The end is near
You may have supposed this week's post would focus on the book fair. Not this time.
Myriad cliches attend the certain knowledge that nothing lasts forever. I remember, probably with little accuracy, a Native American saying: "Only the wind and the rocks live forever."
I saw a "sooner rather than later" glimpse of the future recently when the farrier came to visit. (For those not familiar with equestrian terms, a farrier is the person who trims horses' hooves and fashions shoes for them. All farriers are blacksmiths, not all blacksmiths are farriers.) Because the work requires the farrier to lift the horse's foot and my farrier happens to be tall (6'-4"), I warned him before he got started that the lovely Lady Anastasia was stiff. Lifting Stasia's feet very high wasn't going to happen.
Hey, she turns 34 on February 16, which is ancient for a horse. She has every right to be stiff and arthritic.
So, the front feet went without a problem. He stooped over further than usual to hold her feet a little lower to the ground than I'm sure was comfortable. Stasia seemed okay. Then he moved to the back feet. He lifted the right hind foot and Stasia held for a moment, then listed to the side, then her left hind leg buckled. The farrier scrambled out of the way as Stasia went down, sitting rather like a dog, but with the left hind leg extended. It happened in slow motion, but once started, the fall could not be stopped. Not by mere human muscle.
We gave her a moment to gather her wits. She looked surprised and puzzled, a little disoriented, as she leaned against the gate. I tugged on the halter.
"Come on, Stasia. Get up." No dice.
We clucked at her. A few more tugs. Some taps to the rear end. No dice.
I pulled her left hind leg back, trying to position it better for her. Maybe that would give her a little more leverage. Her leg again (slowly) extended. I pulled it back. I moved the gate to give her a little room to maneuver. She toppled over all the way. My heart clenched. Stasia pushed herself back into a sitting position. We grew a little more forceful in our encouragement, nothing violent, but I felt the cold chill of desperation.
I decided to try bribery. If nagging didn't work, perhaps peppermints might. I jiggled the carton. She looked mildly interested, but not enough to move. I fed her a peppermint.
"Come on, Stasia. Time to get up, girl."
I tried again, let her suck another peppermint from my fingers and then held another just out of reach. She heaved herself upright and wobbled, still looking a little dazed. When she steadied, I led her away and fed her two more peppermints. I always said Stasia would do anything for peppermints.
"She's done," the farrier said. "We won't be trimming her back feet anymore."
To Stasia's credit, she never thrashed or spooked or did anything to injure herself. She remained calm and ... bewildered. For a horse that maintained a reputation for being hell on wheels until she was 32, that's an unusually quiet demeanor.
Most horses live around 25 years. Few make it to 30. For Stasia to have lived beyond 30 is really uncommon. We joke that she'll live forever, because she outlasted almost all of her contemporaries. We teased our younger son that he'd inherit the old bay mare and still be cleaning her stall when he was 50.
Last year, Stasia decided she was old. She'd gotten tired. I retired her from riding. Now she's begun a rapid decline and the end is near. The best we can do is keep her comfortable until it's time for the final call to the veterinarian. I'd like to give her one last spring, maybe one last summer.
The end is near, and now I realize it was nearer than anyone thought.
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