The past couple of weeks have been tough for use. Lost our old golden Duke(previous post), a family friend, and now my last "big" horse Joe. Joe was 37+ years old and was such a great horse! He was a true Heinz 57 and definately had some draft mixed in. He had a big old jug head, big bones, and the kindest eye I've ever seen on a horse. His heart ended up being just as big.
Supposedly he was "9" yo when I bought him. The vets couldn't agree on his age, thought he was between 13-20. Later as his teeth stopped growing and wore out we realized he was probably 20 when I got him. He had some trust issues and we couldn't hot shoe him because he freaked out when a forge was lit. Once he shed out I realized the scar on his face was actually a brand. 3 inch high numbers "26", he had one on his flank also. I can't imagine the terror he must of felt when that branding iron seared into his face, on his jowl just below his eye. My farrier, bless his heart, pounded cold shoes for Joe his hole life!
Joe took me up and down so many mountains in Oregon and No Calif. He was the most sure footed horse I'd ever been on and he made me feel safe. Even when he stepped into a yellow jacket nest once and went plunging down the trail trying to shake them off he still managed to stay on the trail and not go down the 50 ft side hill. He was "uncle Joe" to my colt and when the colt grew up and became my main riding horse Joe became the company horse. He was so good with kids! Even though he never really trusted adults(other than me) kids could run right up to him and he wouldn't move a muscle. When the kids were brushing him he never moved a foot. And when they rode him and they asked him to trot he always looked at me like "really mom?". If I said it was okay he would trot for them. After my accident he was the only horse I felt comfortable on. Went on a camping trip with a friend and her niece and brought Joe along for the niece to ride. I wasn't planning on riding at all. One morning my friend didn't feel like riding and pressured me into riding. I told her I would but her niece would have to ride her mare. So, off we went. We weren't too far out and the horses spooked at something and the mare took off with the niece. Joe and I tracked them down and found the young lady on the ground, a bit banged up but no major injuries. I was glad I had insisted she wear a helmet. We found the mare nearby and I asked the niece(can't remember her name!) if she wanted to ride...and with the quivering lower lip she said "on Joe"....and so she did.
When I got the minis Joe was in his 30's and I allowed him in the pasture with the mares. He was their protector. Once the neighbors young "Big horse" stallion got chased by the older stallion they had and plowed through our fence and got in with the minis. I wasn't home at the time and don't know how long he was in the pasture with the girls. But when I got home Joe had that horse cornered in the far end of the pasture and wasn't letting him get near "Joe's" girls. I did have to seperate Joe from the minis when I got a stallion. Joe was getting too aggressive with "his" girls. He lived out his remaining years in the pasture adjacent to the mare herd. He liked to be fed near the dividing gate and he would push some of his hay under the gate to share with his ladies. Last Wednesday he was fine in the morning, ate all of his breakfast. I saw him at 1 pm hanging by his girls as usual. At 4pm my husband said "I think Joe's caught in the fence" we went out and Joe was down and obviously dying. I'm so thankful it was over quickly for him. With the help of good neighbors he's now buried in his pasture. The mares still go to the gate in the mornings and wonder where he is.
I knew his time was coming and I thought I was prepared....I wasn't. I know I'll see him again one day and that he's running on green pastures again all healthy and happy! My friend reminded me that of course our horses and other pets are waiting for us in heaven, God wouldn't destroy any good things he made. Little Joe you will be missed!