Roger then went on to his next career - one that he would work at for twenty years or so. He became a pony horse on the track, taking the babies to the starting gate, winner's circle, and back to the barn.
He ended up with an amazing owner named Heather. Heather worked at the track during the spring and fall, and Roger was her "Steady Eddie".
In the fall that Roger was twenty-six years old, Heather was moving to Arizona. Concerned about Roger and how the long trip and the heat would affect the old guy, she turned to Save A Forgotten Equine for assistance in placing Roger in a new home. When I first saw Roger's listing, I though how perfect he would be as a mount for Mike, who would do light riding, mainly on trails, and Roger was big enough to pack Mike's weight. Mike has soft hands, rides quietly, and is a very kind rider.
We submitted the application and were chosen to become Roger's new owners. In the late fall of 2011, Roger came to the farm. Heather had written pages on Roger - what he ate, when, how much, type of bit, stretching, the works! But I wasn't able to find all the ingredients for Roger's slop.
So began the process of trying to find what worked and what would make Roger happiest. A year and a half later, I still wasn't able to completely figure it out. Roger was the most sensitive horse I have ever had to deal with - he could be quite the Drama Queen. He had many "girlfriends" that lived next door over the months. The very act of walking into a "girlfriend's" stall with a halter was enough to cause a meltdown of epic proportion - running the fence, screaming his head off. On farrier days, Roger was always first - simply because that was when he would be most calm.
In the past several months, Roger declined. He wasn't eating well, despite having his teeth done. Soaked feed, Equine Sr, hay cubes or pellets, were left ignored and rotting in his tub. Hay from the net was pulled out, spread in his stall, and pee'd on. He stood with his back to the world, his head in the corner, moping and depressed. The only time he showed any level of mental peace was when he was turned out with "his girl" - even then, there was drama... normally just on Roger's part. If a neighboring gelding so much as looked at the mare, Roger would posture, herd her to the other side of the pasture and place himself between her and the other guy.
At the end of February, Roger's demeanor took a radical change for the worse. The look on his face looked pained. I made a decision to put him down. I contacted Heather and she made some suggestions, things I might try, so I decided to delay euthanasia. I figured he'd had ulcers all along because he was a cribber and a thoroughbred who spent a lot of time at the track. So I treated him for ulcers. He got pain medication for tummy and arthritis. He got straight alfalfa hay. He was offered peppermints. He improved slightly. He still wasn't eating as good as I hoped, but he was eating BETTER.
Last weekend, I went out to feed at night, and after dumping Roger's bucket of slop into his tub, he looked over his shoulder at me, sighed heavily, and walked in slowly to check his tub. He nibbled for a few minutes, then returned to his place to stand and ignore the rest of the world. I went into the house and talked to Mike, telling him that Roger wasn't eating and that I was going to try something else to try to get him to eat. Mike listened to what I proposed then said "Maybe it really is time. He isn't a science experiment."
This comment rang in my head for a while, bouncing off the inside of my skull. I went to the barn and stood for a long time, watching Roger. He wasn't happy. I knew that. Roger had NEVER seemed happy at my house. He was in pain. I knew that too. You could tell from the expression on his face that he still hurt despite pain meds.
Why was I keeping him alive? For me? It felt like I was giving up. For Heather? She loves him still and wanted what was best for him. Whatever the reason, it didn't seem like it was best for Roger.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and whispered, "Tell me what to do." When I opened my eyes, Roger was looking at me, then he looked away. I decided I would let go. I made an appointment for today. Last night and this morning, Roger's meals were soaked Equine Sr, grated carrots and apples.
I have an awesome vet. He sedated Roger and let him get sleepy before administering the euthanasia. Roger slumped slowly and passed very quietly.
A friend of mine posted the quite below on Facebook and I borrowed it. While I have only loved Roger for a short time, Heather loved him all his life.
Heather - I am so very sorry. I hope some day you can forgive me. And I hope you can find it in your heart to understand I let Roger go because I thought it was best for HIM.
I pressed my head into his and assured him that I was here as I had always been.
And I stroked his face, smoothing closed his eyes and I replied, "With all my heart."
And he looked deep into my soul and he asked me "Do you love me enough to let me go?"
And I held him close and replied softly, "Yes"