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Meet the Horses 


Flicka, a pinto pony (shown here at 36 years of age) was one of our first sanctuary residents.  She has already passed over “the Rainbow Bridge”.

One of the greatest hardships in providing a sanctuary for horses is how I feel when they die.  Euthanasia is never an easy thing.  But I feel strongly that part of being a good horse owner is to recognize when it is “time”.   Once a situation has become hopeless, rather than permit undue suffering, one must have the courage to call the veterinarian and have the lethal injection done.  Unfortunately, as difficult as that is, sometimes it is even harder.  In Flicka’s case, it was.  Not only had she come from a family with which I had been friends for years, and not only had she been their daughters’ first show pony (and a highly successful one, at that), she was also my Wildeyed Ben’s favorite companion.

Wildeyed Ben, an off-the-track Thoroughbred, has a fast metabolism, so he always requires supplemental concentrate (i.e., grain) in his diet.  Flicka, because she was so old, did also.  I used to bring the pair of them out of the pasture into the fenced backyard, where I had placed their individual pans of feed.  Together, they would eat from one pan, polish it off, and then, together, move onto the second one.  What is most amusing about this story is just how long it took me to figure out I might as well put out a single pan with both rations together in it!   If you know horses, you know most of the time they are extremely jealous of their grain, and will fight off even their dearest friend at the prospect of a mere handful of it.  Obviously, Ben loved Flicka dearly. (And, I love Ben!) 

The day Flicka died, Ben was waiting at the gate as usual for his grain, but Flicka was nowhere in sight.  Again, if you know horses, to have one missing from the herd means there must be serious trouble.  My heart went straightaway to my throat.  I found her by the bank of the upper pond, where the water lilies and the raspberry bushes both were in bloom, with her left foreleg dangling uselessly.  At first, I thought she had broken it, but there was no evidence of trauma, no swelling, no pain.  So, I haltered her and cautiously invited her to lead forward.  Immediately she toppled and thrashed. Clearly, something neurologically was very, very wrong.   I held her head down so she would not do further damage, trying to rise, and screamed for my husband.

Thank heavens,  he heard me.  He came, went and called the vet, then brought the cell phone back to me, as I requested.  He had only reached their answering machine, he said.  He left word for the vet to call us back.  We waited.  And we  waited.  And waited.  Finally, I decided I would have to try to call again.  I pushed the button.  But the cell phone battery was dead.

I was horrified at the prospect of waiting any longer.  I could not bear the idea of making her suffer  more time.   There was no question there would be no saving her.  Tearfully, I turned to him.  "Can you do it?  Can you go get one of your guns and put her out of her misery?"  He went without a word.

He returned, and at the last moment, I faltered.  He was kneeling beside her, the gun's muzzle firmly at the base of her poll.  "Wait!"  I cried out nervously.  "What if it ricochets, or something?  What if it doesn't kill her instantly?"

"Candy!"  Jim exclaimed, looking up at me severely.  "At this moment, I do not need that!"

I shut my trap.

When the gun went off, she did not so much as shudder.  Her death was instantaneous.  And clearly it was peaceful.  It was kind.  Still, I was hard on myself over it.  We had to make arrangements to dispose of her carcass, which took nearly all day.  I felt bad about her dead body just lying out there in the pasture.  I prayed to God for His mercy, prayed we had done the right thing.  I told myself it might be good for the herd to see her lying there dead, so they could come to terms with her death in their own way.

When I returned to her, I was treated to a sight I had never before seen, nor ever since.  She was covered, literally carpeted,  from nose to tail,  by butterflies.  As I approached, they arose in a great cloud, fluttering all about her.  Sandwiched between the butterflies massed above her, and the water lillies blooming at her feet, framed by the rays of the setting sun, she was so beautiful.

I took it that my prayers had been answered, and that with this one incredible scene, God was saying to me as clearly as He possibly could:  "Yes, Candy, you did right. Flicka's soul is now at peace.  She is already with Me."

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