of all, she did that for him as well.

Clayton was a perpetually happy horse. He didn't know how to be grumpy or have a bad day. He was always one of the first horses to extend a warm "welcome" to any newcomer in his group. He could never have too many friends. The world was a brighter place with Clayton in it. He had a peaceful passing on a beautiful day, and his absence is felt by so many. Rest in peace Clayton, you are greatly missed.


Clayton napping and getting a grooming session from Walon

Clayton with Oskar and Walon

Clayton and Donovan

playing with Oskar

hanging out with Johnny 

napping hard with Kennedy

eating hay with Largo 

napping with Johnny

group napping session

grooming with Largo

eating hay with Largo 

grooming with Rampal

grazing with Rocky

trotting through the pasture with Largo 

hanging out with Largo

 being wild with Rubrico

 hanging out with Stormy and Largo

grooming with Stormy 

grooming with Toledo 

eating hay with River, Rocky and a napping Johnny

Donovan (standing), Clayton, Largo and Stormy