As I am sure most of you know by now, yesterday we had to put down one of our beloved ponies, Downland Eclipse. She was 17 years old, which isn't that old for a pony since they can live up to the ages of 30-40. But she had gone worse in health in the last 3 years, and ultimately the vet told us that the best thing for us to do was to let her go. She actually thought it would be the right thing to do in the spring, but as loving owners of our pets, we selfishly want them to last just a little bit longer.
Her breathing had started to go down hill around 5-6 years ago. Whether it was genetics or caused by dusty hay, you can never be sure. Many of the ponies shard the same food as her and they did not come down with heaves (as it is called in the horse world). Coughing and hacking was worse in the hot and dusty summer days. Many vet bills for medication including steroid shots and bronchial dilators came in as we tried to make her comfortable. She was always eating and happy. She was our foundation broodmare, and we bred her every year. Last year she did not conceive.My mom wanted to try her again this year but the vet absolutely refused. She said she didn't have enough oxygen for herself, let alone enough to carry a foal.
It was decided that we would put her down in the fall. We didn't want her to have a hard winter. Even when it came to the day we decided to do it on, my mom wanted me to ask the vet if she had gotten better. She knew deep down that the answer would be no, but she wanted some hope.
Eclipse's breathing was so bad you could hear her wheeze. Her torso heaved and sunk in deeply with every breath she took and exhaled. Despite all this, she was still the head mare of the ground.
Eclipse was born in 1993 on the welsh hills. My mom was looking to import a pony from Wales, and a breeder went out and scoped out what was for sale. My mom was looking for a black filly. Although all horses born black go grey (and true blacks are born mousey brown and then shed out into black), the breeder sent her a picture and she bought her. She was out of a well known stallion Downland Mohawk, who's bloodlines trace back to many Welsh Champions and a mare named Downland Eglatine.
Importing ponies from Wales was a big deal in the early 90s. The North American Welsh had started up by importing bloodlines from Wales and then breeding programs were set up. Many of our ponies can be traced within the second and third generation back to the homeland. Many North American breeders brought back stallions and mares to start their own breeding program. Established breeders start their own breeding line after years of selection, where they can finally use their own stallion for breeding. Many breeders in North America still use imported stallions but breed their own stock of mare.
When it came time for Eclipse to come to Canada, it took them three days to catch her. They had to chase her into the trailer. She jumped out of the back, and they had to catch her again. They put a board on the back of the trailer so she wouldn't escape. My mom was advised to board up her trailer when she came to pick her up. Eclipse came on a plane with 4-5 other little ponies.
When my mom brought her home, she was absolutely wild. I don't even remember how long or what we did to make her the calm, quiet, stress free pony she became. She was broke to ride when she was 3. I rode her from 1996 to 1999. We bred her the first time when she was 4 and she had a little colt in 1998.
Eclipse's bloodlines were great but they came with a heavy price. Many of her relatives were prone to a disease called laminitis or founder. While it is common, it is more common in ponies than horses. Her full sister had to be put down because of the dehabiliting disease. Founder is when a toxin occurs in the bloodsystem, affecting circulation. The most common way is through eating too much protein but there are other ways of getting it such as stress or kidney problems, for example. The end result is when the inflamed laminate causes a rotation of a bone in the foot called the coffin bone. This inflammation and rotation causes a great deal of pain and heat to the animal, making it unable to stand. Founder can be treated, but preventive measures should always be taken, as founder can return once a horse has had it.
Eclipse had her first bount of founder when she was four, shortly after she had her first foal. Once she recovered, we didn't ride her as much, since stress can be a trigger. Around the year 2000 I stopped riding her because we had other ponies to be ridden and she was much content to be a broodmare.
Since her time with us, she had many accomplishments. So many that we never really kept track of them all but my mom summed them up on her website:
• Welsh Pony and Cob Association of Ontario award of Top Producing Mare
• Several times Champion Section B Mare on the line in Canada and the USA
• Champion Dressage Pony in USA
• Several time High Point Champion Mare and Under Saddle with the Welsh Pony and Cob Association of Ontario
• Qualifier for the Champion of Champion Class at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, ON, Canada
• Her foals have moved on to Trillium and A Circuit Hunter Ponies and others have become breeding stock.
In 2005, my mom had her registered as an American Sport Pony.
Since she was 4, she has had a foal every year except in 2010. Her foals and her grandfoals and probably great grandfoals are all over North America. She has 12 foals over all.
From Canadian Live Stock Records:
MORTON'S EGLANTINE - 2000
MORTON'S EVENSONG - 2001
MORTON'S EVEREST - 2002
(These three were born when my mom leased out Eclipse when my parents were divorcing)
WIND DANCER ELEGANCE (Ellie) - 2009
WIND DANCER ELUSIVE(Louie) -2003
WIND DANCER EMPEROR (Elmo) -2007
WIND DANCER ENCHANTRESS (Emma) - 2005
WIND DANCER EPIPHANY (Pippi)- 2006
WIND DANCER EPITOME (Elvis) - 2008
WIND DANCER ESPIONAGE (Blizzard) - 2004
WIND DANCER HERE TO ETERNITY (Eternity) - 1999
WIND DANCER THE EXECUTIVE (Ex) - 1998
Yesterday, on her last day, it rained all morning. I woke up early and I gave her an apple. I opened up the gates connecting the two paddocks and let all the ponies on that side run together. Eclipse had a good run with her pasture buddy and her two daughters, Emma and Ellie. Once they finished running, I put two of them away in their stalls as the vet had to do work on the one, and she couldn't be left alone. I didn't want to leave Eclipse alone, so she stayed outside with Emma. I took a pair of scissors and I cut of a large chunk of her mane. I braided it and put it away for my mom, who requested not to be home when we did this.
The vet showed up shortly after. We took Emma and Eclipse out to the area where we would bury her. We didn't want them to get upset by being separated. The vet told me she was going to sedate Eclipse first. We let her eat some grass while we waited for it to kick in. Once she administered the second dose of sedative, she instructed us to take Emma away. My step dad took Emma back to her paddock. Since Emma was alone, she ran the fence and called to her mom. Eclipse was too sedated to call back. There was a tractor and a tree obscuring the view. The vet thought it would be too traumatic for Emma to see her mom go down.
Once Emma was put back, the vet told me she was going to administer the euthanol next. She said that Eclipse would take a deep breath, then go unconscious. She would not feel anything. Then, just as she said it happened. We helped her onto the ground. I had been crying since the vet showed up, but I was sobbing uncontrollably as we sat near her on the ground. The vet explained it would take a few minutes to happen, but as soon as she spoke, she then added "Oh, she's already gone." Eclipse still had grass in her mouth. We took the halter off of her and covered her with a trap. Our neighbors volunteered to come over and help bury her. Once they were finished, I called them up to thank them. We buried her with a copy of her papers and some pictures.
It was a hard day, but at the end we knew it was the right thing. Then later that day my pony was bitten by a snapping turtle, but that will come later.