Friday, February 19, 2010

Tribute to Tybolt Starr

Tybolt Starr: Born 24th October, 1976, died 17th February, 2010.

He was 33 years old. He suffered from Cushing's disease for almost 10 of those years. He was my friend, my pride and joy, and the gentlest, sweetest, kindest horse I've ever known. He had a heart as big as a house and an indomitable spirit that never quit. He was extremely strong willed, courageous and loving.

Although only average in stature at 16.1hh, he was a giant amongst horses. Children could swing on his tail and play between his legs. Even though other horses might bite and kick him, he never retaliated. He never harmed a single thing in his life. He carried me safely, swiftly and softly for countless kilometres, over hills and vales, along roads, over bridges and through streams- even over the occasional fence. When the owner of an ex-racehorse challenged us to a race, we left him in the dust. My Starr always had to win.

Starr never refused anything I asked of him, and it was once said of him, 'that horse would follow you through fire'. His love for me was evident in his welcoming neigh, bright eyes and time he would spend licking my hand, nibbling my ear or lipping my cheek. He came running when I called him, and followed me around like a dog when he could. My love for him was evident in the way my heart swelled at the sight of him, how I loved to hug, cuddle and kiss him, and how I fought long and hard against his disease.

At 31 years old, with arthritis and a dropped sole, he carried me proudly on our last short ride, and wanted to canter even though I would rather he walked. He longed to please me. He could read my mind and, from his 7th year onwards, I hardly had to use an aid - he just knew. He even saved my life. No one else ever rode him. I bought him as a wild-eyed, unbroken 3-year-old when I was 17, and I have not ridden another horse since then. Nor do I want to, ever again. He was my one and only, my perfect horse, and no other will ever compare. He was simplythe best. Better than all the rest - in my eyes.

Starr was a silver palomino, with a deep gold coat, a pure white mane and tail, silver socks and a perfect diamond-shaped star between his eyes.

Yesterday, I had to put Starr down. He was suffering from a badly rotated pedal bone in his dropped sole, and the bone was also infected, plus he had end-stage renal failure and a worsening heart murmur. He was in a lot of pain, but his suffering is over now. On Thursday he went lame, on Friday he was hopping on three legs. The vet didn't know if it was an absess or his pedal bone - one a quick fix, the other fatal at his age. The swift onset indicated an absess. I had to be sure. He soldiered on while I waited for vets and X-rays, and on Monday the verdict was passed. My hope was snuffed out, and with it, my last shred of joy.

During the waiting period, he went down twice and couldn't get up without help. I almost lost him twice, but twice I pulled him back from the brink, and the sound of my voice and a little help from friends got him back on his feet again. My heart bled for his pain, but I had to be sure. He refused to die as long as I begged him to live.

When there was no more hope, I would not set an execution date. I decided that the next time he went down, that was the end. I would not put him down while he was still on his feet. He would decide when it was his time, and I would not call him back again. Yesterday at 11:30 am, he lay down for the last time.

I held his head in my arms and promised to meet him at that rainbow bridge. I told him how much I loved him and that it was okay for him to go. Although stretched out on his side, he still ate the chopped carrots I gave him. I gave the vet the nod, and he injected the tranquiliser, then the first fatal injection. I was gazing right into Starr's eye when he gave his last, great sigh. I watched the light fade from his eye, and a part of me died too.

The tears are running down my cheeks as I write this. I thought he would only need the one shot, but 6 minutes later the vet told me his heart was still beating, and gave him the second injection. His big, strong heart just wouldn't quit. I wept. I still weep. I don't know if I'll ever stop. Within two hours of his death, he was laid to rest at the back of the paddock, next to some trees.

My Starr has gone out, and my heavens are dark. My life is empty without him.

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