Saturday, September 20, 2008

Endings and Beginnings


My thanks to all the readers who shared their wonderful stories with me when I posted about losing my horse Topper. I sat and figured how long it’s been since I haven’t either loaned or leased a horse. It’s been twenty years! Even with Topper in retirement, I still felt connected to him.

He’s been laid to rest in the same field as my first horse, Spencer, who passed away as well. It makes me happy to know that they’re together. When I bought Topper it was because Spencer was getting a little too old to jump and I anticipated lots of jealous behavior. There was some if I was riding Topper and Spencer was in the ring or the field adjoining it, but in the main he was more depressed about not working. We put him back to work as a lesson horse and he was too busy with his new career teaching beginning riders to worry about Topper and me.

Topper was magnificent to look at and an amazingly talented fellow. In fact, there was one judge in particular who always placed him, pretty much no matter what I did in the saddle. When I retired him, I had guilt because he’d been limping and my trainer said it was the shoes. We had the farrier out a few times and it got somewhat better, but he still seemed stiff off and on. My instinct had been to get an equine vet whom I knew and respected, but was not the vet for this facility, out to see him. When my trainer disagreed, I demurred.

When I moved to another barn, the trainer there called the vet I liked best, who was in fact the vet for her facility, and he found Topper had a cyst on his cannon bone. We sent films up to Cornell, but there was too much degenerative arthritis around the leg at this point and they advised retiring him. My in-law’s farm is Shangri-La for horses and I know he was happy there, but I’m still kicking myself for not trusting my instincts and overruling my trainer right away. I might have been able to correct the problem surgically and have had Topper with me a few more years before retirement. I learned the lesson of always making sure you’re comfortable with a facility’s vet for everything, not just the basics, because it can be difficult to bring in someone else.

I may not have a horse of my own again. Instead I’ll be a horse mom catching a ride where I can, but I have many years of happy memories and lots of experience to help my kids. Now that it’s fall and it’s the perfect time of year for riding. I’m going to make time for a Mommy ride!



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