I didn’t expect this to happen. I thought this blog would be in chronological order, but I guess God has other ideas. He put Captain in my mind today and I can’t let it go, it’s like he can’t wait for his story to be told and he won’t leave me alone. I mean, it’s so bad that I had to go to my computer after chores and taking care of John this morning (John had jaw surgery yesterday), and look up dates and everything I had about Captain. You see, he was a horse that came here at the end of his life. In fact he only lived with me from 12/10/2011 until 3/30/2012.

His first day here

All I know of Captains previous life is that he was a rodeo pick up horse. He had to run next to bucking horses and pick up the rodeo contestants that needed help. I bet if we knew his whole history we wouldn’t be able to count how many men he saved. Captain was a horse with a big heart, soft eyes, a big body, and a kind soul. We met back in 2011 when my friend Annie called and asked if I had room for a rescue that she had picked up at a local feed lot. She warned me that he was bad, and that he would need some dental care. He arrived 12/19/2011 blanketed and had a huge swelling on his face. We took the blanket off and gasped, he was so skinny, and had lots of ticks on him. I don’t know how ticks could be on him in the winter. It was gross and heartbreaking. We quickly went into life saving gear, everyone here surrounded us, helped us financially and supported us emotionally on a journey that was uplifting, painful, joyful, and heartbreaking.

At Anoka Equine, getting ready to extract infected teeth.

We quickly called out Dr. Marion who examined him and asked us to bring him into the clinic for teeth extraction. He ended up having two teeth removed that day and then we were on our way to helping him gain weight. Dr Marion did mention he had a heart murmur and that he was probably in his late 20’s early 30’s.

Captain was a gentleman, he was very quiet, like he didn’t want to cause any trouble or call attention to himself. I guess that you would call him stoic. He seemed to always have a worried look in his eye and I hoped that we could change that and give him some quiet time with all the food he could eat, all the grooming he could tolerate, and time with humans when we weren’t asking him to do a job. I was hoping that he could just be a horse, interacting with us just being humans and sharing the same space without him feeling like he had to be worried.

Over the course of a few months he gained weight, he got brushed by us and the lesson kids. We found he liked kids, they seemed to help the worried look leave his eyes and I couldn’t wait to see what he would do when one of them took a lesson with him.

On 2/1/2012 Captain was healthy enough that I thought I could sit on him for his first ride. He had gained some weight and seemed to have settled in quite well. He had started to relax out in the pasture, take time eating his grain, and we often saw him standing up by the barn enjoying the sun. The days were starting to get warmer and we all were excited to see how he would look when he shed out in the spring. He seemed so big to us. I bet he stood close to 16 hands which, if you know me and the horses I get, that’s huge! In fact I had to buy a new bridle that was big enough for his head.

Our first ride together. Look how tall he is!

On 2/9/2012 Captain became sick, he had this nasty goop running from his nose and it smelled to high heaven. I called out Dr Marion again and he diagnosed him with a sinus infection. When a horse gets a sinus infection it’s not an easy thing to clear up. They have to have a hole drilled into their sinus cavity, a catheter placed in the hole and we have to flush it daily with a mixture of saline solution and betadine. It’s an interesting procedure to watch, but I would rather watch it done on a horse that wasn’t mine. Captain was sedated, and the vet used a drill and then a bore to punch through the skull into the sinus cavity. Then he stitched the catheter in place and showed us how to administer the flush.

The catheter is in, it’s below his right eye.
Danielle helped with the sinus flush.

I’m not sure how long we had to treat him, but it seemed like a long time. He was a good patient, I’m sure it felt so weird to have us push that warm flush into his sinus, but he never put up a fuss. He stood so quietly, with his head down. We often would pet him and he would lean on us. It was a time to really bond with him, and I wouldn’t trade the time I spent with him for anything. We got to learn more about him, we learned he was patient, he was gentle, he was ok, and I think he was glad we were with him. To this day I can remember what his head felt like as it rested in my arms. I can still hear his breath and feel the gentle sway of his body with every inhale and exhale. It was a time of quiet contemplation.

Captain eventually started to feel better and I decided to try him in a lesson. We had a girl here named Hannah who loved my horse JJ and rode him regularly . She was a student I could count on to consider the horse she was on and stop the lesson if Captain needed her to. I felt that if I matched him up with a person that was a gentle as he was, that they would enjoy their time together. Needless to say the lesson was awesome. Hannah started out nice and easy, but Captain wanted to go, so they ended up trotting a bit and I think he even took her for a little canter. I know before he passed they cantered together, but I’m just not sure when that happened. They had a few lessons together and from the pictures that follow, I believe they enjoyed themselves.

1st Lesson
One of his last lessons

In March we noticed that Captain seemed hot all the time. At least that’s what we thought. He was breathing hard and his energy level seemed low. Once again we called Dr. Marion out and he quickly diagnosed him with congestive heart failure. His big heart was failing and his lungs were starting to fill with fluid. We didn’t want him to suffer so we set up an appointment on March 30th to say goodbye. Over the next couple of weeks we spent quiet time with him, giving him treats, grooming him, and just letting him hang out with us, human to horse, sharing the same space. I wish I had known him when he was younger, when his joints weren’t swollen, when he was running next to the bucking horses, when he moved freely and challenged the wind. Oh I wish I had known him then. But, on the other hand, I got to know a wise soul, a gentle creature that was large in body, but soft in his communication. I think he was happy here, I think he got to feel love without demand for work and he understood how special he really was. I hope somewhere out there, there is a cowboy who remembers a big red pick up horse that saved his life. I hope in his heart is filled with gratitude for that big red horse. That’s all Captain needs, just someone to say thanks and remember him. As I write this I see him in my minds eye. He is alive in heaven, he snorts, dips his head down and runs away with his tail up in the air and his head held high. He says thanks for reading about me, and for remembering. He says he had a good life for the most part and he was glad for the gentle hands of children that petted him, hugged him, and let him be himself.

6 thoughts on “Captain

    1. I think of him often. I may have saved him from going to slaughter but you were his angel! I will always be thankful to you for taking a chance on him.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Tears in my eyes as I read this. Cheryl, you have done so much for so many horses. You have made a difference for them that is awesome to read about. Love your stories!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cheryl, you are in the right career path. So compassionate and gentle with the horses. Knowing their spirit, their language. It’s a tremendous gift!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow this made me sob. I remember working with him when I was just a wee lass… he was one of my favorites, always so kind and gentle and receptive to any and every bit of lovin’ we gave him. I’ve thought about him a lot recently. Seeing photos just brought it all back. I miss him so much.

    Liked by 1 person

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