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She's Not a Baby Anymore!

Early spring saw some immediate changes in how Ellie carried herself and our dressage work started to truly improve.  There had been times last year where flat work felt like a fight and I wondered to myself if she was ever going to just relax and listen to me haha.

Thankfully, as the title suggests, Ellie has suddenly grown up in front of my eyes.  We have had some really stellar lessons lately, where I feel like I am suddenly able to make things click.  We also had an incredibly frustrating dressage lesson a few weeks ago where Ellie was in rip-roaring peeing heat (not normal for her) and we worked through 45 minutes of her refusing to bend right.  So, ya know, as much as she is improving, she is still an opinionated redheaded mare!  ;-)

But, I have to give her credit because she is really working her little butt off for me!  Sadly, I had not been able to schedule in a jump lesson before our first three-phase, which led to me riding her ridiculously backward at a slow trot the entire …

Miss Sparky is Aging.... :(

My little Morgan mare, Sparky, is starting to show her age.  She is 28 years old this year...I have had her for 18 years.  She was my first horse when I was 13 years old.  She was the BEST first horse and I am thankful for what she taught me.  


Here we are in 1993, the first summer I owned her. 



This was my senior pic from 1997.
 
 
She has Cushing's and DJD/bone spavin in her hocks.  She has been retired from competition since 2006, after doing a little bit of everything with me.  She is looking GREAT this year, with most of her coat shedding out normally and lots and lots of pretty dapples on her chestnut coat.  She inhales the third crop hay I bought for her and seems content in her quiet life.

But lately she just looks tired.  :(  I know that fall is a bad time for Cushing's horses, with their ACTH levels on the rise.  She is on chastetree berries and I know she is fine, but it just stinks to see her age.  I remember what she looked like when she was 10 years old, when I used to event her and she was in really good musculature.  It is inevitable...but I want her to live forever, of course.

Here is Sparky the summer after I graduated from college, 2001.


Here is she at Granite State Morgan in 2005.


Marathon phase of the ADS competition Snowfields in 2003.  She was the "Best Conditioned" horse at 21 years old!  First in marathon, fifth overall.  :D


Southern Maine Dressage circa 2006.


We had a ton of rain last week...the horses did not move out of the barn very much, but preferred to stand just inside and stay dry.  On Wednesday I had an awful moment.  The rain was just mist, so I kicked everyone out so I could clean stalls.  Sparky went down to roll and REALLY struggled to get back up.  OMG.  Instant tears.  All I could think of was having to put her down.  A million thoughts were running through my mind.....

While she is stiff and creaky, she has always been fine jumping back up after rolling and sometimes even bucking.  So to see her struggle was hard.  She did get back up on her own, but it took some effort.

The next morning, she had a big old spot of edema on her belly, left side, in front of her udder.  I know it was edema, as I was able to push it in and my finger indent stayed.  It also did not bother her at all, so I knew it could not be inflammation.  I called my vet that morning on the drive to school, just because I needed to hear him tell me she was OK.  :)

Of course, I am keeping a close eye on her.  I always do anyway.  I have not seen her roll since (of course), but I am hoping her discomfort that day was only because she was so stiff from standing around for a few days in a row.  She seems fine and is eating/drinking/pooping normally.  Her edema is slowly going away and has migrated to the lowest part of her belly.  Her lymphatic system is not what it used to be, so it will take time for the fluid to be reabsorbed. 

Here is her "Mean Mare Face" circa 1999.  As long as she is being crabby, I know she is fine!  LOL!

I hate having a geriatric horse.  I really do.  I mean, I adore my Sparky mare and will do whatever I can to keep her healthy and happy.  But it stresses me out.  I already know that I will not go through "heroic" measures to save her (like no colic surgery or anything like that).  I absolutely dread the day when I have to make a tough decision.  That's not to say I won't do what is right for her, even though my heart will break and shatter.   I would never keep her alive for me, nor will I allow her to suffer.  But last week was a reminder that our time is limited.  

With my son, at a horse show, circa 2005.


Here she is this past summer, August 2010.


Extra hugs and cookies for my mare lately.  Love ya, Spark.  <3

Comments

  1. This almost made me cry...That's my Missy is 20 years...first horses really are the best...many hugs for Sparky!

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  2. She looks really good for her age. In the last picture she didn't look "old" at all (aka you don't let her get skinny and say "Oh, it's because she's old" like I've seen people do, argh!!) She looks like such a cutie.

    Greta's 13 and I don't want to think about the 20s right now!!

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  3. Sparky sounds a lot like my old boy. I've had him for 18 years and lately I've been seeing more and more of those signs. He's 24.

    I think it's great that you still have her after all these years. So many horses get passes around that I love hearing stories about horses like Sparky.

    I keep telling my old guy that I want him to lay down in the pasture one night, go to sleep, and not wake up. I absolutely cannot stand the thought of having to make the decision to have him put down. It would devastate me.

    I recently cut some of his tail to have a horse hair bracelet made and I took some special pictures of him in the pasture. I've been doing little things like that "just in case".

    Hopefully what you're seeing is just temporary and she'll be feeling better in no time with many more happy days ahead. She's beautiful, and looks like a very special horse.

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  4. As difficult as it is to do, I want to APPLAUD you for looking ahead to the dreaded inevitable. So many people don't....

    She's beautiful. And she's lucky to have you!

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  5. You and Spark will know when it is time, you are bonded enough that she will let you know, just as my Mag did with me. No doubt, as you are preparing, you know your heart will FOREVER be broken. All of your memories (which are Abundant!) will help you keep breathing, in addition to your family and friends support as well as your two other mares that love you so much. Oh, and Lucy and the cats too. I have SO MANY fond memories of Sparky too and am blessed to have known her : ) PLUS... she is still ALIVE and ENJOYING each day! LOVE TO YOU BOTH and an extra treat and hug from her old friend! xoxo

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  6. She does look good. I know how wonderful it is to have an older horse - my Noble was just like that. They do get creaky, but as long as they're still enjoying life that's what matters. The chastetree is a good idea. You might want to have her thyroid checked as well. Loved all the pictures of your history together!

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  7. aww....thank you for sharing all about what a great girl she is! I hope that she lives another 10 years happy and healthy. She looks great...doesn't show her age one bit in that photo from the summer.

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  8. Ah, what a nice old girl she is! From what you write about Dreamy, we all know what good care you take of your horses. My gelding is 20 and still in good shape, so I'm hoping to get a few more good years with him.

    It is so hard to watch your animals age. Give her an extra cookie for me!

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  9. Awwww, thanks everyone! I promised my mare a forever home back when I was 13 years old (and she was 10) and she's got it! I would put her down before I would EVER sell her/give her away. No one else deserves her....and she deserves nothing less then the best!

    I even changed my discipline from eventing to carriage driving back when she had to stop jumping. :D

    She is very special and I am so thankful for her presence in my life. <3

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