We knew she would die. Halfway through her pregnancy, a long-ago leg injury festered, and the pain made it difficult for her to stand. We never imagined she’d carry full term, but she proved us wrong.
Weak and in labor, her vet thought he’d have to take the foal by cesarean and put Stormy down. Instead, he shook his head afterward. “I can’t believe it,” he said. “She didn’t want my help and did all the work herself.”
She had pushed out a filly and fought to nurse her for three days. None of Stormy’s previous foals ever resembled her. This one was her spitting image—her swan song.
A half-sister to Stormy Reply, she appeared healthy and was soon to foal when I noticed her stumble. Her legs looked fine, no heat, no injury. So I was shocked by her diagnosis: Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), an insidious but treatable disease spread by opossums.
She birthed a bold and playful colt.
We put him with a nurse mare to treat his mother’s EPM. And the treatment seemed to be working. My husband and I were a pasture away and looking right at her when she fell. She got up, fell again, and again. Danny hurtled a fence, kneeled beside her, and coaxed her to stay down.
I knew she was gone when I felt an enormous whoosh! of energy leave her body, the pasture, the farm.
Tap It Twice
Once owned by Joe Pesci, our gray beauty raced with so much gumption and heart, I worried about her adjusting to retirement and motherhood. But she acquiesced into her growing body with grace and mellowed throughout her pregnancy.
She foaled with only a slight tear that could be repaired. We had no reason to worry. She nursed her filly (the prettiest I’ve ever seen) for about a month before undergoing a routine surgery to mend her cervix.
She threw a blood clot and died.
Uncomfortable with sharing sadness, I fell mute with my grief. I read Richard Gilbert’s Shepherd: A Memoir, an honest account of farming and its hardships. I admired Gilbert’s ability to write about loss. He covered joyous and comedic moments, too. But he didn’t shy away from hard truths the way I do.
And then I read a lovely tribute to Fenton the Canine by Fenton (the human) Johnson on Cynthia Martin’s blog Catching Days. That’s when I decided to write about the passing of our beloved broodmares. Not to bellyache, but to honor three remarkable equines.
In their wake are hard lessons, fond memories, two fillies, and a colt.