The approach of winter is a difficult time for Saxo decisions. Our old ponies and horses need to be well prepared to manage through the winter comfortably. This meaning having enough energy and strength to face the cold. We watch our ponies and horses carefully and do our best to take the right / best decisions. Our experience over the past 30 years has lead us to understand when their time has come and we consider it lucky to be able to help them go in the most comfortable way possible. Yesterday we helped our special little friend French go and join Saxo himself, not to mention his other friends..
Although we have now been part of the departure of very many of our four legged friends, I would like to share here this particularly moving experience from yesterday.
At Belle Ferme we try to respect as much as possible the friendship and relationships between our ponies/horses. French & Rufus have been living in the ponies field retired now for many years. They’ve been friends but not necessarily always stuck together like some. As oldies who need extra food they do often get let up to wonder around Belle Ferme and get extra food. French being a rather delicate pony has always been kept here as he’s always needed a little extra help to keep well. He also lost an eye a few years ago so we prefer to keep him near.
On Monday morning it just happened that the very cheeky Shetland Disney managed an escape and and was wondering around the farm in the morning.
Once he’d managed to sneak an extra breakfast out of Manu, Angela took him back to his field. As we are closed on Mondays, ponies aren’t usually around the gate. But there were French & Rufus standing there clearly wanting to come up for a walk around the farm. So Disney went back to find his friends and Angela let French & Rufus out and let them wonder around the farm loose as they do.
It so happened that the crèche in Gex had asked to bring their children for a visit, so it was actually nice for them to have little Shetland Rufus to pat and sit on.
However in watching them Monday morning their behavior was not as normal. French was wondering round in the stables saying hi to the horses and checking the feed room for extra breakfast. Rufus however who usually just eats grass outside was in fact sticking to French like glue and whining the moment French turned a corner and was out of sight. He absolutely had to be right next to him, not 10m away.. We found this was particularly strange behavior. Watching French, who eats liters of food but can’t keep weight on, we realized that either way he wouldn’t make it through the winter. When really old they loose their teeth and can no longer chew properly. They then can’t eat enough to satisfy their hunger, nor are they able to keep enough fat to stay warm over winter. His digestive system was no longer working correctly and he was all mucky down his tail and back legs. Manageable to wash often in summer time, but not this time of year. We organized with our vet who was also here Monday morning for her to come back on Tuesday and put little French “to sleep”. The difficult part was how best to manage Rufus..
So many years of experience has taught us that actually they manage the situation much better when they understand what’s going on.
On Tuesday morning we (Lukas actually) fetched in French and Rufus. We decided Rufus would need a friend with him for when French has gone, so Sunny came along too. The three ponies had their wonder around the farm and then went for extra breakfast in the ponies stables.
Our vet arrived and gave the necessary sedation to little French. Sunny walked off down the stables minding his own business and checking buckets for snacks. Rufus stood just a few meters from French. The sedation then makes French lye down (the difficult part to watch), but we make sure it’s on a soft comfortable spot on the shavings. It’s actually just an anesthetic like for an operation. I stood myself by Rufus and stood just in front of him so he couldn’t see the moment French lay down, whilst Marie (the vet) and Angela ensured he lay down on the shavings comfortably, which he did.
I gave Rufus a hug (he was about 6m away ) and explained that French would go and join Saxo and all the friends who’ve left us. I then joined Angela next to French. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one « go » so fast. He lay down and was gone before the vet finished injecting the medication. Rufus watched and whinnied once or twice. After a few minutes sitting with French (and thanking him for many years of work), Angela walked down the stables to get head collars for Rufus & Sunny. Rufus took the opportunity to walk a bit closer to where French was lying. Angela approched him and put his head collar on and asked him if he was ok to go back to the field now. He took a last look at French and then happily followed Angela along with Sunny down the pony stable and back to the field. Not another noise, not a whiny. In the field he walked up to a big gray pony and visibly had some conversation. He then wondered off in total peace of mind.
Having seen his frantic behavior of the previous day where French couldn’t be out of his sight, we can only imagine that they both knew it was time. Perhaps French only had a few days left and Rufus was taking care of him, also bringing him to the gate on a quiet Monday morning. Maybe Disney even came up to tell us French and Rufus needed us? We will never really know but I wouldn’t put it past them..
They are amazing animals. Saying good bye to each one is difficult. But every one who had left in peace in our arms has helped us learn how to help them go in the best possible way, should that be for the one who goes or the friends who are left behind. In the past, years ago we made the mistake of thinking the others mustn’t see. The result had been up to 3 weeks of whinnying in the field (it was Kerry & Kildare, mother and daughter who had always lived together). The daughter died first and I stupidly at the time left Kerry in the field. I learnt the hard way as I had to listen to her calling her daughter for 3 weeks before she settled down. She also wouldn’t let me near her. So to Kerry & Kildare, I’m sorry I got it wrong then ang thanks for the lesson. I still find it hard to live with. I believe now we really understand how to help them all as best we can.
If you’ve been brave enough to read this far, I’d like to take this opportunity to say that what I’ve shared here is the emotional side. There is also an administrative side and a financial side.. I’d like to thank each one of you who have helped us with support to our Association Saxo Belle Ferme. Thanks to you all, not only their retirement but also these « good byes » in the most comfortable way, at their homes with our vets are a real gift. The cost of each ones departure is between 300 – 500€. So thank you to all our Saxo committee. Thanks to each if you who help with all saxo activities, pony rides etc. And special thanks to Alina de Chézelles & Gilles de Chézelles who helped set up the Association. You are all part of helping French and Rufus yesterday.
Donations are always welcome here, however big or small. Every little bit helps. And for those who pay taxes in France note that Saxo donations are tax deductible.
Thanks for taking the time to read. . https://saxo-belleferme.fr/apache.php
Good bye lovely little French. Thanks for being Clarissa Stickland’s first French Championships mini hunter pony when she was just 3 years old!
We miss you already . And thanks Rufus for being a great friend !