In Loving Memory of Domino

18 years old  16 hand Thoroughbred
Dark  brown, with white socks on his hind legs and huge white blaze
Passed away August 30, 2003

 Domino died today. It wasn’t a complete surprise – when the vet came for what seemed to be a sudden colic this morning, he held out no hope at all after his examination. Although Domino had eaten almost everything in his last two meals, and pooped his usual amount in his stall the evening before, sometime in the night he began to colic. Because of what appeared to be extraordinary pain (increased respiration and heartbeat, pale gums etc), and an complete lack of gut sounds, the vet believes it is possible he had twisted a loop of intestine. It is possible it was an impaction colic, or even stones, but we will never know the facts, only that Domino was in a great deal of pain. He was given 2 applications of water, electrolytes and oil; pain medication; and massage. Pain medications helped, but although willing to walk for hours, even insisting when his human helpers weakened and wanted to stop, Domino’s pain was such that when he was let loose, he would almost immediately lay down, and twist himself legs up, in an attempt to relieve discomfort. He was willing to drink some water on his own several hours after the vet left, and seemed to be attempting to poop (although without result) and I felt a little hope with that. But he began to sink again. I went out early to feed and found him wandering in the paddock away from the other horses (I had left his stall open in case he needed to walk around). He was clammy to the touch and appeared disoriented. I walked him back to the stalls, where he went willingly until I asked him to go into his stall. I insisted, and closed him in. I put a light sheet on him against the night chill on his damp skin, and stood with him for a while, trying to feel encouragement that he didn’t seem inclined to lay down. I checked him again at 1AM and he seemed completely depressed – on his feet with his head down but still standing. At 4AM I went out again, to find that he’d knocked down the lower chain on his gate, gone under the upper chain – walked a few lengths away from his stall, laid down and died.

A relatively young horse at 18 or so years, Domino was healthy and fat until the day he died. But Domino had a lot of arthritis for many years – some trauma induced and some perhaps due to his emotional nature. Domino wanted to be someone’s special one all his life – he was the kind of horse who would have been happy to be a one owner horse, petted and cosseted and used by only one person. Instead, he passed through how many hands, including a lesson program briefly, and felt lonely most of his life. When he came to The Golden Carrot, he first attached himself to a little crippled mare (fused knee) named Teke. But Teke’s time was short. I never saw a horse react with such distress to the death of another. Domino may not know she was dead – only that she was gone and he couldn’t protect her any longer. He had watched over her in the herd, and escorted her to her stall every night before he would got in his own. As slowly as she moved, his patience and care of her never faltered. Her passing caused the beginning of his own physical decline as well. I had heard that emotional or other stress can increase the symptoms of arthritis, and Domino was my first clear case of that. He eventually attached himself to Shawnee, a perfectly sound, very active TB mare. Despite the disparity in their abilities, his devotion to her never wavered either over the next 6 years. He was a one-love kinda guy.

His training had been good, including dressage, and he was always easy to handle on the ground or in the saddle. Although too disabled to use often in lessons, a year or so ago he did give a young lady, 13 years old, her first ride in the “big arena” – I knew I could trust him not to run away with her. Fallon rode her first few courses on Domino – no jumps, just a chance to learn how to find her line and remember the sequence of the jumps. Domino shuffled his way around patiently, again and again, letting this little girl have her first ‘independent’ ride. He stood patiently while she untacked him, and hugged him and fed him carrots, with a kind look on his face and, I think, a little pride as well. Of course, he had every reason to be proud.

Domino’s former owners supported him fully in the first year at TGC – but thereafter, apparently never looked back. But in his home with TGC, he was loved and respected, and I believe as happy as his nature would let him be. Until the day of his death, he looked great – glossy and with a high head carriage which made him distinctive. And death came suddenly. Although I know he suffered in his last 24 hours, we did do everything we could to relieve as much of that pain as possible, and yet give him a chance to get through it and live on. It was our bad luck that his efforts and ours were not enough to defeat the reaper. I feel sure that Domino’s spirit appreciates the efforts of Dr. Zadick, and Pauline and Mary and myself who walked him, and Sasha, Alex and Matt who fed the herd while we cared for him, to help him survive.

Good bye, Domino.

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