Jack was my first horse, a 15 year old gelding. He’d won many halter championships as a young horse and then showed Western Pleasure for many years before my family found him. My dad built a very nice 4 stall barn and a nice 3 rail wooden oak board paddock and the previous owner delivered him after school on Friday, the day before St. Patrick’s Day. I was ecstatic. I was eleven years old and had my first horse. I’d paid half with my own money; both my name and my mom’s name are on his registration papers.
So Jack got the privilege (burden?) of teaching me how to own a horse. He was so patient when he needed to be, and ornery enough to keep me on my toes when I learned enough that he didn’t have to babysit me anymore. He did nearly all the classes offered at the county 4-H fair, and did me proud when I took him to the Arabian shows. If I asked him to do it, he gave me his all.
Left: showing at the county fair.
Center: the day he arrived, he would’ve walked right in had I let him.
Right: Mom holding Jack after my sister and I helped him play “dress-up” – what a patient horse he was.
He had a beautiful rocking horse canter, and he loved to be ridden. He was willing to go any way you asked him to. Jack and I got to the point in our partnership where if I simply looked, he would go – no need for rein or leg to guide him.
Eventually, at 14.2 hands high, I outgrew my little Jack and began riding Arabee, and we tried to loan him out as a lesson horse. The little stinker wouldn’t do it, I had reports of him bucking all the way around the arena whenever they tried to ride him. This I couldn’t believe so I had to see for myself, and when I got there they had me ride him. My horse was as good as pie for me, not a single buck or even a tail shake. Looks like as much as I had claimed Jack, he had claimed me, and so we gladly brought him back home.
I rode him occasionally on pleasure rides, and he was always so eager to go, but a perfect gentleman, ears pricked forward happily but after only a short time he would start short-stepping and show discomfort, even at the walk, so I kept his rides short and infrequent since he clearly enjoyed going. Eventually when he was stiff from the very beginning of the ride it was clear that he needed to be retired as a riding horse. So Jack became a pasture pal for my mare Arabee and we maintained his health and hoof care, and decided that as long as he was still comfortable, he would live out his days with me.
Above: one of my senior pictures taken with Jack.
So both Jack and Arabee moved to my new life as a married woman in 2005, and he never was ridden once in the last 5 years. He loved having acres of pasture to roam and graze on the farm, and his existence was about as good as it could be if you were a horse, I think. He didn’t have much left in the way of teeth, and was on senior horse feed as much as he would eat. He always was a hard-keeper and a thin horse, and every winter in the last few years, I’d think he would look awful once his thick winter hair shedded out, but he’d put on weight again in the spring and keep on going. My husband and I were somewhat surprised he’d made it through this last winter; it had been very cold this year. But, he did, and a part of me was almost beginning to believe he was going to live on forever.
But, as he was checking the animals on the afternoon of August 4th my husband called my cell phone to tell me that I needed to come out and check on Jack, he just wasn’t right. So I turned off the burners on the stove (supper could wait) and jogged up to the paddock, and what I saw was not good. My sweet gelding was in obvious pain laying flat on his side, looking back at his belly and drenched in sweat. He had rubbed his sides raw from rolling, and right away I called the vet. I had just never seen Jack be so distressed, in pain, and miserable, and as a retired 30 year old horse I owed it to Jack to as best I could make his last hours as comfortable as possible.
The vet arrived within 30 minutes, and gave him Banamine and said that if we could get him back up to keep him walking. He said if the Banamine helped then he’d have a strong chance of pulling through the colic. Unfortunately, the Banamine never seemed to make a difference in Jack’s comfort level. We felt that the humane thing to do was to have the vet put him down so he wouldn’t have to suffer any longer. I don’t want to describe too clearly what the poor horse was going through, but I’ll just say it was clear that we made the right decision.
It was a hard night, and a hard morning as I explained to my nearly three year old daughter what had happened. I kept his forelock and tail hair as a memento, but I’ll always have many happy memories of my 15 years spent with a very special horse. I will miss him very much :'(