Forever Free Farm - Dallas, Georgia

Star Au'Chocolat - In Memory

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??? 1994 - March 19, 2005

I had been involved with horses for many years, some of them quite memorable.  However, as most horse people, I was never truly satisfied because I so wanted my own horse.  Due to many circumstances, I was not able to fulfill that dream until July 2003 when, by God's leading, I found Star.
At the time, she was considered an abandoned horse.  The farm owners were simply letting her live in their pasture until they could get rid of her.  While they had seven beautiful show horses, carefully tucked into their fan-cooled stalls, Star was left out in a pasture mostly devoid of grass, with no shelter and only the barest minimum of poor feed. 
Her feet were overgrown, chipped and cracked.  One remaining rear shoe was still barely holding on.  She had the worst case of rain rot I had ever seen.  She was, basically, a scab on four legs.  And yet....
...There was this twinkle in her eye and a spark that just caught me. 
They led her over to an area where I could look at her closer.  As I ran my hand down her sides, it was obvious that no fat remained over her ribs and I could feel each hip bone.  She kept turning her head around to watch me with that oh-so-distinctive "Appy Eye."  Her legs were straight and clean, except for the right front.  I noticed that the knee was a litle bigger than the other.  I asked and was told "Oh, she got picked on and kicked by the other horses.  It's no big deal."
Regardless of her condition, I knew that I wanted her.  I promptly wrote the woman a check and she agreed to deliver her the next day.  A dear friend and co-worker of mine agreed to let me board Star at her private farm free of charge.
The day she came home, was one of the greatest of my life.  She hopped off the trailer just screaming her head off.  I had never heard a horse whinny as much as that mare did.  After being turned out, she hungrily dove into the grass for her first real grazing session in a year.  Only the sound of a grain bucket brought her head up.
Over the next few weeks, I just concentrated on getting to know her and worked on getting her weight back to a reasonable level, along with getting her feet back into condition.  An excellent farrier helped in that respect and with proper nutrition, she slowly put on weight and condition.  Through aggressive treatment, both internally and externally, little by little the rainrot started to heal and new hair came in.  It was all chocolate-frosted!  That's when I chose her Official Name:  Star Au'Chocolat.
I was only able to ride Star about five times in the short time I had her.  In between I acquired Tank and Penny, saw Star through a horrible colic, hoof abscesses, more rain rot and moonblindness (uveitis).  All my years of reading, researching and absorbing information came into play with Star.  I was able to treat her myself most of the time.
It was December 2004 when I first started to really pay attention to the changes in her right front knee.  I looked back through the pictures I took when I first got her and compared them to the way it looked now.  It was obvious that it had grown and taken on a more significant bend.  While the vet was out for routine shots that month, I asked her to look at Star and tell me what her true prognosis would be. 
Dr. Coker confirmed what I already suspected:  In that equines are into "laying down bone," with each new trauma her body went through (colic, abscess, etc.) during the whole-body healing, more bone was calcifying over the knee.  No surgery could correct it, no treatment could stop it.  All I could do was manage her pain and keep her comfortable until she let me know it was too much.
The vet left me with a large bottle of Corta-RX (prescription strength) and orders for 2 scoops of Arthri-Ease daily, with permission to up it as needed to keep her moving and control the pain. 
Over that winter, the cold and wet took its toll.  Star started to spend more and more time laying down, flat out.  Her gait took on a very obvious hippity-hop and she no longer could keep up with the other horses.  Each evening, after feeding them, I'd lean on the gate and watch her, looking for the Thousand Yard Stare or just a clue from her as to when it would be time.
One particular evening, my husband and I rotated the mares up to the front pasture. Tank first, then Penny. Star so wanted to hurry up and get in there so she could run with them. She was screaming like crazy. Half way up to the pasture, though, she really slowed down. Then when I turned her loose, she just hobbled off about 10 feet and grazed. No desire to buck or play. She just kept looking off at the other mares with a sad eye.  As she turned back to me, it was then that I knew.  I could no longer let her remain in pain.  My love for her just would not allow it.  I called the vet the next day and scheduled her euthanasia. 
The morning of the March 19, 2005, we got the barn about 8:15. My good friend, Kat Hampton, had come to spend the day with me and see me through Star's passing.  My husband had to go rent a backhoe in that all four other burial options fell through. A good friend from our church, Shane Woodall, met him at Home Depot at 6am to be sure they got it. Shane graciously dug the hole long before we got to the barn. Such an awful task but it was a blessing to us.

We brought Star up the barn for a beauty treatment. Kat painted her hoofs so they were shiny for her arrival at The Rainbow Bridge. We stuffed her face with carrots, apples (golden delicious--her favorite) and carrot cake in a bucket and covered her with kisses and scratches.

The vet arrived about 9:15. I had held it together pretty good until she got out of the truck. When she said "Guess this is one time you're not glad to see me.", I just fell apart as I said "No maam." Reality had really hit hard. She lovingly explained what would happen and, as I requested, gave Star a big shot of Bute. That was the best decision I made for her.

With just that one shot, for the next 15 minutes, the Starmare I knew came back to me. She was totally pain free! She pulled for all her might on that halter, wanting to take off over the hay pasture. It was very hard for me to lead her across three acres to the spot. Part of me was glad she didn't hurt but the bigger part of me was angry that she was in a hurry to get there. I even had to make her circle a couple of times to keep her from running off with me.

She turned back twice to look for the other horses and screamed for Tank and Penny. The last big whinny, though, was as she faced straight ahead to where she would rest. In typical Star fashion, she loudly proclaimed her impending arrival to the Bridge Gang. I know they were all there waiting for her. She heard them calling and answered back for all to hear.

When Dr. Rose and my husband pulled up, I knew that she would have Star led up close and then give her a shot of Rompum before the final shot. It was then that I knew I couldn't stay for the whole thing and asked Kat to take her. I quickly and with much sobbing ran away to get back to the barn and away from what I knew was going on. My husband came running up behind me and I just fell into his arms and clung to him. He sobbed right along with me.

We stumbled back to the barn and just sat crying together. About 20 minutes later Kat came and brought me Star's halter. She joined in the tears and we held each other for quite a while.

While there is a big hole in my heart because I miss her so much, I know that it was the right thing. I was also relieved.  Relieved that the week was over, relieved that Star's pain was forever ended and relieved that I survived it by God's grace.

Kat told me that as she breathed her last, her eyes half closed and she was almost certain that Star had smiled. Oh yes, I'm sure she did.  Star could smile. There was always mischief behind it too. She was very opinionated but never, ever nasty or "mare-ish." There just wasn't a mean bone in her body. I don't think I can even recall a time when she pinned her ears at anybody or anything.

I created this Memorial Page not for sympathy, but to share Star's of hope out of despair, peace out of pain.  It is because of her that I will attempt to rescue other horses and see them back to health and wholeness again.  If not, then in her honor, I will release them from their pain with the greatest gift I can give.
Thank You My Precious Star for being the best First Horse anyone could ever have.

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