When most of us think about thoroughbred race horses, we think of the beautiful horses we see when we watch the Kentucky Derby and other big races that are broadcast on TV. Those equine athletes are a small, small fraction of the the horses that are the product of the horse racing industry. For many racing horses, life is neither kind nor easy. Many are not really able to do the grueling work that is the life of a race horse. If they are lucky, they find a new career.
That was the case for Moped, a handsome chestnut gelding. Moped did not have the drive to race. Eventually his owners realized that Moped was not a winner and sold him to a trainer so he could learn a new career — jumping.
Moped did the best he could at jumping, but he was too spooky. He was sold again to the owners of a lesson barn that taught both dressage and jumping. They thought he’d be perfect for more advanced riders.
About this time, a new rider — a woman named Jan — came into Moped’s life. Jan had recently had to help her beloved horse cross to Spirit and needed a horse to ride and love while she recovered from her loss. The dressage trainer thought that Jan and Moped would be a good match. Jan realized that Moped was special, that he needed the love she could give him and they bonded immediately.
Jan rode Moped for many months. She felt that the time she spent with Moped out of the saddle was just as important as the time she spent in the saddle. Moped received more TLC from Jan than he’d ever had from anyone in his life. Moped taught Jan to be a better rider.
By talking to Moped, we learned about his experiences at the race track (none of them good) and injuries he’d experienced that had begun to show themselves as he continued with dressage work and a little jumping. He told us how Jan could help him feel better and loved when she massaged his hip, one of his old injuries.
Eventually Jan bought another horse — but she was committed to continuing to give Moped the TLC he needed. We talked to Jan’s new horse and explained why Jan would be spending extra time with Moped, so her new horse wouldn’t feel jealous. We also explained to Moped that, while Jan would be spending less time with him and wouldn’t be riding him, she would still spend as much time as she could with him. Moped was grateful that Jan still wanted to spend time with him and said he understood that she needed a horse of her own. Moped knew he couldn’t work at the level of riding that Jan needed. He was sad, but happy that he wasn’t loosing Jan altogether.
As time went on, Moped’s behavior became very erratic and unpredictable, to the point that he couldn’t be ridden safely. It became clear that the injuries he’d sustained at the track, plus the body stresses of jumping and dressage were finally catching up with him. One of those injuries was a skull fracture that Moped had sustained when he reared in his stall several years before. As time had gone on, he’d developed a large hard lump at the site of the fracture on his forehead. When I “felt through” Moped’s body, there was a great deal of arthritic pain in his hips and his head felt like he had a continuous migraine.
Moped was retired in May of that year. When Moped was outside, he was tormented by the flies and bugs, trotting endlessly around his paddock — becoming more and more frantic trying to escape the biting bugs. Putting Moped in his stall didn’t solve the problem either — he would pace continuously in his stall. He was not at peace anywhere. Without work to occupy his mind, Moped fretted and paced constantly — but he couldn’t be worked because he’d become dangerous to ride. Moped had become dangerous to handle, even for the professionals at the barn.
We talked to Moped often during his period of time. Although Moped was always grateful that we took the time to talk to him, there was little we could do to comfort him. Moped did not want to hurt anyone, but he was like a raw nerve due to his headaches. One day Moped suddenly said, “Can I be allowed to cross to Spirit?” Jan and I were both stunned — and then we cried, because we both knew in our hearts that crossing to Spirit was the only way that this poor horse would find peace and freedom from pain.
Jan spoke to the barn owners but they were not prepared to put Moped down. They tried very hard to find a retirement home for Moped, but no one wanted a dangerous, unpredictable horse. Finally, they agreed to let Moped cross to Spirit.
Jan was given permission by the barn owners and the vet to be present for Moped when he was euthanized. The vet was concerned that Moped’s unpredictable behavior might make it dangerous for Jan to be there — but Jan had a plan. We talked to Moped and I explained the euthanization process, so he would understand and wouldn’t be frightened. I told Moped that when he started to feel wobbly, he should sit down, lay down, then roll over on his side. I told Moped that when he laid down, Jan would come to his head and would be there with him until the end, sending him to Spirit with love. Sitting down is not normal horse behavior, but Moped said he understood that this would keep Jan safe and he was happy she would be there for him.
When the day came for Moped to cross to Spirit, Jan stood as close to Moped as the vet would allow. Jan sent loving energy to Moped as the vet gave him the injection that would allow his spirit to leave his body. Jan reminded Moped not to fight the sleepiness, to sit down and relax. Moped remained standing for a few moments . . . then he wobbled a little, sat down and rolled on to his side. Jan knelt by Moped’s head and stroked his neck as Moped took his last breaths, sending love to him all the while.
After a few minutes of silence, the vet spoke. He was clearly stunned — he said he’d never seen a horse sit down and roll over like that. He was shocked that Moped, the dangerous horse, had crossed over so quietly. Jan told the vet that we’d talked to Moped ahead of time — told Moped what to expect and that he should sit down and roll over. The vet just looked at Jan in disbelief — but Jan knew that the talk with Moped had made all the difference.
We have talked to Moped many times in the years since he crossed to Spirit. Moped knows how much Jan still loves him, that she will never forget him. Moped feels that Jan is the only person in his whole life who ever really loved him and he has promised to be there for Jan when it is her time to go to Spirit. That’s endless love!
Comments are closed.