Died 3/5/14

Sara without Laddie
Today, Sara’s time ran out.  My sweet girl, who has been with me for over 15 years, finally succumbed to the laminitis which has plagued her since 2008.

Sara’s life was a series of tragedies. Sara was a Belgian/TB cross, a product of the nursemare industry. That is, her mother was bred to produce a foal, so she could be used to nurse a more expensive foal.  Sara was probably bottlefed. So the first sadness in her life was literally being taken from her mother.  I can’t help but wonder if the phony nutrition of the bottle may have contributed later in her life to ligaments too weak to do the job, or a tendency to founder.

She was a big round mare, a bay Belgian in build with heavy thick bones, and a TB heart.   She came to me because the people who owned her had been jumping her - which she was certainly NOT built for.  In the process, they blew out her right hock.    These same owners told me every lie they could think of, to get me to take her - from her age (they told me 18!), to their promise to provide some support (NOT, they left the state within the month and never stepped up).  So her second sadness, one she shares with so many of our residents, was faithless owners, who hurt her badly, and tossed her away like trash.

But this sweet baby was lovely, and so smart.  I knew the girl who started Sara, and she couldn’t say enough about Sara’s smarts - she learned each lesson on the first try, and never lost ground as her training progressed.  She was calm, and willing, and kind.  My neighbor rode her out on trails many times, and she was always lovely (even if he had to do the splits on her wide back!).  On one memorable occasion, as we crested a hill along the roadway, we saw in front of us a ranch. It wasn’t until the little mini stallion screamed a high pitched welcome to us that we realized it wasn’t far away, those were just teeeny horses!  And Sara, despite her great size and bone, dished up a squealing response that had us struggling to stay in the saddle through our guffaws!  Was she ‘speaking their language’?  Or did she have just such a baby-squeal type whinny?  She was a very quiet mare in all her years with us - and maybe the reason was, she was embarrassed at her mini-horse voice!

Sara was a middle-herd horse - not dominant, but no one ever messed with her.  Her focus was always on food.  I had to start her on a diet early, because if she wasn’t getting work, she got fat!  Her bum hock, and big flat draft feet, were her weakpoints, and eventually we decided the trail rides were not appropriate anymore.  Shortly after her founder episode, we stopped riding Sara.

Margaret and Sara
We worked hard to overcome those first tragedies in her life. For one thing, she had a faithful sponsor of years, Margaret Squires.  For many years, Margaret struggled with financial difficulties, but was ever faithful in her support for Sara.   She even visited her once, and got a real feel for that “feed me” attitude that so defined our girl!  Thank you Margaret, for being there for Sara, when others abandoned her. I know that you supported Sara because she reminded you so much of your Bayla, and this will be like losing Bayla again.  But you gave her many years of support and love, and that means everything.

Sara begsShe was very people friendly too, as she saw all humans as food-bringers!  And other than those dang feet and her inadvertent destructive ways, she was such an easy keeper.  She rarely needed a blanket as she grew a huge winter coat each year;

Sara getting treatment

she LOVED to be bathed and would rush over for a hosing in summer, sometimes refusing to leave - hose me, hose me! And really - anything to eat was fine - just keep it coming! So friendly and kind.

In her years with me, we called Sara the “D-8", the designation for a type of tractor.  She would stick her neck through the fence, trying to reach that ONE blade of grass (because of course, she was starving), and would often just lift her head, and the fence along with it, pulling it right out of the ground.  She would press into a fence rail ... and that was the end of that rail!  Before I discovered chia, she was famous for munching on her stall roof like it was potato chips. 

Her final tragedy was that she contracted a disability which cannot be easily managed. Disaster struck in 2008, when she foundered badly.  With those big flat draft feet, a six year saga of suffering and experimental foot care began.  The long and the short of it is that simply, there’s not a lot that works for long.  I managed to keep her mobile about 3/4 of the time with the help of our farriers. And she was pretty happy to spend time on the ground when necessary.

Time went on.  My heart quailed every time she had a bad spell, and lifted each time she was more ‘normal’. But her joy was always in her food, and while I had her on a special diet for her weight, now it was even harder.  I struggled with endless articles on how to manage laminitis, and tried everything.  She was a very good girl - she didn’t care too much what you gave her, as long as she could be munching almost constantly.  The hardest part for me was that no pain killers seemed to be effective. 

Sara and Bru
In her time with me, she always had a friend or two. Bruhad loved her, we joked he wanted to BE her when he grew up! They were so alike.  She was kind to Sooner for his short time here. She was very easygoing, and worked best with older horses who didn’t want to move a lot.  But in 2002 she and Joyful joined up as bffs, and as these mares will do, they were besties to the end.  While Sara in the last couple of years also became Laddie’s best girl, these two mares were always buds, and Joyful became very protective of Sara as Sara’s disability became more and more severe.

Sara and Joy

Over the last year, I had some real hope with our new farriers.  Travis was willing to pick at her feet each time he came (4 weeks in a row, then 4 weeks off), to keep her feet from getting too long, to slowly move the angles, and she seemed to be moving better, and growing live hoof. She liked him. Sometimes she was laying down when he came, and she would just lay there while he chipped away.   But last week, she was showing great distress - nothing pain meds would reach, but I was hopeful it was another abscess that Travis could open up as he had the previous week and so often in the past.  But this was worse. She laid down constantly, and did NOT eat all of her feed.  When Travis came on Tuesday, I told him what was happening and he brought out those testers - and when he stood up, you could tell he didn’t want to say it.  He said, it is what you know it is.  Yeah, I knew.   Travis is a good guy, he didn’t want to leave her like that, so he insisted on taping some pads to her feet. But it was just to give her one last evening a little more comfortable....


And today, as Joyful and Fannie called after her, Sara could barely walk out of her stall, despite the pads.  I gave her some Winnie’s Cookies that I could never give her before, and she slurped them up and asked for more.  And we sent her onward.  Our girl is lumbering in the heavens now, no hock pain, happy feet, and the breeze in her face.  Its all we could do.

Sara and Laddie