Today, September 3, 2013, I had the sad duty to end Spencer's long life.
This beautiful Appendix QH gelding was approximately 32 years old. For his size, he was in great shape, but in recent months, following the loss of his friend Shine, he was not keeping weight, showing anxiety bordering on panic a lot of the time, and numerous adjustments were no longer helping to keep him feeling function.
Only two years here doesn't seem like a lot, but Spencer had Wobblers, a degenerative neurological problem with no cure. I had three main reasons for making this decision, none of which were enough on their own, but together made this decision mandatory.
Spencer came to me from a private family who just felt he was too old. But very early on, it became clear to me that Spencer had other problems, which eventually the vet and I agreed looked like Wobblers. He was ridiculously clumsy, causing injury to himself and destruction to any stall I put him in, due to his inability to connect with his hind end.
This condition was the first reason I decided to end things for Spence - as the loss of his friend Shine caused him to begin to deteriorate just as Shine had deteriorated in the same way from the same problem, on the loss of Sunny. I didn't want him to get as bad as Shine did before I let go -
From that time to his death, I had both Dawn Fletcher and Laurie Henkel see him and adjust his neck in the hopes of slowing down the damage, but to no avail.
The second reason was his poor condition, caused by his endless anxiety, no doubt due to his feeling vulnerable due to the Wobblers. I was shoveling feed into him, and yet he continued to drop weight slowly and inexorably. And watching his almost manic behavior when anyone came near him and Brave; watching him wildly pacing in his stall if Brave was eating, or talking to Hershey, or just out of reach, I realized he was living in a state of panic, which was wearing him down. When this continued even in the warm summer months, I knew his time was coming to an end.
After losing Shine, he had attached himself to Brave and Hershey, I think for protection,
and his attachment to just Brave became almost obsessive, to the point that he would pace the fenceline between their stalls if Brave was 'out of reach'. Which leads to my third reason....
The final decider was my unavoidable duty to put Brave down, due to a broken leg. I knew that this blow would likely be the final straw for Spencer anyway, and at his age, with his condition, I felt it would be cruel to make him grieve his friend, and deal with his anxiety and disability alone, just to then decide what I had already been considering.
Poor Spencer .... such an unassertive, shy, unlucky fellow! He was kind, and a deeply loyal friend, and loved attention although always a little nervous at first. Nervous was actually a good word for him - but I suspect that developed along with the Wobblers - knowing he wasn't 100% made him feel vulnerable. And is it a coincidence that his first dear friend here was Shine, who also suffered from Wobblers? When Shine began to deteriorate so severely, he was still the stronger personality of the two, but Spencer's concern for him was palpable. He was clearly distraught on Shine's passing, and not being a strong personality, he chose the gentle duo of Hershey and Brave to attach himself to for protection.
When Hershey was injured in a casting incident, he was unable to partner with Brave as he had for years, and Spencer attached himself to Brave, spending the last 6 months of his life in the stall area with Brave. I'm not entirely sure he realized that Brave could not see - but there is no doubt that he saw Brave as his protector, just as Hershey had. He was at least 12 years older than Brave, and disabled, and a nervous wreck. Losing this last friend, just before winter, was not something he was able to deal with.
I don't know a lot about Spencer's life before he came to The Golden Carrot. I know he had some show experience, and with his almost flaxen mane and bright chestnut coloring, I'm sure he was impressive. In his early days here, he swirled around trying to show everyone that he still had it, as most horses will do, and he was very exciting to watch. But I won't pretend that he was 100% happy here - dealing with a herd like this was a lot for him to handle. I wish I had more control of the facilities here, as I might have set up a large area for him, and other horses with the more advanced disabilities. But no demands were made on him, and he had friends (Sooner, then Shine, then Brave), and an easy quick end. It was all I could do for him, and I hope it was enough....
A lifetime ended today, but it ended quickly, painlessly, with his best friend at hand to find their way to the light and freedom together.