Yesterday, I set Freebe’s Lad, tenderly known here as "Rocky", free at last. Our dear boy was in such pain from that coffin bone, unable to weight bear at all, and barely able to eat even with full pain medication, that I couldn’t allow it to go on any longer.
I can hardly believe how many pictures I have of Rocky sticking his tongue out at me! Or how many pictures of my boy I have at all - I'm so grateful he was irresistably beautiful. I always wondered how he was as a colt, before this injury began to plague him, wearing him down. This is Rocky on his last evening here at TGC....
Rocky came to TGC in September of 2008. This picture tells a story of its own - and his page will show the abrasions all over his head and body.
We didn’t know his name at that point, and the day he came there was a little earthquake here in So Cal. So Rocky (for RocknRoll) became his name. But he was more like his famous namesake from the movies, in his steady endurance toughing it out here for the next four years. All that thoroughbred heart kept him going, and even thriving for several years. Rocky probably had a bad abscess which was never properly cared for, as his continuing lameness prompted his owners to plan to abandon him in the Southern California high desert. A neighbor got wind of this plan, and reached out to Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue, who arranged transport to TGC. In the end, that unattended abscess resulted in continuous pain and deformation of that hoof, and all our efforts at different kinds of shoes and treatments for the foot were to no avail.
Damage was caused to the internal structures of his foot. The old cowboy adage is "no foot, no horse".We tried so many things. Most of which made Rocky crazy with fear and pain, exhausting him and the farrier and I as well. But leaving him barefoot was no solution either. By the time of his death, Rocky's two forelimbs looked like they came from different horses - one with twice the muscle development, and a foot at least twice the size of his bad one. In a real way, he struggled as a three legged horse, with only occasional short periods of quasi-normal movement, for all four years here. But I hope the pictures will show that his overall health improved, and that he was happy....
Dear Rocky ... such a baby boy. Although he was 19 when he passed away, his manner was always as sweet as the tenderest child. While he anticipated pain and worried constantly about the farrier, where Surely was, what was going on, he was always so cooperative when asked, and tried so hard to please. Early on we realized that while he could handle having his feet trimmed, he hated the tap tap tap of the hammer to nail shoes on. Even the lightest tap would cause him to pull his leg away violently, or even rear up. But he wouldn’t run - and he would offer his foot again and again, trusting that THIS time we wouldn’t hurt him. And he would put his head in my chest, apologizing for his ‘bad’ behavior. Always sweet. Always cooperative even when scared. Always trying to please. The sweetest boy, so courageous in the face of his overwhelming fears.
I regretted the poor qualilty of this photo, as it was a rare moment when I felt Rocky was actually having fun. He's playing bite-my-face with Beau here, while their ladies watch indulgently. Doesn't it look like he's giving Beau a raspberry?
A year or so after he came, Surely came and he fell in love with her, which love never faltered. Once Surely was well, I would laugh to watch this little quarterhorse mare flying out into the paddock with her huge, long legged escort barely able to keep up with her. Rocky loved Surely to distraction, and couldn’t bear to be out of her sight. If we let Surely out first, Rocky would go nuts, to where we couldn’t flymask him, until allowed to run after her. And run he did, to the best of his ability, pushing thru his pain, until he could be with her. (Here is a link our Facebook Groupo page, where I've posted his last run to Surely, and one with the two of them running.) Then, catch up with him at breakfast with her, and he was easy to flymask as a horse twice his age! And Rocky was like our Oso - he wouldn’t fight for himself, but for Surely, he would stand up to anyone.
On his last two days, seeing Surely protecting HIM, I knew his hours were numbered. He engendered the same feelings of loyalty and protectiveness in Surely that she inspired in him. Doesn't she look like she's ready to take on anyone who messes with him? She's so blue now....
He was never sound. And his feeling of vulnerability due to his lameness added to his anxiety. As the months and years went by, the foot grew more and more deformed. I routinely gave him bute on his bad days - Dr. Z felt it entirely possible that despite the passage of time, that old abscess, or the damage it had caused, could still be causing discomfort. But like so many horses, he hated the taste of bute and wouldn’t eat his food if I put it in there - so I had to syringe it down his throat. (And he always forgave me - said clear as day it’s ok, mom, I know you’re trying to help me.) Toward the end, he was laying down so much that those jutting hip bones were starting to show hair loss. And it was me looking at his old pictures and realizing that he was losing weight again, even in the summer, that I realized his pain was getting bad. As pain medications didn’t seem to be making much difference, I had to check with Fred, and our farrier as well, but both agreed. There was nothing more to be done.
He was a beautiful horse. Very tall, rich red coat and perfectly straight long black hair, and those gentle, so often tired eyes. He was gentle and sensitive. He was so very brave. Despite his many fears and worries, he struggled thru, faced his fears, stood strong. The truest form of bravery, that perseveres when most afraid. He had so many bad breaks, not the least of which was being owned by someone who would throw him away rather than get him the help he needed, when he needed it and it might have made a difference. But with all of his difficulties, he retained a sweet nature and a kind heart, appreciating all that was done for him, loving his friends, happy to see visitors. He and Surely were retiring, and didn’t get a lot of attention, but Chris Browning loved him and sponsored him for a while; John Chun was his faithful sponsor from the time he came here till the end; NeighSavers helped us with his early expenses, Laurent Pucci recently spent some time grooming him to his delight, Surely is missing him, and Navigator stood by his side on his last two days, protecting him with Surely from the press of the herd. And I loved him so much. It was no more than he deserved. I hope it was enough.
Run free, Rocky.