As I have gotten older, and these days aging seems to be happening at an alarming rate, I more and more appreciate longevity and anyone who can defy the odds. One such example of this is a mare that I purchased in 1982 at the age of 3 from a race horse breeding farm in Cherry Valley California. In addition to being oh so much younger, I was a barrel racer on the rodeo circuit and was looking for a young horse to be my next prospect but did not have a ton of money. So I heard about a breeding farm that was dispersing stock because of money issues and deals could be had for well bred appendix quarters if you were willing to deal with unhandled, not broke babies.
So I bought a cute little seal brown filly and named her Charlie because at the time there was a perfume on the market called Charlie and it had a confident, beautiful model as the spokeswoman. Much to the amusement of my sisters and father, Charlie was, shall we say, a filly with clear opinions. She was barely halter broke when I got her and she was 2 and half, so there were several occasions when I would be essentially water skiing behind a departing horse. After 6 months of ground training, the first time I attempted to ride Charlie provided great entertainment to my family. After several "unplanned dismounts" off of her, I gave up for the day. Charlie would be fine when I stood up in the stirrup but the minute I would swing my leg over her back, she would spook and spin me off. The next day I decided to longe her until she was too tired to be bad and was finally able to sit on her back without an explosion.
Charlie's opinionated demeanor continued when I started to take her to barrel race futurities, gymkanas and rodeos a few years later. Charlie had a amazing athletic turn on her and was extremely fast but she hated everything about rodeos, especially cowboys, ropes and loud speakers. She you be a temperamental mess from the moment I unloaded her from the trailer and would be such a nervous wreck after warming her up you could forget any success at running a barrel pattern. Charlie was so miserable at rodeos or jackpot barrel races that she would literally stand tied to the trailer lying in wait until some unsuspecting cowboy would walk within her range and she would line them up in her sights and kick them intentionally.
So the first lesson I learned from Charlie was that you are never really going to get a horse to perform at something they don't like even if they do have the talent. By a series of coincidences I decided to try to sell Charlie as a 3 day event horse and then get back to barrel racing. Needless to say, the sale never occured and after learning enought about eventing to not kill myself (or make a complete fool of myself) I was hooked and Charlie and I never looked back. Of course Charlie also had her opinions about jumping, dressage and travel to events, but she was what I had and I loved her.
Then earlier this summer, it became evident that Charlie's eye issues were escalating and her long suspected Uvitis in the right eye was causing her a great deal of discomfort. My sister, niece and I contemplated whether the recommended course of treatment was justified or even appropriate for a horse her age. The veterinary eye specialist had told us that her best chance was to remove her eye altogether. Charlie is currently 33 years old and I had to ask the vet if putting her through this at this age was humane and the vets reply was that Charlie in every other way tough, happy and healthy and could have several more years in her. So, last month, Charlie's right eye was removed and prosthetic placed in the socket.
Today Charlie is as spry as I have seen her in years and she does not seem impaired in the least little bit. Her discomfort is gone and she is even eating better. It is like the surgery has given her a new lease on life and she is going to take advantage of it.
This coupled with her new fancy rubber Epona shoes she thinks she should be running cross country again. I know that many people might think that my sister and I are a little, no a lot, crazy to spend this amount of money on a horse Charlie's age and I did agonize over whether putting her down was the better thing to do. But after seeing Charlie today I know that we did make the right decision and even though my pocket book is thinner and my indebtedness to sister even greater, my heart is fuller knowing that an old mare's quality of life is the best it can be for whatever time she has left.