When it is Time to
by Catherine Sampson
On the early morning of November 23, 2000, with temperatures plummeting to an unseasonably 10 degrees Celsius, I opened the stable door, turned off the alarm and began the morning chores as I have done with regularity every morning. It was the American Thanksgiving holiday and in a way I too was giving thanks to these two American bred Morgans for the last time. The routine was kept the same, but this was no ordinary day. It would be the last morning that I would feed and water two old and dearly loved friends, H-Loli and Serenity Intrigue.
We often joked about them as being "the old folks", " grandma and grandpa" and the silly sign posted by their reserved paddock fence announcing, "an old stud and a cute filly live here". It gave us all a chuckle, visiting tourists and friends alike.
Soon the stable would be quiet, except for my soft whimpering and private tears, waiting for the veterinarian and backhoe to come and do their respective solemn duties.
Loli was hugged and cradled with my arms wrapped around her neck for a long farewell goodbye. I had shared her life for 20 years, never with complaint, but always with wonderment and gratitude. I can never recall a time of reprimand for an infraction. They say no one is perfect, but Loli had been an exception when it came to obedience, trust and tolerance.
She had been one of our foundation mares and without doubt, the best. She had come through so much this past spring, battling a massive infection to her face that almost ended her life then. Ironically, her heroic story published in Equus Magazine would make the newsstands this very day.
Intrigue on the other hand still stood defiant of being pampered. He only wanted to safeguard his sacred mare. I let him keep his stallion ways, and snuck a gentle pat of his long thick flowing mane when he wasn't looking. How sad it seemed that the sassy fat stud who was like a Hoover now at feed times, would no longer shine in our stable after eleven years here at the farm.
It had been more than a year when we first had thoughts of ending his loneliness and misery when he seemingly lost all interest in eating, spending his days languishing and lying in his stall, making few attempts to rise. It wasn't until our veterinary made the suggestion of moving him to the open stall paddock that H-Loli occupied at the time. The theory was that by having more room and access to an open paddock twenty-four hours a day would be beneficial for his aching joints. Reluctant to put the veteran stallion with the old broodmare, we decided it was worth a try as euthanasia was our only other option. Within a week, the old boy had found a reason to live again, a job to do, and he never looked back.
It was Loli who had accepted the cranky old man and brought him much pleasure in companionship. They soon became inseparable. You couldn't take one away for grooming or whatever, without the other tagging along. If momentarily out of sight, each would pace and whinny frantic calls of location to each other until they were reunited.
Stiff with the ravages of arthritis, the old stallion still shuffled along standing over Loli like an old soldier protecting his mate as she lay for hours in the wet sand paddock, finding relief for her old laminitis hooves.
Every day was like the last, as I watched the two comfort each other in their obvious continuing pain as the medications were losing their effectiveness. With that cold cruel Artic wind blowing from the north and the ground cover freezing faster now, the decision to spare these wonderful Morgans from the grips of winter became overwhelming. Still it stabbed at my heart to make that phone call after having a frank discussion with my veterinarian days before. Even he was reluctant to do the deed at first. Like me, he too had observed the tenacity of these great horses, coming through so much the last few years as we admired their spirit, watching them enjoy each other's company like an old married couple. Now in their thirties, how much more could we ask them to endure without it being a crime of conscious to let them go on? So it had been mutually agreed that the two would go together, peacefully and painlessly.
Below is a tribute to each of them, reflecting their lives and contributions they have made to our farm and for the good of the Morgan breed.
It was May 23, 1969 when H-Loli entered the world, not in the confines of a well-bedded straw foaling stall with today's technology and fancy monitors, or foal watchers looking on to ensure a safe delivery. Rather she came in a more humble way, born on the open and rugged plains of Wyoming without benefit of shelter or human intervention, braving the elements and constant predator danger.
She was a daughter of the infamous Chingadero, the stallion with his pale cremello coloring, considered to be white at the time. Chingadero, in part, was credited for a catalyst of change in rules for the breed of the day. Years later, the white rule would be rescinded after decades of controversy
H-Loli was foaled the property of the Cross Ranch, bred by George A. Cross and Sons. She carried two distinctive brands; one on her neck the other on her hip. She was line bred to Flyhawk with four crosses to Warhawk on her pedigree. Much like her other siblings by Chingadero, she was solid black in colour with no markings. Not a big horse by the stick, but she was tough and resilient like many others from that breeding program. And she produced bigger than herself.
They were all survivors, as she would later attest to in her life. She would have four other owners, traveling from Wyoming to Iowa, then on to New York State before entering Canada in 1979.
In the late summer of 1980, I had an opportunity to visit Jack Reeves' Chestnut Hill Morgan Farm and view the horses listed on their dispersal sale. It wasn't long before I focused my attention on the lone little black mare with a large buckskin colt at her side. As I approached the somewhat timid mare, it was her large clear eye that attracted me most to her. That eye and the intelligence and good nature it reflected, convinced me that she was indeed special from all the rest in the pasture of quality Morgans.
She was sturdy of build, and inch-by-inch Morgan came through in her outward appearance and mild manner. She traveled with good motion, a trait she had inherited from her dam, as told to me by the late Albert Cross.Lolis hooves never saw steel and remained durable, unmarred and healthy until very late in her life when she developed a bout of laminitis, most likely the result of age. Her disposition was that of her sire, old Chingadero. Abe Cross remarked that Chingadero was the best natured Morgan they had ever bred out of hundreds of foals they produced over the years at their Ranch.
Loli had been bred back to Clear River Phantom, a son of Merry Knox, that spring of 1980 and was due to wean her then current foal. Soon the purchase was made, and I welcomed Loli to our farm that fall. It would be a remarkable journey in her life coming to Trillium. It was to be her final home as she produced without question, multiple offspring of kind, willing temperaments and unquestionable Morgan type, grit and talent.
I always believed in giving the broodmares a rest once in a while to rejuvenate them, regardless of the gamble for rebreeding the next season. Following this program Loli was not bred every year during her most fertile years as a broodmare. However, she did produce eleven registered offspring in her lifetime with most notably leaving behind her greatest legacy, the farms leading sire, Trillium Samson. Her very last offspring at age twenty-five was a black filly named Trillium Lady of Intrigue, by none other than Serenity Intrigue. The list of grand offspring of H-Loli is long and impressive with many of them achieving grand champion and national status, such as Trilliums Chantilly Lace, Trillium Arioso and Trillium Classic.
Color did come through from time to time with Loli. She produced three palominos and a couple of buckskin Morgans. Mostly though, her offspring were bay or chestnut in color. It didn't seem to matter what color she produced, all of her foals were excellent, both in Morgan type, smarts and ability.
Never a saddle or harness horse, Loli was still one of the most popular Morgans at the farm, even though she was just a companion and broodmare, but what a broodmare!
It was her demeanor that won people over on first encounter and of course that eye full of life and clarity. She drew a crowd like a magnet at the farms many public events. She was special beyond her size, ebony color and occasionally with an adorable foal at her side. She was the most trusting horse who would let the vet stitch a flap of skin on her face without the benefit of freezing or restraint, as she was so heavy in foal. And in this last year of her life and test of courage, she endured the devastation of massive infection, paralysis and the enormous healing process left in its wake.
Loli slipped quietly away from this world, but with much love and admiration. Next spring, five more grand offspring will arrive, dawning a new era of Lolis legacy delivering her spirit and genetic prowess that makes the Morgan Horse a breed apart.
Foaled on May 8, 1970, Intrigue was one of three full siblings. Besides being one of the last sons of the great Vigilmarch, his notable distinction from this culmination of bloodlines was that he was the only producing sire and full brother to Vals Terry. Adored by his fans, the flashy gelding affectionately known simply as Terry, was considered by many to be the greatest show horse in Morgan history winning eighteen world championships.
Intrigue graced the show ring briefly winning his share of ribbons and championships, but only in the shadow of his famous brother. Mostly, he stood at stud in South Carolina and Georgia before traveling north to Canada and home to Trillium in the spring of 1990. After all, he was the only one, other than his sister, Serenity Victoria, who was capable of passing on genes that may yet produce another Terry some day.
He sired fifty-nine registered offspring during his lifetime and most likely countless others. At age twenty-eight, he sired his last foal being the filly, Trillium Intrigues Spirit who now resides in Scotland.
I clearly remember the day when the grand stallion first arrived and walked off the van into the yard after his long journey from Atlanta. I had made the purchase sight unseen, basing my decision solely on his excellent bloodlines. It was a risk I took, purchasing a stallion of age, but I have no regrets. He was everything I expected and more.
His stable name was chosen by one of the boarders the very first day he was in our stable. She kept referring to him as Studley Do Right and so it stuck with most people just referring to him as Studley in the end.
Intrigue was a real gentleman and easy breeder. His mane, tail and forelock were long and abundant. He was undeniably Morgan in every sense. His head with its chiseled and refined features reflected his intelligent mind and good breeding. His hooves were solid and unblemished. He possessed clean dense bone and a strong hip that everyone described as the butt walk when in motion. That wide moving, driving hind would be a trait he would pass on to a number of his offspring.
Intrigue would sire fabulous offspring for us over the years such as Trillium Symphony of Fire, Trillium Independence and Trillium Peppermint Patty to name just a few. All of his get are talented and full of personality. They are very clever horses, bold and willing. They are also enduring horses, tough for the competition with stamina that just will not falter.
So many of his get entered the field of competitive ride. One son held the distinct honor of leading a fox hunt near our nations capital, yet others were successful in the hunter division. Another son is noted as a distinguished police horse in the southern United States and more offspring are remembered as brilliant roadsters and pleasure horses.
Even in his final days, the glorious stallion still stood with that typical Vigilmarch regal air that no one could deny him. To the end, he kept his promise and guarded old Loli with his entire being, sharing his hay and beet pulp, sharing his water bucket, keeping watch over her tired body, as weary as he was too. It was a sad farewell as I stole one last wistful look of him obediently and slowly walking down the road as the veterinarian led him to a place of eternal rest. For all that he was, Intrigue will be remembered for his nobility and blessed Morgan poise, intelligence and independence.
Postscript:Loli and Intrigue were laid to rest side-by-side adjacent to Foxy's resting place. Their stall signs, adorned with a single red rose for Intrigue and a pink rose for Loli, temporarily mark the gravesites. In the spring, the area will be landscaped and flat granite stones ordered to honor their respective graves.