One of my equine massage clients, Jean, had been looking for a new horse for a while. She and her trainer did a lot of leg work searching for just the right horse for Jean, but had no luck. Finally they started looking further afield — at horses from Europe, enter a very handsome and talented 5 year old Mecklenburg warmblood gelding named Glaentzer.
Importing a horse from Europe is not a simple process, but Glaentzer came through all the challenges of flying in an airplane and being quarantined, finally arriving at Jean’s barn over Memorial Day Weekend. Jean was thrilled that he had finally arrived and that he was safe and healthy. She had never seen pictures of him, only knew the basics; in fact, her first glance was at the quarantine station. He and another horse (who was for another lady at the barn) emerged from the shadows of the quarantine facility, her first recollection was of his white blaze in the darkness. He and the other horse got right on the trailer, homeward bound.
Jean asked me to talk to Glaentzer soon after he arrived. I’d done equine massage and communication for Jean’s previous horse and she knew how helpful it had been, so she wanted to establish that connection with Glaentzer right away.
We told Glaentzer that Jean was his new person. We explained how things worked at his new barn (turn out, work, meals, who would care for him, etc.) and told Glaentzer that Jean would be sure that he got the best care Jean could give him. Jean assured Glaentzer that they would become friends as well as work partners. Glaentzer said he wasn’t sure how the “friends” part worked, but he was open to trying.
Jean and her trainer decided it would be best if Glaentzer did not go straight to work, but was allowed to relax and adjust after all the changes he’d experienced. Jean felt it would be best for Glaentzer to have some adjustment time before staring work. When we told Glaentzer this, he thought that was a good idea — but he was eager to get to work when the time came. Jean let Glaentzer know that we’d talk to him regularly and that in a few months, I would be giving him massages to help his muscles feel good and function at their best. Glaentzer was very interested in that, since he’d never had a massage before. I looked forward to working with Glaentzer and our continuing our conversations.
Glaentzer adjusted to life at his new barn quickly and he and Jean fell into a regular pattern of visits with brushing, hand walking/grazing and getting to know each other. They were a good match and Glaentzer was a kind and sweet horse. Both of them looked forward to becoming riding partners as soon as Glaentzer’s adjustment time was over.
Horses need to be vaccinated for some very contagious diseases. Horses are not vaccinated for the same diseases in Europe as they are in the US, because they are exposed to different diseases. As a result, Glaentzer needed some preventative vaccines now that he was in the US. Jean’s vet started slowly giving Glaentzer the required vaccinations. She did not rush the process, didn’t give too many at once and was very careful about giving the injections.
Despite all possible care, in mid-July, Glaentzer developed signs of an abcess developing at the injection site on his neck, which unfortunately, caused a high fever. Glaentzer had to be taken to a veterinary hospital to have the abscess site opened and flushed, treated with IV antibiotics but the high fever caused a very serious case of laminitis in both of Glaentzer’s front hooves.
Laminitis is a very serious inflammation of the delicate tissues (the laminae) on the inside of the hard part of the hoof. In a healthy hoof, the laminae hold the pedal bone (the bone located inside the hoof) in place at the right angle and the right distance from the sole of the hoof. In a horse with laminitis, the laminae become weak and fragile, which may decrease its ability to hold the pedal bone in place. Some horses recover fully from a bout of laminitis and can continue living and working comfortably. Sadly, that is not always the case. For some horses, laminitis progresses to founder, which means the pedal bone rotates toward the sole of the foot. Different horses can tolerate
different degrees of rotation, but founder can be crippling.
This was Jean’s first encounter with the dangers of laminitis and worked out a plan with Glaentzer’s vet and farrier to do everything they could to save Glaentzer’s hooves. They tried everything the vet and farrier could think of to support Glaentzer’s recovery. Glaentzer was confined to his stall and extra wood shavings were added to the floor of the stall to make the floor as soft as possible for his tender feet. Jean had to make styrofoam cushions and duct tape them to his front hooves to offer some relief from his pain.
We talked to Glaentzer frequently during this time. Glaentzer was so brave. He kept telling us that he wanted to keep trying to get better, so Jean honored his wishes and the farrier and vet continued to try to help save Glaentzer’s hooves. The vet took x-rays of Glaentzer’s hooves every week to see if the pedal bones were holding their correct position in Beamer’s hooves. The first couple weeks, the pedal bones stayed in place. Then they shifted 8 degrees in the course of a week — the laminitis had become founder. When Jean and I watched Glaentzer walk, we could see that he was more uncomfortable than previously. But when the vet came to check him, Glaentzer put on a brave face and moved much better.
The following week, I happened to be at the barn when the farrier and vet came to see Glaentzer. Jean lead Glaentzer to the cross ties. He was moving more slowly, which worried Jean. I happened to be crossing the indoor arena toward the cross tie area when Glaentzer was standing in the cross ties. The vet and farrier were focused on Glaentzer’s hooves, but I was looking at Glaentzer’s face and posture as he stood with one foot held up by the farrier — it was clear to me that he was in a great deal of pain — more pain than he’d displayed previously. It was heart breaking for me to see such a young horse in so much pain.
I talked to Jean later that day. She said the x-ray that day showed that Glaentzer’s pedal bones had rotated to 15 degrees — the founder was getting worse and worse. She told me that she knew Glaentzer was having a lot more pain, even though he was trying to hide it. It was heartbreaking for Jean to see this handsome, young horse deteriorating so quickly.
Jean wanted to talk to Glaentzer again because she felt that he needed to understand that the pain in his feet could continue to get worse if the pedal bones continued to rotate. He needed to understand that there really wasn’t anything that could be done to stop the process and he could be in pain for the rest of his life. Since Glaentzer was only 5 years old, a lifetime of pain was a long time. Jean wanted to give him the choice to cross to Spirit.
I asked him how his feet were feeling. He tried to be brave at first and didn’t want to tell me or show me how his feet felt. I told him it was very important that he be honest with us. Finally, he told/showed me that his front feet felt like they were on fire all the time now. The pain was really intense, especially when walking on a hard surface. He admitted that the pain had been getting worse and worse. Before we could say anything else, Glaentzer said, “I don’t think I can do this any more.” We told Glaentzer we knew how brave he had been and how hard he had tried to get better. He said, “Can you make the pain stop?” Jean told Glaentzer that she would talk to the vet and
help him cross to Spirit. He said, “I just don’t want to hurt any more.” We told Glaentzer that it was very important that when the vet came out to see him, he needed to show the vet how much his feet were hurting him. I told Glaentzer this was not the time to be brave. He said he understood.
Jean asked me to explain to Glaentzer what would happen when the vet helped Glaentzer cross to Spirit. I explained the euthanasia process to him. He wanted to be sure that Jean would be with him. She assured him she would be. Jean asked me to come too, if I could. I told her I would be there. We asked Glaentzer if there was anything he wanted before he crossed over. He said, “I want a whole bucket of apples and carrots.” Jean assured him he would get it.
When the vet came out to check on him, Glaentzer stopped being brave and showed the vet how much he was hurting. By then, Glaentzer could hardly walk on a hard surface. The vet agreed to help Glaentzer cross to Spirit in a few hours.
Jean called me to say that Glaentzer would be crossing over in a few hours. I was on a break between massages appointments and told her I’d come to the barn as soon as possible. I called my clients to cancel my afternoon visits. I got to the barn and went to Glaentzer’s stall. Jean and a couple others barn friends were there and Glaentzer was happily munching his way through the bucket of apples and carrots Jean had prepared for him. When Jean and I talked later, we realized that we both had felt the same thing from Glaentzer as we watched him eat. We felt he was more distant and detached. It was apparent to both of us that he was preparing himself for allowing his spirit to leave his body.
The time came for Glaentzer to leave his stall and walk behind the barn to an open area so the vet could do the euthanasia. Jean started to lead Glaentzer out of the stall, but he only got as far as the door to the stall. It was clear that the thought of putting his incredibly painful feet on the hard surface of the barn aisle was more than he could bear. I talked to Glaentzer and told him that stepping out into the aisle and walking the short distance to the area behind the barn was the last brave thing he would ever have to do and then he would be at peace in Spirit. I felt Glaentzer gather his strength for one final effort. With Jean at his head and me encouraging him from behind, he finally made the first steps into the aisle. Once he started, he kept focused on the barn door and very slowly made his way outside. It was the bravest thing I have ever seen an animal do. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think of it. Jean’s friends and I waited in the barn as requested by Jean.
A few minutes later, I vividly felt Glaentzer’s spirit move through/past me. It was a remarkable experience and I felt honored that Glaentzer shared that with me. When Jean came back in to the barn, she said Glaentzer’s passing was easy. It was clear to Jean that Glaentzer was ready to cross over because he crossed over so peacefully. There were lots of tears for this brave and wonderful horse from all of us who were there that day.
A few weeks later, Jean said she wanted to talk to Glaentzer in Spirit. Glaentzer said he was SO relieved to finally be free of pain. Glaentzer told us that until he came to Jean, he never had a person who loved him — all he knew was work. Although he was well cared for and had all his needs met, he did not feel that he was loved by his former owner. Jean changed all that — she gave him love. Glaentzer knew that Jean did not love him because he was good at his job — she loved him for who he was. Even though Glaentzer was not with Jean for long, in fact, he came into Jean’s life Memorial Day Weekend and left her life Labor Day Weekend, and his life was short, it was worth it to him because he finally was able to know that he was loved and was able to love in return. He also commented how he couldn’t believe that Jean’s barn friends would all stop by and say hello, scratch his nose and he knew they were hoping he would get better.
After we dried out tears, Jean asked Glaentzer if he could tell us what happens when an animal’s spirit leaves the physical body. Glaentzer said I already knew part of what happens — he showed me the green, grassy hill with a sun rise behind it. He showed me that when he crossed over, he galloped up the green hill, occasionally bucking with joy.
Glaentzer also showed me the feeling of Spirit — it was overwhelmingly wonderful! Words don’t really do it justice, but the best I can do to describe the feeling is the most intense feeling of love, joy, peace and freedom — the best feeling ever! Glaentzer said that was what all animals feel, all the time, when they are in Spirit.
Glaentzer told me that it was important for me to tell people about this when their animals cross to Spirit because it would help people know that their animals were safe and happy in Spirit, which would bring them comfort. He said that in the future, I would talk to many, many animals in Spirit — and their people — so it was important for me to understand. I told him I was so grateful for what he shared with us and that I would share the information.
[ Some communicators see the Rainbow Bridge, others probably see other things that represent the crossing to Spirit . . . but for me, animals always show me running, hopping, crawling or flying over the green, grassy hill into a sunrise. Whatever the image is, it’s all the same experience — just different images of the same thing. ]
When I told Jean that I wanted to write a blog post about Glaentzer, she thought we should talk to him in Spirit again to be sure that he felt it was OK to tell his story to the wider world. Glaentzer was very happy to share his story. He wanted to be sure that I would tell how brave he was and that he helped me understand more about animals crossing to Spirit. I assured him I would do both. He was very pleased and proud that he had been able to help me — and through me, so many others. Since the time when Glaentzer crossed to Spirit, I have talked to many, many animals in Spirit. I am grateful to Glaentzer for helping me to understand more about how things are for animals in Spirit.
“Glaentzer was a beautiful soul. He was in my life a very short time, but what an impact he made. Before Glaentzer, I had only heard about laminitis. After experiencing it with a horse, I would not wish this on my worse enemy. Glaentzer was so brave and stoic but being able to speak with him showed us his true journey.
For anyone else facing founder and laminitis, I would say educate yourself, not “media” education but true facts. Beware of the word “comfortable” – you cannot measure a horse’s comfort level. We were trying to get Glaentzer to be comfortable — if I didn’t talk to him through Sky, I might have condemned him to a lifetime of misery.
Talk to your animals, be honest with them and have the courage to really listen to what they have to say. Yes, there may be heartbreak but that is part of sharing love with an animal.
I have known Sky for years and years and years and thank the Universe for our meeting at the barn.“ — Jean G., NJ