I'm so behind on this writing thing due to lots of things going on, so this is written (again) way after the date. I am however glad to write about this after the fact. Also, sorry for lack of pictures, but well... there's not much I'd be able to post about this photographically :/
So this was the week we euthanized Nigel.
I don't feel bad about my choice and even though I can question things leading up to it, in the end it was unavoidable even if what led up to it could have been prevented.
If you're keeping track, in the past month or so, there's been 2 different MAJOR blow ups with this horse that resulted in him seriously injuring himself. By whatever grace you believe in, he's managed to not injure himself or anyone long term but I know its just a matter of time unless he's really got his crap together.
And after the trainer, it really, really seemed like he did.
If you recall, when I picked him up, his legs were huge. Cellulitis +10000 of course. He hadn't been treated or seen and kept in super muddy conditions for 2 weeks before I got him. A normal horse would be dead right? Not Nigel!
When I brought him home, I took him to the barn and he got a stall across from Jade. I knew he'd need rehab and this was the best way to do that, add weight, and hopefully get to riding him to decide on all that future things. We took him to the clinic the first working day after I got him back and once again, he managed to pass all tests for infection, joint injury, and whatever else he should have had but inexplicably didn't. They wrapped him from coronary band to knee/hock on ALL FOUR LEGS. he was at the clinic for THREE days and I should tell you, he was a lamb. From the moment we picked him up from the trainers, he was a dream boat.
I'd begun thinking maybe, just maybe this WAS my event horse! But I also recalled I have Edison in the wings that will be a much more trustworthy one probably. So I put on my businesswoman/trainer hat and got to work with Nigel. At this point, I'm not trusting his tying and since he's BEEN getting tired FOREVER at the trainers, I tie him to a secure area near where our stalls are and leave him tied about 30 minutesish while I do my chores for each of those days and can keep an eye on him the whole time. NOTHING that went past him ever phased him and I'm tentatively thinking this is going to work. He was hand walked every day until the bandages could come off 5 days after bringing him home. I never ONCE saw "Old Nigel" but I also wasn't going to take it for granted. Also, I can't have him deciding to "untie" himself and trash his legs AGAIN every 6 months... so we needed to test out how good he was at this tying thing and so we did. On the 5th day of rehab, I cross tied (OMG RIGHT?!) to remove the bandages. I knew this would/should test him but instead he was super quiet, happy, and just a little silly (in a friendly way) as I managed to removed the LAYERS AND LAYERS of wrappings on his legs without so much as bandage scissors (totally blanked on bringing them).
He was a saint and calmly but alertly checked out the farm goings on while I did this.
Then we did a bath because he was covered in rain rot (of course). With that all done, he grazed, hand walked and then we tied in the same place as always. Remember, he's now used to being tied for like all day so this wasn't excessive in any way for him.
So I start doing barn chores and the horse stands happily. Calmly. No big deal.
I think when "it" happened was when I finished up cleaning the stalls. It wasn't very much but as I went by with the wheelbarrow, he was watching me more wistfully than before. I was letting his legs dry before rebandaging them as well. After dropping off the wheelbarrow, I came back to him and touched his hind leg (nbd) and then his front leg and I just felt the change in the force. It wasn't an OMG WHOA moment, but once you're around cray horses long enough, you can practically smell something changing.
And so he pulled back once I was out of the way.
And thought about things.
And then JUST when he was about to look at me for assistance, he got his NOPE EFF THIS SHIT and he began his "thing." Gosh if I could have begged a horse to check in with me, this was that moment.
Its hard to explain this in any way that's going to make anyone truly understand when you've not dealt with "broken" horses but basically... he systematically and methodically tried to figure out how to break the halter or the rope. Its not a simple pull back and freak out scenario. I can do that in my sleep. This is calculated, calmly done, and very independently driven with no regard for what humans are doing or physical pain to himself. All I did was keep people back and wait it out.
The most popular approaches he liked to use are putting his feet on things to push OFF them for extra leverage as well as putting his front feet ON things to push UP on them. Since he had a lovely pipe fence, he spent most of his time trying to utilize those to accomplish his goals. Problem was, my stuff dun break and he also managed to twist the rope over the safety knot so I couldn't let him go. Best I could do was keep people away and calmly wait for him to check back in with reality. It was all very slow motion, calm, no flailing, and I even went up to him in this 2 on, 2 off position to move his front hoof away from the rope so when he came down on his own, he wouldn't be caught in it. It was that calm and he was that aware of what he was doing. Basically, no self preservation coupled with him doing this sooo many times that he knew what he was doing.
People asked me if it was a trick I'd taught him. I said no.
I checked my phone to kill time while I waited for him to give me something to work with.
About 20 minutes later, he completely and calmly gave up, checked back in with me like "hey, human, help me out." and I untied him easily and my lamb of a horse was back. He'd blown out something inside his right hind leg badly and when I started assessing him, he's also managed to grind his right front pastern down to the tendons and seisomoids so I knew this was it.
I gave him a final meal and lots of pats (while explaining to onlookers that he was walking the green mile and why). I called the clinic and made the arrangements. I knew I had to get him loaded before his adrenaline wore off so I headed home to get the trailer at 9pm. My brave, never say die boy unloaded 2 legged lame at the clinic but alert and completely cooperative. 80% awesome 20% deadly dangerous *sigh
I could doubt tying him THAT day in THAT way all I wanted, but honestly... this is also the kind of horse that will "wing it" out on cross country when he wanted to. He was athletic as all get out and sooo bold, confident, and clever that he'd just make that decision to leave a stride or so out in front of a huge table or hang a leg. This is the horse rotational falls are made of. I couldn't resell him knowing that. I couldn't push forward and ride him myself and know that. I didn't want someone less experienced dying from him not wanting to be tied today, yesterday is fine, but not today. None of this mattered as he manged to mangle his legs beyond reason and didn't seem to give a shit that any of that had just happened.
I did contact the trainers I work with and they completely agreed that this was the right choice but I also knew it the moment I saw the look in his eye when he decided to be clever that evening. There was never a doubt in my mind at that moment or since. I'm sorry for Nigel, but I'm upset about the people that made him this way and allowed him to learn this deadly game. While I spend my time with Jade and Edison, I'm realizing that that's where I want to be at this point in my life... helping "new" MY horses reach their full potential and not destroy myself over fixing other people's mistakes. Its sad for me as I've done it to long, but I just don't think I can keep doing it. I had my cry over my big red boy and I'll channel that energy into moving forward. I guess you really can't save them all but this was my first time with that and it sucks.
Be free Fancy Boy <3