A recently posted thread regarding the tragedy of the loss of a beautiful young foal due to one of those unforeseen incidents, has made me realize after so many years of owning and breeding horses, how each new breeding is so filled with anticipation and so fraught with the high likelihood of a bad outcome before a breeding results in an adult, sound and usable horse, that it is a not too well kept secret we need to talk about.
Sometimes, we miss the mark, by spending more time talking about this show, or that horse, or this actual or perceived irregularity in our industry, when perhaps, one of the benefits to newcomers should be some hard cold facts about the realities of breeding an animal which from my standpoint, had intended to go extinct on the North American Continent, along with the Sabre-Tooth Tiger, the Wooly Mammoth, the Camel, and the Dire Wolf.
Having just spent a considerable amount of money (and who hasn't) on a mare, who appeared to be going to the "other side" and was taking her time about it, with negative objective findings on x-ray, ultra-sound, and with bowel sounds, no temp., etc., I finally decided to take the mare home, rather than have her euthanized at the clinic and after three days in intensive care by a nurse mare, who walked her around and around and around, and lay by her when she lay down, in addition to some advice from Marilyn Lang, this mare, looked at my check book, realized I wasn't going to spend any more money and got better.
Just getting some mares to conceive (especially the good ones) may require the cash reserves of a Midas, then to get this mare to the delivery date without losing the foal before it's birth, or mare and foal at birth, or foal after birth, or post-partum torsion four months after the birth of the foal, causing the death of the mare, or accident to the foal, or septicemia or, and on and on and on - these possibilites or even in some cases reasonably likely possibilities should be the first seminar a person wanting to be a breeder should attend.
If you can't deal with loss, don't breed horses, because they will either make a man (and I use that in not a gender specific sense) or you should take up something a little less traumatic, such as nascar driving or body contact sports, they are less emotionally painful.
I think, long time and some less than long time breeders, need to be up front with those who have been in this business for a short time or are just starting or are thinking about breeding a beloved mare for the first time. I've heard breeders who have bred hundreds of horses, admit crying over the phone to their vet about a horse they are losing, and still are not innured to the death of one of their animals. It is nothing to be ashamed of, but it is something we should tell
the newcomers about - and prepare them for the realities of this game so that along with birth, death (even when if seems unfair) is part of the entire picture.
Aug 1 2008, 04:55 PM
Agreed - though sometimes only the experience will prove to you that breeding simply costs both your wallet and your heart too much. Struggling to keep a baby alive when it had no possibility of surviving - and succeeding - is one of the most joyous and rewarding experiences life offers. FInding, after that baby was thriving and healthy and growing and developing one heck of a personality, that a feral dog had somehow gotten into her box, pulled her down, and partially eaten her, had to have been the most excruciating and heartbreaking experience that life sometimes hands you.
Losing that exquisite filly didn't stop me from breeding at the time, but her memory was a huge incentive toward making the decision when I ultimately did choose to stop.
It is these terrible ironies which are not always discussed or the way we lose horses.
In my case, I had one show gelding, which I sold, later disemboweled on a fence,
a show mare of my own, run through a wood fence and come back to do the same on the shattered remanents of the fence, and a leased mare, brought down by dogs and gutted in a field where she was supposedly safe.
Breeders of any duration, can fill volumes with not only the difficulties of breeding horses, but the horrors of how these animals with the minds of prey animals either do harm to themselves or are the victims of predators, both human and animal. This is not a field for those who do not realize the costs, both financially and emotionally of raising these large and "at risk" beings.
I would rather see some, own and enjoy one or two horses and give such horses a good life, than encourage people to become breeders with all the problems which this endeavor entails.
Aug 1 2008, 06:01 PM
Oh Lorriee, you are so right. I feel for this poor lady who just lost a wonderful and precious colt. A wise breeder once told me "Horses live and horses die, if you aren't prepared for this get out of the business". I also know for myself and I am sure for many others who have had the vagaries of horse breeding fall on their heads like a ton of bricks, there are times, sometimes, years of sadness and depression over such losses.
I can only say that when I lean over my fence and watch their beauty as they are frolicking, dancing, airs above the ground, it encourages me to stay the course. Nothing else satisfies or inspires me in quite the same way, well sometimes maybe a good appletini, but hey, I am an addict! Not of the drink but of the drinkers of the wind!
Aug 1 2008, 10:08 PM
My mother asked me one, how I did it. I have lost so many horses over the years, from aborted foals, new borns, weanlings, yearlings, mares, stallions and the old ones.... I told her that I hated it, that when you deal in life, you must deal in death. It does not make it easy to deal with so many but after a few you know that with time the pain does heal. AND the memories of the lovely creatures that bless my life even for one moment are worth all the pain.
Aug 1 2008, 11:09 PM
This is so true. No one could prepare me for the sudden death of Eternal Strangers and I mourned him as I would have my own child. You just cannot know when or which it will occur to. But if you haven't got the fortitude to do the right thing and euthanase a horse when that moment comes, you really shouldn't be in this game. I am still paying off the breeding of this horse, even though he has been gone this past year, but still, every moment I spent with him is treasured in my heart. He was my buddy and for that I will ever be grateful.
I so agree with telling newcomers that hey, it is super that you want to get into horses, but you must be aware that like all animals, they die and they can die very easily. Much heartbreak is involved and you have to really love what you are doing over the long term to make the effort worthwhile.
Aug 1 2008, 11:52 PM
When I first got into breeding many years ago, I had a couple of years of joyous success. Every mare bred was in foal, and every foal was alive and healthy. Then I spoke with a much more experienced breeder who told me . . . Livestock is Deadstock. At the time I thought her cold and callous. However what she was, was a realist. It can happen to anyone, at any time, whether you do everything right or not. It sometimes can just . . . happen, and there is little we can do about it except learn and go on.
Aug 2 2008, 12:53 AM
What get's me, is that every time I even breathe the "S" word (show, or start under saddle), the horse in question will no doubt be the one who injures itself. "Murphy" will usually make sure it's the one you least want to lose!
Yep, when you've got livestock you've got deadstock. I don't think it matters how many animals you lose whether to death or a debilitating injury, you never get used to it. It always breaks your heart. I think you just get better at picking yourself up and moving on.
Nancy Bourque/Ibriz Arabians
Aug 2 2008, 02:38 AM
Sometimes it seems to me that the best horses are determined to self-destruct. I don't think that a person can ever get used to that, no matter how long you are at it. I've come to realize that horses will be horses. You can't wrap them in cotton wool, you can't keep them from hurting themselves, you can just be grateful for the time you have them .
Nadj al Nur
Aug 2 2008, 04:55 AM
We all know that every living thing will someday die. We know that intelectually.....and some of us even think we can prepare ourselves for it, but I do not believe that we are ever ready for the deaths of those we love, even when, it is expected,..........the thing is, that when a horse, or any being that you love dies, the love you have for them does not die with them, and what we do with all of that love that is left is what will make the difference.Some will hoard it and never take another risk with it, and some will give it away to another.
Aug 2 2008, 01:23 PM
If you can't face losing your animals, the last thing you need to do is raise animals. This past year I lost two dogs due to eating a possum that died in my yard from eating poison. I've lost several cows due to different causes, hardware disease, bloat, ruptured uterus, prolasped uterus, ect.,Went many years without losing any horses and then lost 3 last spring due to eating this godawful stinging weed that grows in the spring, it appeared after having 2 years of drought and then plentiful rain, It looks like cilantro. So. if I experience all that death and keep on, you can be assured whoever I deal with whether it be dogs, cows or horses will know that livestock can become deadstock. Kay
Aug 2 2008, 03:08 PM
Someone, think it was CA Butler, told me VERY early into all of this, that if you have livestock, you will eventually have dead stock. At the time, I thought "what a horrible thing" to say, but really..no truer words have been spoken.
HOWEVER, knowing that, accepting that, and actually experiencing it, are all so so very different.
It kills me to this day that a vet using a drug used many many times during the course of breeding seasons and with soooo many many mares, that it killed a new momma nursing her month old colt. It will hurt my heart and my soul every time I think of my Jamill, fighting so gallantly for 4 months..and finally just laying down for the last time. AND I do blame myself...I go through all the "what if's" and whys and wherefores..could I have? what if I? should I have? etc.
It hurts every time someone posts, it all wells up again, and I truly fell the pain all over again.
All I can say is this....we must keep going and try to learn the lessons these deaths may bring. My vet, to this day, (three years now) has not used that particular drug, and the one she does use is IM..never IV..so lesson learned?
Will I ever in the future bottle feed again....doubt it..as the aspiration of the milk MIGHT have caused the pneumonia in my foal...perhaps another lesson learned.
I again am truly sorry with everyone who faces such dilemmas, and my heartfelt sympathy goes out to them.
Lorriee, I totally agree with you, that certain things need to be brought out into the open, especially with newcomers, but truly feel that the "marketeers" will never tell..couldn't sell a horse or two or three that way.
They cannot seem to tell the truth about a lot of other things..so why would this be brought up?
Ah well.....so life goes on..we try our best...and we hang in!
TOP Of The Hill Arabians
Those of us who grew up in a different time, with families who were born into farm familes and were also born in the 19th Century were raised among people who did not have the benefits of either the health care or veterinary care that we presently have. They were less visibly emotional about the losses than we, but they still mourned the losses of family and were more conditioned (or some would say hard hearted) about the loss of livestock. Birth and death were a part of the process of being human and living close to the land.
During my life time, I've seen health care (and veterinary care) go from reasonable guesses, to the use of multimillion dollar machinery for diagnostic
procedures and even robotics to do surgery; from having a young relative die from the septicemia resulting after heating his thumb to a hammer (since antibiotics were hardly available in some parts of the country even in the 1950's)
to third and fourth generations of some antibiotic families.
When we first started using the ultrasound, in physicians' office in the late 1950's,
it was used primarily for dissolving calciium depositis (and bone chips?) in synovial fluid. When I would do such a procedure to a patient, I used to think it was "fake" medicine - who knew this silly piece of machinery would one day be a diagnostic tool, rather than a questionable piece of treating equipment.?
My physician husband, who was an internest and a gastroenterologist, gave my veterinary his three year old endoscope, in 1970, when his group decided to get the new state of the art endoscope which utilized fiberoptics (light without heat) for visualizing the site, and my vet, who was in a Thorobred nursery area was absolutely thrilled to be able to see that which he formerly could only feel or guess to be true. I used to argue, at that time, with my vet about the use of a highly used antibiotic, called Combiotic, since it was neither fish nor fowl
as an antibiotic because it was used as both a bacteriostatic and a bacteriocidal, meaning that it didn't trreat either group appropriately. Today, the big gun, Gentamyacin is used IV for the bad bugs.
Over the years, both fields, human medicine and veterinary medicine have developed, not in leap and bounds, but in an almost 90 degree (straight line) upward evolvement. However, the ordinary citizen, at least in the US, still have little knowledge about their own anatomy and physiology, nor knowlege about appropriate and inappropriate treatment for themselves or others and even those with better than average knowledge sometimes expect more from these fields than the organisim (either human or animal) will respond to, even when money is not an issue. Remember Barbaro (spl)? Biologicals are not mechanicals, despite the belief that if it is broke, you can replace the value or the clutch or the brake, biological entities are far more complicated, including being a big bag of chemical reactions, which can go upside down when one little electrolye is either a bit too high or a bit too low.
In the end, medical/surgical treatment is only as good as the practitioners and a hell of a lot of luck. Most important to remember is that such treatment is still as much art as it is science. Our socieity takes much of it's knowledge about science from television and often from fictional accounts written by twenty-something writers with no scientific knowledge or who use information from some, "expert" on the set and they pick and choose that which will advance the story. Often the public takes this to be absolutely true and have inaccurate expectations should similar incidents arise in the lives of themselves or others. (I used to have to represent groups or individuals who were accused by families who expected miracles and were sure that negligence was the reason a family member did not survivie a life ending catastrophe).
The bottom line is the silly old statement: First you are born, then you grow up and then you die - sometimes the entity doesn't even get to the the grow up part,
and while the entitiy, whether human or animal is trying to make this trip, there are a whole host of things; biological, mechanical, accidental, or merely conditions inherently incompatible with life, trying to interfer with the trip.
Breeders are embarking on a voyage in which most things are lined up against their making it to the other shore with their product safe, sound and with a reasonable likelihood of a future.
It's a hard old world out there, knowing about it doesn't make it any easier, it just helps to know that there "be dragons" in this trip. So while we are on board, let those of us with experience tell our younger fellow passengers that there is a time for bailing and then there is a time for making peace with the probable outcome.
Aug 2 2008, 08:46 PM
Wow what a difficult subject.
I agree, you can tell someone every aspect of losing a horse or foal but until you actually experience it, you don't know how you will react.
Advising people on having the very best Vet is a good idea. I had a vet who I had to use in an emergency as my vet wasnt available, he killed my horse by misdiagnosing a simple thing. 24 hrs later he was dead and could have been saved.
I have also been through the foal who lived 2 weeks and died scenario. Mom had no milk, Vet tried to bring her milk in, baby had to get seramune, then a plasma transfusion, then another several thousand in vet bills and he died in my arms.
I have also had elderly horses die and need put down.
Its never easy and it doesnt get easier. Unless you detatch yourself from them and don't have emotions.
Horses ARE accidents waiting to happen as well.
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