One of the toughest parts about being an amateur rider is having only enough time and money for one horse. As such, you tend to bond very closely with them, banishing any thought of them getting injured or wearing out.
For those out there who are Star Trek fans, the name Lt. Worf conjures up an image of a character endowed with supernatural ability to shake off pain. A true Klingon Warrior, Lt. Worf fights better and works harder when injured or placed in a do-or-die situation. The name has
proved appropriate. My Lt. Worf quickly got the hang of Eventing, and no matter how bad a spot we found ourselves in, I knew that if I left him alone he would somehow get us over the fence. He wore the lumps and bumps he collected over the years as badges of honor.
I still recall returning home from an event and cringing at a massive lump that had appeared on his leg. My first instinct was to rush for the phone and call the vet, but Worf
showed no signs of pain, and jogged sound. If it had been me, I would have been screaming for morphine. During an incredibly long run of five years of competing, which included three novice
events, 12 training events, and 43 preliminary events, including 3 three-days, Worf never took a lame step.
In 1997 however, his luck ran out. A chip in his knee ended his bright competition career. Three surgeries failed to return Worf to 100%, however, they did dramatically improve his soundness. Over the next 9 years he was sound enough to led his herd in daily charges
around our large turn out field, and when he felt like it, he would jump the three board fence to see if the grass really was greener on the other side.
The way I looked at it, I made a deal with him the first time I got on his back. I asked him to give his all, and in return, promised to care for him till he was old and gray. I hadn't planned on him breaking down in the prime of his life, but no one does. My goals with him had been to do
International horse trail, a Three-day event, and to get him graded. He never did compete internationally, but he did carry me around three Three-days, and in doing so, earned enough points to hold a grade one ranking. I think that well enough.
Worf lived out his days as the best looking lawn ornament in the neighborhood. Every once in a while I put a student on his back and let him show them how it's done. In 2004 he came out of retirement and carried Jamie, a wonderful girl whose' riding career had been nothing but
disappointment, to win after win, and in doing so, gave her the greatest gift anyone could give, the gift of confidence. With each win, Jamie blossomed - it was as if Worf knew he had one very important last job to do, and he gave it his all.
Every time I got the urge to get on his back and put him back into work, I remind myself: the third surgery was for him, not for me. Instead, I brushed him, gave him a pet, and turned him loose to enjoy his well-deserved retirement. I was happy that he was happy
- after all, isn't that
what horsemanship is really all about?
Sadly Worf's retirement was cut way too short. In the fall of 2005, Worf colic badly enough to require surgery. When they opened him up, they discovered his small intestine badly inflamed. Too much of his intestine was comprised to risk removing any of the diseased
portion, so they closed him up.
For the next six months, vets at two major universities, plus our own vet, struggled to try to bring the inflammation under control with medicine. Worf was a patent soul, enduring weekly trips back and forth to hospitals for tests and treatments. But time was working against
him. Every treatment regimen the vets came up with showed promise at first, but eventually failed. In mid-February the tide of battle turned in favor of the disease. Unable to eat any hay, he began to lose weight, slowly at first, but faster as the days grew longer.
It was oblivious to everyone that it was now a race between the effects of the disease, and an early spring, and with it, the return of green grass which we all hoped would help one again turn the battle in his favor. It was a long three weeks.
We were blessed with an early spring, and after a few days of light rain, the fields turned lush green. Once again, Worf's health rallied and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. It looked to all that he was going to make it. For 10 days he enjoyed the green grass.
On Sunday, Jamie, come down from college from Canada to say hello to Worf and hand graze him like she had done countless times before. His ears perked up when he heard her voice and his old smile returned to his face once more.
But the green grass didn't last long, and winter, and with it, colder weather soon returned. By Friday, he began to falter again. Unlike past episodes, this time, he was unable to rally back.
On Sunday Morning, March 19, 2006, with the sun shiny brightly, his suffering ended. I hope that Pastor Wade is correct, and that Pets do go to heaven. I'll rest easy tonight knowing that he's now
running with all his friends that have gone before him, and look forward to the time that I can once again sit on his back and enjoy the feel of the wind in my hair as we gallop across never-ending fields of green.
Until then, I will miss him terribly.