Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Sad End

I first saw Sugar almost 20 years ago as a 3-4 year old filly. Back then she was dark grey, sassy, & full of life. I can still see her running across the pasture that day. Of unknown heritage, she stood just under 14 hands but had the trot of a big horse. She belonged to a friend who would sell her & later buy her back. For a number of months about 5 years ago Sugar stayed with me while her owner moved & settled in. It was during this time that I came to appreciate the stoic, tough little mare.

Her life hadn't always been easy & she had no use for people other than at feeding time, but who could blame her? Over the years Sugar was a horse of many trades, from trail riding; broodmare; working cattle; cowboy's horse; to lesson horse; forgotten horse, Sugar did it all. At some point in time she experienced an episode of founder. I was told it was post foaling but no other details were ever available to me. Over the next 10-15 years Sugar would have founder flare-ups, but she never missed many days of work. As long as her hooves were kept trimmed & shod, she would continue working with a minimum of pain. We all know that horses can be very stoic creatures, but I think Sugar was more stoic than most. I'm sure she was in a lot more pain than she ever showed. Under saddle she was a fireball who never missed a step, but watch her casually roaming the pasture & it was evident her feet hurt. As time went on she became more sore & could be seen in the classical "saw-horse" stance of founder.

It'd been a couple years since I'd seen Sugar, but her owner would occasionally tell me that she was slowly getting worse. Why she was allowed to worsen without treatment was always upsetting & many times I suggested euthanasia. Her owner just wasn't ready. A very selfish sentiment! Sugar had gone from an obese, obviously IR, horse to a thin horse with the haircoat of a cushing horse. Her owner would never spend the money to test for IR & cushings, but the symptoms were hard to miss. Every now & then Sugar's owner would say she really needed to be euthanized but there just wasn't the money for the vet. Finally the day came when Sugar was taken to a low-cost/free euthanasia clinic. I was glad to hear that the stoic little mare's years of pain were over. But even more than being glad, I was so saddened to see what Sugar had been allowed to become. The pictures of her last hours show a horse emaciated by pain, trying to stand & walk on feet that had obviously been long neglected.
There's no excuse for allowing a horse's feet to get in this condition. Just because a horse is being fed (I know for a fact that Sugar never missed a meal these last 15 years, she was often overfed) doesn't mean they aren't being neglected. Allowing a foundered horse to suffer is a horrible form of neglect, one that doesn't have to happen. This x-ray shows Sugar's deformed & deteriorating coffin bone that's on it's way to dropping through the sole. I'll never understand how anyone can let a horse get in this condition. How can someone stand by & watch the daily pain & suffering without trying to do something to correct it? Ignorance to the care of a foundered horse is what sent Sugar into her downward spiral of repeated founder episodes. Ignorance & lack of proper hoof care caused a nice mare to suffer years of pain. I tried to talk to her owner many times but old "cowboy" ways are hard to overcome. I hope sharing Sugar's story here will open at least one pair of eyes to the terrible outcome of founder untreated. Founder isn't something hopeless, it isn't something to accept & "learn to live with it". It can be treated &, more importantly, IT CAN BE PREVENTED! Rest in peace & run free Sugar.