In Loving Memory of Ladyhawk

Elderly Thoroughbred mare
April 5, 2005

On March 30, 2005, sweet Ladyhawk died. A very old TB mare, Ladyhawk had a warrior’s name, but a timid and gentle heart. Lady was one of the abandoned horses – just ‘got rid of’ and forgotten by her former owners. Perhaps because she had a generally homely appearance, she never caught the attention of a potential sponsor, and depended entirely on myself for support during her 10+ years at The Golden Carrot. She was protected during her final five years by her stablemate, Prophet. Ladyhawk was sent to TGC from the Portuguese Bend area of Los Angeles. Lady’s former owners just wanted out from under the financial obligation of her board. I insisted on at least a onetime donation, and that was all that they gave. Lady was about 15.3 hands, an undistinguished bay with long legs, a long thin neck, and a very long face marked by a white ‘tornado’. You could see the scar of a quirt-strike across her right eye, causing a partial blindness that progressed during her time here until she became completely blind in that eye for the last two years of her life. She also had a right forefoot so badly deformed that she never could walk properly on it – and frustrated every farrier I had in their efforts to improve the appearance and function of her hoof. Her hind pasterns were collapsed and together with her very long and angled teeth, were signs of her advanced age that told me that Ladyhawk might not be a long-term resident at TGC. But by today, Lady had been with me for 10 years. For the first five years of her life here, I used her on trail rides occasionally and occasionally as a school horse. Lady was a timid horse, but unlike many timid horses, she wasn’t dangerous. She had a capacity for trust that I haven’t seen it many ‘scaredy cats’. With her vision so poor on the right, you would expect her to be spooky – but she trusted Prophet to protect her, she trusted her riders, and she trusted me. If you asked her to “go there” – there you would go; if you asked her to “move here”, she moved, without question, even in the direction of her blind side. Her obedience was amazing. You could startle her easily by approaching on the blind side, but a calming hand, or voice, would settle her right down. She’s been an easy keeper except for her shoes; and for half her time here she was ‘useful’, but somehow, she never got the attention from visitors or inquiries about sponsorship she deserved. She kept to herself, and was unwilling to brave the herd to come forward for carrots, but I always made sure she got some carrots in her bucket to make up for what she missed in the field. She was hugely fond of her food, particularly Winnies’ Cookies. I’m happy to report that although in the last week of her life she was almost completely off her feed, Lucifer’s sponsor Cheryl Cuttineau had sent a bucket of Winnies’ Cookies and was kind enough to allow me to give some to Lady. The last three days of her life, those cookies are all she would eat. In that last week she began to rush to her food, only to stand bemused, having forgotten why she was there. She nibbled at every offering, but was really not eating anything except the Winnies cookies and carrots. She had been losing weight for a couple of months, but during her last week, it seemed we watched the muscle mass melt off. The doctor checked her teeth; she’d been wormed and had no temperature; we blanketed her every night; but it was all too little, too late. She was on the downhill slide, as Joey had gone, weak, mentally befogged, and slipping away from me as I watched. She wouldn’t be left behind in her stall, but the trek from the stalls to the paddock took so much out of her that she weaved as she walked; and every night, every horse was put away and eating before we could hand walk her back in. On March 30, she fell to the ground, splitting her lip. In all the years she’s been here, I’ve NEVER seen her lay down. I found her after hearing Prophet begin to call repeatedly – the same call he was giving each evening between bites, trying to encourage her to come back to her stall. As soon as I came out, he escorted me to her side, and paced back and forth while I examined her. While I sat with her, realizing her time had finally come, about half of the horses, the senior horses who’d been here the longest, came up, one by one, sniffed her ear, and walked away. The only younger horse who did this was Joyful, who wouldn’t leave until Prophet chased her off. And as these horses approached her prone body closer than any of them had been in all her years, Lady lay quietly, receptively. Lady died in the field with all the horses of the Golden Carrot. Although she kept to herself, she was still a part of the Carrot herd, and is missed. Prophet still calls for her every night, and every morning runs to the paddock, obviously looking and calling for her. All of the horses were restive for days after her death – repeatedly breaking off from their feed buckets to stand looking toward the paddock where she died. Her history is murky – how old was she really, what kind of owner felt it necessary to use a riding crop on her eye, what kind of training did she get and what kind of experiences did she have during her long life? I can only attest that during the last decade of her life, she had a good home, a younger handsome boyfriend, and at least one human friend who will miss her sorely. I hope I can say as much when my time comes ….   Remember Lady.

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