Horses In Heaven
Words can barely express how we feel about the beautiful horses who have graced our lives and once thundered across the grounds of the sanctuary. Sometimes with head held high and tail flicking, other times it was walking gently in single file back to the stables on the way to supper as the red-orange Western Australian sun was setting. While they may have suffered earlier in their lives, it's bittersweet that they finally came to feel and know the loving hand and heart of humans once they arrived at our gates. If there is a Rainbow Bridge we're glad you're free from suffering and amongst your own kind. And as Alan says "If I had to climb Mt. Everest to get there, I'd surely do it" in order to see that each and every horse that passed away was living wild and free forever more. To all of our dear friends, we say "Rest In Peace." It has been a blessing and an honor to serve you. We hope we gave you the life that you so rightly deserved. We will never, ever forget you." This page is dedicated to them.
Thirty-plus year-old Brodie, who in every way represented the sanctuary with dignity and nobility, passed away which marks the end of a very special era. He joins the old guard, Merc and Topaz, in Heaven. All 3 were the shining stars of the elder horses here with Brodie charming all who met him with his sweet yet distinquished nature. I fell in love with him upon feeling the love he embodied for his older mates and the close friendship he had with Alan.
Brodie ran his life to the end having no pain or fear despite having first arrived at CHS with a bad case of founder in all 4 hooves. His frogs were basically non-existent and movement was extremely painful for him. This brave little pony endured fortnightly trims until he could move more freely with less pain. Brodie also had dental problems and at his first dental appointment it was discovered he had two massive ulcers, one on each side of his mouth and eating would have been a painful experience for him. They healed at CHS and he ate with joy. His nickname was “the chaff cutter” because he chewed and swallowed his food as never before.
Brodie was quite a character. He would come up behind Alan and put his nose right in the centre of his back and push. Alan didn’t react much because he heard Brodie spent some of his early life in a circus and Alan remembered this manoeuvre when he was a kid watching this same behaviour happen in the circus with the clowns. As the story goes, back in the day Brody apparently won an event at the Royal Perth Show.
Living at CHS Brodie made good friends with 17.1 hand horse, Big Ben. Ben loved Brodie and upon his death he mourned next to Brodie’s stable gate with his neigh sounded more like a cry. Ben had never had a close friend during his life until he came to us. He stood watch over little old Brodie, spending much of the afternoon of his death looking for him, making crying sounds. What Ben was doing for Brodie was what Brodie did for old Merc- loving him in the same way. Alan kept watch over Brodie his past few weeks as he was aware that the little white pony was feeling the weight of old age on his little bones. After devouring his morning meal with enthusiasm on Thursday morning and after the herd drifted off, Brodie and Ben went off together and spent about two hours grazing before Alan noticed Brodie had drifted back walking rather slowly towards the stables.
He checked on Brodie in the late morning and he did not appear in pain. Checked again the next morning and still no evidence of pain. When he commenced feeding the herd on the Friday morning he WAS STILL THERE so he put his bucket near him and he got up went over to his trough had a sniff came back and laid down again. This was not Brodies usual reaction to food and Alan started to think Brodie had lost strength and energy because he now and again would rise and then lay down again. When he next checked Brodie, he gave the impression he was asleep but with a little bit sand in both of his eyes and a few ants crawling on him. Alan tried to gently get him to rise but the little fella did not want to. What ever was happening around him, Brodie did not seem to notice. Alan concluded that little legs could not carry him any more, he had not strength or energy and his precious life came to an end.
As always, Alan gave this resident a proper burial. He covered Brodie’s lovely face in a clean chaff bag and his body with two large horse rugs and Alan’s neighbour helped buried him. This has been one of the most difficult things Alan has had to do since he started CHS in 2005. Upon burying Brodie, Alan was overcome by a deep wave of loneliness because he had lost one of his very best friends. Big Ben is heartbroken too.
On behalf of Alan, Big Ben and all the horses here at CHS, Bless you Brodie, rest In Peace little mate. You’ll forever be in our hearts and we’ll be sure to look after your mate Big Ben
One of our most beloved and newest horses, Vivek, named after a compassionate human gentleman who had provided outstanding care to our horses, has just passed away. As we've often said, names matter here at Calan and to name Vivek after a human says volumes about both the horse and man with the name Vivek in Sanskrit, meaning 'Wisdom.'
Sadly, this lovely and wise, standard bred, who came to us 2 years ago, dull coat and thin, at around age 25+, was likely overworked throughout his life but we do not know the details. The horses that come to us have little written or oral histories-we tend to only get a sentence or a few words about what might have happened to them but there is no documented information. Vivek's body gave out after several hopeful attempts this past year by a vet and then a holistic equine practitioner, Jacqui-both who greatly eased his suffering coming from his neck and spine. His body this past week could not hold up and he was injuring himself trying to do so. Giving it one more go to help Vivek, Alan called on his good neighbour Vince for assistance. Vince and Alan couldn't rouse Vivek and he had to be put down, as it was clear in Vivek's eyes that enough was enough for our dear horse friend. And yes, Alan knows each horse that well, that intimately, that completely on a one-to-one basis. It's his life's work and purpose.
It is hard being the receiver of equine souls like Vivek and our other horses who have only one more chance to give life a go. And, it's not just Alan who has had sleepless nights looking after Vivek's soul recovery. Our supporters inquire about the horses and in this case of Vivek in particular, several visitors were able to really 'see' Vivek for who he was and to offer him care and kindness whilst at Calan. Upon hearing the news of his death, a young visitor who had met and spent time with Vivek said this: "I am sending you all my love. The death of a loved one is never easy, especially someone as truly kind and peaceful and determined and willing as Vivek." This statement of support shows just how much people are affected by being in this horse's company for even a day and a half. He was an undervalued horse in his previous life for sure.
He'll be missed by all of us and especially our horse, 'Lakota', who was Vivek's equine pal. These two horses would stand back to back during the mid-summer fly season and Vivek would use his tail to swat the flies away from Lakota's face. Lakota would not let Alan or anyone close enough to put a fly veil on her so Vivek took it upon himself to help Lakota because she would follow him around nose to tail to take advantage of the tail swish. Those bonds do not dissolve easily even after one horse dies.
Off to the Rainbow Bridge dear Vivek. Thank you for sharing your last two years with us and we'll always keep you in our hearts.
On behalf of Alan, the supporters and all of us here at Calan Horse Sanctuary
On July, 1, 2020 our beloved ‘Bella’, a lovely, soft, gentle mare, died.
The sanctuary has very little information on the background of Bella-most of what we know is hearsay although we do not minimize the possible poor treatment when there is talk about a horse’s history. We are very sad that Alan as usual, was the one who had to find Bella lying dead in the paddock and he gave her a good life since she arrived at CHS on September 13, 2017. We opened our hearts and double gates to welcome Bella who was fast running out of options where she could call “home”. Some of her story before us was that racing dogs on a property purposely chased her. The whites of her eyes were big and she double-barrelled Alan a few times in the beginning. It took her the past few years at Calan to settle herself down and trust that she was safe.
Bella spent the first few weeks enjoying the company of our two Shetland ponies, Gypsy and Tonto, four rescued sheep and two alpacas. We then introduced her to Brodie, the little Welsh pony who is said to have spent time in a circus and had some success at the Royal Show. Whether that history of Brodie is true or not this little fella is a true gentleman and he remained a dedicated companion right up to the last breath made by several of our dear horses- especially Merc the day he died.
Calan Horse Sanctuary publicly made a vow to all that we would do everything at our disposal to give Bella a good life and watch over her 24/7 so her remaining years will be to her liking never to be sold or moved on and her days of being ridden are no more. We kept our promise and are sad that it was short-lived. Unfortunately, we never know how long or short a horse will stay with us. Most have histories that lend themselves to guessing what we’re up against in caring for them. Regardless, we take on these beautiful creatures out of love and compassion and to give them the lives they deserve. Rest in Peace sweet Bella. You’re in heaven now and we hope you feel wild and free.
Loving a horse means going through whatever is necessary together and including through having to lay your equine friend to rest. Alan had to put TEX down on December 5, 2020, and TEX was certainly loved. It’s been a bit more than a week ago and it’s been a long one for sure. We want to share Alan’s reflection on TEX’s life and also appreciate that life and caretaking of the rest of the Calan horses must go on with as much kindness, gratitude and positivity that we can gather.
Alan, accompanied by Carol, made the trip to first pick up 17 year-old TEX and bring him to the sanctuary on June 6, 2012. Over the years TEX suffered from a case of what we eventually came to understand as ‘fistulous wither’ and there was very little knowledge about what to do about it. Friends and supporters would offer concerned comments like ‘all the best with this’ and ‘ be thinking of you and your dear horse’ as old TEX’s wither would erupt with a yellow substance of blood and pus as it ran down his shoulders and front legs all the way to his hooves.
It was this time last December 2019, nearly a year ago, that a supporter and equine healer named Jacqui Addison, performed bodywork treatments on old TEX and a few of our other sanctuary horses. "I noticed TEX had a blockage of flow around the withers area and started fascia release treatment throughout his whole body. I was pleased to be advised by Alan that TEX had significantly improved. I treated TEX again in August of 2020 and his response was extremely gratifying. I am very pleased that I was able to provide comfort and relief to a dear old soul.”
In the end, whatever blocks were in old TEX’s body and soul, were too much for him to release. In late November of this year, 2020, he was urinating blood although still enjoyed his tucker. Alan suspected kidney trouble just like Beriah (aka Lightening Jack) and our beloved late Topaz.
Alan found TEX down on the morning of Saturday, December 12, 2020 and it was obvious he was in real trouble and tremendous pain. After multiple attempts to get him standing on all fours, Alan realized it was not possible and that TEX was at the end of his life. TEX became the 12th horse to be buried at Calan Horse Sanctuary. The blessedness comes from understanding that in every way each horse comes with its own history and issues yet despite that, each horse brings so much joy and love amidst their pain and issues. TEX was a model horse, never kicked and remained still for trims and for the dentist who said it was a pleasure to work on him.
Alan gave TEX, as he did the others, a proper soldier’s goodbye- in that he covered TEXs entire head, nose and ears with a chaffe bag and wrapped his soft body in 3 old horse rugs to protect it as much as possible from being dug up at night by wandering and feral animals. Alan’s helpful neighbour Vince assisted him in the burial.
Being the man that Alan is, he takes every passing hard and more so when he has had no options other than to do this deed himself. Yet he wakes up every morning and with a gracious and kind heart, feeds and tends to the needs and nature of each horse here and appreciates the subtle gestures they make toward him. Big Irish the other day gave Alan 50 extra licks to start the day as little Brodie stood by and watched.
For our dear and sorely missed Francis
Arrived 7/12/1919 and died 21/2/2020
We've been reluctant to share any sad news mainly because all losses take their toll on Alan Gent, the compassionate founder of this special place. Alan cares for each and every animal that lives here and knows and treats each as an individual. The one Alan most recently brought back from a terrible state, Francis, the chocolate brown donkey, died earlier this year and it was tough.
Francis was a true little angel. And as our loyal supporters know, all the horses presiding here have their good points but they would be happy to have learnt that this little fellow had them all. When giving Francis his two grooming's for each day, if he was a bit close to the wall or trough Alan only had to touch him and say "move please mate" and he would gently shift his weight as softly and gracefully as a ballet dancer.
Because he had yet to be gelded, Francis would partake of his morning meal well before Alan arrived with Omar’s because Omar, another peaceful soul, shared a stable with Francis and the timing had to be managed. Francis however knew his manners and would eat about half of his tucker and then stand and wait for Omar so they could eat together. When Omar arrived Francis gave out a nod in greeting him and then kindly moved back into his own side and the two would commence in finishing their brekkie or tea.
Around 4:45 in the morning Alan would awake, flip on the kitchen light and hear an enthusiastic "HEE HAW!!" out the window as if Francis was saying, "Don’t forget me!"
The day Francis died was terribly upsetting. Alan walked out with his bucket and could not see him anywhere. He noticed his gate into the large herd paddock was open. What he witnessed thereafter was shocking and hurt Alan’s heart deeply:
"I know he was not a gate pusher and I was sure I had fastened the latch, but I must have made a bad mistake and left the chain across the gate but NOT fastened. I was not very far behind him as he with much enthusiasm walked towards the herd. He had wanted to do this for a couple of months and here was his chance and also the 23 horses with the same enthusiasm raced towards him.
When they met I was quite close and did not see any horse bite, kick or what ever and then after a few moments Francis went down on his front knees and slowly rolled onto his side. I immediately knelt next to him. Francis's breathing was deliberate and slow and as I softly stroked his forehead his breathing gyrated twice and stopped. I nearly fainted and then noticed all the horses very slowly backed off and gave Francis some space. About two hours later my kind neighbour and I buried this beautiful, soft, once living creature. Recalling this moment I am a complete mess. I have said this a few times now that personally I am not strong enough for this life and it is affecting me physically and emotionally to continue to care so deeply for these innocent creatures who find their way to the sanctuary."
With such a devastating loss, Alan has since made contact with the "Donkey Association of West Australia" and had a nice conversation with two of the committee members and mentioned if ever the association hears or sees a donkey in need of a home Calan Horse Sanctuary will open their hearts and gate to the needy animal.
The change in his coat from a dull brown to a shiny black shows to Alan the great benefit it was for Francis, however short his sweet and precious life, to arrive at the sanctuary and what a sad waste and loss it is with his demise- something that could have been prevented had Francis been properly loved and cared for from his beginning.
We will miss you dear Francis- our first donkey friend.
Beriah was rescued around 11 years ago due to the former owner labelling him as “Surplus to their requirements” and considering it “time” to maybe shoot him. This once magnificent looking horse had completed at the highest level of Equestrian Sport, but now before us stood a sad under-nourished black gelding.
We were told that a person who had worked where Beriah was stabled and trained had witnessed him being beaten, starved and abused. Beriah’s rescuer set about treating him gently and with consistent kindness enabling him to trust humans again. Being of course, hand shy any sudden movement of any one’s hand would cause him to rear up in fear. Unfortunately, the lovely lady who rescued him fell on bad times and her property had to be sold, necessitating Beriah to be agisted else where and away from his rescuer’s loving care. Her efforts to still care for his welfare financially in spite of her personal problems became too much, and after 8 years of “No hands on care” agistment she realized he needed a sanctuary as his health was rapidly deteriorating.
Beriah’s rescuer’s sent out a heart felt plea to C.H.S. to please consider him to join our family. After much consideration we opened our hearts and gates to this 26 year old, beautiful and forgiving horse where we will endeavour to help him regain his health, self esteem and continue to trust humans for his remaining years...however:
Around 10.30 AM on 25/5/2019 this horse with a giant heart and soul was put to sleep. He was found down very early that morning and all indications by the marks on the ground he had been suffering for a long time.
It was a repeat of what I saw with dear Topaz and Merc, on both of these sad occasions it was kidney failure and they just could not get up. Myself and helper Vince tried very hard to help him to stand but his rear end would not respond, also we were concerned about his organs being damaged by the continue weight by lying on hard ground. Merc totally lost an eye during his terrible time of not being able to get up, he just rubbed the eye right out of the socket and twice I had to open Beriah's eye socket and swap with a sponge because it was filling up with sand.
Again with Merc also his mouth was caked with sand and I opened up Beriah's mouth and there was sand in it, not as full as Merc but it would not have been long before it would have been. With the fear they experience plus the terrible discomforts they are experiencing makes it all so horrible.
I was forced to make the terrible decision of having to put this dear horse to sleep with my own hands because of his suffering. What was so painful for me is that by just moving just one finger about 10 ml I brought to an end around 30 years of life and that of a horse that was near perfect. He NEVER laid his ears back in anger, he never ever gave a slight indication of a kick, he was so polite and cooperative and I freely use the word PERFECT.
When he arrived here he was very thin, he had a visible bone running parallel with his spine and his ribs were protruding etc. His teeth were extremely long and he would be continually seen sucking his tongue and be dribbling. This was corrected by some very skilful equine dentistry. The indication was for a great length of time fly's had been affecting his eyes and I had to regularly bathe his eyes with water and tea leaves etc.
He seemed to be dragging his hind leg as he walked and I had to carefully trim his hooves to give him some relief. (The last two years this trusting fella used to let me trim his hooves with power tools and I will say it was a pleasure to me to work with him.)
It was interesting to note when he arrived the two top Alpha horses gave him special treatment. In the past Rebel and Irish would be quite strict on all new arrivals into the sanctuary in showing them what is expected of them to join the herd, but with Beriah they in fact were quite soft and very gentle with him. Beriah being such a sensible horse found his intro into the herd uncomplicated. Because there was some evidence that he was loosing his eye sight, we gave his companion Omar a small bell to wear just in case Beriah needed a sound to be able to safety move around. A few days after Beriah died it was evident that Omar missed his companion Beriah.
I personally found it very painful to have to bring the life of such a lovely horse to an end. Every time I am called upon to do this I tear up. The day after doing this was a very long sad day indeed. I had to keep reminding myself that the sanctuary gave him three years and two months of daily care and love that he would not of had.
I miss him dreadfully and cannot believe he is gone; sometimes I feel I am not strong enough for this type of life and need others to help carry the grieving.
Rest in Peace our dear friend. May you run free across the Rainbow Bridge.
We're sad to say that on the day of the Melbourne Cup, November 5, 2019, we lost a dear old mare, Mae Lee, an elder horse who arrived only a few years ago with only one eye, who died on her own terms and with her head resting gently in Alan Gent's arms, her one good eye soulfully gazing upward into his. He was the last human being she saw and felt after a life where -although she lived to be in her 30's-was a life no horse should be subjected to.
As is common for horses raised for sport, Mae won many thousands of dollars for her owners and when she was retired, they on many occasions organized Mae to become pregnant hoping for another successful trotter for financial gain.
With her first dentist treatment here at the sanctuary, the dentist could not help becoming angry and said that this mouth is a total disgrace. Alan and one of the sanctuary volunteers, Helen, was a witness to this. The two years before she died the dentist could only do so much because of the severity of the past neglect.
Prior to her life at Calan, Mae's day were spent under continual harrassment by three geldings sharing the same paddock. She had dreadfully sore hooves and her only good eye was covered in flies. As she sought shelter from the shade of trees and went to the soak for a drink the three geldings did their most to move her away.
The only kindness Mae had known was through the hands of a kind horse lady who used to put a fly veil on her when traveling to work and remove it on her way home.
From the very moment she arrived at our place, she was NO trouble and was perfect in all ways from trimming to feeding, because she was definitely the true Matriarch and received immediate respect from the rest of the Calan herd. Our boys Vinnie, Big Ben and Brodie were heart broken when she died on the 5/11/2019.
On that morning upon Alan checking the herd around 5.30 AM he noticed she was laying on the ground which was not the first time but when she was still down some time later he drove over on the quad bike and noticed her breathing was not quite as strong as usual. Alan, leaning onto the bike, said "I gently lifted her dear head onto my lap and slowly she passed away on my lap. Because there was no signs of a struggle to get up all indications were that her long life of 34 years had come to an end. When a horse dies here it leaves a huge gap and I can honestly say it remains there for ever."
We honor and respect you dear Mae. May your journey across the heavens lead you to abundant waters, shade trees and the good company of your own kind. Rest in Peace with the others who have left their hoofprints on our hearts.
LIGHTNING JACK aka BERIAH
Not 'objects' and rather fellow 'subjects' as St Francis proclaimed in his respect toward all life and especially animals. He abhorred cruelty and felt the planet was the dominion of no one and a home to every living creature, including grass, worms, trees, fish and of course mammals including birds and the horse.
It is 2018 and sadly, since Francis's proclamation in the 1200s, centuries have passed and we're still battling suffering inflicted on animals thought of as 'objects. We at Calan Horse Sanctuary, will not let this one pass nor let our equine residents, especially Matilda whom we loved for just a short time and died this week, go unnoticed.
Her story could easily be from Francis's time when neglect of animals was rampant. This gentle old mare was given sanctuary at Calan Horse Sanctuary in December 2017 after years of forced breeding. And we're told by word of mouth, even at age 30 she was made to give ongoing riding lessons, not just rides, to approximately 36 different children whilst in foal.
We all know how much work a horse has to do to teach a human how to ride- let alone 36! In fact, the approach to her by a human when known this mare was going to retire was 'Can't you just let her squeeze out another one before you give her away?'
Any human would be horrified at this. Not because Matilda is an animal, and rather because it is not what any TRUE human being would think and say.
Unfortunately, what this lovely, gentle and trusting old mare suffered doesn't stop there. She came to us with barely any teeth, constantly dropping her grain when trying to eat because she couldn't grind the food like a healthy horse. Include constant pulling on the bit by dozens of people learning to ride -to the extent that she lost most except 13 (a normal horse would have about 40-42.)
After the horrific drought we've just pulled through, the tough guilford grass had grown and poor Matilda in trying to graze like a normal horse's instinct is to do, couldn't masticate the grass. We don't know what happened although speculate that she might have had an compaction and heart attack in the middle of the night this past week, and died alone. No herd members were nearby to guide her or neigh out to Alan for help like Brodie did when old Merc was in trouble. As Alan is the only resident at the sanctuary, he couldn't have known this was happening during the dark hours of night. Around her body were swirls of sand as if her legs were trying to get her upright- the same as old Merc.
We'll always be here for these gorgeous equine souls, our friends on the journey through life. Our wish as always, is that Matilda has joined up in the big beyond and crossed over the rainbow bridge to run free forever more.
With the end of a tough year upon us comes the end of another worthy and beautiful, elder equine life. Thirty-three year-old 'RED' who arrived just a few months ago along with his lovely female companion horse, Lilly. I direct you to the above photo which was taken the day after his arrival. He is in beautiful condition for his age saying to all that his previous owners cared for him very well.
As many of our supporters and followers know, our mission is a noble yet challenging one as we cater to the aged equine population when space is available to offer refuge. Because we only had the privilege of Red's presence for only two months and 27 days makes it even more difficult to talk about it.
It was noticed after about three weeks his great body shape commenced to deteriorate and it was first thought the cause of this was his moving to a new home and joining up with a new herd. This no doubt did contribute some but it was then realized he was under nourished.
After the equine dentist examined and treated his teeth it became obvious that his mouth could not handle the harsh ground cover while grazing. His teeth condition also contributed to Red taking longer when eating his hard meal then and his stable mate would take over. Regretfully this went unnoticed by us.
Even though we increased his hard meal to three per day it did not seem to help him regain his strength and vigor.
To add to this beautiful horses woes his hind legs commenced to swell and became quite painful, even with pain relief given and treatment nothing improved in fact some days even with his gate open he would stand in his stable the complete day.
I found him down one afternoon and even when we gently tried to get him up he would not stand, even when the remainder of the herd raced up to see what was going on he hardly moved. At this time I was convinced that this dear horse was saying "I have had enough". So once again I had the stressful sad duty to carry out and that was to put to put him to sleep with my own hand.
Every time I have had to do this it seems to bruise my heart and the impact never fades.
This majestic horse was a wonderful soft obliging horse, he would always be so willing to cooperate in what ever we asked of him.
On the first paragraph of our web site we mention that the sanctuary follows the great natural horseman Carlos Tabernaberri in every detail when caring for a horse. The formula is C.C.K.L which means confident-consistant-kind-leadership and the horse with time will return to the handler T.O.R which means trust-obedience-respect. WELL RED DID NOT NEED ANY TIME -IT WAS INSTANT........He was certainly special.
We have never met a horse we felt didn't deserve the highest regard and care which we gladly and freely give. That said, Red was a model horse and I wish I could have done and given more. He left his mark and we miss him and thank him for his time here as short as it was. Just like the other elder horses that have passed on we will remember his dignified, graceful presence now and forever imprinted on our hearts and land.
As I commence to type this Tribute to Cobber I am not embarrassed to say my eyes are filled with emotion. It has been a tough few years, now having lost yet another of our beautiful equine friends.
On the 18/5/2013 two ex-gallopers, Cobber and Digger, excitedly exited the horse float and commenced living lives that graced this property. A very enjoyable experience for CHS as they joined the mob who found their final home here. They had a close bond when we first met them and it was clear we had to keep them together.
On many occasions, these two mates would gallop at lightning speed putting hooves to ground over every bit of grass and earth of this 100-acre property.
From the beginning, I noticed Cobber had a slightly jerky action as he ran but as this remained right through the three-plus years he was with us, we reached the conclusion that he simply had a different gait movement. But alas, about two and a half months ago we became aware that this lovely fella was moving with a much different action and as time went by (see photo) it became more of a concern to him and us.
We sought and received veterinary advice, asked experienced horse folk to check him and pass on their opinions, and he received injections, pain relief, and a donated special herb was given, but all to no avail. The problems were insurmountable and grave.
On the 7/5/2017 it became evident to me that dear Cobber’s end was drawing close. I kept a watchful eye on him and by 1:00 PM of the day, he could not turn and move to the right and forward, and with much effort, he could only slowly edge himself to the left.
What I have found so heartbreaking and infinitely sad is the moment all compassionate and caring horse stewards dread more than anything else in the world- having gained the trust of an innocent animal and then having to end its life by your own hands. I approached Cobber with my rifle and connected his right ear to his left eye and visa versa with a mark, all items he had never seen before, yet he continued to place his trust in me. Then, I had to pull the trigger. This lovely, 510-kilo living creature, crashed to the ground and those once lovely brown liquid eyes gazed at me no more. I was torn apart and I will never ever be the same, nor will I ever forget him. He gave all of us so much joy and now when we spend time with his close companion Digger, the spirit of Cobber will be with us just like the spirits of Topaz, Lawson, and Koda. Maybe the sight of whirling dust and clouds of dirt and the sound of thundering hoofbeats is you and the boys letting us know you’re alright.
I have read much about the Rainbow Bridge (http://hoofbeats-in-heaven.com/praise/M-Z/The_Rainbow_Bridge_For_Horses/ ) and I am not sure whether I believe it. But the hope and promise contained in this promise that he is somewhere free I will dwell on to help me grieve and continue to care and protect living creatures whenever the opportunity is before me.
To what do we owe our equine companions? For us at Calan Horse Sanctuary, we say ‘Everything’. Even, and especially in, old age and after having served the harsh demands placed on them by humans. We as caretakers of equines in their twilight years - many formerly neglected and/or abandoned, have laid to rest our dear friend, 28-year-old, Australian stock horse, Lawson - a deeply soft soul inside who it is believed to have been demanded and driven throughout his life to perform in camp draft before being abandoned to a paddock for two years.
As we had a duty of care to ease his suffering after he was found in a painful bout of colic that could not be reversed by our joint efforts, the vet assessed and advised we help free him from this life and on to the next. Thus, we did and in his eyes, one could tell Lawson was relieved.
Understandably, it was a slow process for Lawson to trust when he arrived at CHS, 6 years, 2 months and 4 days before his passing on March 13, 2017.
The years of these harsh demands took a major toll on old Lawson’s teeth, feet, and general well-being. He was discovered when Alan was assisting a person in the care of another horse and noticed how Lawson kept approaching from the other side of the fence. He had a dreadful sore in the shape of a mini-volcano erupting with flies as if ants from a nest, near his tail. Thankfully, a local horsewoman kindly helped remedy Lawson’s physical situation. He eventually came into our care at CHS and even with love, mulching his hay, trimming hooves and dental work, he struggled.
Whilst here, however, Lawson found refuge in becoming part of the Old Guard and befriended our copper-coat mate, the five-star General and senior equine known as Topaz. Even as old fellas, you could see the bond they had was true and deep, few words spoken yet always shoulder to shoulder, nearly touching when together and perhaps pondering how to best keep the troops in line. Age and their physical condition did not diminish the respect given them by the other horses. They experienced the later years of life on their terms and when trust in a human was earned, you knew you had proven worthy of it.
Old Lawson never got over the death of Topaz in 2015. And, for 9 months, we would watch him stand over Topaz’s grave, motionless and grieving. Some would say perhaps Lawson had known or had enough and was choosing to join his old friend. Horse herd members experience loss and sadness much the same as what has been observed and noted in elephant’s social structures. Whatever the case may be, we know in our hearts and minds that we gave each other much satisfaction. His loss reaffirms our commitment to do all that we can to help animals that are forever at our mercy. For that, we salute and honor you, Lawson, for all that you’ve endured in keeping humanity honest.
It is with a heart full of sadness that we share that one of our newest rescues, Kokoda (Koda) was found lying dead in the paddock last week. The shock to us has hit hard given that he was one of those horses who through no fault of his own, had been relegated to a life as a 'lawnmower' and then destined to 'the meat factory' out of increased disinterest as his former human keeper's relationship fell apart.
Kokoda's nature showed he was a kind and beautiful soul- all you would want in a horse and he was willing to give himself 100% even after everything that was done to him.
Found shivering in his paddock in the rain and with harassment by dogs on a regular basis, a woman named Sue courageously negotiated and brought him to a safe and 'forever' home at Calan.
With older horses we are fully aware, both eyes open, that our elder equines have limited time on earth and we celebrate time with them in moments.
But Koda's passing remains a mystery- he was only around 17 years old. Could it have been a snakebite, brain aneurysm or heart attack? Who knows for sure. We only hope that he didn't suffer and that at least he ended his life as a true resident, a bonafide member of the herd at CHS, and that he knew he was worth more than '62 starts and 10 wins', and was valued and loved as an individual. Rest in Peace our new found friend Koda.
On the 26th February 2015 Calan Horse Sanctuary was faced with the situation we always knew would one day eventuate. Sadly, that day came.
Our much loved 27 year-old Topaz, had been struggling for sometime; our Vet informed us that his kidneys were shutting down and in- spite of our every effort to boost his diet and give his body every chance, all was to no avail. We found him down on the morning of the 26th in pain. The Vet was two hours away, so as the founder of the Sanctuary, I had the duty of care to step-up and help him leave us as peacefully as possible. With my son and two of my loyal helpers, we then respectfully laid him at rest.
For five years I had the privilege and pleasure of caring for my 27-year-old equine friend. With his coppery colored hair and the thinning yet dignified stature of an old soldier who had been through the wars, Topaz was the top brass amongst the herd at Calan Horse Sanctuary in Western Australia. In his presence, both horse and human gave him the respect befitting his age and position. I had heard in his ‘hey day’ he had been outstanding under the saddle with a number of successes as a competition horse, yet he seemed to have drawn the short straw during the majority of his life. Although his last owner never mistreated him, information has trickled through to that Topaz had a real tough life, and the comments to me when they knew I was caring for him at CHS were “Is he still alive?” We found to our dismay that he had arrived with eleven loose teeth. Thanks to skilful dentistry and daily mulching of his hay Topaz was eventually able to eat in a reasonable manner.
With much love and caring, old Topaz’s health and spirits lifted. He gracefully took his place as the Patriarch, protected by several middle-aged herd members. Visitors gravitated toward and felt empathy for him because of the toll time had taken on his body and soul. The amazing thing however is the past had never affected his lovely heart. He never bit, kicked or caused damage. When approaching him with his rug he always stopped and quietly waited for it to be fitted and it was possible for us to trim his hooves with no halter and lead rope. Unlike some of our equine family, he had no qualms in sharing his water trough and when a new horse joined us at C.H.S., Topaz was always the first to befriend the new arrival and would stay close until they acclimatized to their new surroundings. He was soft and gentle we loved him and went out of our way to make his twilight years enjoyable. We renamed him Topaz, because he was a real gem. Still, I question whether I have done ‘enough’?
As the first sliver of golden orange sun rises over the gums breaking the silence of night, when a rainbow appears after a storm, as the Winter wind appears as a whinnie or thundering hoofbeats, I continue to feel his presence. Maybe it’s a shadow on the horizon, a flick of a tail just beyond the sheds, a brush of soft muzzle against my cheek, it would never be enough. It is what makes the bond between Topaz and I so special and irreplaceable.
We are behoved to say, ‘If humans had given Topaz the same respect he showed, he might still be out there grazing with his ‘friends’.
MERCURY PILOT "MERC"
Some friends come into your life to share memories with, and there are friends that destiny ensured your meeting will forever be ‘memorable’. I met him on my first trip to Calan Horse Sanctuary several years ago when I read there was this wonderful place that a wonderful man had created to give unwanted horses a forever home. This wasn’t an ordinary sanctuary and wasn’t an ordinary man nor an ordinary horse- his name was Merc, (aka Mercury Pilot as a racer), a thoroughbred from Tasmania, in his elder years, private and peaceful, yet a strong willed old patriarch, who would have turned 29 this year, 2017.
Alan Gent, the extraordinary man and founder of CHS, knew something was wrong when old Merc, who was starved sometime in his past, didn’t come down for his breakfast. Merc’s little mate, a white elder pony named Brodie, frantically called out to Alan, to send the alarm that Merc had collapsed and could he please answer his cries for help? Merc had come to CHS as a mate for a horse named Rebel and boy, would Merc give Alan a serve if he was late with brekkie or tea! And of course, if Merc was being fed, then little Brodie had to be fed because he was as loyal as the sky is blue when it came to being old Merc’s right hand man and stuck like glue to his side in all and every moment of every day.
As little Brodie and Big Ben, Merc’s other soulful mate, drew Alan in with their cries and then attendance at breakfast without Merc, something Merc had never before missed, Alan confronted his worst fears- something had gone terribly wrong with Merc and he eventually found him on the ground, in the mud and not able to get up. Fear lit up old Merc’s left eye and he had gone blind in the right, caked with mud and sand dripping out of his mouth, as it had rained through the night and the earth had flooded and caked-up around him. His left front foot was cut as his back hoof had struggled and kicked the front trying to get himself upright. Alan, alone, tried to roll him over as it was clear he had been down for a long time and the concern was about his organs shutting down from this situation.
Alan had the wherewithal to send an S.O.S. to two loyal and long-time volunteers, Helen and Azzurrah, who were still in bed that morning and about 40 minutes away. They assisted Alan in keeping Merc as comfortable and dry as they could but Alan had no choice but to put him to sleep. When I received the message from Alan I was as sick as a friend could be to hear such news. I wondered what would Brodie do without him? Did Merc suffer? My heart went out to Alan and I thanked God that Helen and Azzurrah were there to help along with Nathan, Alan’s son who has had the difficult and honorable job of placing the deceased horses in their graves.
As Alan has aptly said and we all feel the same, “I will never forget Merc and if it was possible for him and I to meet again and walk over the Rainbow Bridge together, and it required me to walk up Mt. Everest to do it, I’m sure I would make the effort.” After a brief phone chat with Alan, I drove past a paddock at dusk, along the Bass Coast in Victoria, looked over to my right and saw a young horse the exact same color and markings as Merc. Tears continued to fall and I lit a candle at home, sat in meditation with Merc’s photo – one Alan had framed and presented me with and engraved with a little brass plate, a photo of Merc eating at his trough with bird feathers, woven into his flyveil, I had put in Merc’s stable on my first visit to let him know that he still had it in him, he could use these feathers to remind him he could run like the wind’.
We’re all in pain at Merc’s passing. Alan, Nathan, Helen and Azzurrah-not a dry eye amongst them in seeing Merc’a empty stable and bucket in the mornings. Yet rainbows have appeared- three the next morning over my farm in Victoria and there he was, up in the sky, old Merc in all his brilliant glory, running like the wind across the heavens and free from suffering with his herdmates Topaz and the gang. At CHS in Western Australia, elderly little Brodie continues to stand in vigil at Merc’s gate, has called out for him and then appears at the spot where Merc fell. Through all of our sorrow at our gentle friends’ passing, we give thanks to Alan Gent, the man whom the majority of responsibility falls in caring and handling what is sometimes a tough gig, looking after so many innocent beings. In my heart and I’m sure in Merc’s, we know Alan wouldn’t have it any other way- the love is always unconditional and mutual, the price we gladly pay to be in the company of one another, through good times and bad and to be able to say, no dear friend, its ok if you go first and I’ll be there for you when you do. Your passing has been one of the hardest to bear, an era gone by of the high standards you and Topaz the elder put on all of us to live up to the best, your gentle nature and kind knowing in your last days spent in closeness and friendship toward Alan when he gently stroked your cheeks – it’s as if you knew the time had come. We’ll see you again someday, and until then, in those rainbows and winds, in your empty stall and bucket and in the big heart of little Brodie who is our reminder of the great love that pulls this place together.
Goodbye for now Merc and May You Forever Rest in Peace
Your Friend, Mae Lee Sun
LINKA & LILY
On the 2nd February, 2015 Calan Horse Sanctuary opened its gates and hearts in anticipation of the arrival of two worthy little ponies.
Special amenities had been prepared for them; a large paddock to graze in with two rescued lambs for companionship, a horse stable to shelter in and a beautiful, large Eucalyptus tree for shade plus, willing hands to care for them. Alas, they did not arrive and we feel compelled to explain why.
Back in February of 2013, an exceptionally brave lady, intervened on behalf of these two dear little ponies, due to the fact they were badly neglected. She sought professional help and was told that Linka’s condition was too far gone and would need to be euthanized and her progeny, Lily, would need extensive treatment. Unwilling to put Linka down, this fine lady admitted them both to a veterinary clinic (footing the bill) where with loving professional care they were brought back from the brink of certain death.
Their x-rays revealed the extent of the pain they must have suffered over a long period, all because of their owner’s inability to administer duty of care. Due to the wonderful lady, and her whole family, who rescued them, they had received a second chance at life - one they deserved.
By the end of 2014, these two innocent animals were again in deep trouble. Unfortunately, they had been returned to their original owner who had promised to take better care of them; the law being on the side of the owner. Once again, the same brave, goodhearted lady stepped-in and admitted them to the same veterinary clinic. It was hoped that their condition, like before, could be reversed. With authorization in-place, they were to be transported to Calan Horse Sanctuary to convalesce.
Linka and Lily were now unable to walk and the x-rays revealed the full extent of their condition. Both their four hooves had Laminitis. In one of Linka’s hooves the coffin bone was completely broken away from the hoof wall. When first observed by us prior to their
removal we noticed they stood with their backs arched and their bodies tilted backwards; we wondered why? Of course the reason was their desperate need to try in some way, to elevate their weight from the hooves, but this caused unnatural strain and more pain on every part of their little bodies, a domino effect.
With hopeful hearts, Calan Horse Sanctuary and volunteers waited anxiously to hear the results of the x-rays. Everything was in place for their new life, one of hope, safety, tranquility, well kept hooves and pain free, but alas, it was not to be. A tearful and heartfelt decision was made to end their terrible relentless suffering; one they had endured for far too long. C.H. S. received the emotional phone call from their benefactress to say, regrettably at 3 pm, 2nd February 2015 the mare and her filly were put to sleep. Rest in Peace little mates. We're sorry for what humans have done to you and your kind.