Black Quarter Horse gelding
Nickname: "Old Man"
42 years old

Born January 1966 - Passed away July 29, 2008

Our beloved friend and loyal companion, Fury, has passed through the gate to greener pastures. He was 42 years old.

Fury came to live with me along with his pasture mate, Lil, over ten years ago. I own a place in Texas where I combine rescuing horses with a youth volunteer mentoring program. We rehabilitate neglected and abused horses and ponies. The kids that volunteer here learn all about the care of horses, how to ride, and how to treat these magnificent animals that our Lord created with respect and kindness.

Well, over ten years ago, I was contacted by a mutual friend who was going through a divorce and was going to be on the road as a truck driver. He had to do something with his horses. He had raised Fury, a jet black gelding, since birth. Back in his day, Fury was the most awesome horse on the trail rides and his owner, Ed, was offered huge amounts of money for him. But Ed always smiled and turned it down. When Ed left for the trucking job, he had given Fury and Lil to a neighbor to take care of. Two years later, Ed returned to this area only to find Fury a bag of bones and missing an eye, and Lil very obese and out of shape. The neighbors hadn't even noticed Fury lost an eye! They were feeding both horses out of the same pan and Lil, who was 15 years younger than Fury, wolfed most of the food down and left him very little to eat.

So Ed contacted me and I agreed to take Fury and Lil to my place where they would live out their lives with grace and dignity. He would pay for their feed but I would do the rest. They were both senior horses even ten years ago, Fury was 30 and Lil was 15...both needed equine senior feed...I figured they would be around for maybe five years, or less. Well, Fury and Lil  were here much longer and became icons around the place. Especially Fury. He was the equivalent of a very proud, but very rickety old man. He always walked with his head slightly tilted to the side, due to his blindness in that eye, like a little old man with his hat cocked slightly to the side, displaying his tenacity for life... Josh, a quiet, shy young man who has worked here since he was 10, was Fury's most ardent fan. Josh was loyal to Fury and vice-versa. They had a connection, an understanding between them that was very obvious. Josh treated Fury with kindness and gentleness, and in return Fury taught Josh the finer points of riding on his strong back. Even at his advanced age, Fury was first at the gate, first to try to get his head in a bridle, first in the trailer. Always up for an adventure!  Once, when we planned a ride at the beach, I told Josh that since we were probably going to be racing, going up and down the dunes etc. - cuz it's a big blast - that he could ride someone else instead of Fury, since Fury probably wouldn't be able to keep up with the pace we'd be riding. I'll never forget the look on Josh's face...he paused for a minute, eyes cast upward in thought, and then he softly asked, "When's the last time Fury ever got to GO anywhere?". I thought about it and shrugged my shoulders and said, "I don't think he's ever been ridden anywhere but here on the property since we've had him.". Josh then said, "I'll take Fury. I don't really care if we race or not.". Now for a ten year-old boy to have that kind of faithfulness, and make the sacrifice of staying behind while all his friends took off in a cloud of sand and dust, whooping and hollering, and coming back with huge grins, going on and on about who won etc., that, my friends, is TRUE FRIENDSHIP and TRUE LOYALTY. Josh and Fury were a unique pair. I feel honored to have been part of BOTH their lives for the last ten years or so.

A few years back, we discovered Fury laying in the mud in the pasture one morning when he didn't come up for breakfast. He was alive, but signs of a struggle were apparent in the muddy ground where he had been thrashing for who knows how long in the night. He was literally exhausted, having no strength left to try to get up. He had arthritis in his right hip and was laying on the right side, so he couldn't get his right rear leg up under him enough to push himself up. He could get his two front feet out in front and sort of sit up like a dog, but couldn't make the final push to get up. I tried to help him, got more people to help him, but we couldn't get a foothold in the slippery mud from an overnight shower. I called a man with a tractor and he came with a gym pole attached to the back. We made a makeshift sling and put it under Fury's belly and hips. We got him up after a few tries. Once he was up, he was fine.

A few weeks later he was down again. This time the tractor didn't work. He just couldn't get up. I called the vet to come out and see if perhaps he might be colicking or maybe having seizures. The vet just dismissed it as old age, and said that I should just put him down. He would NOT come out, even though I begged him to. I resolved myself to the fact that there was nothing else I could do. I talked to the man with the tractor and we were discussing backhoes when I realized I couldn't proceed with the plan to put Fury down until I called Josh's mom. I didn't want to make the decision to put him down without letting her know so she could make the decision on whether to tell Josh ahead of time and let him say goodbye, or wait till it was over. At first, she said she didn't want him to see Fury in this condition, and since he was in school, she would just let him know when he got home. I went back to making backhoe arrangements. Fury kept picking his head up and looking around, then laying back down with a sigh, exhausted. I offered him some water and he took a few sips. I heard something from up by the house and when I turned to look, I saw Josh's mom, Cheryl, and a streak running through the pasture at lightning speed...Josh. He came to a stop by sliding on his knees through the wet mud, coming to a stop right by Fury's head. Fury picked his head up and Josh threw his arms around his neck and buried his face in his mane. I knew Josh wouldn't want us to see him crying, so I just turned around and spoke with Cheryl about the plans. Josh heard me and begged me not to put Fury down. "I can get him up! I know he'll do it for me!", he said. "Please let me try..." I asked the tractor man if he would mind giving it one more try. (We'd tried for over an hour, only making Fury more and more weak with each attempt.) The man agreed halfheartedly to give it another try and got into the tractor seat and started it up. As the pole tightened the sling around Fury's belly, his body just bent like a willow branch and his head hung to the side, limp and unresponsive. The tractor man shook his head and started to turn off the tractor. Josh yelled, "One more try!". Josh put his arms around Fury's neck and looked him square in the good eye and said, "Come on buddy...you can do it...come on...TRY!" The pole came up, the sling tightened, but this time Fury's legs scrambled frantically under him, slipping in the mud under him, sliding out time and time again. Josh never let go of Fury's neck, yelling encouragement to the old man saying, "Come on Fury! Get up! Come on!" With one final burst of energy, Fury struggled with every ounce of strength left and got his legs under him. We all rushed to his side and helped steady him on his wobbly legs. Fury's body was quivering and his sides were heaving, as he gasped for breath. Josh steadied him for several minutes, offering him water in small sips. After about 10 minutes, I told him that we should try to get him out of the mud and up to the house. Fury and Josh made their way slowly and surely through the muddy pasture until they reached the gate to drier ground. Josh made Fury his equine senior mash for breakfast and Fury ate it in record time. He took a healthy drink of water and by the time he'd finished with breakfast he was right as rain again.

We later found out that another horse that boarded in our pasture had, for some unknown reason, run over to Fury and slammed into him purposely, hitting him broadside and knocking him down. Since Fury landed on the wrong side, the arthritic side, he couldn't get back up. When Fury laid down on his own, he always laid on the other side so he could get himself back up. The horse that knocked him over wasmoved to another boarding facility which solved the problem for Fury.

In these last two years, Fury had finally started to show his age a little. Prior to that, thanks to good nutrition, you couldn't really tell he was old at all. Good muscle tone, fat, shiny...people were always amazed when I told them how old he was. He was always sort of a "loner" in the pasture...friendly to the other horses, but stand-offish, probably due to his blindness in one eye.

Two years ago, I rescued two Quarter Horse mares, aged 21 and 20 from a ranch in Boling. They had used these poor mares for breeding all their lives. They never were without a foal by their side. Once they reached the age where they were no longer able to produce...the ranch was going to simply shoot them! A secretary at the ranch contacted me and begged me to come get the mares. I did. They were in awful condition. Matted manes and tails, underweight, hooves that were long overdue for trimming, cracked and split. One mare, Miss D, was in better shape than the other one named Shadow. Shadow was scared, skinny, her mane was one HUGE mat of hair, took five hours to comb it out, but after tender loving care, she bounced back quickly. The mares had always been together at the other place...they were inseparable. Unfortunately Miss D had to be put down earlier this year in May due to a leg injury.

The amazing thing is that ever since the mares came, Fury's demeanor changed. A bond had developed between Fury and Shadow. Shadow was just as black as Fury, and she had developed a shiny coat and gained all her weight back...she was really beautiful and Fury knew it! He had always been the oldest horse out here and never really bonded with any of the horses and ponies. I don't know whether it was due to age difference or maybe because of his blindness in that one eye. But when Fury first saw Shadow, it was a love connection. After Miss D passed away, Shadow sought comfort from Fury. Fury never showed much emotion until she came into his life. But once she became "his girl", Fury regained some of his youthful spirit and attitude. I saw another horse sort of try to make Shadow move away from Fury, and Fury spun around and with all his might, threw both hind legs in the air, kicking the horse with both hooves. Now, mind you, he only kicked the other horse about four inches from the ground...not bad for an arthritic horse...but it was the effort he put into it. The belief he had that he could still fight for his mare.

I loved to watch him after he finished eating. I would put him back in the pasture and if Shadow was still outside the gate eating, he would refuse to move away from the gate. If she was put away first, he would stop eating and go to the gate to be let in the pasture. Now, if you knew Fury like we did...he never left a crumb of feed before. Now he would just walk away from a meal in order to be near Shadow. They were soulmates. When we would take Shadow out to ride her, he would nicker and whinny and pace the fence for her until she returned. He had found love in his golden years. He was happy and very content.

On Monday, July 28 of this year, when I fed all the horses and ponies, Fury didn't come to the gate like usual. He eats outside the pasture and is the only one who doesn't need to be tied up. He's been around long enough to know where his food is....you didn't have to open the gate for him. While you tied the other horses up at their feed pans, you just left the gate unlatched, but still closed and he would come up after the coast was clear and take his lips and open the gate and walk over to his feed pan. When he was done, he'd push the gate open with his nose and put himself away. After all, he was 42 years old, it's not like he didn't have the routine down pat.  You could almost hear him saying in an old man's voice, "Sonny boy, let me tell you about the good ol days, when horses were HORSES, not these high falutin' sissy things with pedigrees and no brains....why when I was a young colt...". I could just imagine the stories he told our younger horses and ponies.

When Fury didn't show up for dinner, I went into the pasture and looked all over. When I went to the pole barn, Fury was standing just inside, head hanging a little, tongue sticking out of the front of his mouth, like it had been doing lately. It only would happen around feeding time, and he would drool as well. Poor Fury only had about nine teeth left, hence the need for equine senior feed, wetted down, it made a nice mash with all the nutrients and roughage built in so no hay was required. He couldn't eat hay or grass at all. Of course, he always tried...he would come up for dinner and before he took his first mouthful of wet mash, he would spit an oblong, cigar-shaped wad of grass out, probably having been chewing that same lump of grass for the past 20 minutes! He never would chew it up and swallow it, but always had a plug of grass between the cheek and gums....a true Texas steed for sure!

Somehow, this night seemed different. I really didn't think he was seriously ill, as he didn't look any different really than any other time. He didn't want to eat, but again, he did that now and then when it was really hot as it was that day. Shadow was eating her food and he was just standing by her, staring at his feed bucket. He was breathing just a little bit fast, so I took the water hose over to him and ran cool water over his back and under his belly. He sighed a big one and got that happy look in his good eye. He stood there quite a while enjoying the cool water. I talked to him and pet him while letting the water run...for some reason I felt the need to tell him that evening what a marvelous specimen of a horse he was, complimenting him on his shiny coat, telling him I still have never found a horse with a smoother canter than his. He soaked it up as always...he loved to be talked to and touched. Shadow was done eating and I put her back in the pasture. Fury instantly went to the gate which I had latched with the snap and gazed at me over his shoulder, as if to say, please...I want to be with my girl...so I let him in the pasture and they walked away side-by-side, tails swishing lazily, as if two old friends were taking an evening stroll, talking about the good old days. I went about the rest of my chores and finally turned in around 11:30 p.m.

At 2:45 a.m., I sat up in bed with only one thought in my head...go check on Fury. I didn't really understand why that thought came into my head. I hadn't had a feeling he was sick or in any distress or might not make it through the night when I'd laid down that night.  He seemed fine other than not wanting dinner. He'd turned down dinner or breakfast several times before and by the next morning or evening, was back on track for food. So there was no premonition...which I usually have when it comes to things like this.

So why did I sit up and have one thought, just one in my head? And why, after a really, really long, hard, hot day, which left me exhausted....did I get up right away and get dressed? Any other time I would have laid back down and not given it another thought. I like to sleep...

It was a feeling that I couldn't ignore. I had to see Fury. I walked out in the moonlit pasture, counting heads. Hot Rod was standing by the round bale, Twilight was by the far end of the pole barn, Shadow was laying just outside the pole barn, but not asleep. Her legs were curled up under her and her head was up and ears forward watching me approach. She never got up as I came closer which was highly unusual for her. I looked just inside the pole barn and there lay my dear friend Fury. Flat on his side, as if just totally relaxed and asleep. I knew before I ever touched him that he was gone. It was as if God spoke into my heart and said, "I've got him with me...don't worry Donna. He's right here. He's fine."

I didn't get hysterical. I didn't bawl like a baby like I have in the past when I've lost a horse, or any animal,  for that matter. A single tear went down my face as I sat next to him and stroked his face and told him how much I loved him.

Hot Rod, our 17hh Tennessee Walker, came up behind me and softly blew his breath in my hair. His eyes were wide as he saw Fury laying on the ground. He gingerly walked towards my Old Man and sniffed his legs. He came back over to me and pressed his head into my chest. I stroked his face and told him it was okay, that our dear friend was young again, galloping in God's green pastures now. Then, Hot Rod went over to Fury again, and put his nose close to Fury's and blew a few gentle puffs of his breath into Fury's nostrils. I said, "He's already gone buddy...we can't bring him back.". As if he understood, Hot Rod walked slowly out of the barn and stood just outside. I looked over towards the other end of the barn and there stood Twilight, one of our shetland ponies. This little pony has always been shy around people and isn't easily caught. She doesn't come up to anyone but her owner, Tiffany. I was amazed that she was standing just a few feet away from me and not wanting to run away. I turned to her and said, "It's okay, Twi, I'll step out so you can pay your respects.". I walked out and as I looked back, I saw her enter the barn, headed over to Fury.

Shadow never left where she was when I came out there. She had stood up sometime during my visit, but didn't move from where she had stood guard over her companion. I know in my heart that she was right there with him in the final moments of life he had here on earth. I hope that I am as lucky when it's my time to move on.

I'm going to miss the "Old Man", as I affectionately nicknamed him long ago...he was a great horse, gentle in spirit and a credit to his breed. But I am ever so thankful to our Lord and Savior that Fury was happy and healthy right up to the end, having found love in his final glory days, and drifting peacefully off to sleep at the place he called home...Ponyland. I know that as he opens his eyes once again and sees the beautiful lush pastures of Heaven, seeing all of it through TWO good eyes, feeling the stamina and energy of a young horse come back into his veins, he's galloping off to find his old friends who have passed before him, ready to tell his stories about life on earth at Ponyland and about all the wonderful kids who loved and adored him. And most of all, one very special young man named Josh...who gave him a reason to live this long...

Name Index
Return to Hoofprints On My Heart home.

Copyright © 2008 Hoofbeats In Heaven. All rights reserved.
Text and photos may not be reproduced in any form.