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Pony Gets Old

Published: 1/27/2009
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By Maddy B. Gray

In a neat and organized world, our loved ones, four-legged and two-legged, would pass away on convenient dates. We could plan ahead, make arrangements, and say our proper goodbyes.

For update, scroll to bottom -

This is absurd, of course! But that sci-fi scenario came to mind as I commiserated with a friend and her recent predicament.

For years, she’s been taking care of her neighbor’s little pony. He has been a welcome addition to her barnyard, fitting in well and requiring little extra care. The neighbor, Martha, gave my friend a few bucks a day to help with expenses.

But now the neighbor and the pony are both getting a little long in the tooth. Martha is pushing 90. Tom, the little Welsh pony, is 30.
Recently, a series of elderly events has changed the dynamics between my friend, her neighbor, and the pony.

What was once a happy arrangement has become one strained by the involvement of additional family members, logistics, and, of course, money.

It started when Martha broke her leg. The accident put her in the hospital and then rehabilitation for a month. Martha’s daughters arrived from many states away to tend to Martha and her affairs.

At the same time, my friend had booked an appointment with an equine dentist. Tom was healthy but struggling to maintain weight. He was quidding his hay and relying more and more on soaked forage and grain. Martha had agreed to have the Tom’s teeth examined and floated.

After the appointment, my friend understood she’d have to redouble her efforts and feed grain and mashes three times a day.

Meanwhile, one daughter reviewed finances with her mother. It was decided my friend would receive a slight increase to the stipend to help with the pony’s care and expenses. My friend was thrilled her efforts were finally being compensated, no matter how nominally.

Things were going fine until a week later, when Martha’s other daughter got involved:

We need to get rid of the pony. Help us place him, will you?

Or, she asked:

Would it be possible to euthanize Tom right away?

My friend is caught in the middle of this family feud with frugality on one side and compassion on the other.
I’m sure I don’t know the whole of it.
But I do know my friend is in no position to carry the financial burden of another horse. I also know that if push comes to shove, she’ll carry that burden anyway because any alternative would be colder than this here winter.

All went well for two months. But in March, my friend got a call from Martha. Martha's daughter, she said, had arranged for a petting zoo in Old Orchard Beach to take the pony.
My friend was horrified. It wasn't her call, though.
Then she remembered Tom had been adopted from a rescue agency way-back-when. She reminded Martha that if Tom was taken anywhere, the transfer would have to be cleared by the agency which placed Tom with Martha in the first place, more than 20 years ago.
Thank goodness for that stop-gap!
Martha's daughter called the agency to tell them about the plan.
The agency, bless their hearts, told the daughter: " We don't think so" They told her they would rather bring the pony back to their already filled-to-capacity barn than see it shipped off to a petting zoo.
They told her they would rather bring the pony back to their already filled-to-capacity barn than see it shipped off to a petting zoo.
Arrangements were made to pick up Tom.
That same day, my friend called the agency to ask about the pony's future. She understood there were many more horses in worse shape and in greater need than Tom. If Tom went to their barn, he would be taking the stall of a more needy horse. Say nothing for the harm caused by unsettling and stressing the little pony in his waning years.
So, she proposed to the agency's president, if they could help pay for vaccinations and a few farrier visits per year, then she would assume all the other expenses and care.
The president and my neighbor agreed that this would be the best thing for Tom.
Needless to say, the neighborly friendship is gone. But the pony's welfare remains safe and sound.
What did I learn from this local scenario?
I don't know if I've heard it all, but this story has shown me a few things:
Have a clear plan to deal with your animals so that EVERYONE INVOLVED knows your intentions. Set funds aside to specifically pay for their care.
Support your equine rescue agencies!

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3/11/2009 Jeannie
What a wonderful person to take such good care of Tom for all those years. Shame on Martha's children for not being more caring and thinking of what is best for their mom's loving pet. If they couldnt' take the pony themselves they should at least have done all they could for him. A petting zoo is not the answer for a 30 yr old pony. Wonderful story, love the happy ending. Your friend earned her angel wings and God bless the horse rescue group for helping out and doing the right thing too.
3/11/2009 Julie
I am so glad the outcome of Tom's future looks safe and secure. Good thing he had no idea of the turmoil that was going on around him. Most definitely all pet owners, especially those of horses, should have a plan discussed with family members on the care of their animals in the event something like this happens to wouldn't hurt to have it in writing.
3/12/2009 Bonnie
Lucky, lucky Tom now has a forever home where he will live out his remaining years in love and compassion. Angels do exist.

"My horses are my friends, not my slaves" - Dr. Reiner Klimke