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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

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

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Gift.

In the weeks following Gogo's death, I've received a flood of wonderful gifts from people all over the world. I've posted several pictures of portraits people have done of Gogo, and on Friday I got a package on my doorstep... the first of them to physically arrive in my hands.

Niamh over at Hoofbeats for Heartbeats is the mastermind behind this idea. She spilled the beans on the project when she wrote about it in a tutorial (seriously, I dunno how the girl has so much patience, even as a detail-oriented and artistically-inclined person I'm not sure I could EVER have so much patience!), so I knew what it looked like, but I was not prepared for how amazing it is in person! Also note the AMAZING handmade card!

Simply stunning. Stunning! I will be having it framed and put up on my wall alongside all her ribbons, right where it belongs. Can't wait to see all the rest of the portraits when they arrive too!

Thank you Niamh!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pieces of Heart Horses.

This story begins with a younger me, my beloved gelding Metro, and a laptop in a college dorm room. I was a freshman, completely enamored with my beast-gelding, and was spending a moment of my free time surfing the vast interwebz for old information about my horse instead of doing something important (homework? Why do that?). Quite by accident, I stumbled upon a sale ad for a bay mare named Chloe in Alberta, Canada. Her sire was listed as Blue Rodeo, Metro's Canadian-registered name. Immediately I perked up. He was her sire? I knew he had been kept a stallion until he was six, and that he had bred a few mares, but didn't know of any actual offspring around anywhere. Sure enough, the fantastic little mare was up for grabs at a fairly hefty price. Video clips of her showed some dressage and galloping cross country. Pictures told of a beautiful, well put together mare. Her description sounded like she was exactly like my Metro, even walking boldly up to a running chainsaw and attempting to put her nose on it (yikes!). I oogled over the ad for weeks, wishing I could somehow find a way to afford a second horse. One day, a big graphic proclaiming "SOLD!" appeared on the front of her ad. Disappointed but not discouraged, I e-mailed the owners and asked if I could be put in touch with her new owner so I could speak with her. After some complicated finagling, and some months down the road, I managed to reach her. We sent countless e-mailed to each other, chronicling our collective related journeys and our precious horses. I was enamored with the little mare.

A year or so down the road, I got back in touch with the mare's owner. We discussed setting up a custom breeding for me for a Windfall baby out of her, now redubbed from Chloe to Sophie. My Metro had died by this time, and I wanted to keep a piece of him alive with me always. This never ended up coming to fruition, as I ended up buying Gogo instead. I told the owner that if she ever needed to find a home for Sophie, she could always contact me and I'd take her in a heartbeat.

We kept in touch over the following few years, just little drop ins to ask how everything was going and how our little mares were doing. Sophie was bred and produced a precious little filly by a Swedish stud, born right in the middle of a horrible storm with no muss or fuss. Life went on as it always had.

A year and a half ago, I couldn't get ahold of the owner. Her e-mail had been changed, and I had to do some serious Googling to find her. It took some time, but I managed to get ahold of her again to see how Sophie was doing. Much to my surprise, she was for sale. The owner was pregnant and no longer had time for her. Would I like to buy her for $10,000? Well, I couldn't exactly afford that random expense, much less keep two horses at the level which I was accustomed (spoiling rotten and sparing no expense), so I unfortunately had to turn her down. I was heartbroken. I wanted that mare so badly it made me ache.

She offered her to me again some months down the road. Again, I couldn't afford to keep two horses, so I declined. I forgot about it in the haze of rehabbing Gogo. We lost touch again.

This morning, completely out of the blue, I received another e-mail from the owner. I hadn't spoken to her in nearly a year. Would I still be interested in Sophie, she asked? Price dropped to $2500.

Good lord. Could that timing be better? One door closes, another opens.

This isn't the perfect deal. She's 15. She had an old stifle injury years ago that I know nothing about. I have no idea what she's been up to, if anything. I have to hear back from the owner concerning all of these things. But honestly, with this horse I wouldn't even care if she was just another expensive hayburner looking pretty out in a field. Let's hope she's not, let's hope she's perfectly rideable and wonderful, but either way it wouldn't matter to me. I've been actively pursuing this horse for almost 7 years. She could have three legs in the grave for all I care.

It's interesting about how much resistance I've gotten about this. Everyone says not to even bother thinking about pursuing it. Everyone is absolutely sure that they know what I want. Even my own mother told me I wanted a different kind of horse than this. I think that is all very interesting, seeing as aside from owning a piece of my heart horse, I don't even know what I want. To be fair, externally I imagine it looks like I want another uber-talented youngster who can replace Gogo as a Prelim prospect. In reality, the more that I think about it, the more that I feel ill about the prospect of essentially breaking and killing another horse. Do I want a horse with huge expectations and then be horribly let down when I fail to take them anywhere except to Lameness Town, or do I want something sweet and fun that will pleasantly surprise me if they turn out to be a good riding horse? Do I actually want to look at all of the following: a big, fancy warmblood that will win everything but totally fall apart a few years down the road? A little project mutt that will be fun but might not amount of anything at all? An off the track broken down maniac that might either kill me or itself in the process of turning it around? When you put it all that way, it's hard not to get discouraged about this whole process, and I'm pretty soured off the whole sporthorse ordeal at the moment.

This is not a good picture of her - Blogger for whatever reason won't let me upload the good ones - but you can get a vague idea of what she sort of looks like:

She's a lovely lovely girl.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

An Old 'Remember When'

Just some old videos of Gogo and I schooling XC in the POURING rain two and a half years ago in CT. Man that was a long time ago.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

One More Possibility (EDIT: Now with video!)

.... then I'm getting off my computer for the day, I swear!

This Mustang mare has eventer written alllllllllllllllllll over her....

.... and she's an hour away! And cheap!

Done now, promise ;)

EDIT: Got a video of her! DANG that trot! Canter is lateral and one of my biggest things is a nice correct uphill canter... so we'll see. It does become more correct when she slows down so there is promise. This video is of her first time with an English saddle on, and she is only 4 months out of the wild!

A Case of the Fuglies

In eyeballing a few of these miscellaneous Mustangs in my area for moderately workable conformation, I have also come across a few of the most incredibly fugly beasts I have ever seen. In my last post about the little blue eyed mare I received a few comments about how Mustangs can either be completely awesome little sporthorse powerhouses, or total conformational nightmares, and I completely agree. I have seen some AWFUL looking fuglies out there! Certainly not their fault - they didn't ask to be born ugly, just one ugly bred to another ugly and it worked enough to survive! - but it certainly makes for a good case of the oh-you-poor-thing giggles early in the morning.

Evaluating conformation of the blue-eyed mare in comparison to Gogo and Padre, the Mustang who was Grand Champion in-hand in his 4 and older stallions class at Dressage at Devon last year:

It's a bit hard to tell without enlarging, but she's not TOO terribly put together. She is quite a lot longer than what I normally go for - look at how compact Gogo was! - but she does have a great shoulder and a pastern angle that matches, which is more than I can say for Gogo (killer shoulder but pasterns that were totally upright and never matched either her shoulder or her feet!) The mare's neck is a bit short and possibly a bit inverted, but mostly I think that is a lack of proper muscling (see how Gogo has the same problem, and Padre as well). Both Padre and the little mare have shorter legs than ideal and both are a bit on the long side. Hind end on the mare has decent leg angles but not a whole lot in the actual haunch area - might also be a muscling issue. She might beef up a bit with proper training and become a little less awkward. Overall, honestly, she's not that bad. Not great, but not that bad.

At least, not in comparison to these poor beasts..... enjoy your morning dose of Fugly!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Flip Side

So.... there is one part of horse-shopping me that is looking at all these fancy expensive warmbloods that I am so used to having the privileged of working with and owning.....

And then..........

There is another part of me that really wants a Mustang.

Is that weird?

It's just that sometimes, sometimes.... I see a little gem like this who lives right around the corner for me for dirt cheap, and think hmmmm.... I bet that thing could jump. What a fun project that would be. And MAYBE it wouldn't break down in 2.5 seconds like a warmblood would, according to Murphy's Law (the more expensive the horse, the more likely it is to fall apart).

I might be completely nuts, but I still think that taking something like this mare and flipping it either for a profit or for myself might be a HELL of a lot of fun!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tentatively Moving Forward

It's been a rough week for me, understandably. I've been a bit of a mess and doing things like randomly breaking down and bawling in the barn/store/public/everywhere all week long. I got a beautiful certificate in from the pet cemetery stating that they said her to rest on the 12th and I also got a map of where her lot is. Bowie isn't close to here but we're considering going up there camping for a weekend (which we wanted to do anyway) so we can also stop by and visit her. You can see the pet cemetery here... looks beautiful. I'm glad she's buried instead of disposed of or cremated.... I mean when she's dead she's dead, it's just a body, but it's nice to have somewhere to be able to physically visit. Plus you KNOW if I had had her cremated I would spill that urn and make a big disturbing mess in my house. That would be off the charts awkward.

I am keeping busy with clients and am pretty tired at the end of every day, which is good. As I was working on a new client mare, I thought to myself, "you know... if it weren't for Gogo, I'd never be doing this." I felt a surge of gratitude towards her in that moment, and will carry that with me through my career. I have her to thank for all of this... for getting started with barefoot horses, for taking this up as a career, for bringing me here to Texas to Future Hubs. Thank you, my sweet Mama. You don't know how much you changed me.

Wherever Gogo is now, I bet she's happy, fat, sound, and in charge. Future Hubs and I were joking that Gogo is now up in Horsey Heaven somwhere, barging in on Metro and Quincy peacefully sharing some pasture going, "There's a new Queen in town... that's Mama's food now, ya'll better move the F over!!" My poor boys must be cowering in a corner going, "what was Mom thinking with THIS one?" Oh Gogo. Forever the Marest of them all.

I've been enjoying living vicariously through all my friends and the blogging community over the past year, watching everyone heading off to shows and trail riding and enjoying hacks and adventures and everything inbetween, and sitting out without complaint because I had my Gogo to take care of and having her around was worth not riding. Now, however, it is slowly dawning on me that soon I might be able to partake in all those things again. I might be able to gallop in a big field, and ride a perfect dressage test, and go for a swim, and power through a tough XC course. It's been so long since I did any of those things.... last time I jumped an XC jump was over two years ago. Can you believe that? I hardly can!

With that in mind, I made a vague list of what I want to be looking for in my next horse. I've tentatively started the search just to give myself something to do - it was immensely therapeutic when Metro died, and it is definitely just as much fun now as it ever was - and I think I have a basic outline of what I am looking for:

What do I want in my next horse?
1) Between ages of 2-9... prospect or trained…. U/S or not, O/F or not, depending on age/price/experience... specifically for EVENTING
2) Excellent conformation, lightly built but with good bone
3) Breed not important – aptitude important! Something ideal: ½ WB ½ TB... but ANY breed will do if it meets all other criteria!
4) Mare... not gelding unless a special one comes along!
5) Something I can keep barefoot if at all possible!
6) Something that will also do dressage/trail/fun/driving/whatever… all-around fun!
7) Between 15.3-17.0... slight height differences OK if the right horse
8) NO lameness/serious blemish issues... NO maintenance... NO history of major medical problems
10) Bold, relatively forward, alpha-type attitude... not spooky or insecure
11) NOT lazy and NOT hot! Right in the middle!
12) 3 GOOD gaits – pure walk, a trot with reach, uphill canter... and a NICE jump

Unfortunately when I sit back and looked at it, basically the horse I want is Gogo. My criteria are essentially the same now as when I went out looking for her (versus when I went out looking for Metro). I want something nice, and I want something I can win on. Let's face it though, my butt ain't going to Rolex ever in my life, and that's fine by me! I want to go Prelim or potentially a little further IF I had the right horse someday. But at 26, eventing is a hobby I have as an adult ammy and that is the way it will stay. My professional life with horses has nothing to do with riding and training and that's how I like it! I never want to HAVE to get on when I don't feel like it. I want something talented that I can win on but I don't need to buy something that should be in the hands of a more talented rider than I. Even more than my desire to show and do well is my desire to own something that can do all the goofy things that I have always done with all my horses: swimming, trail riding, going through the drive-through window at the local fast food place, bareback jaunts, dabbling in other disciplines, you name it. All things to keep in mind.

It needs to move well and jump well and be sound. It needs to be built to last. It needs to have an awesome, comical, brash personality. It needs to NOT have any vices or annoying little tics that I hate so very much... from the blatantly irritating (cribbing, weaving, obsessive pawing, etc) to the get-under-my-own-personal-pet-peeved-out-skin annoying (chewing on crossties, raking teeth on the wall, pacing the fence, tongue chewing, etc). Most of the reason that I want a mare is because I find a lot of bolder-type geldings completely annoying... for god's sake horse, give me back the halter, stop letting yourself out of the pasture, and keep your mouth to YOURSELF! There are some habits I can fix, like nastiness at mealtime or poor ground manners, and then there are some that I cannot.
I also want to continue on this journey barefoot and/or using alternative footware (glue-ons, boots, etc). Not only is this in line with my beliefs and experiences, but it also promotes my business ;) And continues to get the word out!

Here's just a sneak preview of two of my interesting finds...

3 year old Trakehner gelding with about 25 rides on him, just backed in August. Rode to the trainers with a riding lawnmower in the back of the trailer - and they had to start it IN the trailer to unload it and he didn't care! Already has been to the beach, jumped over small fences in the arena AND logs/ditches/water, and can w/t/c... I don't think Gogo could even STEER at 25 rides! Video of him first time over fences here. The boy can MOVE... AND he can JUMP! Mostly I just love this face.... he has Metro's eye:

He's obviously a bit weedy looking in these pictures - he's just three and growing! - but I think he's going to fill out to be a GOOD looking horse.

2 year old Holsteiner/ISH mare. All I can say about that jump is DANG. See her moving and jumping here. Definitely not sure that I deserve or need that much talent! I had also hoped to find something under saddle, but I would never EVER be able to afford a horse like this if she was already started. She's described as "smart, athletic, and curious," with "great feet, conformation, and mind." That's what I like to hear!

There's more where that came from... stay tuned ;) Gogo has some HUGE hooves to fill.... I gotta find something that would make her proud after all!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Life Without Gogo

(Kat drew this picture of Gogo in 2009 and forgot to show me until she tagged it just now on Facebook. Oh Mami, so gorgeous!)

It's been a very bizarre and uncomfortable week. Monday was all stress and anxiety going into Tuesday's euth appointment, Tuesday was obviously all-around miserable despite the enjoyment and final memories that we shared together, and Wednesday and Thursday have been empty and sad and confusing for me. You don't realize how often something is in your subconscious thought until you have to stop and correct yourself every time you think about it. For example: we weaned our two little babies yesterday on the farm, and I caught myself thinking about what Gogo's babies would be like. Or watching a horse on the AquaTread, I thought about wanted to put her on it again with regularity. Or getting off work early, I automatically head in the direction of the barn like I did every day to go see her after work. It's still very much a state of denial and shock for me. Writing is very therapeutic, so I'm glad I have somewhere to exercise it a little bit.

I know it was just as hard for me to deal with the last two deaths of my horses, but for whatever reason, it's just different this time for me. I'm a bit older and far more mature than I was when I lost the last two (I was 19 and 21 at the times, and am now 26), and am in a completely different place in my life. When Quincy died, I already had Metro to turn to for support and company. When Metro died, I immediately jumped in and began my search for a new horse right away - it helped me heal in a lot of ways, and gave me something to direct all my energies towards instead of fretting about losing my friend. Now, I'm in a place where I'm just not quite ready yet to seriously begin looking for a new horse. The grieving process is different. It's not about completely distracting myself from my grief this time, it's about fully embracing and accepting it. It's about immersing myself in the memories I have of her, and mourning for the fact that I won't be able to share any more of my future with her. We were a match set, she and I.... one came with the other as a package deal. Especially in 2009 when I was her primary caretaker in all ways from sunup to sundown (when I was a working student in Connecticut right out of college), she was my entire life and everything that it centered around. I've not made a major life decision in the past five years without majorly factoring her. She has influenced everything I have done. Life without her is like learning to walk all over again using different legs. Or possibly two legs instead of four... I'm not sure. Either way, it's awkward and uncomfortable and very, very sad. Time will work magic on all of this, as it always does, but it will take a long time.

I summed it up best when I described her as the cheese to my macaroni. With her, my horsey life had a very distinct flavor and personality, and without her I am just a bland bowl of vaguely soggy noodles without a sauce... incomplete. I know some other delicious flavor will come along - alfredo sauce, or spaghetti, or who knows what kind? - and will enrich and re-flavor everything. It will be a different flavor and a different dish entirely, but it will still be delicious and awesome. It will just take time.

Are you ready for the waterworks? Bre made this amazing video for us... don't watch this at work if you are emotionally inclined, because you will probably tear up. I know that I personally need to stop watching it, because even after like the 10th time I'm still BAWLING my eyes out every time.

And I cannot thank you guys all enough for the support you've given me. SO many e-mails, comments, calls, texts, and more have still been pouring in from all over the world, and I cannot tell you how amazing that has felt. Thank you all so much, seriously. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gogo Fatale 6/2/01 - 10/11/11

Somewhere in time's own space
There must be some sweet pastured place
Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow
Some paradise where horses go
For by the love that guides my pen
I know great horses live again.
~ Stanley Harrison

Today was a beautiful day to die.

The morning dawned bright and lovely. I was treated to the most lovely sunrise this morning as I fed horses, and knew it was going to be a glorious day weather-wise. I got out of work early at noon, and arrived at the barn carrying armfuls of carrots and apples. Before Future Hubs came to join us, I spent some time with Gogo and her man Leroy in the field, just stuffing them to the brim with carrots. They had some adorable Lady and the Tramp carrot-sharing moments, and they made me laugh.

After Future Hubs arrived, we spent more time just hanging around with Mami in the field, admiring how sparkling clean she was - I couldn't believe she stayed clean after her bath and didn't roll! Of course, as we were watching her talking about how clean she was, she decided that then and there she would find a nasty, filthy spot to roll on both sides in. She waited all night and all day just so she could do it in front of us! Oh, Gogo.
She also mugged us for our Sonic, and surprised me by eating my mozzarella sticks! She also kept going for our straws in our drinks, and ripped Future Hubs' straw right out of his drink when we weren't looking! We played tug of war for awhile with it, silly girl.

I groomed her until she sparkled. We found the only place in the entire state of Texas that had real grass, and she spent some time munching in the sunlight.

We also went for a nice walk. She perked up for a bit, and was happy to get out and move around a bit. She's been staying only in one spot for the past week or so in her field, and has been dull and listless. She was ready to go. After our little walk, I was ready too.

Once at the vet's, it was quick and quiet. There is a designated area behind the barns where they perform euthanasia on horses that can get there under their own steam, and we sedated her heavily ahead of time - something I am grateful for, given how violently Metro reacted. I told her I loved her as many times as I could, and kissed her goodbye. She was gone before she hit the ground.
I gave her one last kiss after she was gone when I was getting ready to walk away. The moment I touched her, she took one last huge involuntary breath. I know it was just a reflex, but somehow it meant something to me... like some part of her body knew it was me.

I took her tail, her forelock, a clipping from her hoof, and her halter home with me. In return, I left a huge part of my heart there with her. But it was the best last day a horse could have ever wanted. And for that, I will ever be forever grateful.

I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of messages, texts, calls, e-mails, posts, and more that I've received in the past two days. Literally hundreds - HUNDREDS! - of people have sent their condolences, and hearing them and reading them have made me cry over and over. I cannot believe how many people's lives my sweet little crazy mare touched. Thanks to each and every one of you for all your heartfelt support and for being there for both us, during the good times and the bad. Life is a journey, and her presence in my life has molded me as a young adult. She's been such an integral part of my life, and she has left an enormous void behind her. I feel pretty awful tonight. I just can't believe it's all over.

You'll be hearing from me, I'm sure of that. This blog will remain up as homage to her, and at some point I will be starting a new blog for future adventures. Not yet, and I'm not really sure when, but it won't be long. Right now is a time for grieving, for remembering, and for celebrating a life come and gone far too soon.

Rest in peace, my sweet, beautiful, crazy, talented, wonderful mare. You're in my heart forever. I love you, now and always.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tomorrow is the day.

We set the date today for Gogo's final farewell. Tomorrow afternoon will be her last on earth. It's too soon, but my vet is going out of town, and I want him to be the one to do it. He's been such good support throughout this entire ordeal. In a lot of ways, I am ready. In some, I will never be.

She's tired, and hurting. Her demeanor has really changed in the past week.... she is ready for it to all be over. Every time I've seen her in the past week, this has been her attitude:

That is the face of a mare ready to let go.

I had one little last hoorah on her today, a bareback jaunt with a few other people in the arena for a few minutes. We had 6 inches of rain yesterday (I KNOW, right??), so everything was mush, and she was covered in mud. But she was happy to go for a ride, and so was I.

I gave her a bath, and she seemed to enjoy herself. She won't stay clean overnight, but I did it mostly for me. I just wanted to spend some more time with her.

Tomorrow afternoon, she goes to the vet for the final time. She won't be coming home. There are a lot of little children running around at our farm, and there's no really private place for this to all happen without some poor child stumbling upon an awkward scene at some point during the whole thing, so we decided to do this at the vet clinic instead. There is a local pet cemetery that will be picking her up from the clinic and burying her. Cremation is too expensive, so it's nice to have this option available. It will also be nice to be able to visit an actual physical place, like I can do with my boys when I am home in Michigan. (They are buried side by side at the place where I grew up riding.)

It's awful. And sad. And miserable. And the right thing to do. Thanks to everyone who has sent me well wishes.... you don't know how much it means to me. I have my Mo here too, so I'll be all right.

Send her some good thoughts before she goes over the Bridge. I'll be with her until the very end.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Letter from a Reader

I get a lot of reader e-mail, and I read and cherish every one. I try as hard as I can to reply to all of them (as some of you know, I totally fail at this), and want all of you to know that all of it touches and moves me. It makes me feel like I've touched you and moved you too.

This is a letter I got in before I got the bad news about Gogo. It so parallels the journey that Gogo and I were taking that I asked the sender if I could share it, and she said yes.

"Hi Andrea,

My name is Tylia (pronounced tee-lia), and I stumbled across your blog sometime in the Fall of last year when I was doing research about barefoot horses. I spent about a week reading the whole thing from the beginning and have been keeping up ever since.

I want you to know how powerful your gorgeous Gogo, and your blog about her, is; you both greatly inspired my decision to 'go barefoot' in November 2010.

A good friend of mine who is an Equine Body Worker has had her horse barefoot for years, and she was always going on at me about how great barefoot is. I always blew it off as a hippie-weirdo thing....because you know, show horses NEED shoes! But as I got more interested in the more 'natural' and homeopathic side of horse care, the barefoot thing began to pique my interest. It really made sense when I thought about the fact that horses have been on Earth for millions of years, running around just fine on their bare hooves.

So I ended up glued to my computer for weeks, doing hours and hours of research. I became obsessed with hooves and learning as much as I could about hoof mechanics and barefoot horses. For my old retired Dutch mare, Fanci, it was pretty much a no-brainer. She's now a pasture pet that goes on weekend trail rides, and had been suffering from soundness issues for a few years (LF DDFT and suspensory injuries), and after trying every shoeing trick and gadget under the sun I was ready to let her wear her feet the way that would be most comfortable to her. But for my little (7 at the time, now 8) Swedish/TB gelding, Aramé, it was a much tougher decision. I was really torn. We event in Area VI in southern California, and pretty much nobody has barefoot horses around here. I've never seen bare hooves at an event, even the littlest ponies are shod. Also, my coach is very old-school and I knew she would disapprove. I kept worrying about what other people would think, and if my horse would really be capable of eventing without shoes. I Googled 'barefoot + eventing + blog' one night hoping to find some first-hand experiences, and there it was: Eventing-A-Gogo! Right there was a horse who evented barefoot without any problem. My horse would be able to do it, too.

I just couldn't stop thinking about yanking those shoes I did! My farrier was not too pleased with the idea, and frankly I wasn't too pleased with his work anyway, so I decided to begin working with a wonderful couple that do barefoot trimming in my area ( I put Fanci in the turnout after her shoes came off, and I cried as I watched that mare trot away from me, sounder than she had been in three years. She'll never be in the show ring again, but she's happy as can be out on the trails---throwing in a naughty buck-and-bolt here and there and amazing people when I tell them she's 23.

Aramé's shoes came off and I was SO nervous! But I hopped on him and WOW! I had never felt such easy, floaty gaits from him before, and my 'clumsy' boy didn't trip once, he was suddenly so sure-footed. I knew there was no going back! I didn't even tell my coach...I do all the riding myself, I only take lessons from her, so I figured I'd just wait until she noticed to offer an explanation. Plus I'm a wimp and avoid confrontation at all costs. She didn't notice---or just didn't say anything---for about two months, and when she did it wasn't particularly pleasant. She basically told me I wouldn't be happy with it long-term and that the ground gets so hard and his feet will start hurting, blah blah blah. Well, we won our Novice division at the season opener at Galway a week later!! Take that naysayers!

We've totally been kicking ass this season. Both Aramé and I got our Gold Medals a few months ago, and we've also received a Blue Ribbon Award. I'm at the top of the Adult Novice Leaderboard for Area VI and near the top of the USEA Leaderboard. In July we traveled to Coconino in AZ for the COTH Western Adult Team Challenge, and our Novice team won, so we got featured in an article in the August 1st, 2011 issue of the Chronicle! And just last weekend we won the Area VI Novice Rider Championship (We scored a 21.5 in the dressage, it was SO amazing!).......and now fingers crossed for moving up to Training at Galway in November!!

I'm so lucky that both of my horses transitioned out of shoes so easily. Fanci is battling a little bit of white line separation, which is due to her having Cushings, but otherwise I just kick myself that I didn't take her barefoot sooner. I will always wonder if it would have kept her sound longer..... And Aramé's feet are just so easy, he's only had two real trims since the shoes came off because he self-maintains so well that I just touch up the roll myself to get rid of anything that is a bit snaggly. I love just sitting around and looking at and admiring their pretty little feets! And I've also become really into learning about feed and supplements since they are such a huge factor of hoof health, so now my horses are on a whole-food diet: no fortified feeds stuffed full of soy allowed! I've seen so much improvement in their hooves, hair, and attitudes that's its worth all the mixing and matching and fumbling around with six different grain tins, LOL.

Andrea, it is apparent from your blog that you are an awesome horsewoman, and therefore you must be simply an awesome person! I wish you all the best with your beautiful Gogo. I know all too well the heartbreak and emotional turmoil that comes along with these animals---not to mention LIFE in general---so I'm sending some seriously positive energy out there for you both! Hopefully our paths cross someday, because I would very much like to meet you in person!

(Photos by Captured Moments Photography)

Letters like this are one more reason I am so glad I started this blog. I feel like I've really influenced some lives just by giving a wholehearted account of my journey with Gogo. I started this blog as just as a way to keep track of what I was doing every day with my mare. It has become so much more than that. Thanks to all of you for sharing this journey with me, and for being there for us during this awful time. It really means a lot to me, and I don't have enough words to express it.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


"A good man once said, death smiles upon us all... all we can do is smile back."

News on the Gogo front isn't good. This entire ordeal is unfortunately mid-snowball, and I am completely helpless against whatever happens to her between now and the end of it all. I arrived at the barn on Friday afternoon after work, and was alarmed to find that the swelling around the medial branch of her suspensory on the right hind was disturbingly larger than it had been (and it had been disturbingly large before), and that there was a new and noticeable sink to her step whenever she weighted the leg. The entire suspensory apparatus is failing, but I didn't think it was all going to happen this fast. I thought we would have a quiet couple of weeks left to enjoy the weather and our last bit of time together, but we may not have the luxury of that little bit of time any longer. The fetlock certainly isn't on the ground or anything, this is just the beginnings of it... but the fact that it is already happening is alarming and upsetting. I'm not ready yet. I'll never be ready.

However, that being said, it makes me feel reassured in my decision. There is no other way that this can be. There is no second guessing when you can see changes happening right before your eyes. All the hesitation and uncertainly disappears when right in front of you is a horse in noticeable pain. I have a single-minded determination to make this last little bit of time as comfortable and happy as possible, and then to give her the much-deserved relief and peace that she needs. It's the only way it can be, and she needs me to have a clear head about it.

I put her back out with her little herd of friends after much deliberation, but I think it will make her happiest. In the alleyway drylot, she had a bad habit of randomly spinning and galloping, not to mention the fact that she was alone and away from her friends. She is very happy to have her herd back, but the barn owner says that she is no longer bullying and chasing them at mealtimes. To me that says that she is feeling very poorly... she never misses an opportunity to be the boss. I just pray that she doesn't do anything silly in this painful interim before we set a final date. If she breaks down out there we will never be able to get her back to the barn. I could stall her but I am dead set against that unless I feel like it is the only way to keep her from complete collapse until the vet arrives. We're not at that point yet where I feel like I will have to do it, and I hope we don't ever get to that point. I want her to be able to walk with dignity to her end after a beautiful and peaceful final day, whenever it may be.

Her coat is starting to get darker in preparation for growing a winter coat. She never starts to get fuzzy until around November... it's sad to think things like that she'll never grow a winter coat again, and that she won't be here for Christmas.

She looked tired today. I'm tired too. I'm thankful that my choice is clear, but it doesn't ease the pain.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Final Decision.

"It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things."
- Lemony Snicket

The time to make the most difficult of choices has come.

Monday afternoon, I couldn't stand looking at Gogo's left hind any longer, and trailered her up to see Dr. H in the afternoon. We poked and prodded, we jogged her out, we flexed and palpated and shook our heads. We didn't even bother doing an ultrasound on the left... there is clearly some sort of compensatory issue going. She wasn't dead hopping lame on the right, but she was bilaterally lame.... equally as sore on both hinds, just pulling herself along with her front end. Honestly, with all that was going on behind, she didn't really look that great up front either for the first time in her life. She was absolutely crippled when we flexed her right hind. We did take a set of laterals on both hinds and an oblique on the right hind (radiographs), and while there was no obvious sign of pastern luxation (essentially the pastern dislocating and the bony column failing to align properly due to the breakdown of the entire suspensory apparatus), her sesamoids had rotated away from where they were supposed to be, essentially rolling downwards towards her pastern. Her suspensory and her sesamoidean ligaments are all fraying. (If you want further description of all the ligaments in that area and their workings, look at the second page.) Basically, her entire suspensory apparatus is failing.

My biggest fear at this point is that, given how rapidly everything has fallen apart over the past two months (and two weeks), she is headed for a catastrophic breakdown and I'll find her on three legs unable to move - or worse, down and unable to rise. One serious torque to this limb and everything will go. Considering the snowballing downward spiral she's in, and that I am unable to get her stabilized, it's probable that this scenario might become reality. There is no cure for this, and no fix. Nothing will ever take away her pain, and she'll always have some sort of moderate lameness no matter what we do. It is my personal belief that making an animal live in pain until they breakdown is wrong, and that it counts as poor quality of life.

It has finally all come down to this. I must make the choice no one ever wants to have to make. I have to let her go.

I'm having a very hard time processing this. On one hand, it makes sense, and I know it needs to be done. It gives me comfort to know that she's has a very happy ten months out in a field doing all kinds of happy horsey things, the way any horse would love to live: eating, playing with a herd, napping in the sunshine, lounging under a shady tree. She had a good retirement, and she deserved it.
But the other half of me can't process it. She's only 10 years old. Why couldn't I fix her? I did everything I could and more to help her. Why did nothing work? How could it come to this? She's so happy and beautiful... how could she really be moments away from disaster? Could I do more, could I save her, why did this happen, how could I have lost all three of my horses far too early and in such tragic ways? What did I do wrong, how could I have done this to them? They all deserved so much more than death at the end of it all. My poor sweet babies, where did I fail you? What did I do wrong to lose you all?

How could it have come to this?

I don't have a date yet, or a final plan. There is too much I have to think about that I'm still trying to wrap my head around. I'm very good and unfortunately versed in handling this type of matter, but it's just different when it is your horse. I'm hopelessly attached to her and the looming possibility of life without her is incomprehensible.

This song came on the radio when I was driving home from the vet with Metro all those years ago on the day they told me I needed to euthanize him... and it still makes me bust up crying when I think about it today.

Forgive me, Gogo. I did everything I could for you. The only thing I have left to give you is my love... and peace.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Not so great.

Gogo isn't really doing all that well right now. She's still getting around relatively well, and she is definitely losing weight, thank god... but she's been dead hopping lame for two months now with no improvement.

True, she did have one day where she was startlingly improved. The next day, however, she did not get Arnica or Banamine... and was absolutely dead lame the following day. I dosed her again with both Banamine and Arnica (although the two together is not really recommended for the homeopathy to actually work well.... I just couldn't not try to help her out, seeing how lame she was), and the following day she was very vaguely improved. Again though, who is to say what did it, the Arnica or the Banamine? She had it a full 12 hours beforehand (a 500lb dose) so I don't really know. The next step would be to give the Arnica without the Banamine... who knows though, at this point.

My biggest nagging concern at this point is the left hind. The ugly swelling on it will not. Go. Away. It has been there for almost two weeks now, and it is the same - ugly, lumpy, and with a distinct hot spot. The proximity it has to the old injury site is disturbingly close. It's nearly impossible to see if there is a lameness on this leg seeing as she is so crippled on the other leg, but if we blocked the right left we might see something show up on the left. I trotted her out on Friday and couldn't be sure, but thought that both hinds looked equally short going to the right. Going to the left, she looks the same as always.... dead hopping lame on the right.

I got my latest vet bill in finally (my vet's office takes forever to get the bills out!) and the write up was incredibly depressing, with words like "severe," "best to be a broodmare," "chronic and recurrent," and "painful."

It just feels like everything is slowly beginning to unravel. I predicted a systematic continual breakdown of the RH and then the LH... this might actually be happening. We won't know what is happening to the LH unless we run an ultrasound machine over it, but even then I can feel myself stalling. I don't want to face the music. I don't want this to be the end.

And maybe it isn't the end, who knows? But it just feels like I might finally be ready and prepared for it if this is what it comes down to.

Fall is beautiful in Texas now that it is finally here. The weather is gorgeous (low 80's with no clouds and a light breeze), and we've actually had one or two rainsqualls. Things are starting to turn green again, and flowers are popping up everywhere. The seasons are extremely hard for me to get used to, considering that I've always been a northern girl with a very set in stone idea of winter-spring-summer-fall, but I think I understand everything a little better now that I am here. Fall is a bit like spring here if you think about it - everyone stayed inside miserable and seasonally depressed all summer due to the extreme heat and drought, and fall is when they are starting to emerge and see green things and flowers and are able to enjoy the weather again. At least, that is my own direct experience... I imagine others feel much the same way about it.

Life, other than the horrible looming specter of uncertainty with Gogo, is good.