Joy was allowed to go home the next day. Clearly, she was not yet well, but so much better. She was still fast asleep that morning when the phone rang. It was Pam. Pam is one of those people who is really genuine. She is kind and loving, hard working and always willing to give of herself to the benefit of those in need. Pam is who I entrusted all 3 of our beloved horses; Blondie, Sparkey and Trojan. Their farm is about the same size as what we were building, but complete with several different paddocks, pastures and barns to accommodate many horses. With this living situation, I was completely satisfied!
“Julie, Julie – You need to come quick!” She said interrupting me as I said hello.
“What is going on Pam? I sat at attention waiting for her answer.
“Something is wrong with Trojan. It is like he cannot walk..or like his back legs cannot walk…Oh – I don’t know. PLEASE just come over quickly!” There was urgency in her voice that I was not going to argue with.
I got up and threw on a t-shirt and jeans as I was explaining the situation to Don. I grabbed my keys and my purse and ran out the door. I took the truck since I was sure a trip to the vet was in order.
The Trojan War Horse as he was dubbed because of his towering stature rising up to 17 hands high. Trojan for short. He was a Tennessee Walking Horse, strawberry roan in color, not registered, 9 years old when I told the previous owner I wanted to buy him…but miraculously aging to 12 by the time he was paid for 6 weeks later! No matter. Now an astounding 30+ years old, he had been a guardian angel to both Emily and Joy throughout their entire childhood. He coached them all around the neighborhood without objection, even as they collected riders along the way. It was not uncommon to see 3 children riding him at once! He would happily bob his head to and fro as he made his way around the lake, with that bright orange mane and tale. Many a times he was involved in the girls sneaky escapades. I once found them riding the horses after dark, in the paddock with no saddles or bridles! Another time, feeling compassionate for riding Trojan too hard on a hot summer day, they just brought him into the house to rest under the ceiling fan! Memories were flooding my head and heart as I feared what I would have to face this day.
I skidded to a stop on Pam’s gravel driveway. Got out of the truck and ran through the barn. I could see several people with Pam, who was holding a lead line attached to Trojan’s halter. His head was low, but at least he was standing up, I thought to myself.
“Oh good. I am glad you are here.” Pam said as soon as she saw me.
“What is going on?” I questioned as I took the lead from her hand.
“He can stand here, but when we try to move him; ask him to walk, his back end doesn’t move in sync and he loses his balance.” She started to explain as I moved closer to him.
“Be careful Julie. I am worried that he could fall on someone.” She followed up as I nodded.
I stepped back, but took the lead and asked him to come up 1 step to me. I needed to see what she was talking about. Trojan raised his head. I knew he recognized me…or maybe just my voice. He took one step forward with his front legs. His left back leg curled under his hip and his huge body started to rock off balance.
“Whoa big boy!” I said as I pushed back on his chest hard trying to help reposition his weight.
I stood silent for a moment. “We have to get him into a trailer so I can take him down the road to the vet.”
Pam said, “Use mine Julie. It has a strong divider in the center he can balance on.” And without hesitation, she ran through the barn isle to start hooking it up.
She backed it into the barn, getting it right beside Trojan. He looked up at it as we opened the back. Trojan was good about riding in a trailer, but this was a special circumstance. I led him in. He took 2 steps with his front legs and then his hip started to sway to the left. Right when I thought that he was surely going to go down, he caught himself with his left leg. His right leg acted as if it had no communication with the rest of his body. I wondered if this could be injury related. Surely it was not intentional because Trojan was stabled in a paddock with his 2 buddies, our other horses, but maybe I thought, one of them could have stepped on him if he was laying down. It took us about 10 minutes to get him secured into the trailer. Pam was right. He was leaning on the divider. I jumped into the cab of the truck and silently prayed that he would still be standing when we arrived. The vet’s office was only a few miles away.
When I pulled into the drive, I noticed that, despite the early morning hour, there were several customers already there. I bit my lip as I looked for the best place to pull in and place the trailer. I jumped out and checked Trojan. Thank God, he was still standing! I ran into the office and explained the situation to the receptionist and she immediately called for one of the doctors. He met me at the trailer. I explained again, what I knew..what I saw.
We carefully unloaded the huge unbalanced animal, my first horse, my pet, Trojan. I watched as the vet preformed several tests on him. I tried to assist when I was called upon to do so and when he left to retrieve an instrument; I buried my face into Trojan’s long winter fur. I could no longer hold back my tears. I sobbed. I knew the diagnosis was not good. The doctor was quiet as he scribbled notes on his clipboard. He did not want to make eye contact with me as he knew I was searching him for the answer.
He returned, bringing with him one of the vet tech’s. They did a few more tests assuring it was not injury related. Several times, Trojan came so close to falling down and each time I felt my heart rip.
“It is neurological.” He finally said. “Your horse” looking down at his notes, “Trojan?..has suffered what can be compared to in humans, as a stroke.”
Silence fell. It was deafening. Other people around were talking. Animals were making noise and I know traffic was passing by as well…but all I could hear was the sound of my own heart beat.
“We could put him into a stall and start him on some fluids and see what happens.” The vet said almost as if he was trying to extend an Olive branch…”but honestly, if he is over 30…and is this right? Did he suffer a massive heart attack and survive 5 years ago?”
Through my tears, I nodded yes. “He has not been ridden since then. He is our pet.”
I stroked his face. The right decision was directly in front of me and I tried everything I could not to confront it, but I knew. I knew it was time. God had given us 5 extra years with him, 5 years that no one could have imagined that he would have survived. I did not want him to be in pain. I did not want him to be in danger of getting hurt from falling. I swallowed a hard knot in my throat. My voice cracked as I said, “Let’s put him down.”
I no longer tried to hold back the tears. A constant stream flowed as I whispered so many loving words of thanks into Trojan’s ears and bestowed so many kisses to his face.
The vet touched my shoulder as he came around to my side. He reached up, taking a part of Trojan’s mane, he lovingly braided it. He ended it with a small rubber band and wrapped a small piece of tape around the top just prior to cutting it off.
“I am so sorry.” He said as he handed me the keep sake. I held it next to my heart. I hugged Trojan one last time as I breathed in his scent. It just wouldn’t be the same, I thought, moving out to the farm without our big gentle Trojan War Horse.