The day had finally come. It was heartbreaking but it had to be done. Austin's old pony had reached a point where he needed to cross the bridge and run through the fields of pony heaven.
We got him May 2007 from a family who was moving north and they thought he was 30 or so then. He was wooley...just shedding his winter coat. We soon found out that Icelandic's shed from the first warm day until the first cold day. They never really "slick out" like other horses. He was just wooley all year...in winter though, he had the coat of a yak.
He was onery to Kennedy but seemed to take an instant liking to Austin. When we would be fed up with his antics and "short man" syndrome, Austin would remind us that he was just a "grumpy, old man" and we would learn to look at him as a "grandpa" sort of pony and we learned to develop more patience. He didn't like to do anything fast including eat which would sometimes take up to 2 hours. He only had one back tooth though so we would wait and then let him out of his stall to join the herd.
When his herd was turned out to pasture in the spring, Champ just went crazy without them. With only one back tooth it was impossible for him to survive on pasture and grain...he required a special diet of beetpulp, grain, orchard grass pellets and a variety of supplements. He was lonely and depressed and so we bought him his own pets...2 goats we named Zack and Cody. To say that Champ was thrilled about the idea is greatly exaggerating. While he enjoyed having someone else here, the goats were a pain! He loved bossing them though so he spent much of his time bullying and throwing tantrums their way.
While he was the smallest and the oldest, he gained respect from the rest of the group. He had no problem letting them know when they ticked him off and once, even Austin got it in the face! Champ had had it with the fillies and didn't realize Austin was behind him when he kicked out. I was ready to find him another home at that point but Austin stepped in and won the day for Champ once again.
He was Kennedy's first rodeo pony and even Austin used him a time or two. He never earned a good time but he put all his heart in to running barrels and poles. He was stubborn though and without a strong rider could take off and do his own thing, as Kennedy found out more than once. With Austin he was as good as gold.
He was a beautiful pony with a honey colored body and soft blond mane. I can imagine that in his day he was quite the show stopper. We heard he had been a parade horse and I can believe it.
He loved trail rides at Hughes farm. It didn't matter that he was old and arthritic, when he saw that was where we were headed, he was off and running. He loved Chazz and trail riding with him was pure heaven for Champ. I'm sure that where ever horse heaven is, he is running through the trails and jumping the low branches. We took him on his last ride this summer and it was clear that he was struggling to keep up. It was then that I knew the decision would have to be made soon.
We discussed it with the vet several times and they urged us to make the decision before November when the weather would turn cold and the east wind would howl through the trees. Even with his big wintery coat and our heaviest blanket, last winter was a struggle for him so we knew that another winter would be impossible. The days became shorter and we spent a great deal of time discussing what needed to be done with Austin. While he knew in his head it was the right thing to do...it was much harder telling his heart.
Austin didn't want to be there so Daddy stayed behind to be with Champ. It was over quickly and painlessly for Champ but took some time for Austin to get through. He is healing and starting to spend more time with his horse, Cooper. While Cooper can not replace Champ, he does help to soothe the soul a bit.
We would like to thank Columbia Equine for their exceptional care of our horses and for the lovely condolence card. Also, in Champ's memory, they gave a substantial donation to the scholarship fund at OSU's veterinarian program. We thought that was just awesome.
God forbid that I should go to any Heaven in which there are no horses. ~R.B. Cunninghame Graham, letter to Theodore Roosevelt, 1917