My Boy Ben. My Hero Ben
My big boy, Ben the Friesian was brought to me from Holland as a 3 year old gelding in late 2000. He was HUGE. The biggest I'd ever seen, yet I wasn't scared of him. He had the softest eyes and expression I'd ever seen. As a 3 year old he was sound enough for my step-daughter who was 7 at the time, to ride and she was just learning. He was tremendous. When my niece came to visit she would ride him as well. She was very tiny, almost like thumbelina.
The years went by and Ben proved to be quite a prankster. He loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, turkey and cheese crackers and he mostly like BEER!!! Can't really say where he learned that trick ;-) He and I began our training in Dressage and he did fairly well. He was very large and baroque....not sporty. He really didn't have an interest in showing but was a good mount so I stopped his training and just rode casually with him. Any show he was in, however, he was in the ribbons.
I didn't have a home to keep him, so he was boarded along with my thoroughbred at a beautiful stable in WI. One night I got a call from the stable owner, she was frantic to tell me that one horse there was diagnosed with having "strangles" which is similar to mono or strep throat in humans except they abscess through their neck....yes, GROSS. I said "No worries, Monte's already been exposed and so has Ben." In Holland, they will purposely bring their foals to a stable that has strangles so they get it to build up the anti-bodies. There is no cure for strangles, it just has to run it's course....which is about 3 agonizing weeks. While there is a vaccine for it, there are so many strains of it, it's kind of like being inoculated for the cold.
Unfortunately, the call came in that Ben was ill and I needed to get out there quickly. Sure enough, although he had the disease as a yearling, he had it again and this time it was way worse than before. His temp was 106 degrees for 6 days straight....it should be 101. Then the abscessing of the neck started and I just won't even go into that whole gig with you here. Suffice it to say IT WAS BAD. He was the second sickest horse out there. The first one died of complications of abscesses in her stomach. Three weeks into it he got a skin fungus from the extreme fever. Fabulous, what next. Penicillin 10cc (the needle is about the size of a turkey baster), 2x per day for 10 days took care of it. That was a horrible time, and we got through it together. We also got through my divorce together a few years later.
I bought and moved out to a hobby farm with my fiance. Ben, again the little prankster was always getting into stuff he shouldn't be or messing up the barn when he was bored. But I loved the big lug. I sang to him and Monte regularly, well, because I sing Karaoke and that's how I practice....by singing while I do chores. One song in particular that is difficult to sing is "Foolish Games" By Jewel. But I mastered it and they were right there with me as I did.
I then got a Morgan named Jack who I used for trail riding (and I still do) for the summer of '08. On November 15, 2008, there was a trail ride about 45 minutes from here and I was to go early in the a.m. I stayed out too late the night before, so when my pal called on that morning, I indicated I wasn't going. She then said "that's okay, but I'm going anyway." I challenged myself to get up, and take BEN this time. He'd not been out on a ride for awhile. I thought he'd enjoy it. I ride English style, so, I got his dressage saddle and tack. Attached the leathers (the straps that hold the silver stirrups on an English saddle) but didn't "lock" them into place since that is difficult and, well, what could happen right?
My friend picked me up and off we went. The ride was going well, but the terrain was something I totally didn't expect....it was November, the leaves were wet, lots of hills and moss...makes for a very dangerous ride on any horse. He was so excited to be out and just prancing along, no one could keep up. He was calling out to everyone and so many people commented on his beauty. We got to this hill and everyone went up the hill. It was getting a little rowdy and he was getting antsy. I figured it was because of the loudness of the people. He started backing down the trail leading up to that hill. I knew if he turned around and bolted, that would be it. Once my pal showed up with her horse, he called down. That is the last I remember.
The next thing I remember is lying under a tree with my "Guardian Angel" (whom I'd never met before) standing over me asking me if I was okay. "Ya, sure, I just got dumped off my horse like every other week. No biggie....I just gotta go get him." She insisted that I lay still. I argued with her and then I realized she didn't want me to see what was going on with Ben. We apparently were going up a steep embankment, he lost his footing and fell. He rolled over me twice (I was told), I believe the crest of his neck took that shock. I was told I tried to stay with him but my leathers/stirrups flew off (remember I hadn't locked them that morning or I'd not be here now) taking me with them. I landed under a tree. I was told later that people believed they though I had busted my neck as well. But the one fleeting moment I do remember is covering my head and face with my arms thinking "it'll be over soon"....then I passed out. He was trying to roll away from me.
I got up and a "Texan" kind of guy came up to me and said "Kim it doesn't look good if you know what I mean." I said "ya know we all need to step back, let him catch his breath and calm down and you'll see us walk out of here." I got to Ben, they had taken all of his tack off so he could move freely. Ben pulled me into his chest and held me there. I hugged him and talked to him. Everyone left except my "Guardian Angel". She had the only working cell phone and I had to make the call to my fiance that Ben wasn't coming home. He asked if I was sure and I said "yes, he broke his back. He can't move his back feet or get up". I waited and waited for a vet to come to bring him to peace. None responded.
It was November, it was cold, it was wet, we were in the mountains alone with a dying horse. Both my Guardian Angel and I huddled next to Ben for warmth. He would occasionally try to get up and with every time, he lost more energy. I encouraged him to just lay down and "take a nap on his own". He CHOSE not to. I sang "Foolish Games" to him and other songs for three hours up there on that mountain. Just me and my Guardian Angel. We were land locked so no vehicles except 4-wheelers, walkers or horses could get up there. The last 4-wheeler came up to give us a blanket. It's as though Ben knew that was our only way out that night. This was it. He tried to get up one more time, then collapsed his head on the ground and started taking his last breaths. I shared his last two breaths with him to show him that I truly loved him (man, this is hard to write).
Once down the hill, I went to the establishment where everyone went that left us. I walked in all muddy, cold and wet with my Guardian Angel. They had karaoke that night. I got up on stage and said "I'm not waiting my turn.....this is the last thing Ben heard before he passed." and I sang "Foolish Games". Not a dry eye in the house. I walked out of there and went home......WITHOUT A SCRATCH, OR A BRUISE ON ME. I had another Guardian Angel that day that had his/her wings tightly wrapped around me when I fell. Joe, my fiance, had to go back and get Ben off the mountain the next day. Ben is now home with us forever where he should be.
My friends all said "Ben will bring you the next friesian that is right for you." I found a friesian several months later in Oregon. I had a challenge getting "Ty" here because it was still winter road conditions up in the passes. I finally found a husband and wife outfit that would do it for a reasonable price. I shared my story with the driver of the truck and he was very moved. He drove up in his truck, unloaded Ty, and I handed him a photo of Ben that said "To: Ben From: Ben Thanks for bringing Ty home."
The driver of the truck that brought Ty home was named Ben!