The hardest part of having animals is knowing that one day we will have to say goodbye to them. Sometimes this is as a result of an accident or sudden acute illness where the decision is out of our hands, but sometimes it is our responsibility to do the right thing at the right time for our beloved animals.
Working in the veterinary industry for many years, I have always tried to adhere to “a day too soon rather than a day too late” with my golden oldies. It is a huge responsibility but one that needs careful thought to ensure we respect them right to the end.
Sadly, I have experienced this recently with my wonderful horse of a lifetime, Mabel. I have owned her for 20 years, having fallen in love when she was an unshown five-year-old. Her huge ears were ones that I knew I wanted to sit behind forever.
Buying her was one of the best decisions I ever made, with the following years full of wins in the showring at the highest level, gallops along beaches and up stubble fields and with her gifting me a filly foal on my birthday. The foal, Florence, is now 10 years old and has a wonderful temperament, just like her mum.
However, 20 years is a long time, and this year Mabel began to show me signs that life wasn’t as comfortable for her as it used to be. She was assessed and medication prescribed, but as time went on it became clear that despite this Mabel was beginning to become increasingly arthritic and experiencing greater pain.
So where do you draw the line? My biggest fear was that she would lie down and be unable to get back up as can happen with heavier horses. I asked a friend – who is a vet and knows Mabel well – to assess her with me, and we came to the extremely sad conclusion that it was time to say goodbye to the best horse I have ever had.
As upsetting as this was, I felt proud that the old girl still looked well in her condition and coat, indicating that I hadn’t left it too long. She will forever be in my heart as we had such good fun over the years, not just as show horse and rider but also as best friends.
She may be gone from my daily life, but the memories will be with me forever, still sitting behind those big ole ears.
I love you, Mabel.