Shady and Shadow

I had just finished with morning chores on a very cold winters day in January of 1992. Snow was falling heavy and it was wet, the kind of snow storm that stacks up 10 inches on the ground in a few hours of time. My telephone was ringing when I hit the back door to warm up... The call was from a Cattle auction barn that was scheduled to have a Horse sale later today. I said I was not going to drive 100 miles just to see another slow Horse sale! The owner of the sale barn told me this very intriguing story.

He began by telling me there was this Palomino mare about two years old. Half crazy and the other half about dead, apparently at one time in this poor mare’s short life she had really been a rocket powered roping Horse! Sold at a “special performance sale “for $10,000.00!!,. a lot for a two year old roping Horse in those days... Somehow over the sale and transfer of ownership she got a piece of electric fence wire wrapped around her left front fetlock joint. Then just stalled up and ignored in pain and infection for months... By now she was half dead and thin as a rail from neglect and the infection had really taken its toll on her leg and entire spirit.

I was told if nobody took her the sale barn was going to shoot her on the spot... She was left at their door step for the killer buyers to take to the processing plant... Except her mood and her leg made her impossible to handle along with worth nothing at all dead... I hung up the telephone and sat in my kitchen looking out the window at the snow for a few hours just thinking about that poor young mare who had been royally screwed over by every person who ever met her!! I hitched up my stock trailer and shifted in to four wheel drive and plowed snow at 35 miles an hour for 100 miles to the sale barn.

I went straight to the auction ring; I could hear the auctioneer calling and selling saddles and tack. I walked in and he smiled and looked over at his wife. All the people who worked at the barn glanced my way... I figured by that they knew I could not pass up this particular Horse. He stopped the auction and took a break to show me the mare and to help me load her. Help me load her was the major deal of my life... She would not let anyone in the stall or even allow you to open the stall door. Every attempt was met with kicks and load squeals of fear and anger!! I shot her right in the rear with a dart gun!! Laid her out flat as a pancake! Dragged her into the trailer on cardboard using a tractor and ropes...

On the way home I stopped at the store and stocked up on bandages and drugs and lead ropes!! I dragged her into the barn after a few more cc’s of drugs. Put a halter on her and let her drag around a lead rope... Now I started bonding and feeding her by hand for a week. I slept in the barn with my dog. Ate my meals with her and even had a TV from the house... I honestly believe she preferred soap operas to news on TV??? In short time she trusted me enough and letting me doctor her leg...

After 6 months of doctoring her leg 4 times every 24 hours, she was ready to ride... I saddled her up and took her out for a spin... She took four nice soft steps and bucked me off real high and real fast!! After she had thrown me off another 7 times in 7 minutes ... Which by the way seemed like all damn day to me!! I decided her days as a saddle Horse were over!!! She had earned the right to do nothing after all the abuse and pain and suffering she had endured for just being 3 years old by now.. Plus, she cleaned my clock but well!!! Over all the doctoring and exams we learned she was now not able to have any foals... Too much stress, infections, drugs, weight loss. Just the entire ordeal had left her pretty messed up inside... That next year she gained weight and I even rode her every once in a while for a mile or two... She still would pitch me off now and then, yet she started to figure out I was not the enemy... I suppose all that time spent doctoring and watching TV together gave her the idea that maybe I was not that bad of a person after all... Yet she still would throw me off now and then just to prove she could!!

A few years past by and she actually came in to heat!! I bread her to a jet black stud who was big strong and full of life!! Well it took, and she gave me “SHADOW “in the spring of 1996... Now I had two Palominos!! “SHADY “the Mom & “SHADOW “the Daughter. They were like book ends!! Same color same eyes and even the same personality!!!

As fate / Karma / Kismet / God’s will would have it... Shadow injured her left front fetlock a few years ago... Lame for life like her Mother... Same leg, same effect and outcome!!! I have always thought that to be a very spooky and strange twist of occurrences??? Two Horses and their individual lives are so similar and outcomes are the same …. Both have had great lives and have wanted for nothing... Never being ridden, always cared for and the best of everything... Yet both lame in the same leg and not really ever able to be ridden!!

Once I started my radio show back in 1998, I started using them both for testing tack and new fly sprays and all sorts of things... Just to see how a Horse that had no real agenda or daily routine would like or dislike a new product on the market for Horses... I started calling them my “LAB RATS “... All the testing they did... After a few years of radio publicity even some feed companies and other Horse related companies would send me products to see if the “ LAB RATS “ would like or dislike them..

The girls actually were pretty accurate as to what was worthwhile and what was a joke or a rip off product! Their reputation as the show grew and their own product testing skills developed became a nice way for them to be a part of the show and my life... Yet Shadows injury always seemed to be lurking just around the corner in some shape or form...

Finally after many years of shifting her body weight off of the bad leg onto the other front leg... The good leg broke down from the stress of supporting literally double the body weight that it was designed to support! Eventually Shadow has come to a point where she preferred to lay down instead of graze or drink water. Her mother stayed close to her which meant Mother was losing weight as well from not grazing normally... Both of their overall health has drastically declined in the past two months... My attempts to provide the best of everything and to actually feed them by hand to facilitate energy and sustainable body development and a safe healthy over all healthy look was not going to be of much service... The daughter’s condition was now affecting her Mother’s health as well!!! One Horse was eventually going to die from lack of food and exercise from two bad front legs, the other Horse was going to eventually die from starving itself because of sticking close to the other Horse that was not even standing...

I could just put Shadow the Daughter down, leaving the Mother Shady to wonder where her Partner and family were. To try and pair her with another Horse would be impossible due to her aggressive nature to strange Horses and also separation from her Daughter... The only real choice was to put my own feelings and desires aside and actually look at it from a stand point of a Horse...

To be apart or separated was very tough on them both... Being in the same pasture yet not able to freely move about, the Daughter was controlling the intake of food and water of the healthy Mother. Since both Horses had spent the last 15 ½ years side by side and so tightly mentally connected... I knew my choice was right for them but so very wrong for me... To lose my two personal Horses that were talked about by me on my radio shows... Written about in books and magazine columns and the most devastating of all issues... The first Horses I would meet and greet in the mornings, and the last to Horses I would see before I went to bed each night for the last 19 years was ending by my own hands and my own choosing... To say second guessing and guilt of this choice is haunting me is to say nothing at all!!

Yet watching these to beautiful creatures wither away slowly over time and to see the bond between them and the love to be the cause of their demise was too much of a reason not to put them both down together..One created the other, yet they were as one for most of the time they both walked and played on this earth... I made sure they were so sedated and doped up that when the end was near, neither Horse was aware of anything let alone the end of their time on this planet.

Yet to see them nose to nose and looking at each other with the daughter with her front right leg reaching out over her mother’s shoulder... Lying in that very deep – deep grave... Knowing that there is no more pain in the legs of those two Horses... No more working just to get a drink, not worrying about being cold on the ground because it is too painful to stand... Not going hungry because the other one cannot graze with you... There is peace knowing that they now both rest peacefully quietly forever together and finally at rest and done just working to get through another day.

Perhaps a better man than I will make a better or more appropriate choice when faced with such a calamity? Possibly the true lesson here is not how to bury a Horse and put one down... Maybe the lesson here for me is to always consider the Horse and not my own desires and wants... Either way, the last breath each of my Horses took, is now on this web site and here for you all to consider how your Horses life is and when is it time to let go and let them have peace. For when it is all said and done, the only thing anyone can do for their Horse is to allow them to enjoy life and not just endure each day.

For Shady & Shadow,.. I strive to learn more “ do more for Horses. BJ Rickard

"Shady" Mother. June 1990 to December of 2011
"Shadow" Daughter. May of 1996 to December 2011

This was written one hour after putting them down and burying them.

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