|My favorite photo of Harv, taken this summer|
Goodbye is hard. Harv has been my horse of a lifetime, and I just adored him. Seeing his face, so beloved and familiar, was a daily joy, something to look forward to in the most wretched times. I have been with Harv longer than most people currently in my life, including Bob.
Nothing dramatic like an injury or illness. Many things were good - his weight was good, his lower legs were mostly scratches free with daily care. The Cushings appeared to be under control. His incontinence did not seem to bother him. His balance was more of a concern.
Bob and I talked alot about Harv's unsteady movement. Last year I loved to turn him out in the ring to see him move out like a champ. Maybe you saw the videos I posted. I was so proud of how well he was doing. Bob always told me to keep him moving, to give him lots of ring time and exercise.
He'd stopped doing his showoff trot in the ring, and in fact he didn't really want to trot. I'd wave him off, waggle the whip -- but when he did trot was disunited. He stumbled a few times. He would stop as soon as he could, and would come back to stand with me. No more ring time.
No clear answer
Sometimes he could not walk a straight line, veering one way and correcting himself. At other times he was close to his old self. If he'd been in his stall for any length of time, Harv showed his old spirit. He would tear around the pasture--with his legs flailing in an egg-beater action--but he got the job done. If he stumbled, he picked himself up -- he never wiped out.
He could still roll, and he could get up -- but he'd sit like a dog for a moment before hoisting himself up. Given how weak his hind legs seemed, I took heart in how well he managed.
I noticed one evening, when he was stalled, that he would lose his balance and bang his hips on the stall partition -- I looked closer and saw some of the slats were starting to bow -- this was occurring regularly. I wondered how long he'd be able to lie down and get up in this 10x10 stall.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday I spent hours with Harvey, watching him, asking him to do simple things like turn at the walk and trot. A good friend advised me to videotape him to watch later. I did. Ten minutes of rolling the camera captured a number of unsteady moments. I watched them over and over when I got home. Video doesn't lie; it is what it is.
I feared what would happen to Harv if he fell, or could not get up from rolling or lying down. With coming winter, falling or getting cast seemed like a very real possibility. He is at a private barn where he and his buddies are alone (not supervised) most of the time. I've seen horses fall, and I've had friends lose healthy horses in pasture accidents that involved falls. I did not want Harvey's story to end that way. I couldn't let it.