Goodbye to Queenie
In 2007, the Golden Carrot took in two horses from a Norco animal shelter, Mr. Happy Grump, who died some years ago, and Queenie.
A tiny delicate ancient Appy pony mare, Queenie clearly had some arthritis, but was apparently in good shape, if a little thin. She was white - grayed out. If you gave her a bath, you could see she had spots all over her body, a “leopard appaloosa”. Her pink nose had freckles, and her eyes were black. She was really beautiful, but shy and as with black horses, it was hard to get a good picture of her.
As time went by, we learned a few things about our Queenie. We think someone tried to make a trick pony out of her. Until her final days, she would hold up her left hoof and “beg” for her bucket each night. And, so sadly, if you touched her nose, or tried to run your hand down her face, she would rear up. Why is this sad? In all her years here, until her last, we were unable to pet her, the way we pet every horse here, unable to feel her soft nose or give her kisses. She would rear, without striking or pulling away, again and again until she was sweaty and shaky, because that’s what someone trained her to do. One of the great pleasures of having a horse around, feeling that soft nose, squeezing their chins, denied to her, me, and all of her visitors, by some chump who wanted a trick pony. Ugh.
So, we found ways to please her. In particular, treats! Until her final day, Queenie loved her cookies and carrots. She would approach, ears perked, snag a treat and stand carefully chewing it with great delight. She never expected more than one until her final months when I was feeding her many cookies a day, because it was all she would eat.
She didn’t much like baths, but she did love grooming, so I always took a few minutes to give her good scritches on her withers and spine. And she would tell me when she was done! Although she was small and adorable, I never considered even using her for photo opportunities or lead lining. She’d been taught to rear. It just didn’t seem like a good idea to me. And her shy nature meant she didn’t have a lot of interaction with visitors - she would quietly walk away if approached.
That brings me to the real Queenie. She simply decided how things would be, and that’s how it was. A lot of ponies have the Napoleon complex - little guys totally in charge. And Queenie was no exception. She didn’t like the farrier - I think it was partly her arthritis making trims uncomfortable or possibly rough handling, but she was trouble to trim, and started with sometimes 20 minutes of evasion when I came to catch her. I had to persist, and I know she had respect for me that sometimes I was even MORE stubborn than she was.
And within a day or two of his arrival, Queenie decided that Jeepers was her love. Jeepers was thrilled, and quickly became devoted to our little lady. I must have 1000 pictures of Queenie, and Jeepers was in almost every single one, usually pressed right up against her.
Mostly, she led, and he followed. When their toes were trimmed, I couldn’t let her go until he was done, or she would amble off and he’d have instant uncontrollable anxiety - Wait! Queenie, Wait! I think she quite liked having an abject follower/protector!
Ok, it may look like he's leading here, but that was just Queenie letting him feel in charge!
Queenie had a bad injury during a casting incident in her stall about 2 years ago, and actually broke a cervical vertebrae. I guess it wasn’t quite as devastating an injury as it might have been - she got on her feet and continued on, but managing her pain became part of her regimen. I only ever saw her laying down sleeping once after that - and wondered if she did lay down and I just didn’t see it, or if she survived on the naps horses can take on their feet. She seemed to be ok for a year, but then she started dropping weight, and leaving feed now and then. I was already thinking she didn’t have another winter in her, but she seemed so determined, and I worried so for Jeepers, who hovered over her, that I held off.
And we were lucky enough to bring Reggie in, who immediately attached himself to her and Jeepers. Queenie got a HUGE boost out of this - TWO boyfriends, TWO followers, TWO protectors, well, you’ve just gotta hang on for that, right? A mild winter and two friends kept our Queenie with us for another 8 months, but her determination and will to live aside, she continued to drop weight, and go on and off her feed. Internal cancer was suspected. And during those two years, she also lost 2 teeth that I know of, so her time was winding down.
In the end, more so than any other horse that has been here, I let Queenie decide. In her final months, she looked like she needed to be rescued. She was painfully thin, and slow and wobbly in her walk. She had a horrible 4 days when she wouldn’t eat or poop at all. But she would walk directly to me, ears perked, eyes bright, and demand her cookie. If she had a cane, she’d have bashed me with it if I was slow to offer one! We’ve all seen those little birdlike ladies, 60 pound soaking wet, who yell at us and tell us what to do in quavery voices? That was Queenie. I lived in dread that she would go down in her stall and get cast again, and struggle all night to get up. But she simply needed some more time, to square away her affairs, and so I let it go on.
For two months I watched her - sometimes with Reggie, more often with Jeepers, sometimes with both together, and more and more frequently, leaving the boys together as she moved away. A little further each time. She couldn’t have been more clear. She told them, I won’t always be here. You guys take care of each other.
As she mostly did, Queenie got her way. I finally felt it was time, that she would be ok, and I let her go. Even at the end, as we led her out of her stall, Jeepers stopped eating to follow and called quietly after her, just once. He saw her go down, and after a short bit, went back to his dinner. But I don’t know if it was real to him, because the next day, as he and Reggie ate breakfast in the field, he called for hours. Her boys were taking care of each other, but it’s just not the same without her.
I’m very thankful that the Larson family, who sponsored Queenie for so many years, has asked to transfer their sponsorship to her love, Jeepers.