Goodbye to Leo and Jet
Passed away January 18, 2018
Leo will always be Leo to me, no matter his JC name. (His name was "Lionizer" which Websters describes as the person who treats or regards some person as a 'social lion' or object of interest.) He didn’t spend his time butt kissing, he was his own Prince with his own Lion's heart, and his own place in his mind, and in his herd. But for some reason, Lady Luck eluded him. From age 6, everything that COULD go wrong for him, DID go wrong.
He had a bad racing accident at age 6 and his trainer at the time wanted to euthanize him. Looking back, part of me wishes that had happened. The people who “saved” him, did so because they wanted to ride him. He tried so hard, but was so freaked by their efforts to ride him with his painful crippled knees that they decided he was ‘too hot’ and warehoused him for the next 6 years. No treatment for his knees was given, and although soft tissue (tendon and muscle) injury is hard to heal, standing around in a stall didn’t allow for that to happen at all. He came here because it was clear to them that “he wasn’t going to get better”.
Leo, Basky and Jet
At TGC he seemed to be happy. He tried many times to ‘run out’ with the younger sounder OTTBs but always stopped quickly and began eating. He knew his limitations. When he fell for Basky, and then Jet joined them, he was finally settled. A beautiful girl; a steadfast friend; plenty to eat and room to move. What more could he ask for?
He did well but was always so crippled in both knees that I knew it would only take one more bad break to end him. I cringe as I write that because that’s exactly what happened. His love, Basky, kicked him and broke his ulna.
Leo Basky and Jet head for their stalls
And the last 18 months of hell began. Because the vet pointed out that the ulna is not a weight bearing bone. We could consider giving him a chance. And he was so young, and wierdly NOT in distress (heart rate, respiration, gums all were normal.). In the last 18 months, the bone healed, but he continued to not use the leg properly, or set the foot down properly and weight it. He NEVER seemed to show clinical signs of pain, until August of 2017 when he developed an enormous abscess in his good foot, which then showed a dropping coffin bone on x-ray. Like Barbaro, traumatic laminitis was rearing its ugly head. And to add insult to that injury, he slightly hurt his suspensory ligament in the same leg as well!
For Months, Leo seemed to enjoy PT; Jet always close to supervise
We tried everything. Physical therapy every week for the last 6 months. Boots of different kinds; wrapping; nutritional support for founder and hoof growth; pain medications daily, PEMS, special shoes; massage. But in the end, the vet and other professionals all agreed. When Basky broke that bone, she also severed the nerves serving that leg and foot. And they did not regenerate.
Leo down, as so often in his last month, with Jet on guard
I’ve daily watched Leo, his good days and his bad. Dawn & Thad saw him every week. Our farriers saw him every two weeks. Dr. Z saw him every few months. I know they knew I didn’t want to give up, but I believe they would have told me if I was being selfish and stupid. We all hoped that something would finally work. The nerves regenerate; the abscess grow in; something. Leo took good care of himself also. In these months, he only ventured into the herd two or three times. He found all the best places to lay down, soft and slightly inclined. He had an amazing kip-up - one second flat out on the ground, the next standing. But as time went on he became more and more hunched up, had to make a few more rocks before he could get up, went back down faster. By the end, I was feeding him as he lay on the ground. Horses can’t live 20 hours a day on the ground. And while before he had welcomed his weekly PT sessions, the last two times he was adamant that he didn’t want to be touched at all. He was done.
Leo will live long in the memories and hearts of TGC and the professionals who help here. He was so extraordinary. A true example of the Thoroughbred heart. He’d still be trying today, I think, because he was just that guy. But I don’t believe it would have been right to make him struggle a minute longer, or suffer more injuries, or the fear of not being able to get up at all.
Crescent Moon Jet
I won’t deny that part of my indecisiveness about Leo came from wondering how poor Jet would do, once his boy was gone. O, but nature took her toll of him as well. In the past four months, he became blind in one eye, and I think his vision was dimming in the other. And I think his hearing was going as well. On top of his 34+ years, his toothlessness, and the stress I know he felt trying to protect Leo, dear Jet has failing too.
Crescent Moon Jet in his youth
Jet was a well bred Appendix QH. His kind steady nature made him a therapy horse, and he had many people remember him from those days. He became attached to Basky immediately upon arrival, she was the lovely young girlfriend he’d deserved all his life! When Leo joined them, in his generous heart it became “his two kids”, for him to watch over. Both of them half his age, but so debilitated in body. He saw his role as protector, and in that, he never wavered.
Jet with his lovely lady Basky, how much he adored her!
He WAS hurt when Basky passed. But chose to make protecting Leo his life’s purpose. Despite his age, and his gradually failing senses, Jet put himself between other horses and Leo time and again. The reality was Leo had a strong personality and could simply lay back his ears to drive off encroaching horses, but Jet saw it was his job to keep that aggravation off Leo’s plate.
Leo and Jet, breakfasting separate from the herd
Month after month Leo and Jet lingered in the stall line, separate from the herd, waiting for Leo’s injuries to heal. Jet waited until Leo was in his stall each evening before he would go into his own. Ideally, he would have been allowed to share a stall with Leo - but Leo definitely didn’t want that! They both needed their alone time as well.
Leo, Basky and Jet shortly before Basky's death.
At the end, as Jet’s eyesight failed, his stress level rose and so did Leo’s, because Jet kept panicking as he ‘lost track’ of where Leo was. With a feeling that he could no longer keep them both safe, Jet began to show stress by pacing his stall, periodically screaming for Leo who was 5 feet in front of him, and leaving feed. This very aged boy was not happy anymore.
Its never easy to send my friends onward, no matter how compelling the need. And two at once? Beyond brutal. But let me tell you of their final moments, because I was so comforted by them.
Leo was down, as always, when the doctor arrived. I can tell you I spoke with him many times over the previous few days, telling him that an end to his effort was in sight. When Dr. Z knelt beside Leo’s neck, Leo laid flat out. Sedation, and then blue fluid, and a few little breaths and nostril flutters. Jet and I stood a foot or so away, and with each wuffle from Leo, Jet softly crooned comfort to his boy. It reminded me of the low quiet nickers a mare makes to her foal. It absolutely sounded like, ‘its ok, Leo, I’ll be along soon’. And when Leo was gone, the doc approached Jet. For months Jet had been twitchy when touched, he never saw or heard anyone approach, it seemed. But this day, the doc walked right up and patted his neck and he dropped his head. Sedation, and the blue fluid, and he sat down on his butt and gently slid down on his side, gone before he landed I think. It was the easiest, softest, most tender passing I’ve ever witnessed. After seeing this, I know with profound certainty that they were ready to be released. I cried, alright, but I cried for me. For my loss. I’m glad they’re pain free now.
One of the last times in the herd. Standing shoulder to shoulder, together forever