I was leasing a big Arab gelding that both my Dad and farrier, John, hated. He seemed to have something against men. John told me that he had just picked up a Saddlebred, and I should come look at him. He showed me his papers, which at the time didn't say anything to me. Who was Wing Commander anyway?
At that time, I had never seen a Saddlebred before. I didn't realize that one of my horse figurines that I had bought when I was a little kid, was a Saddlebred. Or the picture of the beautiful black horse I'd been drooling over since I was a kid was also a Saddlebred.
When I first went to see Wings, he was in pretty bad shape. John had bought him from a place up on Vashon Island. Poor Wings was in knee deep mud, and very underweight when John took him home. He was trying to get some weight on Wings to resell. I sure wish I would've taken a picture of him in this shape- just to remember how far he came.
John wasn't sure if there was something wrong with Wings' legs, as they looked very big/swollen. So Wings' legs were shaved about knee/hock up. His legs were fine, he just had quite the hairy winter coat. They also shaved his blaze which, for some reason, fluffed out farther than his regular coat. So here was Wings, skin, bones, hair, and a crazy hair cut.
Wings modeling a tie down set.
I did what no one shopping for a horse should do. I looked into his sweet brown eyes and fell in love- even before I rode him! Thankfully he was just as wonderful and well mannered undersaddle as he was on the ground.
We bought him, and he was delivered to us the following week, on a chilly December day in '93. He unloaded off that slant trailer like a pro. We never would've thought he was a problem loader, or a chronic puller!
When Wings started to feel better, we found out really quick that he was a puller, and didn't like straight load trailers. He seemed to pull back out of habit, not fear. I remember when my Dad dropped me off at a show, leaving me with only the trailer, Wings pulled back hard enough that the trailer rolled back with him a good 20ft. *gulp*
Wings about 8 months after we bought him.
He also pulled a hitchin' post up out of the ground. Honestly, I've never seen such a puller. I had tried everything from new gadgets, to old cowboy training techniques. Nothing worked. Talk about frustrating- I couldn't tie him anywhere.
Then my Mom taught me how to tie a rope halter. Wow- what a difference! I had already taught him how to give to pressure, but he seemed to forget it when pulling back. If he'd sit back wearing a rope halter, he'd come right back up. He didn't want to lean on that thin halter.
A show horse through and through :)
We tried several different types of rope, and rope manufacturers before deciding on our rope. Wings pulled quite a few halters out of shape. There is such a vast difference between types of rope, and manufacturers. You want to stay away from a rope halter that has stretch, or isn't tied tightly. They'll be garbage if a horse pulls back in one.
So there's the story of how Sunset Halters got started. I couldn't find a decent, American made halter for a reasonable price. You shouldn't have to pay through the nose to get quality, and you shouldn't have to settle for inexpensive junk :)
Who Wings Was
Smilin' Wings :)
He was a cooky horse with alot of personality. One of those horses that was so smart, you really had to wonder what was going on in his head- you could almost smell the smoke ;)
I remember we had a new farrier out, and he kept refering to Wings as a mare. "Oh, she's cute, what breed is she?", "How old is she?", "She sure is a pretty thing." Everytime he called Wings a 'she', this sweet, wonderful horse would pin his ears and get a really snotty look in his eyes. I pointed this out to my parents, and they started watching for it too.
This farrier was on Wings' back right hoof, when he called Wings a she again. Wings craned his giraffe neck around, pinned his ears flat back, barred his teeth, and started biting the air. This farrier was a wonderful farrier (just hard to get ahold of!), Wings was in no pain, and this was the only time Wings ever acted like this.
Wings begging for an apple.
He's the only horse that I've seen roll his eyes (when I called him Punkin Pie), the only horse I've seen cross his back legs to scratch an itch, and the only horse I've been able to teach how to 'beg' for food. Although he did teach two geldings to do it himself ;)
He was also the only horse I've seen shuck his own corn cob. If you threw him corn on the cob, he'd step on one end, and grab the corn husk with his teeth, and schuck it. When he got to the corn cob, he'd eat the corn off, and roll the cob just like we do. While our piggie mare would come by after him eating the cob that was left. He was a very smart horse, a real thinker, but not a mischievious horse. Very respectful, and he'd give you 110% and not complain about a thing.
Wings and I hoping over a couple of logs.
He's done everything from cross country, driving, dressage, show jumping, hunt seat, 5 gaited saddleseat, western pleasure, team penning, parades and trail riding. While at 25 he was retired from most of that, he loved trail riding and did well in parades also. He was in wonderful shape, I just wanted to keep him that way.
My husband and I were married on horse back. John rode Wings, and I rode Satin, up at a lake in the mountains on a church camp out. This amazing horse taught both our kids to ride, and has 'rocked' more than one lil' angel to sleep. A very gentle soul that will be missed terribly.
More than 11 years ago John and I were married aboard our 4 legged kids.
How we lost our Wings
I wormed all four of our horses with one of those powerful all in one wormers. The ones that also have stuff for tape worms. I don't want to name the brand, as I don't hold a grudge against them. Their vet was actually very helpful. But I do believe there should be a warning on all of these wormers.
Wings and I before a parade.
Our three younger horses, ages 4,7 and 14, all did fine on it- no complications at all. Wings on the other hand started colicing, and his neck swelled up. I called the vet (who thought Wings looked to be 12!), he tubed and oiled Wings, and gave him some pain killers. It was touch and go for about 3 days, then Wings pulled out of it, and seemed to be on the road to recovery.
On the labeling of this wormer, it said that a swollen neck was the result of alot of neck worms dying off. So I called this company and talked to the vet several times. Again- she was very helpful.
I took Wings from his stall, and turned him out in a very small paddock with just a little bit of grass in it. He seemed to want to eat grass like crazy, and only eat a couple flakes of hay a day. I also thought being outside would cheer him up a bit.
He started showing signs of colic again. I called the vet out, and he again tubed and oiled Wings, and gave him some pain killers. Being out in the sticks, there aren't any big vet clinics or colleges around that do colic surgery, so all we could do is give Wings the best shot at making it that we could.
Wings came back just fine. After doing some research, and talking to the wormer vet again, we felt that Wings had ulcers caused by the wormer. She explained to me that even when horses are wormed every other month, using rotated wormers, they're still more than likely will have worms. It wasn't so much about killing all the worms, as it was controlling them.
She also said that with an older horse, their system isn't as efficient as a younger horse. And that while my worming schedule worked on our younger horses, it wasn't working for Wings. Even though he was in great shape on the outside, he was still 25 on the inside.
Wings and I back in '99
She suspected that Wings (although he sure didn't look it) was overloaded with worms. This happened because his system isn't as efficient as a younger horse, so he's much more prone to worm over load. Then I wormed him with such a powerful wormer, the worms died quickly, causeing ulcers. She said one way to find out was get a weeks worth of ulcer meds and see how he reacts to them.
I found ulcer meds online- the kind with omeprazole- and ordered a weeks worth. He did awesome! Was back to his ol' self. He did great, so after a few days, I ordered a ton more of this stuff, along with some other 'pepto' type of stuff, to help sooth his stomache while the omeprazole healed up the ulcers.
At this point, I just knew Wings was going to make it- not a doubt in my mind. I had told a friend I'd go with her on a club ride. I took my husband's horse Sage. Wings was doing just fine by himself in the barn, so I was really surprised to see him worked up when I got home. Evidentially he had been pacing the stall since we left.
Although he rarely got it- Wings LOVED Pepsi!
I gave Wings the last dose of omeprazole I had. I still hadn't gotten my ulcer meds that I had ordered, and the following day was Memorial Day- no mail. I ended up calling my vet again on that Monday to come tube Wings and give him some pain killers. I bought a ton of Pepto Bismal, hoping that would help Wings to get by until Tuesday.
The mail was late, so I had assumed my orders just hadn't come that day. So I frantically went into town to see if any of the other vets had ulcer meds. I finally found some, also got more 'horse pepto', and flew home. I gave Wings a big dose of the omeprazole, and was sure that'd do the trick. I know he didn't look good, but I was sure he'd pull through. This stuff worked last time, it had to work this time too.
My husband had taken down a wall between two stalls, so Wings would have more room to be comfy. We tucked him in at about 11pm that night, and went to bed. We came out the following morning. John peeked in Wings stall, and said "Good mornin' boy.' Then said 'Wings.... Wings... Oh, no- Karen, don't come in here.' Our sweet boy passed away that night- on his 25th birthday. It looked like he went peacefully- like he had just laid down and fell asleep.
I hate that I wasn't there when Wings passed. He must've known that after three weeks of touch and go, that I couldn't handle it. I hated how this ended, but I'm glad it's over. I'm glad Wings is in greener pastures, without even a hint of arthritis.
I still can't believe he's gone. I still expect to see him grazing out in his pasture. Looking back, we think that when Wings stressed and rolled (about Sage being gone), that he must've twisted a gut- because he just didn't act the same.
Hind sight's 20/20. Had I know this would've been the end result, I would've had the vet put Wings down. We just wanted to give Wings every opportunity we could, and we really thought he would pull through just fine.
I talked to the wormer vet again about wormer and the older horse. She said that older horses really should be on a daily dewormer, and wormed 3 times a year with an all in one wormer. Because their systems aren't as efficient, they are much more prone to worm over load.
All of this happened because I didn't realize this is what Wings needed. I thought being wormed every 2 months with rotating dewormers would work for all of our horses. This was a very painful and costly lesson for me to learn. Please learn from my mistakes.
Nine months after losing my Punkin Pie, I still felt like it had just happened. Even though we had three other amazing horses, my heart still had a huge hole in it. I love our stock horses, but Wings, being a Saddlebred had a certain 'flare' to him, along with the quirkiest personality.
A good friend of mine in Tennessee runs a rescue. Charaty knew the story of how we lost Wings. A lady by the name of Mary Sue approached Charaty to see if Charaty could help her sell some of her horses quickly as she had just had surgery on her ankle.
Mary Sue started describing her horses to Charaty. When she described her chestnut Saddlebred gelding named Wings, Charaty immediately thought of me. She told Mary Sue the story on how we lost Wings, and bless Mary Sue's heart, she told Charaty I could have him!
"The thief comes not, but to kill and to steal and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."
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