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R.I.P. Sad Elvis

R.I.P. Sad Elvis

One of the many posts I’ve been meaning to submit these past few days is one I was going to call “Our new dog Sad Elvis”. Elvis had been hanging around our house for some time now, the unwanted dog of a neighbor who refused to restrain him. He was a hound mix with full size features on short little legs. He got along with all of our dogs and cats and although he occasionally would bark at our horses, he did it infrequently and at a distance. This poor dog was skinny but we didn’t want to keep him from going home for meals. Eventually, though, we took pity on him and began feeding him. Most days he had been laying by our front door in the morning, shivering. So eventually we opened our horse trailer and put a blanket in there for him. Last week we decided to bathe him and take him to the vet for a checkup. And since his owner wasn’t taking care of him, we decided we’d try to find him a new owner. The owner had been looking for a new home for Elvis so this wasn’t out of line. We kind of wanted to keep him but we have four dogs already. He was “ours” in the sense that we were the only ones taking care of him.

Since he was now clean and since the weather grew even colder, we invited him into the house. He was a good inside dog and mostly laid around the house all day. Then on the coldest night of the season so far, we let him out before bed so he could go to the bathroom and we never saw him alive again. The next morning we discovered he had been hit by a car on a road not far from our house. Mikki pulled him off of the road and I angrily drove around looking for his owner (we had only spoken with him on the phone and he no longer took our calls). We finally found the owner and demanded he take care of Elvis’ body, which he did.

So Sunday was very sad for us. Even though he wasn’t our dog, he had become a fixture around our little farm and we’re going to miss him.

BTW, we called him Sad Elvis because hounds look sad and because of the popular Elvis song “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog”. It seemed to fit.

Saying Goodbye to a Horse

Saying Goodbye to a Horse

Last night was a sad night in our little corner of the world. Yesterday afternoon, our pastor was doing some groundwork with a young horse, Nipper, when Nipper spooked, reared, and fell, hitting his head on the ground. You can tell by the title of the post how it turned out. The fall apparently caused a brain injury; he was bleeding from one ear and didn’t rouse for quite a while. He eventually came to, ate hay and neighed to his stablemate but couldn’t control his head movement and couldn’t get his back legs off the ground. After 11 hours of sitting with him, watching him periodically struggle to get up, they decided it was best to let him go. The vet came back around 11 p.m. and put him down. It was very, very sad. They have two little girls, 9 and 8, and it was just heart-wrenching to see them cry over their horse. The pastor’s wife took it even harder. They got this horse when he was only 6 weeks old and raised him. He was two years old.

And as rough as yesterday was, guess what they have to deal with today? A thousand-pound horse that’s laying in their pasture. I can’t remember if I’ve addressed this issue here before – I think I have – but a sad fact of horse ownership is that you need to have a plan in place if your horse dies. The reality of it is, a horse is really big and really heavy. You can’t just get the shovel out, dig a little hole and lay him in it like you would the family dog. So what do you do? There are a couple of options.

Our pastor (and we) own a big piece of property, so a good option is to bury the horse on the property (that’s what our pastor will do, and we would too). The problem with that is, most people don’t own the equipment necessary to dig a hole large enough for a full-grown horse, and to move that horse to the burial site. Luckily, we know people who do.

Another option is cremation. There are companies who will come and get the horse and cremate the remains. I imagine it might be kind of expensive, but I haven’t checked into that. There are also agencies – municipal, county or state – who will dispose of an animal for you (again, probably for a fee). And for those of you who aren’t as soft-hearted as we are, there are even companies who will take the body and render it for goodness-knows-what. I’m all for recycling, but I’ll have to draw the line there.

Whatever you think is the best choice for you, plan ahead. You think it won’t happen for a while, you pray it won’t, but it does. And it seems that things like this happen at the most inopportune time – late on a cold night during a holiday week, the night before it’s supposed to rain, for instance. So, as painful as it is to think about, I urge you to be prepared. It will make a difficult time a little less of a burden if you have a plan in place.

(If the photo is hard for you to see, the inscription is “The air of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears” and is inscribed on a memorial to Mary, Lady Towneley, on the Pennine Bridleway in Derbyshire, England. I found the photo at, a mountain biking site.)

Horse Life Expectancy

Horse Life Expectancy

When we first started talking about buying a horse, we sought out advice on the internet and from people we knew with horses. It was universally suggested that we should purchase an older horse, 15-20 years old, especially if we we’re mostly interested in pleasure riding. It is reasoned that older horses are generally more gentle and usually have more riding experience. This made perfect sense to us, even though we ignored it to buy the horse (now horses) we have now. As regular readers will know, we have two horses, 6 and 8 years old. That’s pretty young even in “horse years”. One benefit to their youth, however, is that we probably have many years to look forward to, if we keep them (and we plan on keeping them). Just how long could that be? In my quest to answer that question, here’s what I discovered:

  • Although some sources indicate the average horse life expectancy to be between 20-30 years, I found accounts of horses living much longer.
  • The Guinness Book of Records shows a record of 62 years old. The horse was named “Old Billy”, born in 1760. This, however, is not the norm.
  • One of the Champion horses lived to be 41! See Just Like Gene and Roy.
  • Some locals here in Tennessee report horses normally live into their 30’s.
  • We’ve been told that a “Horse year” is equal to 3 human years. This is the “dog years” approach, where we compare horse life expectancy to human life expectancy. The average American is living to be around 78 these days. In “horse years” that’s 26.

To be honest with you, some quick internet research shows “horse life expectancy” estimates all over the place. I’ve seen 20 years old and I’ve seen 46. My non-technical way of making sense of the wild variation is to average it out. My un-educated guess is that, barring unforeseen circumstances, our horses should live to be up to 30 years old. For me, that means when Moonshine is a senior citizen, I will be able to sympathize, as I will almost be one myself.

What have you heard or experienced?