As tends to happen on a retirement farm, we unfortunately had to experience the full circle of life with our resident Kennedy. We had the pleasure of living with Kennedy for five and a half years before saying our goodbyes to him last week.
Kennedy’s mom began her “horsey life” at a young age. She started our riding and showing hunter/jumpers, then she switched to eventing, and eventually settled on dressage. When she was a student at the University of Kentucky she also spent some time working on a thoroughbred farm prepping yearlings for the sales. She has always been involved in some facet of the horse world for most of her life.
In 2004 Kennedy’s mom had recently sold a horse and was looking for another equine partner. Her trainer happened to be discussing her horse search with a hunter/jumper trainer at their barn, and she mentioned a horse that she had just imported a couple of months ago. It was decided that Kennedy’s mom should try him. At first she was resistant to the idea of trying Kennedy as he was 12 years old at the time and she preferred to buy young horses. However, at that point in her life she had two young children and she knew that a steady, quiet horse would be the best match for her.
Kennedy’s mom knew from the first ride that he was the horse for her. Kennedy was a very comfortable and steady ride which was exactly what she was looking for. She loved that if she rode him correctly and found the right buttons he was very honest in his work and would give you exactly what you were asking for. In May of 2004, just a couple of months after being imported from the Netherlands, Kennedy and his mom became a team.
Kennedy and his mom did some showing in dressage. They eventually competed through Second Level and earned a Dover Medal at one show. However, Kennedy’s main job during much of their time together had nothing to do with showing and competing. He was a place of solace and retreat for his mom. His mom’s life partner had cancer, and eventually passed.
A couple of years before Kennedy was retired he began having some suspensory issues in both hind legs. Kennedy was very patient through his rehab and did get better, but over time it began to be apparent that his hind legs were no longer going to hold up to regular dressage work. Since Kennedy had also had issues in the past with a dry cough from dust, his mom knew she needed to find a place where he could retire and live outside comfortably year round. In January of 2011 Kennedy made the trip to our farm from Ohio.
I will always remember Kennedy’s arrival because he provided me with a very fond memory of my dad. He always liked to meet our new residents and was with me when the trailer with Kennedy arrived at our farm. As the driver walked Kennedy off the trailer my dad said, “another white one?” and Kennedy was officially added to our collection of grey horses. My dad always said white because he knew I would immediately correct him and say grey, which of course I did. Many times through Kennedy’s years with us, and especially after my dad passed unexpectedly, I would smile and think of him saying “another white one?” as Kennedy walked off the trailer.
Kennedy was always a horse with a lot of self confidence, and he arrived at our farm with the attitude of “here I am.” He had a very easy and low stress transition into his group, and immediately decided that two of the horses in his family group were in need of his close guidance. Toledo and Rocky found their lives being directed carefully by Kennedy. Over time Rocky declared his independence, but Kennedy continued to keep tabs on Toledo. Over a period of several years Kennedy decided he could live even if others decided to spend some time with Toledo, but Toledo was always high on Kennedy’s list of things to manage and keep an eye on.
A couple of months ago Kennedy started having pretty strong diarrhea. It seemed to start out of the blue. We did all of the typical things to treat a case of diarrhea while working closely with the vet, but nothing worked. We sent off fecal samples and tested for infectious diseases such as salmonella and e. coli which were all negative. He was on strong antibiotics, he was on steroids, he was on UlcerGard, he had a powerpak de-worming, he had another fecal sent off to see if anything was possibly missed the first time around, he was on high doses of BioSponge, we ran CBCs and blood chemistries on him, we pulled him off all grain and had him on grass only. That’s a small list of things his mom let us do,
Finally, after going through a long, long list of treatments and diagnostics we received the diagnosis of Lymphoma. Shortly after that Kennedy went from being a horse with diarrhea but otherwise had a healthy appetite and completely normal activity level to starting to act lethargic and like a horse that didn’t feel good. The signs were subtle but slightly more pronounced each day. We made the decision along with his mom and his vet to let him go before his good moments were outnumbered by bad ones. He passed peacefully in his pasture with his friends nearby.
One of the best gifts we can have on a retirement farm is knowing that you were able to try everything reasonable when things are less than perfect with one of our residents. We are forever grateful to his mom for letting all of us, herself, Jason and I and the vet, make the decision to let Kennedy go without having to wonder about any what-ifs. As long as Kennedy was feeling good and enjoying life she gave us the ok to try any reasonable diagnostic and treatment to manage Kennedy’s symptoms.
I will always think about Kennedy as “another white one” thanks to my dad, and I appreciate very much the fond memory of him that Kennedy gave me. I’ll miss seeing his signature, drooping lower lip and watching him try to run Toledo’s life like an old biddy. Kennedy would be happy, I think, to know that Toledo is successfully running his life just fine without Kennedy’s input. Kennedy was so sure that wasn’t possible, but maybe his five and a half years of coaching paid off.
Rest in peace Kennedy, we miss you.