Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I have never been the type of person who accepts or deals with change easily. I thrive in an environment of consistency and routine with all things familiar. So when change is forced on me, as it always inevitably is, I struggle with it, even though many times it is for the best. So, today marks one of those times of change and yes, I am struggling.

Hank, who is the paint on whom I am pictured on the sidebar of this blog, sadly has to be retired at the age of 10 due to lameness. As I have previously written about, after moments of glory in his brief career as an Event and Dressage horse, he has developed sidebone so severely that nothing has helped for him to regain soundness and all the vets can tell me is either nerve him or retire him. So I have chosen the latter. Nerving, which I am sure that many of you are aware of, is the practice of surgically cutting the nerve to the afflicted area. A procedure relatively common in dealing with chronic issues in the foot like sidebone and navicular. It does not solve the problem it just takes away the horses ability to feel it.

Now I am not going to debate, or pass judgement, on the humaneness or appropriateness of this procedure, I am just saying that I have a moral issue with it and do not feel it is the right decision on Hank's behalf. Sidebone is the calcification of the collateral cartilage in the foot exacerbated, if not caused by concussion. So odds are it would progress at an greater rate if he used himself uninhibited by pain. I would rather have a pet and take care of his needs for the remainder of his life rather than nerve him and use him and have him crippled in a few years. My choice, I know.

So that brings me to my issue with change. Because Hank seemed unhappy watching all of the other horses in my barn being ridden, I made the choice to take him to a friends house to be a pasture/barn mate for her horse. She even has comfort pads in her barn stalls which will be easier on his sidebone. But the transfer today was much more difficult and emotional for both of us than I thought it would be. He seemed unsettled and confused and I was just pretty much a basket case. How do I explain to him that I am not deserting him rather I am trying to give him more happiness. I think he will settle in eventually but I am not so sure about me.

I know I tend to assign a full range of human emotions to all my animals, but how do we know they don't feel the same as we. He is less than a 1/2 hour away and I can bring him home any time, so why do I feel so horrible. Have any of you experienced a similar situation? Even with my new horse Uiver captivating so much of my time I think I am grieving as much for Hank's lost career as much as anything else. Silly, I know. I also wonder what all my other horse's think (see there I go assigning human emotions). What do you all think, am I certifiable or just slightly eccentric?


Kris H. said...

I am sitting here in tears...I understand all too well. I had to retire and bring my TB home to be a pasture pet at the age of 14 when he was diagnosed with arthritis and a bone chip,no longer able to jump or do dressage comfortably. Nonnie also seemed confused at first but he soon settled in to his new home and actually came to enjoy his retirement. You and your sweet guy will adjust to this change and find a new normal.

Francesca Prescott said...

I don't think you're over-reacting at all. I think it's perfectly normal to feel the way you're feeling, and as hard as it is, you know you had his best interests at heart by choosing not to nerve him, and by finding him a place to live where he'll be more comfortable. I think horses (and not just horses) are far more emotionally intelligent than they are given credit for. I often wonder what horses say to each other when they call (I ask Qrac and Kwintus all the time!), and wish there was some magic translation device available, kind of like the Google bar!

As Kris says, Hank wll soon settle down and adjust, and you'll be at peace with your decision. Big hugs to you, and lots of love.

Alison said...

Will Hank never be ridden again, even as a pleasure/trail horse? If he can, send him to me! (I know--we're too far away.) There are lots of older gals like me who are good riders and love a horse who is well-trained but only have time/energy for those fun rides in the woods. If Hank is walking/light trotting sound, maybe after awhile you can find a rider who would love to have him. That might make you both feel better. And let's face it, any time a horse's 'herd' is disturbed (and you of course are the lead mare in Hank's herd)there are adjustments. Good luck.

Terri Rocovich said...

Thank you all for your love and words of encouragement. Kris you are right, we just need to adjust to the "new normal". And thank you Francesca for validating how much they do feel emotionally. I often think of that movie - "Up" (great animated movie if you have not seen it) there are dogs in it that can talk with a translation device. I really wish someone would invent one.

Allison, right now Hank is too lame to ride, but perhaps in time. The biggest issue with finding him a trail home is that Hank was a rescue and does not trust easily. He came to me after being rescued from the killers and he had been horribly abused by mexican charros. A sad reality we in California run across all to frequently. So maybe in time, I can find someone who is very patient and gentle who Hank will learn to trust. Who knows Alison, you might be perfect for each other.

I am going to stop by and see Hank tomorrow and give him a hug. I will keep you all posted on his adjustment to his new normal.

Anonymous said...

Terri I don't think that you are crazy at all. I think horses feel emotion that is unique to them. Mare's often grieve foals that they have been separated from, my horses call to one another when we leave for trail rides. New situations are distressing I think because it's a new herd environment and hierarchies must be established and new friendships formed. It's great that you are so close and can continue to actively monitor Hank's adjustment. After some time he may be just as happy as he was at your place. If you are crazy then I know I'm following along right behind you :D