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In Memory of Faune

I will warn everyone now that this memorial is a long one. We were privileged to live with Faune for ten years, and we went through a lot with him. I have left out so much of his story, yet this post is still very lengthy.

Faune’s story began in April 1993 in France on a family breeding farm. He was a Selle Francais and Faune’s dam was Nymphe, and his sire was Digne Espoir. Faune’s bloodlines are Selle Francais royalty. Somehow Faune knew this because he expected to be treated like royalty his entire life.

Faune and his mom getting ready to go into the ring at a show


Faune showing off his pretty head


After being lightly started undersaddle, Faune boarded a plane and was imported to the United States when he was three years old. The agent who imported him saw Faune galloping through his pasture at the breeding farm, and decided to import him without even seeing him be ridden. The agent was so struck by Faune’s presence and gaits he had seen all he needed to see.  Faune was imported originally as a jumper, but after being in the States for a few years he had competed with success in both the jumper and hunter rings.

Faune’s mom had grown up riding and showing very successfully.  Although she had a very successful show career as a junior rider, her happiest memories were of trail riding her horse and just hanging out with him. As often happens, Faune’s mom had to stop riding when she went to college, and she found herself away from her first love of horses for several years. After graduating she went on to grad school and also began a very demanding and successful career in public relations. Horses were only in her life as fond memories.

Faune competing in the jumpers with two of his trainers


Faune’s mom found herself living in Boston, and she decided that she wanted horses in her life again. At first she started with weekly lessons at a local barn to just get back in riding shape and remember how to ride. After awhile, the trainer she was working with suggested it was time for Faune’s mom to start thinking about buying her own horse. Faune’s mom was terrified of the idea at first. After all, this was all going to be on her dime now, but she went along with the idea because she didn’t really believe they would find a horse that was suitable. After taking several years off from riding she found she wasn’t the fearless rider she had been before, and she felt there was little hope of finding a horse that would work for her.

For a few months it seemed that her prediction was right. She tried many horses but for varying reasons none of them were a fit. In January of 2000 Faune’s mom made a trip down to Wellington to try horses at the Winter Equestrian Festival. After several days of riding horses it was looking like she still wasn’t going to find a suitable partner. On her last day she walked through a barn with her agent. She had secretly hoped she would end up with a grey gelding, about 16.2 to 17 hands in size, so when they stopped at Faune and the agent suggested she try him Faune’s mom thought the whole idea was ludicrous. Faune is definitely not a grey, and on top of that he was just shy of 18 hands. Her first thought was she couldn’t possibly feel confident on a horse that big, much less be able to ride him well.

Faune schooling at a horse show


As Faune’s mom likes to say, “Faune happens,” and from the moment she sat on him she knew it was a match. Despite his size and heavy build, Faune was a dream to ride. I can personally attest to this as I’ve had the pleasure of riding Faune a few times myself. Faune was incredibly light on his feet and beautifully trained, and he was easy, relaxed and calm. Faune had found his new mom.

Faune and his mom proceeded to form a beautiful partnership and to enjoy their time together. Faune was an elegant mover and jumper, and so versatile that he showed in the hunters, jumpers and adult equitation rings, and all with success. One year he was Zone I champion with his trainer Krisanna Onorato.  Faune was always a treat hound, and one time at a show as everyone was packing up their trunks to get ready to ship home, Faune reached into his mom’s trunk and grabbed an empty plastic bag that had contained treats. Faune proceeded to swallow the bag whole hoping for more treats while his mom panicked realizing what he had done. The show vet was called in, Faune was tubed and heavily oiled, and everyone had to delay shipping home as the wait began for Faune to pass the plastic bag. He did eventually pass the bag. It came out just as it went in, in one whole piece. He had never even bothered to chew it.

Over a ten year period I had some opportunities to take some pretty pictures of Faune; touching noses with Cocomo while waiting for breakfast


Faune grazing with Lofty under a gorgeous morning sky


After a few years together Faune and his mom were competing in a flat class at a show in Vermont and she felt him take a funny step. His mom had him shipped home to Massachusetts immediately where he was diagnosed with a suspensory strain. Faune’s mom rehabbed him very carefully over the course of a year.

After the injury Faune and his mom didn’t show anymore, but they still enjoyed their time together. Faune and his mom still took lessons, and they also enjoyed lots of trail rides on the Norfolk hunt trails. About this time Faune’s mom also noticed that he sometimes seemed stiff and uncomfortable in his neck, and during these periods he would carry his head very low. She had chiropractic work done, massage, acupuncture, and of course x-rays, but no real problem was found and nothing changed. We’ll hear more on this mysterious neck issue shortly.

Faune on his second day with us trying to understand what goats were and why he was with them; I think he initially thought his mom had sent him to a dumpy place (“My mommy is Gillian, and why I am with goats??”)


Faune watching Jo, one of the World’s Cutest Fainting Goats, lick up the remains in his mash bucket


Faune’s first turnout buddies; Poco the pony, Ogie the horse, and Sparky the donkey. That is Buster, our infamous pet cow, napping in the background


Faune made the decision to retire himself around this time, and his mom listened to him. She was walking him into the ring to ride one day and Faune balked and wouldn’t go in which was very out of character. She dropped the reigns and said, “tell me what you want.” Faune backed himself up, turned around, and headed towards the trails. That was when his mom knew that Faune needed to go somewhere where he could be turned out a lot more and have friends. She visited three retirement farms, one in Virginia, one in South Carolina, and us in Tennessee. We were the lucky farm that was chosen to retire Faune.

Faune arrived at Paradigm Farms just shy of ten years ago in December 2007 when he was 14 years old, and it has been quite a journey since then.  Faune had to first learn how to be a horse. When he was turned out we buddied him up with a very elderly gelding named Ogie, along with Poco the pony and Sparky the donkey. Faune was thrilled to have friends and was very passive at first. Any other horse (or donkey) could boss him around. But after he got the hang of herd dynamics he couldn’t wait to get out to his friends. He would trumpet his loud Faune whinny in my ear as we walked to the pasture and eagerly run off to join his friends. He soon became the boss and also became obsessed with Sparky. As we’ve had to do with many horses over the years, we eventually had to separate Faune from Sparky as his obsession became almost unmanageable. This made Faune quite unhappy for a few days, and prompted Jason to speak in what he decided was Faune voice.  According to Jason Faune said, “my mommy is Gillian and she said I can have anything I want.” He didn’t get Sparky back and he got over it, but for the next ten years anytime Faune was having a moment about anything we would all say in our Faune voice, “My mommy is Gillian and she said . . . (insert something about the event of the moment here).”

Sparky could not be more than a few feet away from Faune, even while he was getting his hooves trimmed


After being separated from Sparky Faune moved into a different group of horses and quickly made sure everyone knew who he was and that he always got his way. Once that was made clear Faune settled into a happy rhythm of eating, playing and napping. For a long time we had to turn him out in a halter as catching him was otherwise almost hopeless. I always told his mom that Faune wanted to go feral. A lot of our retirees go feral after they get integrated into their family groups, but Faune was just too big, and the first couple of years too high maintenance, to go feral.

Faune with Winston


Faune and Sebastian


Faune grazing with Romeo and Lotus


After Faune had been retired with us for about eight months I noticed he appeareded to be carrying his head low for a couple of days. Bute seemed to make it better so I thought he had just played too rough and strained something. But his mom’s word that I had largely written off, about his mystery neck and poll issues, came to mind. A couple of days later I found an abscess on Faune’s poll. I had no idea of the saga that had just begun. We had the vet out and he flushed the area with iodine solution, left me with more solution to flush it several times per day, and put him on antibiotics. The area didn’t get better, and in fact it got worse.

Faune with Winston and Titan


galloping through the pasture with Gibson on a winter day


grazing with Titan and Lotus


Fast forwarding through several weeks of vet visits and treatments, Faune , Jason and I found ourselves at the large animal hospital at the University of Tennessee. Jason and I were scheduled to have our first vacation away from the farm in over three years, but instead we all went to UT as Faune’s condition continued to deteriorate.  As his mom says, Faune happens. A culture our vet had done sent us to UT, as our vet couldn’t believe the culture results. He told us Faune essentially had a super bug, on ultrasound it looked like it was walled off in his poll area, and if it broke free he would probably die. We had changed antibiotics to the one most likely to work, but the way the infected area was walled off the antibiotics weren’t getting to it.

Faune and Asterik grazing on a foggy morning


Faune enjoying having the hay all to himself while Flyer, Lotus and Romeo nap 


Faune and friends trotting through the pasture


Faune ended up having surgery that involved removing and debriding the affected area. A couple of weeks later he came home with a large portion of his neck/poll area missing and a bunch of drain tubes. His surgeon at UT guessed the initial problem had started 1-2 years earlier, right during the time when his mom started noticing strange neck issues.

For months after Faune came home I had to clean, re-pack and wrap the area every day as it granulated in and healed. In order to keep the packing in and keep flies from getting to the area, I had a large roll of stretchy material. I would cut off a section every day, pull it over his head, cut ear holes, and tape it to him with elasticon. This worked so well Faune was able to go back to his regular turnout routine as soon as he came home. I called Faune’s hoodie his “gangsta look” and he sported it for months.  It took many months of the daily intensive care routine and countless cases of elasticon, but eventually the area healed beautifully. The only evidence of what had happened was a small divot in his pole area, but even that area re-grew hair.

Faune sporting his gangsta look. I would pull the stretch fabric over his head and then cut holes for the ears


this picture was about two months into healing; you can see where the wound was by looking at the stains from the drainage that happened despite the mounds of packing material in his neck


After almost a year of the poll ordeal we had about a year of peace with Faune. Then he came in one morning with a leg the size of a small tree trunk from his gaskin to his hoof. We entered into another long saga as Faune had the worst case of cellulitis I have ever seen. It was stubborn and hard to treat. For a couple of months it took daily poulticing, daily cold hosing, huge doses of antibiotics, and finally laser treatment.  Just when it all began to feel hopeless his leg started looking better one day, and it kept getting better until finally, after four months, we put the cellulitis episode behind us.

I got really good at poulticing and wrapping Faune’s leg from top to bottom while fighting his cellulitis 


Before he came to Paradigm Farms Faune had dealt with a few health problems including a bad case of Lyme disease that left him with chronic lyme. Everyone involved with his care strongly believes that his bad case of Lyme led to some systemic immune issues that made things like his poll issue and the cellulitis unusually hard to treat and manage. He got into a period of a couple of years before he retired and then a couple of years after he retired where one big health issue seemed to happen every year.

Faune and Flyer; Faune briefly formed an obsession with Flyer when Flyer first arrived. Unlike his obsession with Sparky, this one calmed down after a few weeks and they were simply good buddies.


Flyer is over 17.1 hands, yet Faune still has a couple of inches on him


When we came up to the one year anniversary of the cellulitis I nervously began waiting for the next unexpected Faune crisis. Amazingly it never came. Every few months I would timidly make a mental note that it had been X months, and then X years, where nothing big happened with Faune. Eventually, over a period of about four years, I stopped really thinking about it at all. Although the first two years of his retirement were fraught with big health issues, his last eight years of retirement were some of the healthiest years of Faune’s life. He almost seemed to age in reverse and get healthier and more vibrant each year.

Faune and friends waiting for breakfast


being silly with Romeo


posing with Flyer


The other thing I started making mental notes about was Faune’s bathroom habits. After nursing him through more than one big health challenge Faune spent more than his share of time on the crossties and in the wash rack, and on top of that for all ten years he was retired he got a daily grooming. He never, not a single time, pooped in the barn aisle or the wash rack. He would often poop immediately upon entering his stall, but he never once messed up the aisle. Anyone who has spent any time around horses knows that ten years of no poop in the aisle is one heck of a record.

a tough day in retirement


grazing with friends


Faune and friends having a group stop and stare session


After spending the first two years nursing Faune through various major health issues, the next eight years brought so much health and happiness for Faune that it was easy to get lulled into thinking he was going to live forever. On Sunday morning Faune did not come up at breakfast time. No one was prepared for, or even considering the possibility, that Faune had passed, yet Faune was found deceased. We were all stunned.

grazing with Donneur and Lofty


running through the pasture with Flyer and Silver


playing with Cocomo


After having stressed out his mom, and then us, with varying health challenges so many times, we never expected that his passing would be so fast and painless. Faune spared us from another health saga, from a long slow decline over a period of months where you struggle with making the right choices, and simply passed quickly and peacefully all on his own. The ground was still quite wet thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Harvey passing through a couple of days before, so if Faune had struggled it would have been obvious. I was grateful and relieved that his final health challenge was instant, it was truly a gift for Faune and his people.

grazing on a foggy morning with Gus


Faune leading the way through the pasture


When Norman first arrived he had the run of the farm for a few weeks; he would stop by Faune’s stall so they could have grooming sessions


A quick and painless passing with no prior downhill slide is my wish for all of our residents, it is the ideal way to exit this life. The only thing I would change about Faune’s passing is the timing.  We were privileged to spend a decade with him, and even more privileged to work with his mom for a decade. She always found a way to provide the care that Faune needed. Faune was 24 when he passed, and I would have loved for him to have enjoyed a few more years of retirement with us. Unfortunately it was not meant to be.

Faune napping hard with Flyer standing by


early morning grooming session with Gus


grooming with George


Faune had this way of always positioning his muzzle next to my right ear when he was unhappy. Countless times when I was leading him across the pasture to bring him in he would trumpet his loud whinny into my right ear. When you are 18 hands you can put a lot of oomph into your whinny, so it was like having someone blast a trumpet directly into your ear. The last couple of days I have found myself longing to have Faune blow my right eardrum out with his whinny to let me know he was unhappy, or to see him taking his afternoon siesta with his droopy lower lip. I always told his mom that Faune was a combination of the most loving and the most self centered being on the planet. He was so demanding and so fussy, we got the “my mommy is Gillian and she said  . . . “ speech a lot from Faune. Yet he was so full of affection that his demanding and self centered ways seemed adorable and perfect coming from  him.

I miss you Faune.  May your days be filled with donkeys to love, horses to boss around, endless treats, grass to eat, and people ready to drop their lives and tend to your every need. Your mommy was Gillian, and she says she misses you as well. Rest in peace.

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