In Loving Memory of Orion

Passed Away November 26, 2004
Foaled 1975 (approx.)
16.3 hand Dark Brown Thoroughbred gelding

Orion is the cherished friend of Donna Gawne – one of my largest contributors.  Donna kept Ori as long as she could but showed true character in acknowledging his age and difficulties.  He had bonded with Andy, not only were they inseparable, but when Andy colicked, each time Orion called me out hours before I normally would have found Andy down – getting treatment early can make all the difference with colic.  In addition, on 7/29/02 Orion called me out at midnight.  I had just fed at 10PM and everyone was fine, but Ori’s been right before – this time, Trilby had cast herself in her stall and was in distress just trying to breathe – if he had not called me, she would have died in the night, I’m positive…  What a guy.  When Andy died in July 2004, Ori was distraught and turned to Falcon, who’s stall abuts Ori’s.  They are now inseparable although Falcon takes care of Ori instead of the reverse.

Orion passed away the day after Thanksgiving 2004 after a bout with colic.  He was fine one day, and gone the next, and his girlfriend Debbie and I miss him terribly

Goodbye to Orion

On the day after Thanksgiving, The Golden Carrot lost another friend when Orion succumbed to a torsion colic. I would like to take this opportunity to remember Ori, who came to TGC in early 1998.

I remember so clearly traveling to Portuguese Bend to get Orion, and the gaggle of girls, including his former owner Donna Finley, who fought back tears and waved as our trailer pulled away. I’d known Orion and Donna for several years while a boarder at PBRC so when Orion’s back end problems and arthritis began to affect his daily routine, she bravely took that last step of sending him to retirement.

In the first week of his residence at TGC, when the facility was in Aguanga, he did what the years showed he was fond of doing – he created an incident. He escaped from his stall, and the paddock area, and disappeared. Mike and I roamed the roads calling for him, for an entire morning, and eventually, returning to the ranch for a quick break, found a set of wavering hoofprints and followed them right back to the ranch. He was tired, and thirsty, and hungry, but had found his own way back.

A week after he’d recovered some, I broke a Golden Carrot rule. Normally, I wait three months to take a new resident off property. I want them to recover from the trip and the changes in routine. But with this horse, I wanted him to know the area around his home – so Mike rode Andy, and I rode Orion, and we went on his first trail ride. And the second ‘incident’ occurred. Orion fell in love with Andy. From that day, to the day of Andy’s death in August of 2003, the two were inseparable.

Over the years, we had to ride them together, and Andy continued to be Orion’s anchor. It was truly the odd couple, with Andy a big coarse red Morgan with a phlegmatic nature, and Orion a big dark brown/black TB, refined, excitable, explosive. In the five years they were together, Orion would pitch a fit if Andy was taken out to see the vet or the farrier without him; he screamed to me twice at 4 or 5 AM to tell me Andy was cast (saving Andy’s life); and he showed a devotion and loyalty to Andy that touched my heart. I was working in Orange County when Andy died, but Mike told me that Orion cried and cried, torn between returning to his stall at night with the rest of the herd, and staying with Andy where he was down in the paddock. He was sadly lost when Andy passed, and wandered from horse to horse trying to find comfort.

It was only a few months later that I brought in Debbie, a calm little red QH mare, sort of a female Andy, and despite the fact that she seemed to have all the sex appeal of a Marilyn Monroe, attracting the aggressive attentions of every gelding on the place, Orion eventually cut her out, and kept her for his own. This was the first time in all these years that Orion showed any interest at all in a mare – before he’d only had eyes for Andy, so I wondered if he might be gay. And his friendship with Debbie didn’t have the same feel as the usual mare/gelding pair ups – he was her friend and protector, more than her boyfriend. Maybe he was a metrosexual. Certainly he was a horse with focus.

A few times in this last year, he’d “lose track” of Debbie. She’d stand still, as she usually does, and he’d thunder all around the paddock, back to the stalls, down the riverbed screaming her name. Eventually, after he covered the entire area open to the horses, he’d get downwind of her, or spot her, and after running his nose all over her, would stand quietly, sweating, exhausted by her side. Another time, he did the same thing, but Orion actually seemed to be looking for ME, because when I came out, he ran to the fence and kept calling. I went to help him find her, and found he’d gotten badly scratched in the riverbed. Thinking I’d take Debbie out with him to keep him calm while I fixed him up, I discovered, as I think he wanted me to, that Debbie too had gotten scratched in the riverbed and had a huge splinter of wood in her coronet band. Ori the caretaker actually called for help again. A friend like this, we could all use.

In the day to day life of TGC, Orion was a character. Other than his shenanigans noted above, Orion daily stuck his head out of his feed window, and tossed his head up and down, and rolled his eyes, and muttered, and neighed, and whinnied, encouraging me to “get a move on with that feed.” He was always at his gate, but rather than head out, he’d turn back and wait for Andy, and then Debbie, and ‘get their back’ as they walked out. He was one of several TBs who made it clear to me that I’ve fallen short, when they would return to their stalls to find the stalls were not cleaned during their absence for some reason. Like his old friend Domino, who also died last August, he was a cribber. Domino was much worse, never stopping, while Orion only cribbed in his stall. Dr. Zadick pointed this out to me – both horses cribbers, both died suddenly of a torsion colic. Apparently the torsion can be caused by air bubbles sucked in during the cribbing, as well as impaction. Two big black-brown TBs, cribbers, emotional, steadfast and loyal friends, both died the same way. The only difference being, that this time I knew our efforts would fail, and I didn’t prolong Orion’s pain the way I did Domino’s.

I remember Donna and Ori galloping up and down the hills of Palos Verdes, she just a flea on his back but never worried he’d run away with her, and dancing in the show ring, his coat silky and tiny ears pricked, almost touching at the tips. I remember watching Andy and Ori on a summer’s day, head to tail whisking each other’s flies as they drowsed in the heat, and companionably scratching each other’s backs. I remember the first time Ori colicked, and Mike and I used belly lifts until suddenly relieved, Ori walked back into his house to eat – and then came back out to put his head in our chests, one after the other, in thanks so patent even Mike was astonished. I watched Ori protect Deb from her suitors, munching together on their hay in the paddock, and hanging his head over into her stall at night.

I lost him suddenly, like Domino, not expecting it – and while still mourning Jet. I still can’t believe it was him, and not Malika, or Red, or Ladyhawk – all so much more frail than he was. I can’t miss that he’s gone – somehow, he still seems to be here – and if a spirit can linger, I believe his will, as long as he thinks Debbie needs him. Once he’s sure she’s OK, I think he’ll go look for Andy and all will be well. I hope so.

Orion was a faithful friend to Andy, and to Debbie. That personality characteristic inspired the faithful support of his former owner, Donna Finley, and my love as well. He deserves our respect for showing the kind of qualities we’d like to have in, and show, our own friends. Let’s all remember Orion.

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