A friend of mine once told me that when it is time to part, you must tell the other person four things; I love you, I will miss you, I am sorry, and goodbye. That happened twice with a horse named, ironically, Tiny Two.
He was originally the horse of the woman I was married to at the time. We fox hunted (and no, we did not kill the fox). I already had a big horse, and he already had the only good name for a huge horse, which is “Tiny.” So he became Tiny Two. He was mostly a draft horse by breeding, with a little Thoroughbred, we think. He was black, with a white star on his forehead, and he weighed 1,800 pounds, nearly twice the weight of a racehorse. He was about as big as saddle horses get. He had a wonderfully thick, luxuriant mane and tail, and he smelled just a little different from other horses; there was a little sharpness to his scent. His coat grew long in the winter and I used to love to bury my nose in it. He did not mind.
She bought Two because we heard he had jumped out of a six-foot-high pen, realized he was in trouble for being out, and then jumped back in. She knew he had enormous jumping talent. What she did not know was that he was almost entirely untrained. He would accept a bridle and saddle but that was it. When she started hunting him, two things happened over and over. First, he would jump the jump. Then he would buck her off. He would not stand to have the reins held tightly, and the closer she held him, the more he bucked. Without telling her, I took Two hunting myself. I left the reins loose at the jumps and let him figure it out for himself. He loved jumping and he was very good at it. If his eye fell on a jump he could hardly wait to throw himself over. I had plenty of worries riding Two—getting him to stop when the other horses stopped, staying on him when he shied—but if there was a jump coming up I could relax. Two would take care of me. When I told my wife she said, “If you can ride him, then fine; he’s yours.”
We had many wonderful adventures fox hunting, but after only a couple of years he fell ill with a horse disease, laminitis. It’s an inflammation of the hoof and it is extremely painful. It is one of the leading causes of death in horses. Fortunately, we lived only an hour from the University of Pennsylvania large animal hospital at New Bolton. Two was there for a month. They performed multiple surgeries. They were not hopeful; his laminitis was severe, and they had little experience treating horses that big. People did not spend money to try to save draft horses. But we did. We cancelled a vacation and drained our savings. I drove down to visit him in his stall every couple of days. He was lying down, full of pain medication. I sat in his stall with him and we talked. I told him that if he felt it was time to go, I would understand. But as his vet said, he was a smart horse and he was not ready to die. He started standing up and began to improve. Everyone at New Bolton was rooting for him. The vet’s young daughter drew a picture wishing Two would get well and she hung it on his stall door. I have it now, framed, next to my desk.
For the first few months Two was not allowed out of his stall. And for months after that he was on a strictly limited regimen. I would walk him on a lead rope five minutes at a time. Over the months we built up to half an hour. I walked him in every weather except ice. He went back to New Bolton for X-rays and new shoes every six weeks for a year. He did not recover completely but New Bolton was very proud, and they published an article in their monthly magazine about him, and the veterinarians still use him as an example of what is possible even if a difficult case.
Although Two’s foot was too fragile for regular fox hunting, I did take him a couple of times, both of which he enjoyed very much even though I didn’t allow him to jump. Mostly we just rode through the woods at a walk. To warn deer and other animals that we were coming I would sing to him; I had a repertory of songs, “I Need Two,” by America; “” Two and Me” by Lighthouse; “Two and Me and Rain on the Roof” . . . You get the idea. I would scratch his mane at the base of his neck while I sang. I think he liked that.
Even though he was retired from fox hunting he still had a job. After my divorce my present wife was able to fulfill her childhood dream of learning to ride on my other horse, and the two of us rode all around the farm and the surrounding trails every chance we got.
Ten years after his surgery, his weakened leg began to fail him. His limping got worse, especially in the cold or when the ground was hard. It was clear he was becoming uncomfortable and we could not control it with medication. We put if off till the end of the fall when the weather turned cold. His last six weeks were an unseasonably warm fall, for which I am grateful.
At our barn, the routine is when horses are put down, it happens in the indoor arena. For the last six weeks we walked Two down there every night and fed him carrots and brushed him. He knew that when he went there he would find love and carrots. The last couple of days I groomed him thoroughly, brushing his coat till it shone, trimming his mane and tail, clipping up any stray hairs, even painting his hooves with hoof polish. I put out a freshly cleaned and oiled halter for his last walk. But mainly I stayed with him in his stall and said goodbye.
Two went to the arena and the vet gave him his shot. He did not do the things horses sometimes do at that point. He just gently knelt on his forelegs and passed on. As the vet said, Two had class even at the end.
I want the world to know that there was a wonderful horse named Tiny Two and that he was loved as much as anyone can be loved; and that I will miss him every day of my life.
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