My friend's beautiful, sweet Morgan mare "S" colicked badly late on Sunday night and her husband called me and asked me to come to the barn to be with her for when the vet came. I rushed over and when I got there, the mare was down in a paddock, rolling and in distress. My friend had already decided she was going to have her mare euthanized. She had a long history of various ailments and this had been in the plans for a while, but of course not on these terms. Still, given S's history and the amount of pain she was in, my friend opted to do the kindest thing for her. We let her stay down because she was being quiet and seemed comfortable. We spent some time brushing her, stroking her soft nose, and scratching her favourite scratchy spot behind her withers.
The vet took quite a long time to get there and at one point, S decided she wanted to get up, so we got her walking. My friend had given her Banamine when she first found her down, and I suspect the Banamine had started to kick in and help some of the discomfort. She did go back down a few times and roll but we always got her back up.
As we walked, we talked about my friend's best memories of this lovely mare. S was a sassy mare with a kind and patient disposition. They had done lots of fun things together, the best of which were the hunter paces they attended. They had also done dressage and some breed shows but overall they had enjoyed spending time together. As S got older, she developed tendon problems and also had some breathing issues so she enjoyed a quiet retirement.
The vet finally arrived and did a quick assessment. She agreed that my friend had S's best interests in mind and went to her truck to prepare the drugs. My friend decided she did not want to be around for the euthanasia, and spent a final few minutes stroking S's muzzle and telling her she was loved. Then she handed me the lead rope and I stayed with S for the rest of it.
When my friend went back into the barn, S laid back down on her own accord, which made the vet's work very easy. She passed away peacefully as I held her head and stroked her cheek. She was graceful and dignified until the end.
On Monday morning, I called out of work. I was at the barn almost before the sun was up, after getting about two hours of sleep, to meet the company that came to deal with S's body. I had told my friend I'd be there to make sure she was handled gently and with respect. The company was wonderful and did a very good job.
I had taken her halter off after the vet finished, and it was covered in sand and dirt from her rolling. I didn't want to give it to my friend all dirty like that so I did quite possibly the most thorough and professional tack cleaning job I have ever done, and that halter's soft leather gleamed when I was finished. I also had cut some of S's tail for my friend to have, with her permission, and it was very dirty. I tied a rubber band tightly at the top of it, filled a bucket with some water and shampoo and gently dipped the tail hair in it to clean it. I let it air dry and then picked the remaining leaves out of it. I gently brushed it out, being very careful to hold it tightly with one hand so that I didn't pull it out of the rubber band. When I was finished it looked beautiful and now her owner can have it to either have a bracelet or Raku pottery piece made. S really had a gorgeous tail!
This is the second time I have done this for a friend. Though it is very hard, I am honoured that I was asked to be there both times. What a wonderful thing to be able to do for a friend, and also for the horse. Both times I've done this, the horses have passed away peacefully with dignity, and neither have felt alone. I would like to imagine that if I ever had to put a horse down, that it would go as well as S went. I honestly don't know if I would stay for my own horse; I'd like to think I would but I guess I won't know how strong I am until faced with that. If I can't do it, though, I hope someone will be there to hold her and stroke her kissy spot on her nose.
Today I am feeling quite sad about the whole thing, which I guess is to be expected. I hope S is running around pain-free in Pony Heaven.