Scottie had a long and well-loved life. I bought him as a still green four year old. I had just started riding lessons in middle age after many years away from horses. For you see, I'd had a bad riding accident when I was 13 which left me even more fearful of riding than I had already been. Soon after I gave up riding but never stopped loving horses.
My lesson horse was Scottie, a very handsome sorrel Quarter Horse with a very laid back disposition. One thing led to another, and several weeks later I bought him at the urging of my riding instructor.
You would think that pairing a green horse with a timid rider would not have been a wise combination, but contrarily it turned out to be a perfect match. Not that those early years were easy. Scottie tested me in little ways; never truly naughty or dangerous ways but just willfulness. If I insisted long enough he gave in and did my bidding. Sometimes I went to the barn with a churning stomach full of butterflies. Sometimes I came home thinking of selling him and giving up on horses again. But, I never did, and in the end it was a confidence building experience for me.
Through the years we took riding lessons sporadically, mostly of the classical dressage nature and gradually became a perfectly matched team. Scottie liked to work but not too hard. He was rarely a horse you had to hold back; mostly he was a horse you had to put out a lot of effort to get to work a little harder. But he always tried. He was always a perfect gentleman. Never once in the 28 years I owned him did he ever buck or refuse to work at all unless he was in a lot of pain.
Most of all, Scottie loved to go on trail rides. And so did I. In the early years we boarded at different farms where we had access to trails and people to ride with. Twenty two years ago I found a private farm which took in a few specially selected boarders of a mature age and whose owners had the same horse care philosophy that I did. It had an indoor arena for winter riding and miles and miles of very hilly trails for fun the rest of the year.
That's where Scottie spent his last years, and he loved it there. He found a best buddy to play "wild stallion" with. He lived in a herd on pasture year round where he could eat grass and good quality hay to his heart's content. Most of all, he loved grass. There were run-in sheds and the big indoor arena where the horses could come in away from the flies and sun or snow or pelting rain. It was idyllic for any horse and a very healthy environment.
It was idyllic for me, too. With new barn friends close to my own age, we rode the trails together often and had many adventures. Some of those trails were really steep and scary to this still timid rider, but Scottie always took care of me, negotiating them with nary a misstep. Sometimes we went off trails through the woods, dodging tree branches, shoving them out of the way and stepping over downed tree limbs and other brush.
The years took its toll on both of us. I developed debilitating leg and knee problems which kept me from the barn and from riding regularly. Scottie developed Cushings disease and as a result suffered a severe sinus infection that threatened his life. A trip to Michigan State University Large Animal Clinic saved his life and revealed he had severe periodontal disease. From then on he was under the care of a veterinarian dental specialist. He lost most of his teeth, and the rest were worn down to the gums.
As a result of his dental problems, Scottie could no longer chew hay and lost weight. A year ago I retired him and retired myself from riding. In spite of massive amounts of grain daily, Scottie lost weight rapidly this winter. He developed another bad abscessed tooth infection. His liver was failing, and sometimes he couldn't get up on his own after lying down.
At the end, the decision I'd dreaded making for so many years was an easy, but sad, one to make. It was time to let Scottie go. It was the kindest thing we could do for him. He was tired and suffering and giving up. We put him down in the arena surrounded and comforted by the two people he loved most in the world. We told him it was okay to go now, and he slipped away peacefully.
Scottie is buried up on a hill in the pasture along with his herd mates Jack and Mellissa and Stutz. Mikey will join them eventually. From there you can see almost all of the farm. I think he will like it there.