My gentle giant. Jack, you were my dream come true. It took me my whole life to finally meet you, but the wait was worth it. Since I was 6, I dreamed of owning a horse. I played with my Breyer horses, took lessons, and tried to convince my parents to convert our garage into a barn. They wouldn't do it, but I never stopped asking. I hoped that one day I would have a beautiful, bay thoroughbred with fire in his eyes.
I went to college, got a job, married, and had my 2 daughters. I hoped that they would love horses like I did. The dream of owning a horse was still there, but I didn't think it would be realized when it was. My husband said I could get a horse, but we hadn't started looking yet. I was on an online forum called Tim Woolley Racing (later Alex Brown Racing) following Barbaro's recovery at New Bolton Center. Rescue threads had begun popping up, and one popped up for a big bay TB who was only 15 minutes away from me! His owner was relocating out of state and couldn't afford to keep him. She had tried for months to rehome him but had no luck. The poor old guy had until the end of the month to find a home or he was going to the auction in New Holland, PA. The auction was frequented by kill buyers. He didn't stand much of a chance. He had a permanently stocked-up hind pastern, bad arthritis, and was 19 years old. I had to meet him!
It took a week to get an appointment to see him, but as soon as my eyes met his, I was jello. He was everything that I had hoped for. He was gigantic, but he was so gentle. He had a star shaped like the state of New Jersey. He had the sweetest face I had ever seen. He had me at Hello! He was "free to a good home", but to me, he was priceless. We worked out the logistics, and by the end of the month, he was officially ours. I was overjoyed!
I learned the he had raced 3 times at age 2. He hadn't won, so a career change was in order. He spent the next few years on the hunter/jumper circuit, jumping the big jumps at Devon and showing on the intercollegiate circuit. He learned dressage and also worked as a lesson horse. He was truly a "jack of all trades". All of the competition took a toll on his joints, however. He had pretty bad arthritis when I met him. He was so stiff that he didn't want to come out of his stall. He was ribby and needed some groceries. With lots of TLC, he was a new horse. We took steps to manage the arthritis. We put him on joint combo and had the vet order him some bute and neigh-lox. When he had a bad flare-up, he had Adequan. To help in the weight department, we put him on beet pulp shreds, weight builder, rice bran oil, source vitamins, and triple crown senior. We threw in some biotin and he was all set. He got lots of stud muffins and baby carrots, too. Jack had more blankets and sheets than any horse I have ever known. He was always cozy, no matter what the weather! He looked so handsome in his green Rambo turnout. It really set off his brown eyes :) .
Jack was living the life of Riley. I made it my mission to make sure that his retirement was a good one. He had lots of friends at the barn. He even had a girlfriend! Her name was Frost. She was only 9, but she didn't mind the age difference. They were in love. They would call to each other whenever they were separated. It was quite adorable. He would pace at the gate, waiting for her to be done with her lesson. He would follow her everywhere, like a lovesick little puppy. You would never guess that he was in his 20's....he looked fantastic and enjoyed galloping back and forth like a maniac. Everyone who knew him used to remind him that he wasn't 5 anymore, but he was loving life and feeling good. He enjoyed the girls most of all. They loved feeding him treats, and he loved eating them! He loved being curried with the soft blue brush. His lip used to twist and turn whenever you'd get an itchy spot. He would bow very regally to the girls when they called to him. He loved to pick up his feed tub and carry it around. He also loved a good roll. He made sounds like a dinosaur and tried to get as messy as possible. He was a really great guy.
Life was going great until late September of this year. Jack partially dislodged a shoe. The shoe spun sideways and a nail punctured the sole of his hoof. An abscess resulted from the injury. Our farrier dug it out and packed it, but a few days later, Jack was still significantly lame. He developed a fever and looked awful. We had the vet out, and he debrided the hoof even more. He said that there was a large chunk missing, and that his recovery would be a long one. He warned that the infection could have gotten into the bone, and that million dollar racehorses can't even be saved in those instances. We did 3 days of oral SMZ's and bute, and the fever never returned. He had 3 more days of antibiotics and bute. He was babying the left hind foot, but he was bearing weight on it. A week and a half passed, and things were going as well as they could.
Out of the blue, on Friday, October 7, Jack took a turn for the worse. He didn't appear to be in any pain and his appetite was voracious, but he stopped bearing weight on the sore foot. He was bearing all of his weight on his right hind leg. He had it almost centered under his body. He looked like he was going to fall at any second. He refused to lay down, and it was apparent that the right hind leg couldn't take much more. The vet came out on Saturday morning and agreed that there was nothing more that we could do for him. She was amazed that he was even standing. She couldn't say for certain where the ataxia came from. I didn't want him to fall and hurt himself further, and he was too unsteady to put a person into harm's way. We all decided that it was time to let him cross the Rainbow Bridge. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. We took him out to his favorite spot in the pasture and let him eat his senior feed and graze for a bit. I hugged him and gave him lots of kisses and told him how much we all loved him. The vet was very kind, and his passing was swift and peaceful. We buried him in his favorite spot. It was a beautiful, sunny day.
I feel like someone has ripped a huge chunk out of my heart. I miss him so much. I cannot believe that he is gone. He was the best horse ever. He was such a wonderful friend. I feel blessed to have known him. I will never forget you, Jack. I pray that when my time comes, you are waiting for me in heaven. Until that day, run free, my friend. I love you.
My heart is broken, but I know that you are free from pain. Thank you for loving me. I will always love you.
Vanessa & The Kids