Our first moments together...
creating a permanent bond.

A Second Life for Beau

Part One

I never would have gone to the horse sale that day if my teeth hadn't hurt. And I never would have left with a horse if our eyes hadn't locked. But because both things happened, for the next twelve and a half years, I shared my life with a very special horse. I'd had gum surgery a few days before and was in semi-agony. While visiting friends, it was suggested we go to the horse sale to take my mind off the pain. A monthly sale had been held at the nearby auction barn as long as I could remember, but it had to have been at least twenty years since I'd attended one.

I had always enjoyed the sales because, back then, it was a place where parents bought their jubilant children their first horse, where adults could find a reliable pleasure horse and where attendees were local folks with a social agenda, not a financial agenda. All these years later I knew that too many families looking to give a loving home to a horse had been replaced by those interested only in how many pounds of horse flesh could be bought and then sold to the slaughter houses.

Deciding to see for myself, we went to the sale and strolled through the horse area. There were the young, untrained, nervous horses. There were the middle-aged, calm, "I've seen it all" horses. And then there were the old ones; the ones with tired eyes that held little hope. The ones whose likely outcome that day put fear in your heart and brought a tear to your eye.

I was walking past the last few horses when I caught a glimpse of a gray. Partial to grays, I approached his enclosure. He was in a high traffic area with people loudly jostling by, yet he paid no attention to any of the activity. I worked my way through the crowd and joined those who were checking out this gelding. Almost immediately, he turned his head and held his eyes on me. He didn't remove his stare the entire time I stood there. The connection was startling.  And so overwhelming, I felt my stomach jump.

He wasn't a classically beautiful horse, but he had tremendous presence, which created an overall sense of beauty. He had strong, square conformation with lots of bone which deceptively disguised the fact that he was 16 hands tall. As one who loves the Arab breed, I found his head to be plain - except - for his eyes.  He had such a kind and luminous eye, with an intensity that was directed at me. Age unknown, he wasn't young, he wasn't old, but would be considered "smooth" and most likely between 10 and 15 years old...perhaps even older. He wasn't a purebred and as well as I knew horses, it wasn't evident to me which breed was predominant. As it turns out, every horse expert over the years had a different opinion on just what his heritage was.

I learned that he was a newly retired pony horse off the local race track, owned by a well-known trainer. He would have been ideal for this role. His strong build would have easily handled the bumps and lurches from the lighter race horses he worked in tandem with. He had no apparent outward injuries. Legs, pasterns, hocks all passed sight inspection. He was shod very poorly, yet in spite of that, he stood squarely. He was handling this strange environment with aplomb. So the question was, why had this horse ended up at the sale?

Buying a horse was certainly not the reason I had come to the auction.  I didn't even know I'd be there. I was practically born on a horse and the last ten years were the first time in my life a horse didn't share that life with me. I had recently moved back from the city and my hope was, maybe in a year or two I could consider finding a new equine companion...but certainly not now. So I reluctantly broke my eye contact with this magnetic horse who was still looking only at me.

I joined my friends to go inside to the arena and we watched the bidding. Or rather, my friends watched the bidding, I only saw that gray horse waiting out back.
 His turn eventually came and he was ridden in. He was very handsome under saddle, but I immediately saw that his previous confidence had been replaced by a growing concern of why was he here and what was happening. As I looked at the people bidding on him, I saw one of them was, indeed, a known meat dealer. What a find for this person (human is too kind a word). Here was a big horse who would weigh in high enough to bring in a pretty penny.

And that's why this horse came home with me. Primarily to ensure that the high bidder wasn't the meat dealer. But also because this soul had unquestionably picked me. From the moment I first touched and talked to him after the sale, we had a permanent bond. He once again locked those eyes on me and then he placed his head in the crook of my arm and held it there. He knew he'd just gotten a chance at a second life. I couldn't know what his name had been for the first stage of his life, but for his second life, his name became 'Beau'.

It only took two days to discover the answer to the question of why Beau had ended up at a horse sale. He was lame. Severely and painfully lame.  He began to stumble and to point. His beautiful kind eyes were filling with pain. It suddenly became obvious that he had been loaded up with bute in order to be sold. Now that the drug had worn off, his real physical condition was becoming apparent.

It was strongly suggested to me to return him because he had been illegally doped up to be fraudulently sold. And in two days, he wasn't really my horse, right? Wrong. Whether we'd known each other for two days or two years didn't matter. This was now my horse as I was his human. He trusted me and looked to me for help.  There was no question that were he returned, he would be euthanized...and very likely, not humanely. So the next step was to find out what was wrong and if there was anything I could do to remove that pain from Beau's eyes.

I hired a driver to trailer us 75 miles to an equine veterinary clinic that had the best diagnostic equipment at that time. Beau underwent all the testing with no complaint as long as I was with him. The staff was surprised to learn that we had known each other for only a few days.

The diagnosis was an unwelcome one. Navicular disease. Severely advanced. The obvious scenario was that because Beau was such a good pony horse, he was kept at that job until they used him up and wore him out. As serious as his condition was, they had to have known what was wrong and yet they chose to keep him on pain killers so he could finish out the race season. There was no concern at all that they were causing more and more permanent damage to his feet with every step. The shoddy shoeing job he came home with proved that not even minimal attempts had been taken to help him. At the end of the season, knowing Beau could never make it through another, they dumped him at the auction before moving on to the next track.

The vets said that Beau would never be able to be ridden. And they weren't at all sure that I could get him to a point where he could walk comfortably. They then looked at me and waited for the answer they knew would come...since the condition was serious, and since I'd just bought him, and since he could never be a riding horse, and since the time and cost of trying to help him would be prohibitive, the only thing to do was to put him down.

That wasn't my answer. Instead, I asked questions, lots of them, as to how best help him survive this. And so, we returned home, armed with painkillers, supplements, anti-inflammatories, nutritional advice and instructions to rest him completely for 12 weeks. If he wasn't sufficiently sound by then...well...I wasn't ready to think about that.

First step was that it was time for Beau to rest, with no physical demands placed on him.  Second and third steps - both equally important - were to administer the pain and anti-infllamatory meds and to have corrective shoeing done. I no longer knew the local shoers since it had been ten years since I'd needed one. I was given the name of someone who turned out to be a master at his craft and who became a friend and partner in giving this big gray horse his second life.

The vet had sent with me very specific instructions on how Beau should be shod. Heart bar shoes, of course, but the vet had included a diagram designating the exact degree of angle. When Lance, the shoer, arrived I very seriously showed him the diagram. He gave it a cursive look, smiled and tossed it away. He then had me move Beau, after which he inspected his feet and then proceeded to shoe him differently from that diagram. I discovered then that this man was of the old school - he was shoeing long before shoers were called "farriers" and he had a natural eye for each individual horse's needs. Beau and I couldn't have found anyone better.

I have to admit, it was heart-breaking finding out I could never ride this special horse. In part because I'd missed it so much and was greatly anticipating that first ride. Also because I knew Beau would be a wonderful horse to ride. But it was now all about keeping him pain-free and happy. It was about keeping him alive. So I buried my desire to ride and concentrated only on his well-being.

During this early time together, when my entire focus was on helping this sweet soul, our rapid initial bond became even stronger. Beau knew exactly what I was doing for him and he showed me his thanks every day.

For three months he led the lazy life.  He relished the opportunity of cotentedly grazing, basking in the sun and rolling in the grass. He thoroughly relaxed while being groomed as he learned it didn't mean he was about to go to work but was just being brushed and massaged for his enjoyment and comfort

I had began to lower the med dose and he did well with the change. By now, inactivity was resulting in an out-of-shape, chubby Beau (above) with loss of muscle, so the vet felt minor lunging would be beneficial - and would be our first test of Beau's soundness. Personally, I wasn't sure I was ready to learn the outcome.

Beau loved the lunging. Best of all he showed no signs of discomfort during or after. He caught onto it quickly and was very well-mannered, except, as he was feeling better and better, he sometimes just couldn't help but kick up his heels! The pain in his eyes was now gone and was increasingly being replaced by a brighter and brighter spark.

Beau had been receiving Lance's frequent shoeings and was now off all meds. He was clearly comfortable and happy. Which meant this big, loving, appreciative boy would have the remainder of his natural life in front of him. No greater gift could Beau and I have been given.

He was now doing well enough that I couldn't help but bring up the question that been answered with a definite "no" three months earlier...was it perhaps possible after all that he could be ridden?

Part Two of Beau's Story

Beau inspired me to create "Hoofbeats In Heaven", a horse loss support resource. This 1000+ page site includes our Support Group with over 550 members, memorial tribute to your heavenly horse, candle lightings and more.


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