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been replaced by those interested only in how many pounds of horse flesh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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.