Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Good bye my old friend. Until we meet again.

Yesterday I said goodbye to my sweet old man horse, Pistol. The horse we bought as an impulse buy a few years ago. The horse that I was never supposed to get attached to, because he was our ‘spare horse’. The horse that made me remember exactly what it was I loved about riding. I am a believer that certain horses come into our lives at certain times for certain reasons, and Pistol was proof of that.
The big red horse came into our lives as a complete impulse. We went to a horse auction not expecting to buy anything, but as the last few horses were being sold, he stood there calmly in the center of the sale ring, and nothing phased him. We paid $575 for him. And knew nothing about him,and for all we knew he could have been drugged.  The next day we picked him up and brought him home. Turned him loose with our other two red horses, Duke and Piney and then spent the next 5 ½ hours trying to catch him again. The husband and I figured we had made a big mistake. This horse was nothing like that calm sweet horse we bought. When we finally did catch the horse, he tensed up when you went to touch him. Eyes wide, and nostrils flared. His whole body went rigid when you touched him. And forget about touching his face. The next day we saddled him up and he took off bucking across the yard. We thought about selling him, but I wanted to get him checked by the vet. When the vet came out to check him out, his teeth had sharp steak knife like points and he had ulcers in his mouth. Then when he cleaned his ‘undercarriage” he found golf ball sized beans. I asked the vet if that would cause the behavior we’d seen and he thought that it definitely could have something to do with it. The next day the farrier came out to trim his feet and I apologized in advance for what the horse could be like, as we had no idea what he was like for trims. Pistol stool like a champion, in fact he was better than our other two. The farrier said “if he rides anything like how he stood for me today, you have a great horse on your hands”. It was then that we decided he should get a quick tune up at the trainer.
He was famous for his halters getting twisted around.

And quick tune up is what he got. We dropped him off and the trainer called a short while later saying that the horse was ready to be picked up. He didn’t feel right keeping this horse around because there was nothing else he could train him to do, he did it all already. So we picked him up and he came home with us.
I will always remember that first ride I had on him at home. I was having so much fun with him riding around the yard. But right before I hopped off, my husband said “Piney isn’t eating”. I quickly hopped off and went to get Piney, who in fact wasn't eating, and was in obvious distress. The next day I lost Piney. I then found myself shutting myself off from the two surviving horses. Pistol was trying so hard to get me to interact with him, and I just didn't want anything to do with him.
Duke and Pistol. Best buddies.
Obviously Pistol was upset by the passing of his friend and his condition started to deteriorate. This forced me to step in and start working on getting him fattened back up. I started to realize how sweet he was and started to remember that I loved horses.
One of my favorite pictures of us.

funny to think this guy hated having his face touched at one time.

Hillbilly dressage.

a walk to remember.

He came out of winter fat and happy. He became my riding buddy and I realized that he was an awesome trail horse. He did everything I asked of him. I’d even planned on bringing him to some eventing schooling days that were being held at our local English club. The day before I planned on hauling him out to give eventing a shot, I noticed his breathing was not normal. Heaves. 
Fat and happy. The vet suggested a slow feed hay net to help keep his head out of  dusty hay bales.

The vet prescribed a bunch of medicine, and it seemed that we had it under control. He was great all winter, but this spring his heaves came back with a vengeance. Nothing was working. We worked with the vet and they had us trying all sorts of things but nothing was working. We retired him. He had his good days where his breathing was back to normal, but with the hot and dusty weather we've been having it got worse again. To make matters worse, his buddy Duke went off for 30 days at the trainer. Pistol feeling like he lost his friend forever again, turned into skin and bones. Everything I tried didn’t work. I bumped up his feed and he was getting a ton of alfalfa pellets, and tons of sugar beet pulp, and safechoice, but it wasn't working. Nothing was working. So we decided that we needed to make that decision and let him go.
I had a week with Pistol to say goodbye. While it didn't make it easier it did help. Piney was taken so suddenly from me that I never felt like I got to properly say good bye to him. The way Pistol looked at me, I know he was ready.
Yesterday morning, I woke up and knew I was making the right decision. I was doing okay until I went to get him ready to go into the trailer. I still managed to keep it together, until his buddies called out to him after he was loaded into the trailer. He called back and I lost it.
Once we got to the vet, my husband went to check in. I unloaded Pistol by myself. He was the only horse that would hop right in and out of the trailer with no problems. I walked him into the clinic and as always he was calm as could be. I was still managing to keep it together… and then our vet walked up to me. I absolutely lost it. Big sobbing tears, and our vet was awesome. No doubt the hardest part of his job. He gave me a big hug and took Pistol’s lead rope from me. I kept saying that I was so sorry for Pistol’s condition, and he told me to stop it. It happens to a lot of people. He knew that we were trying our best , and  it can happen to anyone’s horse. He asked if we wanted to stick around, and I said that I didn't think that was the best idea. I've been told that although usually it goes pretty easy, sometimes horses can go down violently and it’s best not to remember them like that. He said he would cut off his tail, and then have it cleaned and will bring it to us. As we left I saw the vet tech in the arena with Pistol, rubbing him and giving Pistol some love. My husband asked if maybe we should have had him put to sleep at home, that way we could have him buried there. I said that it was better to have him put to sleep at the vet, that way he would have an easier time finding Piney once he left. 
I hope that in Pistol’s last years he knew how much we loved him. And that not all people are bad. He had a good life with us and I wish that I had a whole barn filled with horses like him. When we were leaving to go to the vet, I opened the mail, and Cash’s permanent brand release had arrived. My husband said that maybe it was a sign. Cash has been proven to be a good trail horse for me. It was just one of those ways the universe was telling me that Pistol had taught me everything that he could, and that it was time for him to leave.

I obviously am sad that Pistol is gone. But I have found that I am a bit more at peace with it. He was ready to go. I’m glad that he ended up with us, and that we were able to give him love every day of his life. Had we not bought him that day, I don’t know what would have happened to him. But I am so glad that I was able to have him in my life, even if it was just briefly.
He loved George, and George loved him.


  1. Glad you had him and that he had you, even if only for a while.

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss. It's so hard to lose them but I'm so happy that you two got to be partners. Sending virtual hugs! ♥

  3. I totally cried when reading this. I put my old friend down a few years ago but his story was very similar. My friends told me that Blue would be Apollo's shadow and keep an eye on us always. I'm sure that Pistol will be watching over you and Cash too :)

  4. Red horses are the best. RIP Pistol.

  5. I'm sorry for your loss of Pistol. You wrote such an inspiring tribute.

  6. (((hugs)))
    Lovely tribute - very sorry for your loss.

  7. Thank you for letting us get to know him better. So sorry for your loss.

  8. What a beautiful tribute. Glad you had each other when you both needed it most.