Life in our Foothills November 2023 – Glad I Didn’t Know – Saying goodbye to Royal

Published 12:45 pm Thursday, November 16, 2023

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In November 2021, we saved He’sA Royal, the quarter-horse colt sired by Goldseekers Jet, sporting incredible Dash for Cash and Three Bars lineage. His racing-bred mother was a of similar pedigree and named Blonde Seeker. When we purchased Royal, he was not halter broke. He was so flashy. We could hardly take our eyes off him. A year later, Royal had blossomed. He became so spectacular after living in our rescue Helping Equines Regain Dignity (HERD), that I devoted an entire column just to him, The Royal Treatment, in July 2022. I am glad I did not know what lay ahead for him. 

This summer, we had Royal well-started under saddle. He sustained an injury to his left hip, between when we purchased him in Texas and his arrival at HERD in the Carolinas. Unfortunately, it would forever alter his movement and cause him to have to compensate for taking turns or trotting in a tight circle. However, Royal was fine for light riding and possibly could become a therapy horse. Despite his athletic breeding, a more taxing career was not possible. 

Royal in fine form.

We posted riding videos of his progress. Some people expressed interest in him for light trail riding and even for obstacle course competitions, like crossing scary bridges or carrying tarps. These challenges were no problem for him. Royal was so calm and brave; he took everything in stride. He was one dignified stoic fellow.    

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Sedona and I have lived right across the fence from Royal for 10 months. We met him daily underneath the shade of the large corner oak for long, delicious naps. He was always respectful of us and enjoyed our company. Occasionally we enjoyed a good fast frolic gallop, our little dance together, down the fence line we would go. This was just for our amusement. Sedona always came in first place; she is such an athlete. I am of course the fairest and most delicate of the trio. Royal, by all accounts, was the real head-turner. HERD volunteers and visitors liked to watch our antics, as we came gliding to a stop as the fence line ended at the gate. Despite his awkward gait at the gallop, each person commented on how beautiful Royal was.     

Royal practicing trailer loading with Kathy Milroy.

One day in late summer Royal did not finish his breakfast. I am picky so Heather, my mistress, does not worry on days that I leave part of my meal behind. However, Royal always eats with gusto. So, it was noted that he was not himself that morning. The next day he also left part of his grain in the feed tub. His temperature was taken. It was only slightly elevated at 102.5 degrees. A normal temperature for a horse is 101.5 or slightly below this. 

After a dose of pain medication, Royal’s temperature returned to normal, and we breathed a sigh of relief. We did, however, call and make an appointment for the vet to come examine him and our new arrivals, ForgetMeNot and her colt, Jupiter. They had been with us a few days and ForgetMeNot had developed a weepy eye, we needed to have it checked. Her eye turned out to only be mildly irritated from the long trailer trip to us. The condition cleared right up with some lubrication drops twice a day. 

Royal’s last day with us on the ranch.

Royal had a fecal test and blood drawn to see why he was out of sorts and moved around more lethargic than normal. It was just too hot for our dancing along the fence line game. The blood test revealed bad news. Royal was anemic. More blood was drawn, and it was determined that he had an extremely rare condition called Equine Piroplasmosis, (EP), in his blood. Based on his case history, it was determined he was born with it. His mother must have been a carrier of this blood-borne protozoal infection. 

The only way to share the disease with other horses in the USA is by transmitting blood through dirty needles or medical tools where large amounts of blood would be passed from one horse directly into another horse. No insects in this area were the culprit. It is not carried through biting flies, mosquitoes, or ticks from this part of the country. The disease is so rare it is not tested for in our country to screen horses, like the Coggins test for horses to travel. Interestingly, horses from other countries are allowed to enter America to race and compete in international equestrian games with EP. They are kept quarantined when visiting this country to perform. 

Royal being ridden by Kathy Milroy.

To be sure Royal’s condition had no impact on any other horse with us, blood was drawn from horses on the ranch, from one side of the property to the other. All came back negative. Royal was the only victim. Unfortunately, the prognosis for him to recover was not a good one. The treatments could cause him more suffering and possibly death by colic.

The hard decision was made to put Royal to sleep humanely here with us. He would be buried on the ranch. It was another blistering hot day here. He stood under the canopy of the big tree just across from us. Heather stroked him and told him how much she loved him; how gorgeous he was. He rested his head against her and took one last horse cookie from her hand. Royal was a strong horse despite the debilitating disease that cursed his veins. It took time before he gave in to death. Sedona and I were right there for him, just over the fence watching our friend depart. 

One thought came to mind as he left our world. A song that was made famous by country singer Garth Brooks. “And now, I’m glad I didn’t know, the way it all would end, the way it all would go, our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, but I’da had to miss the dance.”