Im A Skip


Appaloosa Gelding

April 14, 1994 - February 27, 2007
Owned By Thomas & Kathrine Surlak

On February 27, 2007, Im A Skip went on to greener pastures. Despite 2 1/2 years of trying to get him sound and keep him sound, the painful decision to ease his pain was made. Though Tom could not bear to be present, I stood by Skip as he quietly passed on. He has been cremated and has been reunited with Tom. A beautiful wood box urn will be made for him, his last set of shoes will be cleaned up and painted gold and placed in the box along with a lock of his tail.

To say we are devastated is an understatement. Skip was a part of our family. He leaves behind not only us, but the other 4 horses, Finder's Dream a.k.a Kohl (Appaloosa), You Cant Imagine a.k.a. Nutmeg and She's A Rainbow a.k.a. Annie (both Quarter Horses) and Indio Joe (Paint Horse), all distantly related to him. He also leaves behind our other four-legged 'kids', Casey (our dog) and Presto and Shadow (our cats).

Skip came into my life in January 1999 when I purchased him as a companion to my Thoroughbred mare, Cree's Tom Boy, a.k.a Tomi, which ironically was just a few months before Tom and I started dating. Who was to know at that time how much he would play in our lives, but as the years passed, we found out.

Skip was a quiet, gentle soul. A very green 4, coming 5 year old, but he developed into a wonderful mount and joy to ride. As Tom and I grew closer in our relationship, I also noticed the bond forming between Tom and Skip. Though Tom never had a lot of experience with horses and was rather unsure of them, he spent time helping me, willing to learn. He would help me clean the paddocks, feed them and even learned how to muck a stall. When it looked like I was going to have to move away in October 1999, as I had lost the rental at the farm were I was at, Tom openly expressed that he did not want me to leave. He was upset that we would not be able to see each other that much, if at all, depending on how far away I moved and that his plans were affected. It was then that he asked me to marry him. Tom got his parents to allow for me to move into their house, and made comfortable arrangements for me in the basement. He went with me to check out farms to board the two horses and when I told him that I may have to sell Skip, as money was getting tight, he refused to allow me to sell him and stated he would help cover his board. He became an active participant in the horses' care.

I decided to give Skip to Tom as my wedding gift to him, as I had seen over time just how much Tom loved Skip and vice versa. I had made the decision in the beginning May of 2000, as we had planned on breeding Tomi, and everything was set on the breeding. I would have a foal from her. She was to be bred to an Appaloosa Stallion named Sleepy Native via artificial insemination. Everything was all set when tragically, three days before she was to be inseminated, she died of an aneurysm in front on my eyes. I was devastated. My dream of Tomi having a foal was gone and I was without a horse. Tom at the time did not know I had decided to give him Skip and I would not take him back now, Skip was his. I had not been prepared for the loss of Tomi and though I had wanted to have her buried at Abby Glen Pet Cemetery, I did not have the funds to do so. In an effort to easy my sorrow, Tom put up the money to have Tomi privately buried at Abbey Glen. He also said he would put up the money for me to get a horse, one of my choosing when I was ready. In July 2000, Indio Joe, a yearling Paint Stallion, entered my life.

Skip continued to be a shining star in our lives. I taught him to do lower-level dressage, to jump and to do western pleasure and trail. Tom learned to ride him in his own way and I never once had to question if Tom would be safe on Skip – I knew Skip would baby sit him. I took Skip to several shows over the years and he always came home with ribbons. Tom came along always in the role of the proud father at the show. Skip also became a great lesson horse, teaching many children and a few adults how to ride. Tom and I went on several trail rides together after Joe was broke. Skip even did "pony" rides along with Nutmeg one year for the Marines at the Picatinny Arsenal. A student's father was stationed there and asked if we could do it for them. Skip and Nutmeg never fussed for a minute as kids and adults took turns for 3 hours that day.

Though Skip had had some health issues, mostly allergic reaction to the yearly vaccines, he had always been an easy keeper. In August 2004 that was to change. That year I had attended equine dental school in Virginia and had decided not to take Skip, or anyone for that matter, to my yearly round of shows which included going to the NJ State Fair. On my way home from the fair one evening, I decided to stop by the barn where the horses were boarded, and here to my horror was Skip standing in his stall with his feed bucket hanging off his right nostril. The S-hook of the bucket had pierced his nose. The bucket, which was originally attached to the stall wall, was on his face. Frantically I called the vet and called Tom. Little did I know when I made the calls that Skip also had injured his left hock. Tom and the vet arrived quickly and soon Skip's nostril was sewn-up, but the hock puncture wound was not. The vet was not 100% sure if the joint capsule was punctured or not, only time would tell. At that time also, we were not aware that he also suffered damage to his suspensory ligament in his left leg. When it became evident that he had sustained those injuries, I had him moved closer to home where I could spend more time on his rehab.

Slowly, as the month passed, he got better. Then without warning, he injured the leg again in September 2005 while being turned out, even with sports medicine boots. Again I worked at his recovery. The vet gave a guarded prognosis stating his sunken hind ankles were not a good sign. I did not listen. For Tom and Skip I would not quit trying to get Skip sound again. Time passed and he seemed to recover, his legs got better, but to prevent him from hurting himself again, I would not allow him to be turned out. He was doing well until August 2006 when he not only injured the left hind leg again but also severely coliced. The vet was pretty sure that part of his intestine had flipped over his spleen. It was recommended that he be taken to a clinic, but we said no, he was not a surgical candidate. Tom and I spent the night with him, taking turns monitoring him. Skip magically pulled through the colic, his intestine went back into place and he recovered beautifully, but the injury to the left hind leg involved the superficial flexor tendon now with a horizontal tear involving almost 1/3 of the tendon. The suspensory tendon show massive thickening. The vet discussed options on what we could do to keep him comfortable, but he was slowly breaking down. Again I did not listen; I did not want to give up hope for Skip or Tom. How could I tell Tom that his horse was breaking down and despite all my efforts, I could not stop it from happening.

Again we went back to the beginning on his rehab, he seemed to get better, and again I thought Skip will recover, but slowly he started to decline. It became hard for him to pick up his back feet to have them cleaned, he laid down more, and he developed sores on his elbows and hocks. He was not comfortable; he rested the injured leg more, putting more weight on the better leg, though it too was showing signs of breaking down. This past weekend he nose dived. He went lame on the leg again, holding the leg up and favoring it.

The most painful decision could not be put off any more; I had to tell Tom that Skip was breaking down, I could not stop it and I needed his permission to put him down. My wedding present, my third horse, given in love, now had to be taken. Tom was hurt beyond words, crushed that his Skip would no longer be a part of his life. I asked him if he wanted to be there, he quietly said no. I did not ask him what he wanted to do with Skip as accepting his death would be hard enough. I too was unsure.

Making the phone calls Monday morning to the vet and to the transportation company was hard enough. I did not tell Tom when it was going to happen, I could not bring the words to tell him. My hope of us having Skip until a ripe old age were shattered as well as my dream of taking him to any Appaloosa breed shows as I had hoped to once do.

I called a few close friends, those who had the joy of knowing us and Skip over the years. We talked of Skip's life, his bond with Tom and how difficult a time this was. One of our friends stood by my side as Skip passed on.

Though his is gone on to be with Tomi, he lives in our hearts as she does. His spirit will wait as Tomi's does at the Rainbow Bridge...

Skip's Support Group Honoree page.

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