I had to put one of the boys down in February. Today I want to write about him.
His name was Zeus. I bought him sight unseen after seeing an ad and talking on the phone with his owner. He was 15, a KWPNxRID cross. I was so interested in how he sounded that I put him on Paypal that very day and picked him up a few days later. One of my daughters went with me. He was not exactly like his pictures had portrayed him. “Mom!" she cried. "You bought a gigantic white donkey!"
Not that I could blame her. I couldn’t deny that he was not exactly beautiful. He had been on trial, had been on the back burner, was thinnish, dirty, scraped up, unfit and out of shape. He was sound, but had no muscle and was straight shouldered and kinda ewe necked. He had a gigantic head and gigantic feet. 'Clunky' was somewhat of an understatement. He was grey. His dad was E’sops Fable, a beautiful KWPN stallion, and his mom was Carragawn Lady, an RID. He was his mothers son, that's for sure. He had been an eventer and was a good honest jumper. I ignored her, we loaded him up (he was not very obedient but gave up eventually) and took him home.
After that first ‘oh man, what did I buy?!’ he really grew on me. I pulled his shoes and cleaned him up and trimmed his mane. I massaged him and lasered him and pulsed magnetic blanketed him. He got fatter and fitter and his body came in to its own. He became magnificent, truly, with a huge sloping shoulder and big muscular arched neck. He had been loved and spoiled by his last owner. He had ‘Not today lady!’ syndrome about things like cross ties and loading and standing still. But I knew that he was all talk. A stern voice and a tug on the lead rope, a slap on the butt, a poke on the shoulder with a ‘stand up!’ and he’d cave. He would jump through fire for treats. He was a love bug and liked being with his people. My husband is not horsie and he loved Zeus. You just couldn’t resist his big head and his big dark eye and his funny posturing.
He was pretty out of shape and we spent a lot of time just walking on a long rein. The first time we trotted he was such a jackhammer I put that out of the equation. We added lateral work as he got stronger. After many weeks we trotted again and there it was, big, springy, forward. He became a joy to ride. He was not confident initially and would spook at silly things; the cat lurking in the grass, the little cup that fell off the mounting block. But he always felt totally safe and I loved riding him. I had always wanted to event and he had been a successful and reliable low level eventer. I had always wanted an RID or ISH, and now I had one, and a cute big goofball one at that. Happy, happy, happy! And so for a year and a half I was in horse heaven, loving and riding my big white Zeusiepants.
One day late fall I was in the barn and heard a crash. WTH! Running to the stall, I saw Zeus down, thrashing. He laid still, then struggled to get up. He stood there for a sec. But then he seemed ok, and started eating his hay. I took him out, walked him around, and he seemed fine. I didn’t know what to think.
A few weeks later I went to the barn and saw that the pipe wall of Zeusie’s corral was bent. He had some scrapes. WTH again. Had he gone down? I didnt like this, at all.
He felt totally normal when I rode him, and in the turnout he played and bucked with his buddies. Nothing at all seemed amiss.
But he started falling more often. Although he never did anything weird when I rode him, I stopped. Soon he would fall a few times a day. Blood work showed nothing. An exam showed some neuro deficits. He developed shivers and it progressed rapidly. It got so I couldn’t pick up his feet at all; he would fall. I caught some of the falls on film. My vet soon felt he was a danger to himself and others and recommended euthanasia. I was shocked and sick.
But, and this is always the deciding factor for me, it became clear that he wasn’t happy. You could tell that he knew something wasn’t right. He leaned on the fence, rather than standing in the center of his spacious corral. He lost weight. He became uncharacteristically anxious and didn’t like to leave his corral. He lost his appetite. He still loved his cookies and his scritches and his tummy rubs, but his eyes were quiet and he would stand, head down and sad.
And so we put him down on a cold, cold gray Tuesday morning. We took his body to the lab for a necropsy. The results are still coming in but so far we see a brain inflammation and a heart problem. Are they related? Were either the cause of his falling? It wasn’t narcolepsy. It wasn’t EPM or West Nile. His brain and spine are still being examined and I hope we get an answer.
I miss him so much. I have several horses and I love them all. But sometimes one just strikes you, just clicks, and you find you get just a little more joy from him than some of the others, just a little more amusement, just a little more pleasure when you ride. That was me and Zeus. He was so big, but so balanced. I’d catch my reflection and we looked great together, me so tall, him fitting me and taking up my long spider legs. I had such big dreams for me and the big Zeuser. I was dying to show him. But as sometimes happens, dreams give sad way to that nightmare of euthanasia that so many of us, as lifelong horse girls, have gone through.
Thank you to Holly, and Crystal, and Masha who had owned him and loved him and who shared their experiences with me as his new mom.
And thank you Zeusie, for the wonderful rides and the silly play times and the sheer joy of having you in my life. I believe that our animals go to Heaven, and that he is there, galloping green pastures, flying over jumps, bucking and playing with horses who have gone before him, his spirit free of the body that failed him. Im so glad I was able to have him, even though not for as long as I had planned. Thank God I have the rest of the boys to love and care for. But Zeus was one in a million, and how sad I am that he is gone.