Nalle was a dreamboat as a youngster. Oh, he had his moments but after we gelded him, he was just perfect and he never ever scared me - and I'm a bit of a coward, so that is quite easy to do.
Then at the age of three, when we had just begun to back him, he contracted Wobbler's disease which put everything to a grinding halt.
But slowly he got better and the nerve ends seemed to find new ways. Still, his temper was badly affected and from that winter on we were almost in a constant fight. I could never trust him or feel safe around him again - until the very last couple of weeks.
Long story short: Nalle improved but the right hind leg never quite seemed to work right. He was seen by vets and equitherapists and the general conclusion was that it was secondary aftereffects to the Wobbler's and I got various training programs to strengthen his lumbar region and knees.
Thanks to a really great horse trainer, we finally got as far as cantering (when he was 8) but his leg kept acting up and his temper getting more and more lousy.
Last year I had him treated for inflamed knees and, again, we had to abort the rehab program. By this time I had help from wonderful (Monty Roberts CI) Jenny Ahlroth, and we decided to give Nalle an extra long recuperation period over fall, then she brought in a really skilled equitherapist who worked on Nalle Febr-April until he responded positively to the treatment and seemed less in pain now that his back wasn't in a corkscrew. Next step was 17 days at a horse spa where Nalle got to walk in water every day and dry up under infrared lights and whatnot. He was better than ever when he got home, so we started with light riding and double lining. After a month I had a horse that FINALLY showed joy over working and searched like a bloodhound for the poles to trot over. :) :) :) I felt that we were finally going forward!
But it didn't last long. In July I had to face the fact that once more, Nalle's knee started to act up and made him uncomfortable.
I had committed to giving him this year whatever he needed, so I contacted a rehab trainer who works with the Equiband. She was willing to take him home and do what I obviously couldn't, but first I wanted my vet to check him - this was Aug 4.
As you can understand, Nalle never got as far as the rehab place. The vet has followed him from birth so he knows I've tried and tried but with the same depressing results, so he did a very close examination and the results were that the right knee was a disaster area. Somewhere along the line - not recently - the disc has been disaligned (word?) and cracked. There was fluid in the joint and several arthritis lumps that snagged the patella which was the cause of his weird stumbles in trot. They could of course operate but the prognosis was less than zero in this case. In all the grief at least it was a comfort to finally understand. Everything about Nalle's behavior made sense now! If only we had known earlier...
The option of keeping him as a "field ornament" was discussed, but I know how fat he would get without exercise, how painful it would be for him to try and walk in the thick mud and half-frozen muck during winter, and painkillers can only be had for so long before they start taking out the system.
I couldn't do that to him. So there was only ever one option, however sad. On a daily dose of Metacam, Nalle had the last two months of summer with green grass and open fields with his friends, and his end was peaceful and serene in the same green field with the taste of apples in his mouth.
So why am I writing this? Well, not to get a lot of condolences - I do hope you can see past the sad part. So, my reason for this is twofold.
Firstly, I want to put a seed in your head that when the day comes and you have to make that grueling decision for your best friend, do get yourself and your needs and feelings out of the equation and think only on what is best for the animal.
Secondly, and almost more importantly; If your horse is acting up - don't leave any stone unturned in the effort to find out what bothers him.
My life lesson around horses - and I've been around them for almost 50 years - is that if they are grumpy and mean spirited they are almost always in some sort of pain. Over and over again, I have been proved right about this.
And I believe it is our responsibility to find the cause and act on it accordingly.
Nothing about Nalle was ever easy, and I have probably done a lot of things wrong or badly or not enough. But I also know I didn't cause his injury or could've done something different to prevent it and I did all I could to give him every chance to get better - never knowing I was making it worse. I just sorely wish we had discovered the real cause much earlier, because it would've saved us both a lot of pain - but there it is.
Bottom line: Don't make the same mistake! I know now that to love them is also to know when to let go.
Sleep now, my beautiful boy, and when you wake up there will be no more pain, ever.