Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Tribute to My First Standardbred Love

I am writing this post with a heavy heart. Today was a sad day. I went to visit and spend time with my first STB love, as he is going to be put down soon. :( :( The horse I am speaking of is F.W. Volo, my grandfather's retired pacer. Volo was born in 1972 and would turn 37 years young this January 1, 2009. Volo raced until he was 11 and he set many a track record in his day. The pics of him in the pasture were taken today.

I love this horse so much. :( I boarded Sparky at my grandfather's farm for many years during both high school and then throughout college......goodness, I boarded there for nearly eight years. Sparky and Volo were like two peas in a pod. I always think of Volo as "mine" and doted on him as much as Sparky. And I totally took over Bampie's barn when I moved Sparky there...LOL! I was a precocious 14 year old and set about directing Bampie about how to build a tackroom, saddle racks, and crossties. We spent so much time fencing in the paddock (white board) and then rotating the grazing pastures all summer with electric tape. And it seemed as though every time I went to move or fix a fence it would RAIN! LOL! :) I really miss boarding at Bampie's.

Volo has been slowly declining this summer....the worst part is that he is eating well, has great looking hooves, and is perky with his typical grumpy-old-man-but-not-really personality. But despite the many many pounds of hay, grain, and beet pulp, Volo has been steadily losing weight and now looks really awful. It would be utterly cruel and heartless to put this old man through another Maine winter. But despite his weight, he is a healthy horse. :(


Volo was the favorite, out of all the STBs my family owned. Nan (my great-grandmother) always loved Volo the best and made Bampie (that is what I call my grandfather) promise that Volo would always have a home at the farm. Volo is the last horse my grandfather owns. So this is not only the end of Volo's life, but also the end of an era. Bampie said today he doubts he will ever own another horse. For a man who loves horses so much, that must be a very difficult thing to consider. I cannot even imagine how Bampie feels. I was so sad today, but I did not want to cry. I wanted to be strong and loving and supportive.

Volo got that silly "Hey I think I know YOU!" look on his face when I went out to his pasture. He came over and was surprisingly polite when I started feeding him his baby carrots. I had planned to feed him some and then leave the rest for his dinner. OH NO. Suddenly the real Volo came out. He was right in my pocket, not being rude or pushy, but ALMOST....meaning he was being his typical self. Volo always knows where the line is and does not cross it. So he ended up eating the entire bag of baby carrots. Dear lord, that horse should not look the way he does for having such a good appetite.

Volo always does that "Oh don't touch me" attitude when I go to pat or scratch him....even when I used to groom him all the time. But the second you back off, he is right there.....saying, "Hey just kidding, I really do like that."

There are so many stories I remember about Volo. He was the only horse who survived the barn fires back in the 80's at Scarborough Downs. Bampie heard on the early morning news that there had been a fire, and he drove out to the Downs fearing the worst. He approached the barns, seeing that the one Volo was stabled in had been leveled by the fire, and said to one of the men, "Well, looks like he didn't make it." The man told him that as a matter of fact, Volo has escaped his stall that night and was in one of the abandoned barns. It seems as though Volo escaped his burning stall (beforehand or during....we will never know) and parked himself in an empty stall without a door in one of the banrs they were dismantling. Everyone was amazed. Smart boy. After this, Bampie brought Volo back home for good and was able to jog him on the newly completed 1/4 mile track at the farm. This made Nan VERY happy and she was now able to visit her favorite horse every day and feed him his carrots and apples.
Volo was a true escape artist. One time great-grandfather must have had it with him, because Bampie entered the barn one morning to find his stall had been wired shut. Bampie figured this was not a good idea, but he understood why his father had done it! LOL!

Volo only colicked once in his entire life. It was a bad colic and Bampie walked him all night. Volo got down and rolled once, and Bampie thought he would not get back up. Nope, this tough old bird hopped right up after the roll and was just fine. :D

He always had "big" calcified ankles but they never seemed to bother him. Volo's legs now look like the typical "war legs" of a STB who was raced hard. But miraculously he was never unsound a day in his life.

One summer I decided I was going to ride Volo. I think I was about 16 and must have needed a project. That would have made Volo about 24. Volo didn't even notice the saddle and bridle, but he did chomp the bit around for awhile. It had only been TWELVE years since he had a bit in his mouth!
The day I finally decided I was going to get on, I think Bampie was so nervous he almost told me not to do it. He kept asking, "Are you sure??" Volo was the perfect gentleman and pace-walked me all over the paddock. He is a rare free-legged pacer and he always always always paced when I rode him....both at the "walk" and the "trot"....really it was just a slow pace and then a faster pace. :)

After we braved the paddock a few times, I decided it was time to ride in my "ring". (My ring was merely the infield of the 1/4 mile track). Volo was again perfectly fine, but I will never forget what he did with the ground poles. He never blinked an eye when I asked him to walk over them, but he stepped squarely ON each one, instead of OVER them. And he did this all three times I attempted them.....so I figured we would not worry about doing ground poles....ever. LOL!

Volo always used to paw....but not really. He fake pawed the air.....he never actually pawed the ground. Bampie used to always laugh at feed time and say, "Look, he's saying, 'I'm going to paw...I really am'!" LOL!

Volo has the most gorgeous tail ever....it is a pretty chestnut color and is all shimmery with flaxen highlights. But the poor bugger's mane NEVER grew.....so it has always been wispy and uneven. We thought about roaching it about 100 times, but neither Bampie or I had the heart. His foretop is not bad though. And he somehow lost hair on his nose before Bampie got him at age 6....probably an ill-fitted halter. And it never grew back! OH and he lost a part of his upper eyelid on his near side eye years ago....it never seemed to bother him. But in the past few years it has been weepy, while the other eye is always fine. Volo has always appreciated his flymask, but even more so now that the eye is weepy.
Isn't this a great pic? This was taken back in the late 70s. Katie the cat wins by a nose!! :)



When I boarded Sparky at Bampie's, it was uncanny how much Sparky and Volo looked alike. Now granted, one was a small 14.2 hand Morgan mare and the other a 16.2 hand Standardbred gelding, but they had a very similar chestnut color and almost the same markings. Many many times folks would stop to admire the horses, whether I was just in the barn cleaning stalls while they were out in the pasture and especially when I was out riding.

Well, one day someone stopped and admired them as they grazed. She was convinced they were mother and baby, and as much I as tried to tell her no, they definitely were not, she did not seem convinced! LOL!

Volo has many old winter blankets, one of them being a nice heavy waterproof rug I bought him about 1o years ago. But Bampie went out and bought him a new Baker (the one in the photos above) because as he put it, "The old horse deserves a new blanket." He intends to bury him in his new blanket, and that way he will always be warm. That completely breaks my heart. I asked Bampie if he had one of Volo's leather racing halters around and I would clean it up nice for him. We could not find any of the leather halters (they probably broke and were tossed) so I went out and bought Volo a new leather halter and a new bright red lead rope. I wanted to be sure he had a good halter rather than the worn nylon one he has worn for many many years. (In fact, I think I am the one that got him the nylon one...it was padded on the nose and crownpiece and Sparky used to have a green one that matched! LOL!) Anyway, now I know he will be all set when the day arrives. :( I told Bampie to be sure to give him his hay and grain in his grave as well. We both want to be sure he is well fed.

UGGGGGG.....now I am crying. :( Bampie had nearly run out of grain this past weekend and I had thought he would call the vet this week. But he told me Sunday that he bought more grain....so I know he is just putting off the inevitable pain. I completely understand why. Granted, he figured it is still warm out and he might as well let Volo enjoy another week of the nice grass and sun. But Bampie knows he has to do it soon.....the mornings are getting awfully cold....I told him he ought to figure by the end of the month.

I wish I could be there for the day it happens....I told Bampie I would come down, but he said no. He said he did not want to inconvenience me. Now I am not sure if he truly rather be alone or if he is just saying that. I am not sure. But I will respect his wishes and not press the issue. I just hope the vet is compassionate.....this particular vet is NOT known for his "bedside manners." And Bampie even hinted that the vet might give him a hard time for burying a horse with a brand new blanket on. Well the hell with him is what I said to that! LOL!

So I am now just waiting for the phone call. I know it will hurt me too.....man it already hurts. Part of me is almost glad I no longer board there because it is easier than having to see him everyday and then not see him. But at the same time, I will miss him just as much.

You are a great champion. When you ran, the ground shook, the sky opened and mere mortals parted. Parted the way to victory, where you'll meet me in the winner's circle, where I'll put a blanket of flowers on your back.

2 comments:

Now That's A Trot! said...

Aww, what a sweet face! And what a cool old man, too. I looked him up on USTA, and apparently he even raced as a trotter a handful of times! (He even raced on the track near me! Small world.)

Even though it's tough to make that decision, I'd rather see a horse go peacefully, before things get ugly, instead of suffering needlessly for months or years. I knew an old App whose owners should have put him down long before they did, but they waited until he couldn't get up on his own to make the call. They were my aunt's neighbors and we couldn't do anything but watch helplessly from our side of the fence. He spent a good two years looking thin, achey, and miserable. :(

I'm glad Volo got to live such a long, happy life. And I think it's great that he's going with all his new gear, too. ;)

Sending hugs and jingles your way...

STB Eventer said...

THANK YOU! It sucks, but you are right, it is also the right thing to do. Bampie is putting it off though and it is killing me. I know why he is...and with the weather fairly mild up here right now, he is just hoping for a feww more days with him. I am dreading that phone call when he finally does pick a date.......Thanks for the hugs, as I need them!