He had arthritis in his coffin joint, which was manageable for several years, but this spring he really started to go downhill. Stan always liked cold weather, was most comfortable standing in the snow, and was miserable in the heat, so I decided not to put him through another summer.
I purchased Stan on Valentine's Day, when he was 8 months old. At the time, I was in the Navy, and I boarded him at a large lesson barn, and Stan loved the children, right from the start. He loved to hear them giggle and squeal, and whenever the kids would help with filling water troughs, he'd splash his hoof in the water and soak them
If a child wanted to learn how to worm a horse on worming day, I'd let them worm Stan, since he was thrilled to have anything in his mouth.
The gentleman who owned the boarding stable also bred welsh ponies, and had a day camp for children in the summer. One of their projects was sacking out some of the babies, and I agreed to let them use Stan as well. When I stopped by to see how things were going, Stan was standing completely still, looking incredibly pleased with all the attention as a group of kids patted him all over with towels and started braiding his mane.
After Stan was gelded, shortly after I'd purchased him, he had to go the vet hospital. It turned out that it was no big deal, the vet had left one of the cords too long and it was sort of dangling into his scrotum, but there was some question about whether or not there was a hernia involved, so we opted to open him up at the vet hospital, just in case. We were driving down the beltway around D.C. in morning rush hour traffic, when the escape door flew open. We stopped the rig, looked inside, and Stan had managed to get both his front legs over the chest bar. No idea how he'd gotten there, but he was just sitting there, with his front hooves off the ground, hanging out. We pulled off into a mostly empty parking lot, removed the chest bar, backed him up, put it back up, and carried on with our trip.
Which went well until just as we were pulling into the driveway of the vet clinic, and we heard a huge crash from the trailer. I'm not sure if he slipped or what, but we opened the trailer, and he was lying on the ground, under the divider, with his head still tied up. I thought for sure he was dying with his head at that angle. Quickly untied him, and he began cheerfully munching on the hay on the trailer floor, still lying down. Someone came out if the clinic to help us remove the dividers that Stan was lying under, which was not an easy task, but he just lay there munching, even when we had to set parts of the divider down on his body as we removed them. By the time we were done, I was sure he must've broken a leg because he was still lying down, and had made no effort whatsoever to get up. But when I gave a little tug on the lead rope, and asked him to walk, he stood up and slowly made his way out of the trailer like nothing interesting was happening.
Stan's surgery went well, but afterwards they told me that although he was up, he didn't seem to be waking up completely. But he was awake enough that I could go see him. He was standing there relaxing, with his ears a little floppy and his lower lip drooping, and I said "What's the problem? He always looks like this?"
Thankfully Stan rarely made the same mistake twice, so future trailer rides were mostly uneventful.
He was an easy-going solid citizen right from the start. As a yearling and two year old, I long-lined him around the farm, even while shows were going on, and he was just so incredibly cooperative and laid back. http://pets.webshots.com/photo/29957...00789832Mdkvka
Stan was incredibly easy to start under saddle. Nothing phased him, he learned things really fast, and he seemed to genuinely enjoy the attention he got from being worked with.
He was always a little clumsy, but he was great on the trail, would go anywhere, and never seemed to get excited about anything. And if you told him to walk, he would walk, no matter what was in his way. He eventually grew to be a big guy, and he had no problem blazing a trail, pushing small trees and underbrush out of his way.
There was a small ditch near the arena where we boarded, and it was often filled with water. Early on I taught him to cross it (which wasn't hard with him), and the first time he did it, I made a huge fuss over him. After that, if you were riding him, and you dropped your reins, he'd cross that little ditch all on his own, and then stand on the other side, looking very proud of himself
He liked his horse buddies, but he was never herdbound. I remember one of our early trail rides, one of the horses we were with bolted, and I thought "Oh shit, we're going to follow." But Stan just kept walking, looked at the other horse like "what was that all about?" Even later in life, if someone we were riding with got too far away on the trail, he might call, but he never sped up. I think the only time Stan ever moved faster than the horses around him was when we were trailriding with a group of kids on ponies, and we were riding through water that was really deep on the ponies, but not so deep on Stan.
When I got out of the Navy, I had Stan shipped back to Wisconsin with me. He survived the trip despite the fact that the shippers could not get him to stop opening the windows and sticking his head out.
Once he was here, I sent Stan out to learn to drive. http://pets.webshots.com/photo/25452...00789832PHtRsH Trainer quoted me a price but wanted to be paid at the end of the month, instead of upfront. When I picked Stan up, he actually charged me less than he quoted me, saying that Stan had been so easy to train that he didn't feel right taking the full amount. Good Stan, and thank you trainer! Trainer's kids loved Stan, too, and the trainer was happy to have a horse in that his kids could actually interact with.
I became close to a woman who breeds Belgian Draft horses, she taught me how draft horse shows work, and we went to a few together. One of them put the beer tent right next to the arena, and as we drove in for Ladies Cart, there was a man on stage jumping around playing the accordion. Stan cocked his head and looked at the guy, but kept right on going.
Stan was incredibly well behaved, and nicely conformed, but he wasn't very "hitchy". Just didn't have that flash and knee action you'd want in a top hitch horse, but that didn't stop us from having a good time, and even picking up a few ribbons here and there.
But Stan's greatest strength was always with the children. I volunteered with a local 4-H, and we used Stan as a demonstration horse a lot. Showmanship, clipping, bathing, driving, Stan did it all.
One of the 4-H kids even showed Stan walk-trot in open shows. Stan knew the drill and did whatever the judge said, so all the kiddo had to do was hold on and try to posy on the correct diagonal. Not bad!
When my dressage horse started to age, and my current mare was pregnant, Stan even got drafted into taking dressage lessons. Although by this time he was 18.2 hh, and not built for it, he was a good sport, and over the course of the winter he managed to master leg-yields and lengthenings, and was great about maintaining consistent contact.
Stan was probably the only horse I've owned that was far more limited by his physical capabilities than his mental ones. He was not at all athletic, but he was honest as the day is long.
Stan spent some time in a therapeutic program as I started working with my mare, and then came home to retire after that.
He enjoyed his retirement. He was always willing to work for the attention and treats, but you could tell that he thought getting attention and treats without having to work was WAY better.
He hated the heat, but he was happy to stand in the sprinkler if you put one out for him, and he'd beg to be sprayed with the hose when you were filling water troughs.
Fortunately we've had a cool wet spring, so that plus a lot of bute made Stan's last couple of weeks good ones. Lots of peeps, carrots, and hand-grazing.
The excavator we hired dug what basically amounted to what looked like a garage opening in the side of a hill for Stan, so we could walk him in, turn him around, be out of his way when he went down, and not have to move him once he passed on. We got a bucket of grain, and in typical Stan like fashion, he ate cheerfully and enthusiastically, and never batted a eye at his odd surroundings.
Rest in Peace, Stan. I love you, I miss you, but I'm so glad you're not in pain any more.
"In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing Stan's story and for sharing your wonderful friend all those years with children. As a child, I was fortunate to have a few Stan's shared with me over the years. I often wish that I could go back in time and thank the owners again and again because as an adult I still appreciate their generousity. So from all the kids in Stan's life, may I say thank you to both you and Stan for making a positive impact on a kids life.