Saturday, 12 March 2011

Pandora - a warrior on her way to heaven

In certain cultures, when someone important dies they tip back their heads and scream at the sky, not in grief, but in warning to the heavens that a warrior is on their way into their midst.

Late last night, I had to have one of my horses put to sleep.

I’d been in London at a meeting with a book publisher and caught the lunchtime train out of Paddington. The train was empty and fast, and even including a change at Exeter, I was still back in Barnstaple by four thirty.

Hungry and tired, I drove the twenty miles home as quick as I could. There’s nothing like reaching home after a stressy day, and even though it hadn’t been long since I’d seen my dog, he greeted me like I’d been away for months.

I heard the quad bike pull up outside and hoped Debbie would greet me just as enthusiastically. She did, but not in the way I’d thought.

“Pandora’s down!” Debbie yelled, even before she’d opened the door, the words pouring out so fast I could hardly catch them. “I thought she was laying down in the field but she wasn’t. She couldn’t get up. I got her up in the end and moved her away from the others into another field. But she went down again, and now I can’t get her back up!”

Still in my suit I threw on a coat, jumped into a pair of wellys and said, “Get help. Phone the vets. I’ll meet you down there,” as I ran out the door.

I found Pandy tangled against the fence almost upside down. She looked like a different horse, tucked-up and skinny – how can a horse suddenly look so skinny and frail? – and pasted head to food in thick mud.

Pandora came to us two years ago on loan as a companion for Georgie. Last week I introduced Alfie to them so they were a trio and they settled down into a comfortable routine. Georgie fell instantly in love with Alfie, and Pandy just let them get on with it. Pandy is around 30 years old.

With a friend we managed to get Pandy away from the fence, on her feet and smothered her in rugs to keep her warm. The vet arrived soon after.

The vet was wonderful, fussing and talking to her as he made his examination. There were a few problems and they were all related to old age. Still, never say never, he gave her some pain relief and left us for a couple of hours to see how she’d respond.

It was late. It was dark. It was cold and it was only fair the friends who’d rallied round went home. I was really grateful for their support.

So I stood with Pandy and talked to her, kept her alert and stopped her from going down. She even ate a little hay.

When the vet came back, it was clear the pain relief was wearing off and she’d deteriorated. It was just her time. She was old and tired and it was just her time. Earlier that day she’d eaten breakfast, was perky and happy and half a day later… If you’re going to go, and all that.

She slipped away just before ten with me and the vet talking to her, Dex my dog beside us, and an owl hooting in the distance.

I didn’t tip my head back and scream at the sky because I’m British and we don’t do that, but just the same, I want to warn the heavens that a warrior is on her way into their midst, and this warrior, this perky, brave little warrior, is called Pandora. Rest in peace baby girl.


  1. We're sorry for your loss.
    It's never easy but you were there for her passing. As you say, if you're going to go...

  2. Oh heck. I'm so sorry. People who don't own horses don't really understand the bond you establish with them.

    I've got one in not too good a situations now. Welsh section D cob - my baby. Had him from a baby and he's 14yo. Unfortuanately, he's got another bout of laminitis and his paddock is bare. Echo could just about live on fresh air and has had nothing but hay all winter.

    The farrier agrees with me that the only way my little horse will have a life is if we can find him a home in a riding school where he will be stabled and ridden several hours per day. Otherwise, his days are numbered. I can't give him enough work and it's not fair to keep him locked up all summer.

    Problem is - after a life with me since a baby, will he like that sort of lifestyle (if we can find a suitable place for him) or am I kinder to do something more drastic but know he will never suffer ? It feels like a dreadful decision either way - but it needs done soon...

  3. Oh Sarah-Jane, what a situation to be in! That's got to be the toughest decision any of us ever have to make.

    Aren't there laminitis masks you can get? Might be worth a little investigation to see what's on the market, and maybe chat to a vet - though I'm sure you've thought of both.

    Are there any equine forums where laminitis is bound to be discussed? Someone there might have an idea.

    I know I'm searching for an answer, and i know women hate it when men do that, I'm sorry. I'll shut up.

    I know exactly how tough these decisions are to make. I also know whatever you choose, it will be the best for Echo.