Myrtle’s Final Hour

Rain, rain, rain and more rain..someone said to me the other day we’ve had rain constantly since February 2017. Of course there have been the sunny days with no rain, but not enough days without rain to dry out the pasture. Year round, we have mud, mud and more mud. Johnn got his tractor out and tried to drain the mud; which helped. However, after awhile the mud came back; deep mud, ankle deep mud. Of course, mud normally occurs in spring; however, we are not talking just about spring; we are talking fall, winter and summer too!

Where there is grass; it’s wet. The water table is very high creating a problem with multiple springs in the pasture. The grass is wet. Last fall someone told me their backyard was full of mold; that’s right the grass was molding!In fact, several schools had to close because of a mold problem.

In November, I visited the stables, rode CJ and saw Myrtle. She looked in perfect health and nosing around for a treat. Fast forward one month, Connie and Johnn noticed Myrtle lying down in the field during the day; definitely not normal for her. She had a lot of mucus draining from her nostrils; so Connie called the vet who gave her an antibiotic.

After several days on the antibiotic Myrtle wasn’t getting any better. During Connie’s nightly horse check she noticed Myrtle take a turn for the worst; and called the vet. The antibiotic didn’t work; whatever bacteria caused the infection must have been resistant to the antibiotic. Fearing doom, Connie drove in the middle of the night down gravel back roads to the vet’s home to get a different antibiotic. A few days later, Myrtle was down in her stall, not moving; she died during the night.

Johnn bought Myrtle when his Belgium, Champ, died in February 1995. Johnn and Connie went down to Ulster, Pa to look over the horses owned by Mr. Cole; a horse dealer. Johnn picked out a caramel colored yearling filly from all the other Belgiums in the field.

When Myrtle was four years old, Johnn sent her to school at the home of an Amish farmer in Leraysville, PA. A few weeks later Connie and Johnn had to call in the vet; Myrtle had shipping fever. Shipping fever is inflammation and fluid build up in the lungs; common when horses are transported for long distances. The vet gave Myrtle a shot for the fever and a few days later Myrtle felt fine. The farmer hitched Myrtle up with his 3 mules and trained her to pull a wagon and bale hay.

At the end of summer, Myrtle graduated from schooling with the Amish farmer and came home to Horse Heaven. Johnn hitched an arena drag to her harness and off they went to smooth and level the arena. Myrtle was so well trained that all he had to do was walk behind her holding the reins. She knew what to do.

Then there came a time when the arena wasn’t being used, the grass began to grow, and Myrtle didn’t drag the arena any longer. Myrtle spent most of her time between the barn and pasture. When Sam, another Belgium, arrived at Horse Heaven; she chased him around the pasture until he knew his place in the herd. Myrtle and Pepper were very attached. When I rode Pepper; her good friend, Myrtle, whinnied and stood by the barn door until she returned.

Myrtle died at age fifteen. Her unexpected death on December 3, 2018 surprised us; as she always was healthy and active. The caramel colored Belgium will be missed by the humans and horses at Horse Heaven.

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