Oct 15, 2009

A "Grand Finale" To A Friend

On Saturday afternoon, I got a phone call from my friend and trainer, Brenda Messick. Some of you may read her blog, Horses Are Our Life. She had just completed Day 1 of the Indian Cave Competitive Trail Ride when her horse, Finny, appeared to be colicking. She called from the road and was rushing him to her vet. My heart skipped a beat and I said a silent prayer for both of them….

I’m knocking wood as I write this, as we haven’t experienced colic in our herd, but often thought about it like one does about a number of undesirable sicknesses and diseases – knowing it exists but hoping it doesn’t come knocking on our door. I know it’s not necessarily a death sentence and depending on the severity, could be treated with something as mild as hand walking and Banamine or being “oiled” by the vet. But the nightmares we hear about colic involves surgery being the only option to save the horse. I cringe at the thought.

I could argue that horses are a necessity to maintaining my mental health, but the reality is I can pull my emotions in check when faced with what could be a very large veterinary expense. Over a decade ago, I recall thinking the platinum MasterCard was going to save the life of my beloved dog, Macy, only to have to have her put down two days later. Paying that monthly installment for “the try” was a bitter reminder of thinking with my heart and not my head and of what we loved and lost. It taught me not everything we love can be saved, the vets aren’t God and that sometimes we just have to say goodbye. I was at peace with that school of thought when my young gelding, Gunner, was mortally injured in a pasture accident years later. I won’t say it didn’t suck, because it did.

Finny was Brenda’s baby – almost literally -- as his dam died of colic when he was a foal. Brenda raised the young colt to become the fine 8-year-old gelding. The black horse, standing 15.3 hh, was quite striking with his tall white socks and his off-center wide blaze. Finny was not only recognized for regularly placing the last couple years in many of NATRC’s Region 6 Competitive Trail Rides, but he also served as a lesson horse and was a favorite among Brenda’s students.

I’ve known Finny since I’ve known Brenda. While taking lessons, she would be mounted on Finny, demonstrating what Windy and I should be doing while we never mastered it as eloquently as Finny could. Windy was comfortable with Finny and he was one of the few horses she wouldn’t pin her ears at. I think she must have had a crush on him.

Brenda and I both like to ride fast. The clouds in the distance didn’t seem a threat on what looked like a beautiful summer day last year when we were trotting and loping down the Oak Creek Trail. But the further out we got, the closer the clouds came toward us and before long, we were dodging lightning bolts in the pouring rain! On Finny and Windy, we ran for cover and waited out the storm. And as soon as the storm lifted, we raced our horses back to the trailers, freezing in our wet clothes.

More recently, we met prior to a Platte River Riders ride to put in some long trotting before the rest of the group arrived. With Windy leading, we began crossing the narrow, arched bridge. About half way across, the bridge started to wobble. Windy stopped, obviously concerned. It was too narrow for her to turn around, and no matter how I prodded her, no way, no how was she going to go forward! So she started to back up. Finny was right behind us and being the good sport he was, rather than fight to move forward, he went into reverse, too. And both horses gracefully backed all the way off that bridge!

We teamed up with Brenda and Finny at the Stephen’s Forest CTR a few weeks ago. I remember how excited we were after the “trot and jump” obstacle that we both nailed! And a funny moment started out not so funny when Windy was stung by a horse fly and started to buck as the relentless bug came back for more. I told Brenda we needed to get out of here fast. “Run!” Brenda, confused by the urgency caused by a horse fly, moved off the trail so Windy and I could quickly pass. As I am galloping down the trail, I glance behind me and see Brenda and Finny now at a dead run behind us! After our sudden departure, it seemed the fly had set it sights on poor Finny!

Windy and Finny’s pace was well matched. Finny was usually in the lead with his bold extended trot and I would try to keep Windy at least a horse length behind him. But what I remember most, was the times our horses were side by side, matching hoof falls, running through the forest.

Brenda’s Finny was diagnosed with a twisted gut and the vet concurred that she was losing him. She made the heartbreaking decision to take his pain away and let him go. I still find myself tearing up as I type this. I’m so glad I had that last ride with Finny and such good memories from that fall weekend.

My heart breaks for Brenda and the loss of her partner, Blues Grand Finale. Only the good die young, it seems. God speed, Finny. I’ll miss running next to you.


  1. Oh damn. My condolences for your loss, and your friend's loss. It's never easy to lose a good friend and companion and it sounds like that's what he was. My deepest condolences..

  2. I'm so sorry for yours and especially Brenda's loss! It's terrible to lose an animal that is part of the family. He was such a young horse with so much potential! But I am in agreement with you, it's even more heartbreaking to spend months and maybe years paying the vet bills for that loss. It is a constant tragic reminder of that loss too. I think she did the right thing by not having the surgery if it was an option.

  3. Im so very sorry for your loss, it's really hard to lose them that young, I lost my four year old jumper in training to colic, it was heartbreaking but the decision had to be made, especially when they are in so much pain. The chance that they MIGHT live is hard to swallow and so tempting to rely on, but in reality the chances are slim. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your friend. Just know he's waiting for you on the other side.

  4. You had me crying again, until the story of the ride in the storm, and freezing! and that darn horse fly after us! By then I was laughing. thank you for reminding me of the ride to Fort Rob (which some of the pictures where from). thank you for reminding me that I was riding behind you when I heard that rattler! geez! and thank you for taking these pictures. B

  5. I'm so sorry. So sad....Thanks for sharing the story of such a wonderful horse and friend and the special times you shared together.
    Your photos were beautiful and touching.


  6. So sad.....what a lovely horse Finny was. What kind of horse was he? The pictures and stories you shared were great, what a kind tribute. Brenda's heart is hurting, but eventually memories like this will bring a smile, not tears of heartache.

  7. PG: Finny was a registered quarter horse. Just beautiful.

    Thank you all for your thoughts & for thinking about Brenda. She's blogged about her struggle with accepting this, as well and its heartbreaking.

    Brenda - I had already wrote the blog when I started going through the pictures. When I came across the Ft. Rob pictures, I remembered once again, running across the fields with you - trying to get back before the storm hit. Poor Tom trying to keep up. What good memories! And yes, glad the snake was behind YOU and not me! :)

  8. My condolences. That is so, so sad on so many levels. The loss of a friend and partner. All the hours, days, weeks spent on making the "perfect" horse. The pain and the expense. Very, very sad.

    Colic scares the crap out of me.

  9. now i'm crying again over finney. good grief. what a nice tribute. brenda, i'm so sorry, again.
    tammy-remember how we always wanted to achieve the "pretty" that brenda and finney could demonstrate so nicely!

    hugs, again, to you brenda.

  10. That's a shame. It's so hard to lose a horse to colic. I know. My condolences to you and your friend and I hope you will all heal in time. Finny sounds like he was one of those really awesome horses to know and love.

  11. I will repeat what everyone else has said, so sorry, I defiantly know where you are coming from and that was a fantastic post and friends like you are great to have. The pictures were just great and again I am sorry for Brenda's loss.

  12. So sorry to hear about y'all's loss. It's so hard to lose a companion.

  13. Oh, I'm so sad to hear that. He was absolutely gorgeous. I lost my first pony to colic and I still cry to this day when I think about Cherokee, thirty years later.

    I know what you mean about the financial aspect and letting go. It made me think of when I ran over my beloved dog Vixen. Yes, you read that right. She was old, going deaf, underneath the truck, I didn't know she was there and she didn't hear me start it up. My gut told me to put her to sleep right away but the vet wanted to try to save her. Not because he was after the money. He just hates to put these animals to sleep because he loves them so much. How could I say no? Anyway, she made it through the surgery but she was never able to walk again and she was old, so after two weeks, I made the decision to let her go. I immediately felt relief. I knew it was the right thing. I call it the gift of euthanasia. God gave us this gift to help our friends, even though it is hard on us. It's the last kindness we can do.

    Please tell your friend I said he was incredibly beautiful and I am so sorry for her loss.


  14. Wow. I can't believe how many times this year I've had to type "I am so, so sorry. This has been such a hard year for so many people".

    You created a beautiful photo tribute.

  15. Very touching story..so sad to lose a friend..especially the four legged ones:)

  16. A big, gigantic thanks to all of you who have been thinking of Finny and me. I am having a hard time getting past this point. Finny would have made an awesome lesson horse, teaching many kids and adults to love horses. Thank you for having us in your thoughts. Brenda

  17. A big, gigantic thanks to all of you who have been thinking of Finny and me. I am having a hard time getting past this point. Finny would have made an awesome lesson horse, teaching many kids and adults to love horses. Thank you for having us in your thoughts. Brenda


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