Sunday, May 9, 2010

An old friend

How do you express in words the feeling of seeing one of your oldest and dearest friends looking so poorly that you are overcome with shock? How do you muddle through the feelings of regret, sadness, fear, guilt, pain, and utter grief?

My (original) main man, Captain, is the same age as me: 25. That is getting up there in horse years. Most say that the life expectancy of a horse is between 20 and 30 years, so that puts this guy right in the thick of it.

To say the least, Cap did not winter very well. He lost a great deal of weight, which was not at all apparent until he began to shed his winter hair. If there is one thing this horse knows how to do, it is to grow hair. I swear he puffs up like a big brown marshmallow in the winter. His hair is so long that he is barely recognizable. Anyhow, once all of that hair began coming off it was obvious that he had lost more weight than he ever has in the past.

We took a weekend trip up to GV to visit the family a few weeks ago. Before we got there I had been warned that Cap did not look so good. I thought it was being blown out of proportion, but boy was I wrong. I had Kaleb with me when I went out to the field to see him. I got about 10 feet away from him and had to turn back. I was crying before I got out of the pasture. Old habits die hard: when I was graduating from high school the mere mention of selling this horse would start the water works, and I have never been overly emotional.

Reality hit.

I had a revelation.

My. Horse. Got. Old.

I was told long ago by our vet that he was so healthy that he could easily live into his 30's. I took that 'knowledge' for granted. I assumed that he would be around to teach our kids about horses. I assumed that he would never be anything but a stunning example of equine flesh. I guess that is what I got for assuming.

I set up an appointment to take him to the vet, an appointment that required me to drive back up to GV about 10 days later. I was taking him in to get his teeth floated. If you do not know what 'floating' a horses' teeth means, it is basically grinding them down with power tools. Horses, like rabbits, have teeth that never stop growing. Depending on how quickly they grow, how the horse eats, and the age of the horse, their teeth must be filed down to eliminate any sharp or overgrown edges. The purpose of this is to allow the teeth to properly grind the food, making the nutrients in the food available for absorption during the digestive process.

See how smart I just sounded. It is almost as if I intended to be a vet once upon a time or something.

Anyhow, his teeth did need floated. Fortunately for us, he still has all of his teeth and none are loose or rotted. That is excellent news, especially for his age. He is now on a super high calorie diet and will be until he gains back enough weight to be considered 'fat and sassy' again. He is definitely still sassy, but would only be considered fat in the world of high fashion super models.

I do not think that he minds getting a bucket full of grain and senior feed while all of the other horses salivated over the fence. I think that, in a cruel and twisted way, he rather enjoys their suffering. It is all part of being top dog.

I know for certain that this man of mine will be more maintenance than he ever has been, but that is fine by me. He was my best friend, my playmate, my babysitter, and my dream come true. He is the one horse I would trust around our kids and the one horse I am willing to exert the cost and effort of 'older horse maintenance' for. He was my world as a teenager. Nobody will ever convince me that a greater horse has ever existed.

Trigger does not hold a candle to my Captain.

Even from this angle.