Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Proper Tribute - Good Bye

*Aladdinn x Kasja
My tribute to Kasjan
 Sjan's Tree
Just a few days ago, I was walking around my yard taking in all the new spring blooms.  I have a rather large yard and did not notice right away that this tree had bloomed.  As I round the corner and looked up, I immediately burst into tears, and not just the little dribble, but a full on cry.  I sat down in front of that tree and let the tears flow.  Uncontrolled.  This was the first time in 6 years that this tree had bloomed.  I started this tree from a seedling and planted is straight out of a 5 gallon pot.  So, why did this bring me to such an immediate emotional state? 
If you will allow me, I would like to take you to the beginning.  Have your coffee ready and maybe some tissues.  I hope I can get through this without crying again.
1988 - We moved to a small farm in Olympia WA.  I had been to a horse barn the week before Christmas and heard a story about a horse that was 3 hours away.  I was told he needed a new home and the young woman that owned him could not afford to keep him any longer and was about to lose ownership because she was not current on her board bill.  I agreed to go take a look at him, the price was right.
On Christmas Eve, I drove up north and just in case, I have my truck and trailer with me.  You just never know about this like this and you want to be prepared.  What I was not prepared for was what I found.   
Sjan (Shawn) as I now call him, was standing there in a 4 x 8 box stall in cross ties.  There was not enough room for him to move.  He was standing in so much feces and urine, it made me sick.  He had hardly any mane or tail and he was so malnourished.  You could see all of his joints and every rib he had.  His coat was dull in color and I noticed that his skin did not look right but I was so over whelmed that I did not look any closer.  I knew right then I could not leave him there.  If for any other reason, I was taking him home with me to have him put down.  He was that bad.  I loaded him in my trailer and paid the young lady her fee and left.  As I drove down the road, I called animal protective services and reported the facility.  It was appalling, simply put. 
I called my vet and told him I was on my way home and needed him to stop by my place and help me with this horse.  He told me that it would be the day after Christmas before he could come by.  I looked at this horse and cried.  On closer inspection (in the light) I could see bumps all over his back, masses of them.  On his legs were mounds of yellow eggs (Bot Flies) and they were in a abundance.  When a horse licks himself or itches himself with his mouth, the eggs dislodge and enter their digestive system via their mouth.  They poop out the larva and the cycle starts all over, after the larva have fed on the insides of the horse.  As for the bumps in his back, those were warbles, another fly that is indicative in cows, not horses.  Those were larva working their way through his body to hatch. 
All I could do was put him in a stall and feed him, it was the least I could do.  What broke my heart was that he was so gentle and he had such a spark in his eye, he just did not have the energy to act like a normal horse.  Food, water and a pat on his head and I headed into the house for the night. 
Christmas morning, I went out and tended to him in his stall.  Gave him fresh bedding, food and water.  Another pat on the head and I went about my other chores.  That evening, I did the same thing.  He just stood there looking at me those big eyes.  Then he nickered at me and my heart broke again.  I hoped he did not realize that the vet was coming in the morning. 
The next morning the vet arrived and he looked him over and agreed with my assessment.  He was heavily invested and his digestive system was compromised and there was absolutely no guarantee he could make it through the winter.  BUT... the vet wanted to try because he saw the same thing I was seeing  in his eyes. So, we embarked on a 2 year struggle to get him well.   First, we shaved him right down to his bare skin.  I then burned all the hair to kill the eggs that were mixed up in the mess.   Then the vet started a worming process that would go on for the next 12 months.
The first year was spent getting him healthy and weight on him but that proved to be a challenge.  With his system so messed up I could not feed him the rich foods he needed to get weight on his bones.  It was even a challenge to get him to eat.  At the end of the first year, once we had him all cleaned up (and that was an ugly mess, I will leave out the details) he started to show interest in eating so we increased his food and the quality of this food. Slowly he started to put on good weight and showed signed of a good coat of hair as well. 
His spirits were up, his mane and tail were looking so much better and his coat started to get a nice shine.  He had to learn to stand still while being bathed, getting his feet trimmed and just general grooming.  At year 3, he went under saddle.  There we found out some more about his mental issues.
He had been "stalled whipped".  That is a process of teaching young colts primarily, to stand in one spot in the stall while the person in there was cleaning or feeding them.  Colts have a strong spirit and can be a bit to handle if you are not paying attention. Well, stall whipping is a process where they whip the front legs of a horse to get their attention.  Repeated abuse of this caused a lot of issues later on and I was now dealing with them.  I would not allow the reins to dangle around his legs because he would freak out very badly and darn near kill me and himself in the process.   Back to square one.
We worked on his legs.  Moving things over them and around them, touching him at every inch with every object we could fine.  We encouraged him to be still and that everything was going to be ok. It took me months to get him to the point that I could bridle him up and allow the reins to dangle beneath his chin and bump his legs.  This is important because if you drop your reins and you have to reach down to get them, you do not want your horse freaking out at the same time.  Slowly he trusted me and what I was doing. Slowly we gained ground.  Now, back to the saddle.  Surprising, this was easy for him.  No fuss or muss, I was so surprised.  We started trail riding.
Over the next 17 years Sjan was my buddy.
We went on many trail rides, competitive rides, camping, to the ocean and a few horse shows.  We played a game all the time (well several games).  He would come running into the pasture blowing, like Arabian horses do, and I would blow back at him and run for the nearest tree.  If I do not take cover, he would run me over.  So, I ran from tree to tree blowing at him while he prances and blew back at me and then he would neigh to so loudly.  I would laugh and when I was tired, he still want to play but got use to when Mom said NO.  He would nudge me and I would give him a treat.  It did not take long for him to even learn the word.  If I wanted him from the bottom of the pasture, I would yell "treat" at him and he would come running!!  Save me from walking my sorry ass down the hill to get him.. lol.
He looked so darn handsome at the shows.  Proud, shiny and spunky.

In 2005, I made the very painful decision to sell all of my horses and yes, Sjan was one of them.  That was the hardest thing I had to do.  I could no longer ride and it was not fair to him to just stand around.  He needed companionship and he needed to be working.  He was at his best when he was kept busy.  I took him to a trainer and asked that she find him a good home.  I said my good byes and left.  I refused to cry.  After a long drive home, I parked the trailer and went in the house and kept myself busy.. I was not going to cry.  I was not going to cry.
Two weeks later, I got the call the a family wanted to buy him and they were so excited.  I drove back up north and visited their farm and the facility he would be living in and gave my blessings.  They had a young daughter that wanted to learn to ride and he was gentle enough for her and yet the husband wanted a stout horse that he could ride and feel like he has substance beneath him and Sjan was perfect for that as well.
 Sjan is 23 years old in this picture. Who would have thought that would be possible.
I visited them often and short of a chandelier, that horse had everything he could ever have needed.  It was almost overkill but I would rather that he have that then the way I found him.  They loved him as much as I did.  I made the right decision for them both.  We have kept in contact over the past several years, until lately.  I have hesitated to call them and ask why, a part of me knew and I did not want to hear it. 
So, what does this have to do with the blooming tree?  Well, I brought that tree with me from the farm when we sold it and I planted it that same year. In 3 years time that tree was huge but it never bloomed.  This spring it did.  When I saw that tree, an over whelming feeling and emotion took over that I never thought that I would never experience.  Sjan had passed.  I knew if for sure, right then and there.  Those blossoms spoke to me.  He was gone. I sat beneath that tree and cried.  I finally mourned him in so many ways.
I mourned for him for the bad start in life and for all the bad treatment.  I mourned for the days that we would play, ride or just spend time grooming. I mourned for the decision of having to let him go. I mourned for his passing.  All I have now are my memories.  I will cherish them for the rest of my life. 
Good bye my Sjan... you were a blessing to me and you taught me a lot.
~ Mom



  1. Charlie your story is so special full of emotions, I shed a year or two with you! Sending hugs your way and a thank you for sharing such a special memory with us all xxx mucho love to you

    Kaz x

  2. Charlie that is a beautiful story. How lucky Sjan was to have had you come into his life. As hard as it was to part with him, without you he never would have made it that far. You have a "pegasus" now for a guardian angel. :)