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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Tribute to Metro

Three years ago today, an era ended. A time for patience, for love, and for the quiet bond between two best friends came to an unceremonial end on a cold January afternoon, the whole world devoid of light and happiness in that moment in time. The sweetest companion I have ever had closed his eyes for the final time that day, and the overwhelming emptiness that followed was tinted with bitterness and remorse. Could I have done more for this dear creature? Did I do something wrong? Would anything have been different had I tried something else? These questions still linger in my mind sometimes, but I have come to accept that I will take them to the grave with me - there sometimes can be no answer to the questions we need to know the very most.

Metro wasn't the most athletic horse I've ever known. His stride was short and his shoulders were flagpole upright, leaving him with a jackhammer-esque trot that jarred teeth and caused headaches. But when I first met him, and rode him for the first time, I instantly knew his huge heart would make up for all those shortcomings. He was huge, dark, and handsome, and I didn't care much what he looked like. (If only I had known then what those awful upright shoulders and stumpy pasterns had in store for him!) I was looking for a schoolmaster, someone who could teach me the dressage and eventing ropes beyond what my other gelding was physically capable of, and could also just be a good companion when I needed a shoulder to lean on the most. My other horse, Quincy, was slipping gracefully into retirement, to be kept until his dying day as a pasture potato (and I kept that promise to him), and I needed a competition horse that I could learn on. Metro was everything I could have asked for and more. No, he was never going to score more than a 6 or a rare 7 for his gaits and impulsion, and no, he was never going to go beyond anything more than Training level eventing, but I did not care. In that trip to the fridgid wasteland of Alberta in January of 2004, I had found an everlasting friend whom I instantly connected with. I knew right away I wanted him to be mine.

The vet checks, the transportation arrangements, the insurance details - so many things I hadn't ever delt with before, especially because Quincy was a free unload upon me - it was an all-new experience. Finally, it was all set, and he was on his way in March - a five-day trailer ride from Alberta down to Michigan. He was conveniently set to arrive right around the time of my birthday. The day of my birthday dawned - March 12th - and no word from the shipper. Convinced that he wasn't going to arrive on my special day, I sulked about the house and went over to my then-girlfriend Michelle's house for some birthday moping... until my phone rang. It was the shipper, and he was only an hour away. Could there be better words for the excitement I felt then? I doubt I shall ever feel it again for any horse arriving that I've purchased. He unloaded fine off the trailer, and the shipper placed his lead rope into my hands - my very own, at last.

We learned together. He taught me more dressage than Quincy ever could, even throwing in the accidental canter pirouette once in awhile, and on top of that, we jumped. Looking back, I know it wasn't much of anything special, but to someone like myself who then had fairly limited jumping experience, it was everything I could have ever dreamed of. He carried me safely through my first ever cross country schooling, and I was instantly hooked. Thanks to Metro, I shall forever be a cross-country adrenaline junkie. I have a great memory of the first five minutes of that first cross-country schooling: we were warming up over a crossrail set up as a warmup before heading onto the actual course, and the grass was very slick from the morning dew. As we turned after that first fence, he slipped, and fell to the ground... or well, more like laid down rapidly. We were both unharmed and landed very softly, thankfully, and I stood up right away. He, on the other hand, suddenly realized just how close the grass was, and started to chow down, not even bothering to stand up. I cracked up, and it took some convincing to get him up... he just wanted to eat!

Through it took a little while to get used to each other, it all came together at our first event, where we won our division easily on our dressage score. What words are there for the bursting pride in your heart as you go to collect your first huge blue ribbon? I had won a few dressage classes previous to this with Quincy, but nothing ever before compared to this. We placed well at every event after that that we ever went to, from Michigan to Virginia and back again. How can I thank him for all the times he saved my ass, the times he made critical decisions on his own, the times he carefully took care of me when I was unsure? He gently carried me through all obstacles we faced, giving me the confidence I had previously lacked before ever sitting upon his great wide back. We were really going somewhere, he and I. We were the perfect pair, the ultimate team, the best of friends taking on challenges together. And then, he started going off a little.

Lameness? I had never before been in close contact with a legitimately name horse before - I knew about lameness, I had read about lameness, but my own horse? I did not even consider that it was possible. Three different vets all told me it was arthritis in his pasterns, and to keep moving him. I did. The vets told me it was a bad shoeing job, and to have his feet done again. I did. The vets told me to give him injections, supplements, plenty of turnout, movement. I did. He terrified me once by breaking out of his stall the day before my birthday and getting everyone's morning grain, thereby spending a terrible following week in the hospital. He had a series of little colics. He ran around like an idiot in the field. And still, he was lame.
May rolled around, and due to his continued lameness we scheduled an appointment for him at the MSU clinic with a specialist. The specialist took one look at his x-rays and deemed that this was not our problem. He then went on to palpate the bad leg, and when he came to the suspensory, Metro leapt all four feet off the ground. The outlook? Grave - a gigantic hole in his suspensory ligament. All I had been trying to do for him, all the hard work I had done, all it had done was damage him further. Words don't describe the sinkhole in your stomach when you discover all you've been doing to help has been crippling your dearest love all along.

And so we embarked on eight months of stall rest. Improvements were had, and setbacks were had, but the most important thing of all grew from this time - a feeling of incredible trust and love that reached a new level that I had not discovered before. Together, side by side, we walked every day down the road for 20 minutes at a time, making friends with random people in cars and the neighbors along the way. We discovered that nice neighbors will leave daily piles of apples at the end of their driveway for us every morning. We discovered how thousands of tiny frogs leap onto the pavement after a heavy rain. We discovered how the sun moves across the sky when you are walking in the summer light. We discovered how warm and soft a summer downpour feels upon your skin. We discovered what it was like to match strides with one anothers, and our fates became tied up in one. On the days he was feeling good, I was on top of the world. On the days he was sore, I was miserable.

And so we walked on, into the fall. He called for me whenever he saw or heard me, and ignored most everyone else, save for a few people (my friend Kathryn, who cared for him whenver I was away, being the most notable). I meticulously cared for every aspect of his life, willing myself with every ounce of energy to do the very best I could for him 24/7, hoping that perhaps love alone could cure him, even if nothing else could. He began to go more than a little stir-crazy when the snow started to fall, and some bad farrier jobs left him more lame than ever. I began to realize that perhaps my friend would never be sound for anything ever again. Setback after setback made me feel empty and ashamed of myself. Could I be doing more? I willed myself to try harder, to find an answer, to cure him myself if I had to. But nothing I did ever helped beyond making him happy - the ligament weakened and eventually partially ruptured over time after a particularly crippling farrier job and the addition of heavy bar shoes. The lateral branch, the one with the original injury, had been healing nicely, but the medial branch did not handle the weight alone very well, and finally gave. The rest of the ligament was on its way as well, and with tearful eyes I recieved my final MSU instuctions for him - "If he was my horse, I would let him go."

And so it was that three years ago I let him slip away from me, to a land where there was no pain and there was no stall rest and there were no injections and supplements and coldhosing and bute and supportive booties and ultrasound machines. I let him go because I knew that even though I would always ask myself if there was something else that could have been done, that there was not. I loved him with all my heart and micro-managed every aspect of his care, and that was all I could have done for him. It is somehow harder and easier at the same time to let a horse go when you chose as opposed to losing them to a freak accident, like I did with Quincy. I knew it was my choice to put him to sleep, and therefore I knew I could somehow live with that. But the memory of his death will always hurt - when the vet tech took him from he and they first stuck him with the needle, he ripped away from her and bolted off as if he knew what they were doing... as if he did not want to die. He fell in mid canter half-pass, a true dressage horse to the end.

Without his bravery and unwaivering steady mind, I would have never discovered my love of eventing. Without his suffering and crumbling feet that had been beautiful and bare until I put shoes on him, I would have never even considered the barefoot movement. Without his sacrifice, I would have never found Gogo seven months after he left this earth. Without his utter devotion to me, I would have never known what it was like to truly, completely, fully be needed, really needed by someone in this cold, lonely world.

Rest in peace, Cookieman. I cannot write anymore about you. I miss you more than I know how to say.

Today, I also had an M tattooed above my Q, which is over my heart. I'll have pictures for you tomorrow.

I miss him so much.


Beckz said...

I'm really sorry you had to go through that.

allira said...

oh I'm so sorry, I had tears reading that. He sounded like an absolutely gem horse and you were very lucky to be able to have him for the wonderful times and memories you shared with him.

Daun said...

Godspeed, M.

Funder said...

What a beautiful tribute story. I know you'll always miss him. The hardest thing about animals is the way we outlive them :(

jacksonsgrrl said...

Andrea--What a nice tribute to your horse. I cried. Love the purple people eater costume! How cute. Sounds like he had a great mom, the tattoo is a good idea, you should post a pic!

DressageInJeans said...

Very touching, sad post. You did him justice.
My show horse colicked two years ago horribly at a show, and after trailering him to our vet, our options were 'see if he makes it through the night, or take him to the New Bolton Center.' We took him to the New Bolton Center where he stayed for six days, ended up foundering (because the morons wouldn't take my food and fed him their own.) and they put glue on heart bars on his front feet. Thankfully it was done by, in my opinion, one of the best farriers in the world.
We trailered him up two more times to see the farrier who helped us devise a plan to get him off shoes and sound for good. Two years later and no colic signs and not an inch of lameness.
I remember when we were driving him into PA and I was holding back tears. I have no clue what I would have done had he passed away whilst he'd been up there and I couldn't see him. You have such incredible strength to preserve and stay with horses after something like that; I don't think I could have done it.
Sometimes, the ones that are with us in such fleeting times are the ones that teach us the most.
Take care. You did everything possible for your boy and sometimes that is all we can do--he loves you for it.

Andrea said...

Thanks you guys... I really needed all that.