Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Harvey and what happened

My favorite photo of Harv, taken this summer
Many of you know that Harvey, my friend of many years, left me a few days ago.

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.

What happened?
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.

Assess with fresh eyes
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.

The decision
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.

More tomorrow...


  1. You showed clear thinking and compassion in the face of huge personal loss. As I stated before, you loved Harvey so very well.

  2. What a beautiful portrait of Harv.

    I understand very much what you're saying about assessing your animal's health and well-being with new eyes. For us, this summer, we took our elderly Sheltie on a customary trip with us to see family down south in the big city. Instead of enjoying the familiar turf and friendly faces as she had been used to do, Goldie mostly napped, whined and dozed before struggling to get up and around, all the while coughing with alarming frequency. The illness that we had been able to symptomatically treat for some time had become too much and we knew it was time to say goodbye.

    All my sympathies to you at this tough time.

  3. Still sad, but you did the generous, kind, and right thing for Harv. Bless you.

  4. Stacey, I'm so sorry. I didn't know. I do know how much a part of your life Harv was and will always be in your memories. {{hugs}}

  5. I'm sorry for your loss. It is a difficult decision to make when an animal's quality of life starts to deteriorate but there is no acute incident . . . A friend of mine, who is a vet, says that you can tell when you've waited too long but it's agonizing to think you are choosing to end their lives too early. Once they are in the gray area, you can only do what you think is best and it's obvious to anyone who reads your blog that you have always done what's best for Harvey.

  6. :( I take a few dayx off the web and come back to find Harv gone. So sad. But what a lucky horse


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