The best horse ever.
Gail M. Staines, Ph.D.
Founder, The Senior Horse
It is with the greatest sadness that I share with you that my beloved Frankie crossed over the Rainbow Bridge yesterday.
Many of you know that I started The Senior Horse website and FB page because of Frankie. At 25 years of age, he was the oldest horse that I have ever owned. A Thoroughbred, Oldenburg gelding bred for show jumping, Frankie came into my life when he was 14. For the past 11 years we did some jumping (which he loved) and dressage (which I think he loathed, given that he sighed ever time I put the dressage saddle on).
The Phone Call
I received the phone call that every horse owner dreads – Frankie was down in his stall yesterday morning. We had a terrible storm come through St. Louis Monday night. It looks like the horses might have been agitated by the storm and Frankie may have gotten cast in his stall.
The morning feeder found Frankie laying down, breathing heavily and extremely sweaty. He would go from a flat laid-out position to one where he continued to look at his side. (A sign of colic.)
I was at the barn in 10 minutes, got Frankie to his feet, and walked him into the indoor arena. He pooped just a little in the aisleway (an initial good sign). In the meantime, the barn owners (fantastic individuals with 30+ years of expertise) called the vet. Unfortunately, the vet would not arrive for another 2 hours.
I walked Frankie in the indoor for all of those 2 hours. The weather here (like most of the country) is very hot and humid. At one point, he laid down flat next to the indoor wall. He was simply exhausted. We did give him liquid oral Banamine which helped with this pain.
The veterinarian arrived, did an exam, and gave him a muscle relaxant. After an internal exam, she used a sonogram. She could not see his kidney nor his spleen. The prognosis was not good.
Apparently, Frankie flipped his large intestines. There was also a kink in the large intestine causing a blockage.
I was presented with 3 options:
1.) Administer a drug (I will need to find out the name of this) and proceed to jog him up-and-down a hill in the pasture with the hopes that the intestine would flip back into place. The downside is that this drug frequently causes a horse to hemorrhage out of its nose and mouth. This veterinarian only experienced 2 cases (out of many) where this was successful.
2.) Major surgery. This would mean transporting him to a local area equine hospital or to the Veterinary School in Columbia, MO (a 90-min. drive). If successful, the recovery would be 60-90 days, but there was a very good chance he would continue to experience smaller episodes of colic. He may not want to eat. He would no longer be allowed to run in the pasture or jump – both of which he loved. Frequently, the horse will then become depressed.
3.) Euthanasia. If I were to make this choice, I would need to do so quickly given his situation.
Making the Decision
I talked with the barn owners who have had experience with these types of situations. I talked again to the veterinarian. She had administered as much tranquilizer as she could, noting that the amount given was the amount he received when he got his teeth floated, and this was not even reducing his pain.
After calling my husband (not a horsey person, but who is incredibly supportive), I made the tough decision to let Frankie go.
We decided to let Frankie go in the indoor arena for a few reasons:
Not a good idea to do this in the pasture with the excessive heat. (At this point, I did not know how long it would be before the service would come and retrieve him).
The barn is located in a suburban area which has been built around it over 30 years. The barn owner had a good relationship with the city, so that was not an issue. The concern was over neighbors not wanting to see a horse carcass, even though he would be covered by a tarp.
It was easier for the truck and trailer to retrieve Frankie by driving into the indoor arena.
The veterinarian was kind enough to call the Animal Cremation Care services located in the area. They would be able to get to the barn within 90 minutes.
The Hardest Part
The veterinarian and vet tech prepared me for what would occur. (Oddly, maybe, I had just written a 3-part series on equine euthanasia, posted on The Senior Horse and FB page.) Even though I had this information, it was tough.
I walked Frankie down to one end of the arena. The vet administered a sedative (intravenous) and placed a catheter in his neck. He walked two circles around me, then quietly laid down (like a lamb). I stroked his head and told him how much I loved him.
The vet and vet tech allowed me to take all the time I needed to say good-bye. A drug was administered that stopped brain activity so that he would not feel any pain.
Frankie laid down his head and in 3 minutes, he was gone.
I kneeled by his head, stroking it, and told him to run free.
The barn where I am at is filled with caring people who are quite supportive. We covered Frankie with a tarp. My friends each gave me a hug and expressed their condolences. The vet tech cut a piece of Frankie’s tail and mane, braided it, and gave it to me. I have his halter and stall name plate.
The person from the Cremation service was very kind. He will hand deliver Frankie’s ashes to me sometime next week. I will spread them somewhere.
Need to Share
I share my story with you to let you know how special Frankie was to me. I started The Senior Horse to share information, stories, and advice about horses over 18 years of age and I will continue to do so.
Frankie was my inspiration and he will continue to serve as my ambassador.
I do not know if I will own another horse at this point. The sadness is there and the crying comes in waves. I do know that I need sometime to grieve and reflect.
I hope you will continue to follow The Senior Horse and encourage others to join the conversation.
If you feel so compelled, please consider donating to The Longmeadow Rescue Ranch located in Union, Missouri. I have and continue to be a long-time supporter of the Ranch that has the mission to rescue horses and other farm animals in need.