In Loving Memory of DAPHMAR

Foaled Approx. 1994
Died January 17, 2008
16.2 hand Brown Thoroughbred Gelding

Daphmar is an ex-race horse, with tendon injuries in both front legs, and a fetlock injury on his right hind.  None are terribly debilitating, but he cannot perform at the same level he used to, and this high energy horse will be difficult to control unless steady medium level work is a part of his life.  He is BIG, and knows how to use his size to intimidate and get his way, but more often, his bad behavior of choice is simply to balk.  A little kid, scowling and saying NO. However, like all thoroughbreds in my experience, he’s a big puppy if you’re kind and patient; and once trust develops, I don’t anticipate trouble handling him.  He’s already easier to deal with than on his first day. Daphmar has an inexplicable penchant for little chestnut quarterhorse mares, and much to Mary’s delight, he has made his choice – Topper is his lady now. Always in the pairings here at TGC, one is the needy one; and in this pair, it’s Daph.  But Topper shows every sign of being quite proud of her new beau.    He’s a pretty thing, isn’t he?    The racing industry is responsible for the damage to too many young beautiful horses.  WIth any luck, Daph will have some time here to recover, and give some good rides to both his sponsor and her friends, and other visitors to TGC.  With proper warm up and cool down, and enough exercise to keep this high energy guy a little calmer, we can keep him sound enough to enjoy some retirement.   

Above left is Daphmar’s leg 10 days post snakebite; above right is Jill the day after he was bitten, examining the swollen leg and preparing to offer the time-honored remedy, many carrots!  Newsletter will be posted shortly with the story of Daph’s ordeal. (June 2007)  

Goodbye to Daphmar

Today, January 17, 2008, Daphmar died. Let me tell you the story of this relatively young horse, and the girl who loved him. Daphmar started life as a race horse. But as a May foal, he was probably running with horses as much as 4 to 5 months older than he was, since TB foals born in May are considered “1 year old” the following January. Although he was big, and athletic, it is possible he was medicated and given steroids in order to be able to compete so young. Early in his racing career, he bowed tendons in both forelegs and was retired. He was taken by a woman who trained him to jump after a period of rest and recuperation. He loved jumping, and would jump on his own if turned out in the arena. But Daph was a high strung excitable stubborn horse, and just too much for the woman who sold him, at age 7, to Jill Phillips.  And a love was born between this difficult horse, and this good hearted young woman. She did jump him a little, because he loved it. But with his weakened tendons, she felt it risked permanent damage, so mainly, she and Daph rode the trails, for hours on end. A thoroughbred! So unusual. She described him teasingly as suffering from ADD, and arena work bored them both. She rode him alone mostly, as he would act up with another horse around, but oddly, no traffic bothered him. She actually rode him in a parade once, with no problems. She could do things with Daph that no one else was willing to even try – the trust and love between them was palpable. He loved only her – others who tried to ride him were bucked off or unable to get his cooperation. But no one gets all the luck, and Daph’s physical problems continued to dog him. He got seedy toe, requiring therapeutic shoeing and stall rest for months, which was an incredible pain for this high energy horse. When Jill and a helper tried to hand walk him during his recovery, he spooked at some children, slipped on a short section of asphalt and sustained severe “road rash” on his right hind leg. When Jill began to experience financial difficulties, she knew placing him in a new home would expose him to more problems, both from his tendency to have accidents, his weak tendons, and the stubbornness that made him a difficult ride for all but her. She wanted to retire him, despite his youth, rather than have him face further physical trials, and the rough treatment his personality might bring out in another trainer or rider. Although Daph was only 13 years old, I took him for his disabilities. He arrived a little thin, a little stubborn and a lot excited. Daph immediately took to the routine at TGC – he loved being able to run out every morning at full speed with the herd. Early on, he fell in love with Topper. He could not be separated from her, so I rearranged the stall assignments so they could be stallmates. Interestingly, Chacha felt he was the man of her dreams, and followed him and Topper everywhere, and for a while, he pursued Peanut as well. This is a gelding who felt he needed a complete harem. He never played with the other geldings – he was with the ladies always. One time he was responsible for Hava tearing her stall apart, because he stopped to chat her up on his way out one morning, and got her so excited, she kicked down the boards between her and Falcon. Several times he trapped Peanut in the brush – she never wanted to join his little herd, but he was determined to control her. Daphmar loved the ladies.

In June of 2007, only 5 months after he came here, his bad luck reared its head again – a rattlesnake passed two horses to come to his stall and bite his right hind leg. I’ve never seen swelling like that before – his entire leg was swollen so badly that you could not actually distinguish the hock joint! After 10 days of extensive therapy including steroids, three kinds of antibiotics and painkillers, he seemed to be out of the woods, although his leg remained grossly swollen. In the last couple of months of his life, I was told by several people that the swelling was slowly responding to my massage, but his leg remained a little deformed to the end. Through several days penned in his stall with his patient stallmates Topper and Chacha, and twice daily injections or medications, dear Daph was kind and easy to handle and tolerant of all we did for him. A better patient would be hard to imagine. I can’t help but wonder if he was so good about having medications and shots because his childhood might have included a lot of that on the track. From then until the last week of December, Daph seemed to do well, just as you’d expect from such a young strong horse. He didn’t do a lot of running, as the swelling of his leg took a lot of months to come down. But he ate well, drank well, continued in his devotion to his little herd of ladies. He seemed fine, and his weight stayed good. I’d easily put weight on him when he first arrived – he was so happy he ate well and I was able to back off his extra feed only a few months after his arrival – and he didn’t lose weight at all from the snakebite. But that was apparently not the end of that last injury.

16 days ago, Daphmar decided not to eat his dinner. That may not sound like much, but for horses, and for Daphmar in particular, it was the equivalent of me deciding not to breathe today. When I found all of his dinner sitting undisturbed in his feeder the next day while I cleaned his stall, I couldn’t have been more surprised. But, this is an excitable Thoroughbred, and we’d had a terrible cold snap start just then, and I thought maybe he was just “off his feed” for a day or two. Over the next two weeks, I put together such tempting meals that I wanted to join him. But although he always ran in to his feeder with interest, he would sniff the feed, and look out to see if I was bringing something else. No senior feed, no pelleted feed, no alfalfa, oat or grass hay would get more than a bite or two worth of interest out of him. Carrots only would he eat …. and he ate a fair amount of those, but not nearly enough to support a horse his size. So I called out Fred Zadick, DVM. Fred conducted a thorough examination and ruled out teeth problems or colic. He thought an ulcer was a distinct possibility. Thoroughbreds off the track can have ulcers which flare under stress, such as the cold snap. With nothing else to go on, Dr. Z suggested putting him on Zantac, and doing blood work to rule out problems in kidneys or liver. But only a day later, he called with the lab results. You could hear the distress in his voice, as he relayed the results of the blood work – that Daphmar was in severe kidney failure. This is so rare in horses, that I can’t believe within 6 months I’ve had two cases here – the other being Tango. And he can’t really suggest a reason for it – it may be autoimmune, it may be a tumor, or some damage may have been caused to Daph’s kidneys as a result of the snakebite he suffered 6 months ago, that only now has given way. The bottom line is, as it was for Tango, and my dear dog Pinkie, kidney failure this severe is not really treatable – the most expensive and long term care might buy a little more time, but it is a death sentence – a long, tired, painful wasting death. Jill rushed to his side, to see him one more time. This young lady has been steadfast in her support of this hardluck horse, both while she nursed him through multiple injuries, and while he’s been here. She rushed out when he was snakebit, because there was a chance he wouldn’t survive it. How much I cherish this, and how wonderful for Daphmar to have an owner who continued to love and care for him. But how painful for her to see him as he’d become in just a couple of weeks, when a couple of months ago she visited and rode him. He looked liked I thought he would look 10 years down the road, thin, tired, a little cranky. His whole life has been in fast motion. Jill knew this was the last visit; and she saw he was thinner. But when he laid down before us, with a sigh of fatigue, and allowed her to kneel by his head, her tears poured down as she truly realized he was dying. But she stayed and talked with him, and to me about his life. She walked back with him and put on his blanket for his last night. She said goodbye and so did he. It was a short life, but full of excitement and love. He ended his life as he started as a foal, in a herd of horses, being a horse. In many ways, Daph didn’t do too bad. He had to rush it – that was his nature, but he loved, and was loved – and he will always be remembered.    

Here is Jill and Daph a few months after he came to TGC.  In this photo you can see Chacha who seldom was far from Daph from the day he arrived, and Ronan, both members of Daph’s little sub-herd.  He was happy here …..  

Jill and Daphmar – what a pair!  On the right, you see Daph looking past Jill, apparently at the camera.  When Jill arrived on Daph’s last day, as soon as he heard her voice, he bugled a greeting, a note of relief in his voice.  I believe that he’d longed to see her again, but didn’t know if he could hold out long enough. Although Jill visited more often than any prior owner of a TGC horse, she still only got here every few months.  In this picture, Daph was looking right at me, and I believe he was thanking me for getting his girl here for one more visit.  

Very soon after she arrived, Daphmar brought his condition home to us by simply lying down in the paddock, with a huge groan and sigh. Jill approached carefully, but he was clearly fine with her sitting at his head. To the left he asks as clear as English for a little alone time with his girl. To the right, the final chat – I hope he told her he was happy here, despite the short time. I’m sure she told him she’d never forget him, that she was sorry she couldn’t fix this problem. Maybe they just remembered those long trail rides together, one soul, at peace in a world that gave them each other.  

A last touch between friends, a velvet nose under a tender hand …………………………..  and a last kiss with the sweet warm breath on your cheeks 

A promise always to remember each other …….. …………………….. a moment together, just the two of them

In an unexpected move, as though wanting to be sure Jill  understood what was coming, Daphmar laid out flat.  My heart skipped a beat as I watched her to the exactly right thing – she laid her hand on his neck and stroked him, as tho to say, I understand sweetheart. It’s OK to go.

Her face of pain will haunt me.  How well I know what she feels.  Although Daphmar had one more night to weather, and I would never have Jill here for his actual death, you can see her grief, and his acceptance. 

Jill took Daphmar his last meal. As my note above indicates, Daph wouldn’t eat anything in his last day, but was willing to lip at some oat hay.   In his stall for his last night Jill fastens his blanket on a patient, subdued Daphmar.  Even this little task was heartbreaking for Jill to do and me to watch – everything we knew about Daphmar said his head should be dropped in his feed bowl, oblivious to blankets, our presence, anything except his next bite of food.      


In a last flash of true Daphmar spirit (left), he lays back his ears at yet one more photograph.  So we have a glimpse of the Daphmar that was – with his girl.  Even ill-tempered, he loved to have her there ….. In a last photo (above right) that made my heart ache, we see Daphmar heading away from Jill and Chacha – two ladies who loved him ……  gone from this earth, but not from our hearts...

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