It’s been over a year since my last article. A busy year. A sad year. An exciting year. Through it all, Grimm paved the way, even though his recovery from the DDFT issue didn’t go as hoped.
Last fall, we moved to a new barn where I was offered a position as an in-house trainer. The board was high, and the thought of moving again, losing a client base, and starting over was terrifying, but the footing and care were far superior to where we were, and I went because my last hope for Grimm was that the soft, indoor footing at the new facility would allow him to come back to work.
While his unevenness improved minutely, his attitude toward work did not. Despite everything I tried, he was monstrous on the longe, and grew positively homicidal when asked to work correctly. I tried to press on with a consistent program, but he simply wasn’t having it. He didn’t seem that lame, but he sure didn’t want to work any more. As my optimism waned and acceptance took over, my motivation to write here drained away. Months passed, and then, in April, I finally understood what had been bothering him for so long.
At 6:30 am, on the morning of April 16th, 2017, I got that call from the barn that every horse owner dreads.
“It’s Grimsby,” Sam said. “He is sick. You need to come.”
It was a Saturday morning, and I tried frantically to get a vet to answer my calls as I drove to the barn. When I arrived, things didn’t seem so bad, but Sam was adamant that I needed a vet. I believed him and kept calling. I finally got one to come -- from Tacoma, an hour away.
We started walking, and it became obvious as the endless minutes passed, that this was no ordinary colic. Grimm went downhill quickly, suffered a spasm that dropped him to the ground, and he was in severe distress by the time the vet arrived. Her diagnosis: lipoma.
Lipoma is a benign fatty tumor that develops in the mesentery, a membrane that attaches the intestine to the abdominal wall. A lipoma dangles from a stalk that can -- and usually eventually does -- wrap around the small intestine, cuts off the blood supply, and … well, I’m sure you know the rest.
The vet offered the option of referring him for immediate surgery, but it didn’t take long for me to consider all that entailed. I couldn’t do it to him. I wasn’t sure he’d make the trip anyway, and I wanted him to go quickly, in as little pain as possible. By 9:30, Great Grimsby, the horse who changed everything, was off to a better pasture than I ever could have bought for him, bound for his eternal retirement.
The universe took him from me way, way too soon, but not before he made sure I got a few more lessons. The first was to listen to my gut. I KNEW there was something wrong with him, even though the vet said he should be okay to work under saddle. He had been telling me every way he knew that something didn’t feel right; I just wish I’d had a crystal ball so I could have understood sooner exactly what was hurting him.
The second lesson was about moving on. He came to me as the answer to what I thought was the end of the world. He left, and it felt like the end of the world again, but in truth, when he left, he allowed ME to move on -- because while losing him was the hardest thing I’ve ever endured, it also opened doors.
In his absence, I spent the spring and summer starting my young horse, Bel, which I’m not sure I would have made time for if I’d still been trying to work with Grimm. Without his needs to consider, my house-hunting parameters opened up, and I found my way to a perfect piece of property that NEVER would have worked for him. And finally, in taking his leave, he set me free to remember him with joy, gratitude, and love instead of worrying and wishing he could be what he used to be.
My handsome boy may not be nickering at me from a stall in the barn, but he’s with me every moment: when I’m riding, when I’m teaching, when I’m sitting in my beautiful new home where his picture hangs on the living room wall. I will never ride him again, will never kiss his perfect white nose or let him whisper in my ear, but I will always have what he gave me: memories, knowledge, and some really, really great stories. I think I'm ready to start writing again, now that I finally summoned the courage to write this article. My posts will take a new tone because I'll be writing without him as my starting point, but I'm keeping the name, "One White Horse", because without him, there would be nothing to write.
I love you, Great Grimsby. Thank you for everything.