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In Honor of a Dear Friend

 Aristotle.  Beautiful sorrel thoroughbred with a huge elegant stride.  17 hands at his wither.  Almost 14 hands at the center of his sway back.  The 14 hands at his back is, of course, an exaggeration but the 17 hands certainly isn’t.

  I met Aristotle almost 6 years ago.  He and three other horses were brought to us after being saved from starvation, abuse, neglect , illness and ultimately the slaughterhouse.  All four, one mare, two geldings and Aristotle were skin and bones, had rough coats and long hooves.  Two of them were lame and one had severe diarrhea.

  The immediate task at hand was to feed all of them lots and lots of hay and put them in a large two acre pen so they could exercise freely.  It was quickly evident that they were Aristotle’s herd.  True to his wonderful nature he didn’t dominate them.  He took care of them.  If one of the other horses wasn’t feeling well he would stay with them.

  All four of them needed de-worming, vitamins and salt.  They were all much older than represented and they needed their teeth floated.  Colonel Hickory had multiple abscesses in both front feet.  Dona Luna had infection in both eyes and a very poor coat condition.  Navajo had explosive diarrhea and was lame.  Aristotle just needed food.  Lots and lots of food.

  Although Aristotle was the thinnest of them all his spirit soared.  His eyes were full of hope.  As if he knew his life was about to change for the better.  He was a beautiful mover and covered a lot of ground with each stride.  Remind me to tell you just how big his stride was….even at a walk.  I am 5’3” tall.  People were known to literally fall to their knees because they were laughing so hard watching me lead him.  Me lead him?   I thought since we obviously weren’t going to ride Aristotle that T.C. and I would pony him around the ranch.  T.C. the “Wonder Horse”.  Easy going, 15 hand, Quarter Horse, gelding.  We walked for a few minutes and then we started into a soft trot.  T.C. and I had to canter almost gallop to keep up with Aristotle.  We were both surprised how his huge spirit and lust for life moved him so.  He was truly an athlete even at his age.

  Beverly, his owner was told that he was in the 1976 Mexico City Olympics.  The tattoo on his upper lip indicated that he had probably raced also.  Unfortunately the numbers were too vague to read.  It was very easy to imagine that he could have done it all.  Jumping.  Racing.  Dressage.  He was so graceful and strong. 

  It took about six months to get all four horses stabilized.  Although we hadn’t found a consistent remedy for *Navajo’s diarrhea.  When they first arrived they were all four hard to catch, fearful and skeptical of us and our intentions.  Now they were trusting and gracious.

  In the next year we lost Dona Luna and Colonel Hickory.  Dona got very sick very quickly.  I called Dr. Leroy Martinez and his finding was either a tumor in her stomach or possibly a fetus that had died.  He put her to rest.  Colonel Hickory laid down one evening and peacefully passed away.  It was a gift to be with them at the end.

 Navajo and Aristotle thrived.  Navajo was the youngest, 19 or so years, loved to be ridden once in awhile.  He had big bones and a strong back.  We finally got him stabilized and he lived a healthy life until last year.  He died of colic one evening.

  Aristotle quickly became an ambassador on the ranch.  Sometimes we would put the new horses next to him.  Especially the fearful ones.  He would help convince them that this was charm school not boot camp.  He equally gave his time and affection to people.  He loved to have his head rubbed.  If you got on your knees he would drop his enormous head all the way to the ground for a rub or just simply to be closer to you.  It is truly a gentle horse that loves to have their entire head rubbed and don’t push into you. It was a wonderful discovery one spring when I was giving him an iodine scrub bath to get rid of the last of his itchy winter coat and flaky skin.  It was really sudsy and on a whim I started washing his face with a dripping wet, sudsy sponge.  I don’t know if I have ever seen a more ecstatic horse!  I was so happy to indulge him in his joy.  I know it wasn’t my whim at all that made it happen.  It was him in his quiet, respectful way telling me what he wanted.

  He was healthy and happy until about three months ago when he started to slow down.  The soles of his feet became soft and tender.  He wasn’t as enthusiastic about his “oatmeal” that him and Black Jam got twice a day.  He still frolicked a bit but certainly not with the same vigor.  None of the changes were dramatic.  It was gradual and subtle. 

  Three weeks ago he was choking badly right after he was fed.  We massaged his throat and eventually put the hose in his mouth and slowly ran water.  He was sweating and afraid.  Then he was able to swallow again which relaxed him.  While he was choking we saw and felt a lump in his throat.  We thought it was the food because the lump went away when he was able to swallow.  He did fine for two days and then he choked again.  We called Dr. Stuart McCall and he diagnosed him with a “heart murmur“.  The lump in his throat was an aneurysm that hadn’t ruptured.  Neither Margie, Stuart nor I were ready to say goodbye to Aristotle.  He seemed comfortable.

  The next morning was a different story.  We found Aristotle quietly, methodically walking in a big circle around a tree.  Once in a while he would stop and gaze off in the distance with his ears up.  We knew we were going to lose him.  Dr. McCall had other emergencies and was unable to come.  We called Dr. Doug Thal for help and they were coming as soon as they could.  For five hours he walked.  We could literally see his pulse in every visible vein. Occasionally he stopped so we could splash water in his mouth.  We would sometimes walk with him with our hand on his neck telling him what a wonderful horse he was.  The vet arrived and put him to rest. 

  He was regal, dignified, intelligent, kind and spirited.  He died of heart failure but he had one of the strongest, biggest hearts I have ever known.  We miss you, big guy.  It was our honor to know you, share you and learn from you.

   Heartfelt thanks to Beverly and Robert Ramsey who upheld their promise to Aristotle and Dona Luna to make their last years good ones.  Jeanne and James Grise who did the same for Colonel Hickory and Navajo.  Dr. Stuart McCall, Dr. Leroy Martinez, Dr. John Snyder and everyone at Thal Equine.  Dr. Esteres and her assistant Lyndsey were amazing.  They were compassionate and professional.  In just a few minutes they got to know and love Aristotle.  We appreciate and are humbled by your commitment to helping horses and your respect for us.   Also, “Dr.” Duane Flegel, our farrier, who so appreciated Aristotle practically holding his big old foot up for him.  Also to everyone who knew him, was touched by him and touched him.  You all cared about him and we appreciate you.

 

 

*Read Navajo’s story on this site.  Newsletter, then archives, then Navajo.

Photos courtesy of Delanda Scotti and Robert Eggers

When integrity and experience count

Contact Jennifer
7M Ranch, Hwy 52, Longmont
303 518-7830

Email: horsesfirst@cybermesa.com