Goodbye to Gio
Passed away 6/24/17
June 24, 2017. The day our baby left us. I’m still stunned. With the aging crew here, to lose big healthy strong baby Gio is unbelievable. Best we can tell, Gio somehow hurt himself and the catastrophic injuries made it impossible for him to live. He could barely stand still, but movement, walking, was even worse, he was unstable and struggled with every step. The doctor suspected a pelvic fracture, although his rectal exam showed smooth parameters of the pelvic girdle inside; and he also suspected spinal injury. Suffice it to say Gio could not have stayed on his feet in a trailer ride, and while treatment for some pelvic fractures would include tying a horse up in their stall, and leaving them for weeks to heal, that’s not an option here.
I was gone. When I put Gio in his stall for dinner Thursday, he was fine, no problems. And I left at midnight. When I got back Saturday, the neighbor mentioned Gio had been “walking funny”. I found him laying down in a cool mudspot. I when to check on him later and found him far away from the first spot, but also laying down. He was sorta groaning each time; and the second time huffing fast. And so I called the doc. The doc thought it sounded like colic (a bad belly ache can affect how they use their hind legs) and came right away, but I saw his ‘face’ almost immediately. I flinched as he put Gio thru movements he clearly didn’t want to do, and had to struggle to do. You know how vets are. They have to assess. And the ‘face’ got worse. He was willing to see what pain meds could do, and wanted to sedate Gio for the rectal exam and also to tube and oil him just in case there was a belly ache that preceded/caused the injury, but Gio could not stay on his feet after the rectal. As he lay on the ground quietly, groaning quietly (remember, sedated lightly at this point). I realized he wouldn’t make it. And I saw that knowledge in Dr. Z’s face as well. My baby went quietly and gently.
What do we know about our beautiful boy? We know his JC name was Go, Giogianni, Go. We know that the woman responsible for his birth stood by his side, faithfully sending monthly support for him, and that not only does she still care for her broodmares in their retirement, she took all of her horses away from the trainer who irresponsibly raced Gio when he was already injured, sealing his fate. So thru Gio, we met that rara avis, a responsible breeder. Gio raced 28 times in 2010 and 2011, for total earnings of $48,316. He was 6 years, 3 months old when he arrived, and 11 years, 4 months old at his death. The youngest horse who ever came here. Our baby.
We know that he ended up with Neigh Savers who sent him and Jedi to me, after the docs all agreed he could never be sound again. And I know that in the 5 years he was here, he did heal. When he arrived, he needed chronic (daily) pain medication for that shattered joint, and so favored that leg that the foot shrank to half the size of his compensating foot - and by the time of his death, he never needed pain meds, and his bare feet were of equal size. I had actually considered whether I’d be able to ride Gio, whether I should risk reinjury. (Often something that doesn’t affect them as mother nature intended them to be, breaks down under human work.) I know I could hardly wait to see Gio and Jedi running free on the hills of our new place in Arizona.
We know that Gio was such a love with people. You could catch him easily, he wanted to say hi and see what you needed. He checked with all visitors for treats. He cooperated with farrier, vet, chiro (altho that first adjustment surprised him!).
I would call, c’mon GioGioBear, and he’d amble after me like a big dog. Why not? Amellow yellow sweetie.
We know he loved other horses, and most particularly his best friend Jedi. They rode in together, with wildly different personalities. Hard to say who took care of who - they both keep an eye on the other, and sometimes one led, and sometimes the other. Jedi attracted Naomi’s attention, but after a few days she was done with him, and turned to sweet Gio.
Gio would play with other geldings too,
and was just starting to show actual interest in the mares - more a man than a boy as he matured - and altogether was interested in everything.
And he loved thundering out on a cold morning, racing with Jedi and Pistol, swirling around the open areas before stopping to eat - and he was always the first to stop - and then running again, rearing to play bite my face with Jedi or Keller.
We know that Gio and Jedi were stars - in our 2013 video Gio came up to get his shoes done, and I saw the racing boy I’d never known - his tense excitement and concern at seeing a billion cameras trained on him was something I never saw before, or again. Jedi, with more races under his belt, knew to settle and ready himself for the race - Gio was terrified he’d have to run and knew he wasn’t ready for it. Head high, swirling around me, tap dancing. That day, our farriers set speed records changing out the shoes, and I could tell Gio’s relief when we let him back into the herd ....
We know that Gio was hugely intelligent. People like to make jokes about how stupid horses are - with their speed and strength they let us use and ride them and cage them in little pens, they must be stupid right? But no, they just go along with what seems to be the requirements of their lives. Gio didn’t like going into his stall every night - he was thrilled to be let out every morning - but he knew there was feed in there, and that’s all that mattered. Having accepted that, he was so easy to deal with at evening - just say c’mon GioGioBear, and he’d amble along behind me to and thru his stall door, easy peasy. No halter required.
We know Gio had an almost donkey like sense of caution - he would stop and watch. If you gave him even a beat or two to look first, he’d do anything for you. He was very brave. But he’d rather you led him into scary situations, and he took confidence from that. Once he’d done it, he was never nervous about it again .... and in that way, he was a leader for Jedi, who also took confidence from him.
We know my boy had bad hair. The GioFro made him easy to spot. Wierdly, it was like foal hair can be, because it was starting to look normal as he aged. Foal hair. We don't get to see that here at the old folks home... And he loved a mud bath. Baby Boys....
I know that Gio was my dream horse. Big and with good bone and big feet, a calm disposition and a brave heart, great athleticism and great intelligence. How could I have ever hoped to meet another like him? I know I never will. I was so privileged to earn his trust, to know and love him. And I am so devastated that I failed him. I must have, right? He’s gone! In the prime of his life and health! How could this happen? I can’t help but wonder - what if I saw him Friday morning, and realized he was colicking, and got the vet out right away to deal with it? I don’t think he was, because he ate his Friday night ration, but ... what if he was colicking Friday night and got cast in his stall causing the injury? Would I have seen it? Could I have prevented this by being here? It will forever haunt me. I came back. I saw his distress. I got the vet out right away. But it was too late. My punishment is ... Gio is gone. Gio is gone.