Sadly we had to say our goodbyes to Clayton two weeks ago. In some ways we had known the day was coming for almost two years, in other ways it was still a surprise.
Their riding and training was interrupted a few years into their relationship when Clayton was kicked by another horse. Clayton was kicked just above the knee, and this resulted in a spiral fracture and an infection. Clayton’s kind and patient personality allowed him to make it through the rehab. He had to be cross-tied in a stall for three months and he could not be allowed to lay down. Clayton made it through the 90 day healing period and made a full recovery. He was able to return to his dressage training.
About ten years ago Clayton started to not be as comfortable with his work under saddle. Diagnostics revealed the presence of ringbone. Despite the best efforts of Clayton’s mom and her team they were never able to keep Clayton completely comfortable in his work and their riding days came to an end.
Although their riding days came to an end Clayton and his mom continued to enjoy each other’s company. She still enjoyed grooming Clayton and simply spending time with him. Clayton faced another health crisis a couple of years after he retired from riding. He began to have reoccurring bouts of uveitis in his left eye. Once again his mom spared no effort or expense in treating Clayton. He ended up at Ohio State having a cyclosporine implant placed in his left eye. It helped for awhile, but then the uveitis began flaring up again. The only option left to spare him the pain of the chronic flare-ups of uveitis was to remove his eye. In general horses adapt amazingly well to the loss of an eye, and Clayton was no exception.
After being retired for a few years, his mom decided that Clayton would be happier if he could have a lot more turnout. He was still living at his training barn where the turnout was very limited. It was a hard decision for his mom to retire Clayton with us in Tennessee after seeing him almost every day for 15 years. Clayton also had to leave behind his girlfriend, a mare named Marlie who had been his neighbor for several years. His mom said one of the hardest things in her decision to retire Clayton with us was breaking up his romance with Marlie. I hope Marlie did not get her feelings hurt when she heard that Clayton had moved on with his life and was having a great time with his new friends.
We met Clayton in January 2010. He traveled to our farm from Ohio, along with another horse from his barn named Kennedy. Clayton and Kennedy wasted no time settling in to life at our farm. Clayton’s mom aptly described Clayton’s personality as the Wal-Mart greeter of horses. Clayton could never have too many friends and he liked every horse he met at our farm. He especially loved to play with Toledo, and Stormy almost instantly decided that he could not live without Clayton being no more than ten feet away from him.
For a little over five years Clayton made the most of every day. He grazed, played, groomed, and hung out with his friends. He became the definition of herd bound and hated being separated from his group. As much as possible we always brought everything to Clayton in the pasture. We groomed him in the pasture, when weather permitted the farrier trimmed his hooves in the pasture, etc.
Quite by accident we discovered that Clayton’s kidneys were not functioning optimally about two years ago. We ran some bloodwork on him for a completely unrelated reason. We weren’t sure at first if the sub-optimum kidney function was chronic or acute. We took Clayton to the clinic to have his kidneys flushed with IV fluids. His bloodwork remained unchanged so we knew we had a chronic issue. The vet told us there was any number of reasons why an older horse might not have optimal kidney function. Other than treatment with IV fluids if needed,regularly monitoring his kidney function through bloodwork, and monitoring his quality of life, there wasn’t much that could be done.
At first we worried about it constantly. Each time we re-checked his bloodwork we worried that things would be worse. Clayton never acted like there was a thing wrong with him, and his bloodwork never changed. Our vet would always report that his bloodwork was still “abnormally normal.” After awhile we stopped worrying about it constantly and no longer held our breath each time we checked his labs.
Clayton was a very lucky horse. He was under his mom’s loving care for 20 years. During our five years with Clayton we never heard the word “no” from his mom. Whenever we asked for anything for Clayton the answer was always yes. And that was how Clayton lived his entire 20 years with his mom. Whatever Clayton needed was exactly what Clayton got. When Clayton needed his mom to make the hardest decision of all, she did that for him as well.
Clayton was a perpetually happy horse. He didn’t know how to be grumpy or have a bad day. He was always one of the first horses to extend a warm “welcome” to any newcomer in his group. He could never have too many friends. The world was a brighter place with Clayton in it. He had a peaceful passing on a beautiful day, and his absence is felt by so many. Rest in peace Clayton, you are greatly missed.