In Loving Memory of Inch

Many of you are supporters on Facebook, and know that Inch was bitten by a snake on October 24, 2010. After a valiant and at some points desperate struggle, Inch succumbed two days before Thanksgiving. I pushed her to try much longer than I should have - she told me 4 days after the bite that she wanted to give up. Knowing that the same thing killed a horse half her age, I put my wishes above her needs, and as she always did for those she loved, Inch went the extra mile. But at 32, she didn’t have the strength, and I finally let her go. This extraordinary mare was my friend, my love, for almost 17 years. Losing her has taken the heart out of me. Let me tell you what I know of my girl’s life...

Inch was a 17.1 hand gorgeous chestnut Thoroughbred Mare, foaled in 1979, with tip-tilted oriental eyes. Inch had raced a few times, without any shining success, so she was taken to a breeding farm, where, sadly for her, she was bred a few times unsuccessfully. She was then sold and began her jumping career. I knew Inch at Portuguese Bend Riding Club in Palos Verdes, where she was owned by a couple as the husband’s horse. Although Inch and her owner got along well on the ground, this man was too heavy handed for this sensitive mare, and their rides were a misery for both of them.

And one time in particular, I saw that with her enormous stride and general unhappiness under saddle Inch was even too much for the exercise riders at the stable. Combined with a little ringbone, it was felt perhaps Inch should retire. So when I started The Golden Carrot informally, Inch was one of the first horses who came to reside here. I rode her a few times, just for my own thrills, and omg, was I thrilled! I distinctly remember the first time I asked Inchie for an extended trot - the wind blast she developed with those long legs brought tears to my eyes! I wish I’d tried that on the road - as it was, it was hard for that speed and power to be contained in the small riding arena I had to work with.

Despite her athletic ability, which was only slightly lessened by her ringbone, it was clear to me early on that Inchie would have been ecstatic if she could spent her life having a baby or ten. She wasn’t an aggressive mare or timid - more middle of the road - until someone she loved was in trouble. Unable to have babies, she loved little horses, and all during the time she was with me, she was caretaking one or another. And in defense of her ponies, she would place herself between them and any threat. If they were taken from the herd for farrier or vet, she would stand and call for them desperately, and circle and inspect them when they came back. She started with Bobby Sox, the horse who inspired me to begin the Golden Carrot.

When Inch came to TGC, Bobby fell immediately in love with her. Never mind that he was 13.3 hands to her 17.1. Never mind that she was half his age. She was his woman! It was the jockey/ supermodel syndrome! And in her tender care of him, she never laughed, made him chase her or made him feel small. She tolerated the presence of her little Napoleon with kindness and grace. As Bobby aged, she was always close to him. And in his final year, when he began to have difficulty with his vision, and he cried for her, my heart swelled with pride as I saw her move to where he could catch her scent and find his way to her side, saving his face. How kind she was. Inch was distraught with me when Bobby died. Until the day I broke down in tears in her stall and begged her to forgive me, she turned away from me, wouldn’t rub her forehead on me as she loved to do, and wouldn’t talk to me at all. On that day, however, her kindness surfaced again, and she put her head in my chest as we remembered Bobby together.

Once Bobby Sox passed, Inch became attached to Mitey Nice, a tiny quarterhorse mare. Mitey was an independent older mare, who normally had no problem protecting herself, but in 2004 she foundered and became slow to move, spending a lot of time lying down. Inch assigned herself as Mitey’s bodyguard and friend, and stood always close, to make sure no one bothered her or trampled her. In particular I recall a sudden storm that came up, pelting the herd with sleet and hail, so I ran out to bring the horses into their stalls early. Normally I find one unexcitable horse like Mitey and lead them back, giving the cue to the rest of them that we can go in early, so I tried that. But the hail was huge and had everyone pretty amped up, crowding too close behind Mitey and I, so Inch, also freaked out, tried to get between them and Mitey, knocking me to the ground and tap dancing up and down my left leg in the process! Dang that hurt! And Inch felt totally justified - I mean, look, something got Casey, I've just GOT to protect Mitey! My leg was hamburger... but you have to give her props. Scared herself, facing the whole herd that wanted past to get to their stalls, Inch made herself a big obstacle between them and Mitey Nice...

This is a rare shot of Mitey protecting Inch!

Inch forgave me more quickly with Mitey Nice - she knew too that it was time for Mitey to go. She mourned a short time, and then looked around, and decided that Mary and her friend Debbie were just barely small enough, and took them under her wing.

She and Mary developed a true friendship, taking care of Debbie together. The three were bffs and Inch wouldn’t go into her stall at night until they were in theirs; and she and Mary would go to the corner of their stalls that met and ‘hang together’ after dinner. As this shows, the girls were by Inch's side through all of her last hours even if it meant not joining the herd during the acute phase of her injury. 

Inch was always a lady, perfectly behaved for the farrier and the vet, accepting her blanket (although fiercely biting her feeder when I fastened the belly bands). She wasn’t dominant enough to lead my herd, but she was our grande dame, and periodically Beau would swagger over to tell her she was a great lookin’ broad. She wasn’t mare-y, was even tempered and truly a delight to have around. Her favorite little joke was to gently start rubbing her head on me, particularly liking the scratching from the back pockets of my jeans, and when she was done, tucking her nose under my butt and giving me a little boost! I’d look back laughing, and see her laughing back .... and I couldn’t resist brushing the loosened white hairs away from her tip-tilted almond eyes, twinkling at me.

In 2003, Inchie got a sponsor, Terri Edwards, who has been her faithful supporter ever since.  Terri was with us through all of Inch's time here, especially her last few weeks. And Inch was a favorite of the tiny kids, with her gentle motherly ways.

On October 24, 2010, Inch and her girls were standing where they always stood waiting for their chance to come back to their stalls. When they started back at my encouragement, I saw that Inchie was limping badly on her left fore. Once we reached her stall, I checked her leg and saw a small walnut sized lump on the inside of her leg, half way down from her knee. I thought at the time it was a splint, and wondered how she’d done that. I put some bute in her feed and went off to finish putting everyone away ......

To my horror, when I came down to see how her leg looked the next morning, she was standing exactly where I’d left her, hadn’t touched her food or water, and her leg was hugely swollen from just above the knee to her hoof. She had a 1000 yard stare in her eye, head held high, and didn’t acknowledge my presence at all. I blanketed her, pushed bute down her throat after taking her temp (101) and of course I called Dr. Zadick immediately. Our best bet after his exam is that she had a snake bite.

At this point, I should have quit. Years earlier I lost Daphmar, half Inch’s age, to snakebite. I pulled him thru the first crisis, but the venom caused damage to his kidneys and they failed on him only 4 months later. I can only say that the thought of losing my girl was more than I could bear. I had to try.

After the first week, Inch put her head in my chest again, and I believe she asked me to give up and let her go. She had a lot of pain from that swollen leg, and no interest in her food. I lied to her. I told her if she would just eat her dinner, I would consider letting her go, but would miss her so badly, as would Mary. Emotional blackmail. She ate most of that meal, but the next three weeks were a nightmare of ups and downs. Although I was able to get a lot of the swelling to go down, and thus make walking possible so she could join the herd, her appetite was so tentative that she lost a lot of weight. Trying to tempt her appetite, and provide enough pain relief that she would eat, and hot poultices on her leg, meant I was forever looking at her, bugging her, calculating and cajoling about her feed, until we were both exhausted. Knowing I would cry and whine, she just made the decision herself one day - laying down in the field with Mary, and then at day’s end, encouraging Mary to take Debbie and go back for dinner without her. Mary did as she was told, but when I saw her and Debbie alone, with Mary looking back over her shoulder and calling softly every 5 minutes or so, I knew the time had come.

Yes, I cried, she was right. I held her head in my lap and begged her to forgive me, and told her I loved her and would take good care of Mary and Deb for her. I had a while to talk with her, and we recalled many good times we’d had over the 17 years. I told her she was the best mom ever, and she nodded. And I encouraged her to find Bobby and Mitey and our other friends who have passed over these years. I hope so much that there is a place they can be together again....

I couldn’t feel more empty, and the cold that followed her death has frozen me to the core. I’m not the kind of person who has a lot of friends, but those I have I love dearly. My girl was a wonderful person, kind and caring for others more than herself, and a quiet gentle soul. She made the world around her a better place. I miss her.

© 2011 - The Golden Carrot is a 501c3 public benefit charity