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For My Friend, Reo ...

Are you an animal lover? If you have had the privilege of belonging to any kind of pet-dog, cat, horse-you know the joy and heartache.

Growing up, we always had a dog. I remember the first one was Spike, an Irish Setter who eventually went to a farm that we couldn’t visit. I’ve heard of a lot of pets going to this farm which must be pretty full by now.

As an adult, I had the opportunity to buy my own horse, something that I had wanted to do since I was a little girl. I had read every horse book there was and watched anything to do with horses on TV and movies and couldn’t wait until I could get one of my own. My first horse was a young filly named Misty and she was a handful. (Helpful hint for new horse owners: get an older horse who can help you learn, not a young one who needs to learn themselves.) Eventually I sold her because I wanted to get into showing horses and she was not a show horse.

I did get into showing Arabian horses and owned a few show horses through the years. I was not what you would call a calm rider, I would get nervous and the horse knew it and it became more stressful than fun. So I decided that I wanted to just ride, not show, just ride and enjoy a horse on trail rides without the pressure of showing.

I found a trainer down the road from me who had Quarter horses and she helped me look for a horse that I could have fun with and just ride. We looked at many of them and none of them were right, in fact, some of them I did not even test ride. Then we found Reo. She was a red dun Quarter horse who was nine years old, a little younger than I really wanted, but thought we would give it a try. She was being used with kids according to her sale ad so we figured she must be pretty safe.

I don’t remember all the details about the day we went to the farm to meet her but I definitely remember riding her. She was very calm and as I walked and trotted her around the ring, I decided to cue her to canter. Keep in mind that I did not like to go faster than a trot-ever-slow was my speed. Something just told me that I could trust her not to do anything crazy, so off we went. It was glorious and amazing! My trainer friend was videotaping the ride and almost dropped the camera in surprise! I did not want to get out of the saddle. To test her even more, I did a 360 on her back and she just stood there.

Needless to say, she was mine. I was so excited to finally have a horse that I could just ride and trust completely. Her name was “Jewels” at that time but I changed it to Reo after my favorite band REO Speedwagon.

She stayed at my trainer’s barn and we had fun with her. She was the perfect horse to take on trail rides with young horses who were learning to behave. Her calm demeanor let them know that the scary rock on the trail was not going to get them. She gave rides to kids who were new to horses and was the perfect lady-always calm and gentle. She had been taught to get kisses by putting her nose up to your face so you could smooch her. (This isn’t something you should just do with any horse by the way, the teeth are pretty close to the nose.)

My daughter also loves horses. I had taken Reo to another barn by the time Katie was old enough to ride solo and she had a ball with her. Her friend also had a horse at that barn and they would take both horses out for rides around our neighborhood. She was much braver than I was, they would be out loping down the road in the wintertime and Reo took great care of her.

About ten years ago, we had a vet appointment and we had noticed that Reo seemed sore. I had tried some chiropractic and exercises but something was off. The vet told me that she had a condition called DSLD or Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis. It was a progressive condition that basically causes pain due to connective tissues loosening. It can’t be “fixed” but the pain can be controlled until it can’t. It was heartbreaking to know this beautiful girl would eventually be in too much pain to keep her with us. It was a decision I would need to make someday. The vet said she could live for years comfortably which turned out to be true.

So I decided her riding days were over except for a maybe a short ride now and then. She would get to be a pasture pet and spend her days eating grass and not working. She loved the attention and would “whinny” to me when she saw me coming. If it was meal time, I think she was telling me to hurry up already and get the grain in the dish.

I would always say “I know I know…I’m coming.” Sometimes I would just go and feed her treats and hang out with her. Horses are very therapeutic for people, even just being near them helps you feel better.

The last couple of years I could see that the DSLD was getting worse and winter was especially difficult. It was a fight to keep weight on her and her joints were more creaky with each step she took. She was still happy though, she would come up to me for kisses and treats (Ok probably more for the treats) when I came to see her. By this time, she was living at my friend Kris’ place and Kris also had an old horse named Corby. As horses get older their teeth are ground down so much that they cannot chew hay or grass very well so they do not get the nutrients they need. This was the case with Corby and he was living mainly on mushed up grain and was moving pretty slowly.

This spring Kris and I decided that we would give both the horses one last summer and then send them to Heaven in the fall. It was not fair to keep them around another winter for our sake. The vet agreed with us saying it was the kindest thing to do for them. Sending them together was appropriate because they were best buddies and were never far apart.

So this week on a beautiful fall day, Reo and Corby went together to Heaven. It was very peaceful for both of them and the people who loved them. As much as it hurts to lose her on this earth, I know she is free from the pain that was getting worse and I will see her again. The vet told me that we were brave for doing this but the bravery came from the little red dun mare who told me over and over again that I could trust her. The next time I see her I know she will whinny to me and I will say “I know I know…I’m coming.”

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