Goodbye dear Shelby
Shelby has left us. After 20 fairly good months with us, during which we were able to get some pounds on him and partially control his pain from that foundered left forefoot, and during which he did finally get a friend, he began to deteriorate again. Consensus from farrier, vet and myself was - that coffin bone had rotated and dropped. The pain was unmanageable, and causing weight loss despite his appetite. It was time to set our little one free.
Dear Shelby was a little guy, a pony with a baby face and long skinny foal legs. You could see how fat he must have once been - I was never able to get enough weight on him to hide those sprung ribs - but when he arrived here, he was missing a lot of teeth (and the doc had to really work to float one tooth that had grown so long that it actually prevented him from closing his mouth!), was super thin despite a very heavy hair coat, was depressed and tired and in a lot of pain from his feet which had not been cared for at all. Sadly, Cathy of Polo Pony Rescue, who contacted me about Shelby, told me that people had been riding him in that condition!
Probably because he had floppy old man lips, he didn’t do well with mush, but I was able to find tiny hay pellets and of course, he loved his senior feed, and very quickly he began to pick up personality and interest. He adored his then-roomie, Corazon. Unfortunately, it was a case of the ‘nerd’ loving the ‘cheerleader’ - she didn’t have a minute for him!
But he tried so hard to follow her around and keep up with her. Once he lost her each day, he would return to the arena and stand alone until dinner time, and then if I put him away before her, he would scream and scream until I brought her in. Hungry or not, he wouldn’t touch his food until she was in her stall by his side.
For his first six months or so, dear Dani Lloyd worked on his feet. She was able to get his feet looking more normal, but all of our efforts never really made him more comfortable for long. Travis took over the trims in the last year of his life which worked out well as Travis is very fast and it was getting harder and harder for Shelby to hold his feet up. A three legged horse holding up a foot for the farrier is a two legged horse ....and Shelby didn’t have the strength or balance to do that easily.
After a year here, I took in a giant OTTB named Pistol, who lived in the round pen beside Corazon and Shelby. Shortly thereafter, I was able to move Corazon to be beside the horses she loved - she joined Pepe and Keller after Song’s passing. And Pistol moved next to Shelby. Don’t get me wrong - Shelby called for Corazon for at least three days. He really loved her! But then, he and Pistol began to hang together, and unlike Corazon, Pistol stayed with Shelby always. In that first week, I saw something I’d never seen - Shelby on the main stall line! He walked all the way over there, wandering around with Pistol walking alongside and a little behind, like his bodyguard! Finally, for that last 8 months of his life, I never saw Shelby standing alone.
It was funny to me to realize that in fact, while twice the size and half the age of Shelby, Pistol was the big baby, and looked to Shelby for confidence and direction. These little guys .... so much personality. But unfortunately, Shelby was not able to do much more than hang with Pistol each day.
Shelby came to the Golden Carrot to die. That’s the reality. His life was used up, and he held on out of sheer pony stubbornness. He really wanted to participate in the herd life here, but he knew his limitations. So he dozed away his days, and spent his nights eating his special feed. He was easy to handle and loved a grooming or a massage, not to mention a soft cookie. I think at once time, long in the past, he was dearly loved and well trained and part of a family. He didn’t seem to hold any grudges against people as a whole - while he’d become deeply depressed in his neglectful situation, I’m not sure he was even angry with those people. I know for a while before he came here, a concerned party fed him, not realizing that with that overgrown tooth, he couldn’t close his mouth enough to swallow the feed! So maybe he thought people were still trying to help him, but something else was messing him up! He was just smart enough to figure that out, and certainly he was a good boy for me and other humans he met here. (This is so common in horses. A human in the same situation would never get over the resentment and rage towards their abusers, but horses mostly hold no grudges.)
In the end, I had spoken to Shelby for over a week. He’d gotten to where even high doses of Previcox were not helping his pain, and he had three bad days for every good one. I know he was ready, at least in theory. Like the good boy he was, he took his last walk with me, with Pistol flying around us like a crazed helium balloon. I know they both knew what was coming, but while Shelby was fine with it, Pistol was not. Shelby’s end was quick and painless, and unlike the way I usually feel, I felt lighter almost immediately. I think his pain was profound, and permeated the very air around him. And I was privileged to end it for him.
Pistol and I may miss him, and weep at his empty stall, but Shelby is free now. He’s a pony so I’m sure he’s exploring, but I feel certain that when Pistol’s time arrives, Shelby will be back here to thank him for helping Shelby’s final months on earth be better, and to show him around heaven. He was just that kinda guy