In Loving Memory of TANGO PRINCE

Foaled May 15, 1979 Died July 22, 2007
14 hand Chestnut Arabian Gelding

This 26 year old Arabian is so skinny, he wobbles when he walks – his energy and effort are there, he just doesn’t have a muscle to work with.  He is pathological about being by Anna’s side, but keenly interested in all around him. His body is weak and abused, but his spirit is strong.  He had worms; his teeth are terrible and barely meeting but he eats and follows Anna everywhere, and talks to me about every move that’s made.      

Anna and Tango are interested in everything that happens.  Even in the afternoon, when their energy wanes, they perk up at the sign of me – I think people represent food to them.  Clearly, over the years, not nearly ENOUGH food, but …..  

Below is Tango in September of 2006 when the Ardis family first rescued him.  For some reason the people who had him had chopped his tail and mane off – but they could do that all day as far as I’m concerned, if they would just have FED him.


Here’s the happy couple, in their corner. They are interested and alert, but tire easily. Well, time and feed will hopefully change that.    You can see the improvement from above, in September of 2006 when The Ardis family rescued him, to January 2007 when he came to TGC. Hopefully, we can take it further.  

Goodnight, Sweet Prince

On July 22, 2007, Tango Prince died at age 28 years, two months. Tango was a tiny 7/8 Arabian gelding, perhaps 13.3hh, chestnut in color, strong in spirit and will, badly damaged in body.

Over a period of years, this sweet Arabian was starved by his former owners, until sometime in the not too distant past, he sustained severe kidney damage, resulting in chronic renal failure. The records kept of care given to Tango, his mother, and Anna will soon be posted on Tango’s page, and are impressive at how often Tango was sedated for the most routine work. Tango was castrated when he was 8 years old and was probably the father of Anna’s child. There were no records of any vet care at all for the entire 1990s. Early in 2002 is the first mention of a vet recommending more calories for Tango, so I believe we can assume that he was thin even then, at age 23. The vet saw him once in 2002 and recommended additional calories; two years later she vaccinated him and mentioned nothing about his health otherwise; one year later the owner was cited by Animal Control for Tango’s emaciation. (A note from the owner to Animal Control referenced 6 years of complaints to Animal Control about his care of Tango.) A month later the same vet said he was fine for his age.

At no time did anyone diagnose his kidney failure until the Ardis family rescued him. It would be my assumption that sometime in the 90s, when they apparently received no vet care, Anna and Tango were systematically underfed, and at some point, Tango’s kidneys failed. With the strength I saw evidence of even at the end of his life, he came through, but the reality is, every year after that was borrowed time for this courageous animal.

Tango and his ladyfriend Anna were rescued from their abusive situation in September of 2006, when the owner died, and his children had no idea how to take care of them. The Ardis family took these poor horses in, and in three months were able to bring Anna to a more healthy appearance, and to even put a few pounds on Tango. Unfortunately, the Ardis family lives in an area which restricts the number of horses allowed on their property, and they had to find a home for these two sad refugees. Nicole contacted me. I was resistant due to the time of year (December of the coldest winter I’ve ever endured here in Anza), but their situation didn’t allow them to keep the two for a few more months.

So, Anna and Tango came to the Golden Carrot. The bond between these two ponies was amazing to see. Although Anna was 33, to Tango’s 27 years, she was clearly the stronger and healthier. She has hip issues which started improving immediately simply from her ability to move around. After a lifetime sharing a pen approximately 24×24 and being underfed, neither of these horses had much in the way of muscle development. And Anna wanted to join the herd. Tango, so thin and weak, and under developed, still had so much spirit and was so willing to go anywhere Anna went. He tried to keep himself between her and the herd, until a dominant horse approached, when he would hide behind her.

And Anna was strong, even at first, punishing any horse who came too close with squeals and lunging attacks, as though protecting a foal. Such an odd relationship here – partly mommy and child; partly best friends; partly ‘boy and girl’ – they changed roles depending on the situation. Tango had been with Anna since he was a colt; they’d endured years of semi-starvation together; each was a constant in the other’s life.

But of the two, Tango was the needier – I believe due of his frail physical health. In coming to The Golden Carrot, Tango encountered two problems that his frail health could not withstand. First, the terrible cold of the winter of 2006-2007. Temperatures were so cold that on several mornings, temperatures were noted at less than 10 degrees. Of course we blanketed, but Tango was so thin from the beginning that a blanket could not prevent him from getting sick. We had to treat with antibiotics, which are contraindicated for kidney failure. We got him over that and eventually the winter temperatures eased up. But the second problem was probably even worse. I placed Tango and Anna in adjacent stalls. But for horses who had been in almost constant physical contact with each other, this was traumatic. Much much more so for Tango, who derived so much security from his contact with his stronger friend. And the distress he showed when Anna touched noses with horses outside her stall was pitiful to see. Even when all horses were in their stalls, munching away on their senior feed, Tango would be pacing up and down the fenceline between himself and Anna, staring at her as she ate. He would settle a little and eat a bit, and then she went out to get a drink of water and the pacing would begin again. He dug a trench 6 inches deep along the fenceline between them with deep holes at each end where he reversed direction. I took way too long to realize that he wouldn’t get over this. It was April before I was able, with the help of Mary and Jill Phillips, to put together a stall big enough for the two of them to share. I look back and know that he would have been better off sharing a regular stall with her but had been afraid she would eat all the food.

From the first day in the stall together, he was more relaxed and clearly able to rest, which I think for several months he hadn’t done. There was about 2 months where I had hopes he would be able to turn around; regain the weight he lost when he came here; build some weight in this summer. I started him on a B-vitamin regimen which was supposed to help prevent muscle wasting; calm his nerves and help him generate energy. Within three days of beginning that therapy, Anna was able to join the herd with him by her side; up to that point, they would get far enough to see the other horses, before he balked and persuaded her that he needed more time. For those two months, after breakfast in their stall, Anna would bring them out to a point in the main herd; pretty much stand there till early afternoon, and then Tango would lead them back to their stall.

However, in June, it became more and more difficult to find something Tango would eat much of. Reading recommended against alfalfa for kidney failure, so I was able to get a decent rate on a couple of bales of grass hay from my neighbor, and when that seemed to be something he would eat, Nicole brought out more orchard grass hay just for him. She also brought his favorite brand of senior feed, which I couldn’t get here. Since it was still his favorite, we continued to split a flake of alfalfa for Anna and Tango each morning; orchard grass to eat anytime in their stall; and senior feed as much as they would eat. But each day, a little more was left; I was able to identify from the manure that Tango was eating less and less. He continued to drink gallons of water every day; but on several occasions I saw that he was peeing with difficulty, small amounts more frequently. He got weaker and weaker, thinner and thinner – hardly believable when he was so thin to begin with.

I do not think that in all his time with me that Tango ever gained a single pound. He stopped calling for me each time I brought him food. You can’t believe how painful that was – he’d be looking, he’d walk in to start eating, but he didn’t call …. I just don’t think he had the energy. And I started leaving them in their stall every other day so he could get rest. And when I let them out, it was for shorter and shorter periods, because Anna would get out of the stall, and most of the way to the herd, before he would head out after her, calling quietly for her to wait up. Two times he waited so long, he didn’t know where she was, and even seemed disoriented. So I took him in hand and walked him out to her. She would not come back for him, at first, but she always welcomed him and stood by his side for the rest of the day.

Then one day last week, as I’d become accustomed to doing, I went out midday to check on him, and found him and Anna standing about 10 steps from a bathtub full of fresh clean water, no other horses around – but he even LOOKED dehydrated to me, and he had FOAM around his mouth! I walked Anna over to the tub, and we watched while he sidled up beside her and drank for about 5 minutes. When he was done, Anna had a big drink too – and I can’t help but wonder – did she think he couldn’t make it to the water? Why didn’t she take him over there, if she was thirsty too? I took them back to their stall and fed them early. And began to think how long I should wait to send Tango to his eternal and much needed rest.

 At 28 years old, Tango was already ahead of the game. Remember Cuervo, who died in what looked like the sturdiest of health at age 24? How does it happen that some horses can endure so much, hang in so long, and others drop suddenly for apparently no reason? I feel he had lived so long for love. He loved Anna, and depending on his strength in any day, felt he was her protector, or loved her as a child loves a parent. The stress of seeing her interest in other horses; knowing he couldn’t compete physically to keep her to himself; along with the daily terror that knowledge of his own weakness must have given him – just thinking about it makes me feel like giving up – and yet he endured.

They say love conquers all – and I couldn’t imagine a better example than the love Tango clearly felt for Anna. Each day for his last week, when I was giving him his rubdown, and treating a little wound on his leg, I would assure Tango that I would take care of Anna if he had to go. I assured him that he would be missed, and never forgotten. And I reminded him that in heaven, he would be whole, and could wait in all his glory for Anna to come be with him again. Who knows if they understand those ideas? Hope was all I could offer him.  

Nicole wanted to be here on Tango’s final day. But when I found him down, exhausted from what looked like a lot of effort expended trying to rise again, I knew I couldn’t leave him there, frightened, for the several hours it would take to get her here. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t want her last memories of him to be what they are for me. I know how it hurts.

Tango was so lucky in the end that kind people like the Ardis’ would step up for him – too many people won’t even do that for their own horses. They knew his time was limited, but did all they could, first at their own home, and then in supporting TGC, to help him have some final comfortable months. The extraordinary circumstances of his life made him more of a management problem than any other horse I’ve ever cared for, and I wish I’d figured out those problems sooner, but all I would really have bought him would have been maybe another year. Maybe this was better…. 

Anna grieves. She calls for him intermittently; and walks back and forth from their stall, to the herd. I found her yesterday afternoon standing in the last spot I saw him standing, head down exactly as he’d been, by herself. She was even assuming his pose – so different from her own normal posture – and this effort to remember him brought tears to my eyes. She is a clever, strong mare – she will assimilate into the herd – but you don’t lose a 28 year part of your life and just move on. I just hope the strain of this loss won’t take this elderly lady away from me too. I hope I and the Golden Carrot horses can provide her with a wonderful life to wipe out the memories of hunger and neglect that predominate in her history. I do not believe we could, or would want to, eliminate her memories of her Tango Prince. I certainly will not forget him or his shining spirit and enduring love.

© 2011 - The Golden Carrot is a 501c3 public benefit charity