Wednesday, June 30, 2021

the end


everything is "the last time"…river playing
I thought we’d have more time.

To write about the ride where we found a junk robot. And the camping adventure Memorial day weekend where we did a 20-mile fun ride. And more river exploring. But Major didn’t have any more time.

we found a junk robot!
Backing up, this story will take a while to tell correctly. Major had been feeling amazing all spring. I even considered (though I promised myself no more because it was so stressful) a local endurance ride in June. I’d been doing 7-10 mile rides 2-3 times a week, he was in good shape and looked amazing.

We went to a big horse camping weekend where multiple loops were marked. We did a 7-mile warmup the day before, he was pulling like a monster. The 20-mile ride he was on fire for about 20 miles. I did get us a little off trail, and we ended up doing about 24 miles in total. He seemed tired at the end, more than I thought warranted, and I walked him in, a little worried. Then he recovered fine and I thought it was just that it was very hot, he wasn't drinking enough and it was the longest ride we’d done all year. The next day we did a poker/obstacle ride of 5 miles and he was his normal, antsy self, having to walk “annoying slow” in his terms, with the other horses.

tunnel of manzanita was so cool

right before he started snorkeling and splashing all the water out
Back home we did a nice lake ride a couple days later, and another ride Auburn to Cool, on June 6. We tried to not run over people and quickly ate up the trails and hills.

Three days later I took Major on an evening ride, just easy in the forest. Started off strong but he felt weird. He didn’t want to speed up towards home, and three miles in he just stopped. I got off and hand-walked him home. I know my horse. When he isn't speedy or half barn-sour, something is off. I did hear a little wheezing, maybe allergies or heaves or something? I am not well-versed enough on horse lung ailments to know.

our last ride, golden grass
I had the vet out when Major was not better the next day. Heart rate and respiration were higher than they should be. The vet could barely hear anything with his lungs or heart, maybe a little something? This vet knows Major the best, and in fact saw him last year during the fires when Major was a little punky from breathing the bad air. But this time the vet referred me to a specialist at the clinic, where they could scope and x-ray Major’s lungs and ultrasound his heart. We had an appointment in two days. 

For those two days I worried, but not a lot. Major was eating great, wanting to come out for walks, and whinnying on my arrival. He was getting extra mashes because it was hot, which he gobbled up.

I showed up with the trailer and Major hopped right in, thinking we were going somewhere fun. He ate some carrots and we drove the 15 minutes to the vet clinic. He unloaded fine, looking around and pulling on me to go explore, and the vet came out for our 11am appointment. She listened and thought his lungs sounded more congested, and he was running a fever (he'd had no fever any other time). She speculated that it sounded like a lung issue, that she was going to take him into the clinic and would be out with information.

more carrots mom?
I hadn’t brought a book like I usually try to when waiting. I sat outside the trailer (it was already almost 100 degrees!) and searched my phone for horse lung ailments. There were lots to choose from, so I just kept reading, getting more and more anxious.

heading into the clinic
But then the vet was walking back across the parking lot. And I have no idea of the exact words because I think time stopped. Major was in irreversible heart failure. His heart was significantly damaged, one part/valve (I don’t have the notes yet) wasn’t working at all, there were weird growths or shadows on ultrasounds, so his heart and lungs were working overtime just to keep him upright. I tried to keep it together. I wasn’t successful.

I asked how much time he had, she couldn’t say of course (not a fortune-teller) but she didn’t think it was long. Maybe I could take him home for a few days of grass and pampering? She said she’d let me think, call people, and she would bring Major back out. I called my SO panicking, and he headed right over, though it would take about 20 minutes for him to arrive. 

In the meantime my gleaming bright bay horse came out, dragging the vet along, looking the picture of health. I asked the vet if I could just take him over the the lawn so think, she said of course, she’d be back in a bit to check on us. Major dragged me around, sniffing poop piles, whinnying to the outdoor horses, over to the the lawn where we stood in the shade on the green grass. He stood looking around a bit, then went to roll. He started to roll and then then just lay down, and started coughing very hard, with white mucus coming out, and lay there, with no desire to get up. His veins looked like he had just finished an endurance ride, his breaths were coming fast with nostrils flaring. He was suffering.

How strong was Major that he hid his illness all this time? I knew what I had to to do but damn, why do we have to make the decisions? I called the vet and told her to come out, my horse was down, it was time. My SO had just showed up, and I sobbed and pet Major’s face and strong neck while my SO stood there and tried in vain to say anything that would help. 

The vet came and I don’t want to write details. It was quick, a sedative shot though Major seemed pretty distant already, and the pink euthanasia solution, I knew I never liked pink. Then he was gone. Looking as shiny and healthy as he had two hours before when we had arrived at the clinic. The vet left us with him, and I tried to find words but there were only tears. The vet came back and braided part of his tail, and my SO, who had always braided at rides, did his mane. I sat for quite awhile, but Major was gone. 

My SO was awesome and drove my empty trailer back to the ranch. I composed myself enough to drive home, and then sank into misery. Some phone calls and texts, later the blog post, and everyone being so lovely. I am glad to have shared Major, but it does not make it any easier. Shared pain is still pain.

last photo I took of him
He went so quickly it seems like there must be more to tell, but there isn’t. He did not have any bad days, just a few short moments. My days are getting easier, except for moments that bring back all that I’ve lost. I don't believe in any afterlife, so I hope the life I gave him was enough. As I walked away that day I debated looking back. When I did I only saw, between the trees, gleaming copper hindquarters resting on green grass. 


  1. Shared pain is still pain. I grieve for you, with you, as I sit in tears reading this. I am so very sorry for your loss and cannot imagine how hard it must be.

    A good friend of mine always notes how grieving our animal companions is such a private thing. We have such personal and close relationships with them that other people can't quite appreciate due to the private nature of the human-animal interaction. Take all the time you need, and know I'm sending love from the East coast.

  2. I am so, so sorry for your loss. How completely unexpected and terrible it is and I cannot imagine how you feel. All my sympathy!

  3. It was surely a blessing that Major let you know how bad things really were while at the vet - not 15 miles into a ride somewhere inaccessible. He really was a special guy. ❤️

    I only "knew" him from afar, but you two were my very favorite horse-human pair. I always enjoyed seeing you had a new post up. Will miss the stories of your adventures. Hoping when enough time has passed, the memories and images here will bring you comfort.

  4. I loved Major and your adventures from afar, yet at this moment I feel like Im just sitting across the barn aisle. Thank you for sharing the beauty and tragedy of his last days. He really did go very very fast until the very very end. 🥰

  5. Thank you for sharing the details of what happened. !! It is never easy to loose a great horse and you gave him a great life. Hopefully there is another horse out there to help heal your loss.

  6. This was so hard to read. I cannot even believe it, the way it happened. I'm so sorry. I'm trying not to think about you cleaning up his things, the way I did with Baasha. I have his halter hanging from the wall of my living room. Also, kind of a shrine of photos above the piano. I probably should change that up, it's been 11 years. But he was the most important thing in my life, even before he was in it, just a dream. Your story is heartbreaking. I cannot imagine not believing in the afterlife, I hope you are assured you gave him the perfect life, what every Arabian horse desires. To go.

  7. So, so sorry to read this. I had always thought that my old endurance horse KB looked a lot like Major and had that same quirky personality. When we met at Chamberlain Creek, I realized the in person, Major was a lot bigger but still quite a similar character. Unfortunately, KB also had to be put down last week but at 32 years old and retired it was not the shock that losing Major must be. Still thankful that for both of them, it was relatively easy and not too dragged out. We give them the best life we can for the time they are with us. I know you must be devastated and lots of tears here for you. Feeling your pain.

  8. You write so beautifully (and always have) about Major and your partnership with him. I'm heartbroken for you that it's come to such a sudden end. He was a stunningly lovely boy. I hope you find another fourlegged partner one day soon.

  9. Heartbreaking to read... Going through the loss of an animal who has always been our strength seems surreal... Your photos are wonderful, especially the last one. Sending hugs~

  10. My heart is breaking for you. I am so very sorry for your loss of Major. I loved reading of your conversations and adventures, and your close bond shone through every sentence. Fly free, Major. Peace and blessings to you.