Firepan, barn name “Smedley” May 13, 1985 – November 22, 2013
Smedley was turned over to the Toronto Humane Society in the spring of 1991. I remember there was a little bit of mystery how he exactly came to be in the possession of the person who gave him to the THS, but suffice to say they believed he was being mistreated and not being fed properly by his owner. He had been bought as an “investment”, but along the way he became injured and they couldn’t afford to treat him. After that, I guess the owner didn’t want to keep spending money without any hope of getting it back. Sadly, from all of my years in the humane field, I can tell you this is a common story.
Of course, THS is a downtown animal shelter – there is just nowhere to keep a horse. (Although we sure had every other type of animal there!) My friend Rob, who was working in the THS veterinary clinic at the time, is a horseman and he had a farm so he boarded Smedley. This was the beginning of Smedley’s new happy, and cruelty free life.
Rob determined that Smedley’s injury was actually in his back (the previous owner thought it was his leg). The injury indicated that Smedley had fallen on his back. Rob believed that it probably occurred at the hands of an unskilled (or just plain mean) trainer. Rob got Smedley chiropractic care and any other he needed. Then the trick was to make him into a rideable horse again. At this point, of anyone tried to ride him, he just spun in tight circles until they came off. Luckily, Rob had connections with very skilled riders who were able to show Smedley that all trainers/riders aren’t harsh, and they were able to turn around his behaviour.
While Smedley was getting back on track (so to speak), he had quite a nice life at Rob’s. He lived in a small herd with two other geldings and a mare. It became apparent that even though he was the smallest gelding in the herd (16.1 hands), he was the boss! Plus, the mare was his girlfriend – the others didn’t have a chance. He would chase unwanted animals out of their field, as well! Smedley always was a feisty one!
I started riding Smedley at Rob’s place. After my health scare where I faced my own mortality I thought I had better ensure I do some of the things that I dreamt of doing. One of them was to ride (and, if possible, have a horse). In hindsight, a green horse and a green rider maybe wasn’t the smartest move (ha, ha..). What can I say, I fell in love with the face I guess.
I was curious about his background, so I sent away to the jockey club for his information (from his tattoo). He was foaled in Montana on May 13, 1985. He is out of Aim and Fire, and Nanpam. His race career was less than stellar – he ran as a 3 and a 4 year old. He had 3 starts when he was 3 years old and actually came in third twice! As a 4 year old he had 15 starts and only managed a first, a second, and a third. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say what track(s) he raced at, because I would love to know how he ended up in Ontario.
Smedley was always “good on the ground” – a horsy expression meaning you could work around him without fear of being kicked or him freaking out if you touched him somewhere he didn’t like. Riding him could be another story though. I had some spectacular falls off of him! He would spook or buck and he was very light on his feet when it came to jumping away from perceived danger. I took lessons on him, and for a short time had a part boarder who showed him in school shows.
My favorite thing, though was hacking with him. Surprisingly, for a horse who could be spooky and willful in lessons, he was a really good hacker. He wasn’t afraid of anything – except birds(!). He would do what I asked, even crossing streams.
Smedley landed on his feet after an unpromising start. He lived more than ¾ of his life with love, care and attention. The majority of those years were spent on the same farm in St. Catharines, now called Sherwood Farms. It is now owned by Marilyn Lee and her daughter, Robin Hannah. They have owned it for the past five years, and it was a real blessing for Smedley. They are both horse people who understand and value the relationship you can have when you have a horse (a pet at that point!) long term. Plus, they have experience with geriatric horses.
While Smedley was in St Catharines he spent most of his time in retirement. He had his girlfriends, he got extra turnout (because he really loved being outside) and his world was pretty stress free. Of course, time passes and he got older, and his (horse) girlfriends moved on. For the last few years his special turn out buddy was Finn, another handsome boy. They were very attached and it was nice that Smedley could have a friend who didn’t push him around too much in his geriatric years.
I noticed that the tumor that Smedley had had on his penis had returned, at the end of August. He also was having a hard time keeping the weight on this past summer, and couldn’t manage carrots anymore. I thought long and hard, and decided to give him the fall to enjoy. He really did love being outside. It was an agonizing decision because horses are very different from any pet you may have in your home. Unless something catastrophic happens they aren’t going to “show” their decline (they are prey animals after all). When I decided on euthanasia, he still was bright and pretty feisty. But as the weeks went on, and especially this week, he was seeming duller, he wasn’t as keen to go out all of the time, and the tumor was growing quite fast. I knew for sure it was the right time, when he had some trouble managing the pears and apples I was giving him as treats.
Marilyn and Robin have been very kind and helpful through all of this. Marilyn told me that Smedley could be buried on the farm, which was so nice. After living there since 1999, it’s fitting that his final resting place is under a tree with a rock marking the spot.
My dear boy let me realize a dream and I gave him a humane life and death – I think that’s a fair exchange.
Rest in peace, Smed.