Good-bye, dear Hart

The Tucker clan lost another member

I’m sorry. My humble condolences.

Anyway, we lost one of the horses today. It was three years ago that we lost Smokie to cancer at 36. Today was “Hart,” a half Belgian.

Hart stood 15:2, weighing about 1400 at his “normal” weight, although there were times when he weighed a lot more, and a period last year when he weighed a lot less. Not a tall horse by any means, and not as large as the full-blooded Belgians, but he had a very large frame for his size.

Can’t say enough about his temperament, other than it was good. We’ve lost count of how many children first learned to ride on him over the years. And I can account for over 500 children in just the past five years that have ridden him at various events. Never an incident. Not once. He’s had as many as five kids on him at one time. Never an incident. At one event, there were a lot of pictures of kids feeding him carrots, with our four-year-old (who had been riding him since she was two) niece holding onto his lead rope, underneath that massive head. Very calmly. She knew him, and that he wasn’t going anywhere.

And also, because of his temperament, and, well, he was just such a pretty horse, the kids remembered him. At any horse event, people we didn’t even remember (after all, there had been hundreds) would ask about him. He was popular, and everyone that had ever ridden him absolutely loved him.

But that came to an end today. Last night, I went out to the barn where he was boarded to do the ritual stall-cleaning. As soon as I arrived, they told me that he seemed sick. To be specific, he had been breathing heavily. Very heavily. The barn’s owner, who has been around horses all his life, said, “I’ve never seen a horse breathe like that. When he inhaled, he sucked in so hard that it looked like he lost 200 pounds.” Luckily, I didn’t get to see that. When I arrived, he wasn’t breathing that hard, but it was still harder than normal. They had already called the vet.

Well, she couldn’t be exactly sure, other than it seemed to be a problem with his heart and/or lungs. She recommended taking him to another facility an hour away for better diagnosis. However, she also cautioned that in his current state, he might not make the trip, and that we should probably wait until the morning. She thought he might have pneumonia and/or congestive heart failure, either of which might have been secondary to some other medical problem. She gave him some shots to try to counteract them, and left some for another dose the next morning.

So this morning, Tucker-babe went out to administer the second round of shots. She said that he didn’t seem any better than last night, but he also didn’t seem any worse. She was headed over to the vet’s office to arrange the appointment with the other facility. That was at 9:00.

At 10:00, she called saying she was leaving the vet. I was going to leave work and take the truck out to the barn to trailer him to the vet.

I left work, saying that might be gone for a few hours.

I never made it to pick up the truck. At 10:30, she called back with the news “He’s dead.” One of the other boarders at the barn had gone out. Sometime between 9:00 and 10:30, he died. If there was anything “good” about it, at least it was quick. He was 18. We had had him for 12 years. 18 is not old for a horse. It’s generally thought that larger breeds have shorter life-spans than smaller ones, but we had always hoped he’d have him to about 25. Three years ago, Smokie,our Morgan-Arabian, died peacefully at 36, but he had been “retired” for several years as the result of failing eyesight and severly arthritic knees.

We don’t know the exact cause of death for this one. The first time we ever noticed labored breathing was last (year’s) summer, but it was just sporadic, and we assumed it might have been heat-related. Then he started losing weight the following winter. None of the blood test results indicated anything unusual, although later he did develop an equine strep infection. After we treated that, he seemed to be rebounding pretty well, but he still was never quite back to 100%. And today we lost our Hart (his name) when his heart gave out.

It was a fun 12 years, and he had a great life. And I’m sure the hundreds of children (many grown now) who have ridden him, many of whom are grown now, would certainly agree.

Awww…he sounded like a real sweetie. I am sorry for your loss.

Likewise. At least, now he will be beyond suffering. As you say though, Earl Snake-Hips Tucker, 18 is not an old age for a horse. What a shame. My thoughts are with you.