Pickles the Great

*This post comes with a two-coffee, 10-tissue alert*

This past week has been quite something. An emotional rollercoaster of the most heart-rending kind.

(Please note, if you have already ridden it with me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, then please, feel free to visit here or here or here for something a little less… heart-rending.  As this blog is a record of the major events in this family’s life, on which I hope my children look back one day, it needs to be shared here. Thanks for understanding.)

Our family had already had a huge few days preparing and participating at a campdraft the previous weekend, and been rocked by news of serious illness of a loved one, so we had looked towards this weekend with a sense of weary anticipation – a gymkhana at a Pony Club Dash and Violet had joined just a few weeks earlier.

Pickles and Sandy (Dash and Violet’s beloved steeds respectively) had been washed and brushed and scrubbed and polished for days leading up to it.

On Friday morning, just as I was fueling up the car before heading out to meet an adorable new baby (cleverly brought into the world by my cousin and his wife) I noticed Pickles lying down.  In his rug.  And not getting up.

I got him up and he seemed okay, but a little uncomfortable at intervals.  Our jackaroo Cal arrived home (he has lots of horsey experience) and recommended giving Pickles warm beer. (Yes I thought he was joking initially too!).  We administered this remedy (he didn’t seem too fussy about the taste) and I left Cal to observe the patient while I made the promised visit.  Upon my return, Pickles seemed fine although we kept a close eye on him the remainder of the day.  We moved him to a yard close to the kitchen so I could check a couple of times during the night – at all stages he seemed relaxed and content.

The day of the gymkhana dawned and everyone packed up for the event.  Shoes, boots, ties, jodphurs, brushes, Sandy, Pickles and another horse (Chimmy Chonga) in case Pickles wasn’t up for the action.

One arrival at the grounds 50km away. as we bridled and saddled up, the long lanky bay gelding seemed fine.  Happy. Alert.

pickles_0961 f eAnd so they lined up for the March Past…

pickles_0953 ePickles and Dash, looking a million bucks, without a worry in the world…

Now I have to admit (at this point) there aren’t many photos of Pickles competing – I was with Violet and Sandy most of the day, and Mr I stayed with Dash in his age group events.  I did see him jump at the last event of the day and thought to take ONE photo. A bad one.  Because, despite never previously showing ANY inclination to lift his hooves more than 1 cm higher than ABSOLUTELY necessary, Pickles decided he could jump on Saturday.


It was wonderful to see them both so enthusiastic… Pickles still scraped a few rails (his hooves were multicoloured by the end of the event) but most stayed miraculously in place. Dash got third in the event and immediately decided show-jumping was for him.

pickles_1019 f

My niece Salina was strapper for the day, loving the grooming and caring for both horses.  We all watched carefully for signs of distress after his small colic episode the previous day, but none were apparent.

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Dash was delighted with his haul of ribbons… as was Violet!

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Dash even received a little trophy (for a place overall in his age group) which brought a happy grin.

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But while the presentations were on, Mr Incredible noticed something going on in Pickles stall.  He was down and trying to roll again.  He got him up, took him out and walked him, then hosed him down…

You know that feeling in your gut that something is really wrong?  That started to seep into the edges of my day…

We packed up quickly, said our goodbyes, got some advice on treating colic from some experienced Pony Club people, and hit the road.

As he showed regular signs of the colic returning, we called in the vet.  She arrived an hour later, examined him at home and gave him painkillers, tubed liquids, electrolytes, some kind of oil and other goodies into his belly and recommended we watch him and walk him through any spasms.  Every few minutes, a spasm would hit him and he would try to lie down and roll. It was our job to walk him through these spasms in the hope whatever was causing them would work its way through his gut.

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It was a LONG night.  After an aborted attempt to sleep early on, I started my Pickles watch at 9pm.  We gave him some more painkiller and he snoozed between each spasm episode.  I instagrammed (and auto-tweeted and Facebooked each image) – partly to document his progress and partly to keep myself alert.

I hash-tagged it #PrayforPickles which followers responded to – I smiled with each encouraging reply and felt my heart fill with each prayer promised.  I didn’t feel alone in my vigil.

pickles sick4This was at 11.15pm as we took a longer walk up to the front grid and back – hoping the longer effort would stave off the cramping for longer.

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I was kept company by Axel (so helpful having a Great Dane bounding around you in under the stars with a dim lamp to light the way), who enjoyed a drink at the trough on the way back.  Pickles also drank well, which seemed like a great sign.

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As the night wore on, it got colder.  As it fell below 10 C I found an extra blanket (Violet’s special one) and added it to his hessian rug.  He slept with his muzzle resting on the lawn (12.30pm).

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Middy the cat, notoriously the worlds LEAST cuddly cat, decided to get in on the action.  She clawed my lap lovingly at around 12.50pm.

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2.22am.  Spasms seemed to be slowing and sleeping a little more soundly.  Still not game to let him lie down.

At 3am I wearily called it quits and woke my husband to take over.

At 7am (when I woke) he was much the same.

pickles_1095Dash had been up since 5am helping his Dad care for his brave bay steed.  Can you feel the love?

This next shot shows Pickles actually enduring a spasm.

pickles_1089 eYou can see him crouching back on his hocks.  We all winced as each one hit and wished we could take it away for him.


Violet did her bit, offering him water and picking bits of couch grass to tempt him to eat.


Dash wrote a special (stencilled) Get Well message to encourage him. It reads:

‘PICKLES YOU ARE WORTH $99999999999999999999 TO ME. I ♥ U.’

Yeah.  I know.  Got me too.

The day progressed much as the night had.  Except he stopped wanting to drink much water, and then about 3pm some blood appeared under his tail.

We rang the vet, and she rang some equine health experts… the only options really were to euthanise him or get him the 50km into town so IV fluids and more drugs could be administered in the hope that he would ‘pass’ whatever was ailing him.  The thought was the intestine had ‘telescoped’ itself and might be able to reverse to a normal arrangement with some time. If it was survivable, town was the only option.

So we packed up a weary horse, two weary kids, two VERY weary adults and headed into town.

Our sweet vet was reassuring but realistic – not much blood had passed. A good sign.  He was exhausted and not eating or drinking. Not good signs.  His abdomen seemed a bit more distended than yesterday. Not a good sign.

We said quick goodbyes and attempted an upbeat mood with the kids – sending positive vibes to our ailing boy.

We dropped in to see Mum and Dad, leaving the horse float (in the hope it would be needed to bring home a horse soon) and picked up pizzas on the way home.

As I walked in the door, the phone was ringing.

It was the vet.


After I had put Dash and Violet to bed, I scheduled a Facebook post to run at 7am this morning.  I wanted to tell our kids the news after a good night’s sleep, and before the rest of the world knew.

The post read:

Last night the world lost the sweetest, most trustworthy, beloved horse ever.

Our darling Pickles did not make it through, and our house will be a sombre place today as we share the terrible news with Pickle’s master (and his sister).

I want each and every one of you to know that each thought sent our way, each prayer said for Pickles, and each sweet message left for us has made the world of difference.  It helped me through that long Saturday night, I am sure it gave us 24 more hours than we might have had, and Dash avidly read each message of encouragement left yesterday.  If he is up for it today, I will read the ones left here too.

♥♥♥ RIP Pickles the Great. ♥♥♥

You will ever be remembered as Dash’s long lanky equine partner-in-fun and the tall bay horse adored by one and all.

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There are many hard lessons in this life.  Enduring seeing our son fight for life as a baby was one.  Having to share the news, and then let him absorb the reality that his horse was gone, is another.  These lessons take your breath away.

I know he’s a tough kid – for all that he’s a sensitive young man too – and he even said to me: I suppose life goes on Mummy.

His emotions have been up and down, alternately distracted by TV or visitors, then wistful and down.

He also said: You need to stop looking at photos on the computer Mum – they are making you too sad and that’s making me sad.

Made me smile through the tears, that one!

So tonight, as the rest of my family sleeps knowing that Pickles won’t be here in the morning, I leave you with this… horsesil_0422 c e

I am so glad my children know the joys and sorrows of having animals to care for.  I wish I could change that Pickles leaving us happened at age 8 instead of age 38.  Other parent’s had lined up to have Pickles in their family, for their kids, next. He would’ve been the best little kids’ horse of all time.  But that is not to be.  We don’t get that .

But we did get four years of Pretty Bloody Fantastic.

I am glad our kids know the ups and downs of it all.  As painful as that can be.  That is life.

I am glad that Pickles and Dash finished their special partnership in glory – festooned in ribbons and lathered in the kind of love only children and horses can know.

I am glad that social media is here – if you click on the photos from my night-shift you will see the wonderful reponses I got on Facebook from each image sent into the world from deep in the Aussie bush.  If you click here you will see the amazing sweet messages for my son from this morning’s difficult post.  You people are incredible…

Thanks for being there.  We felt the love.  And it mattered.

21 Responses to “Pickles the Great”

  1. Hugs to Dash and you. Tears here – for you and Dash and Pickles.
    jeanie´s last blog post ..Patch Work

  2. The picture that made me cry was the picture of Pickles with a spasm, and Dash standing off to the side. The look on his face just brought tears. I’m so sorry.
    debby´s last blog post ..Deceived…

  3. I’m so sorry for your entire family. Great kids’ horses are rare, and I hope Dash will treasure all his wonderful memories about Pickles. What a touching gift Pickles managed to give Dash that last day!
    Carol´s last blog post ..Back to Cows

  4. So many wonderful photos here that will be treasured for a lifetime.

    My heart aches for all of you. (((hugs)))
    Kelly´s last blog post ..Fire Ants

  5. Such a sad outcome! It is awful to think of Pickles having to suffer but he was so lucky to have found himself with a family that have did absolutely everything to ease his pain. My heart goes out to you all, particularly your brave and loving son.

  6. For some reason your blog is blurry – I haven’t cried over anything in a long time, but my eyes are puddly right now. Death is a very hard thing for children to learn about, but Dash will carry Pickles in his heart forever. I, too, am very happy for their last ride together.

    Please give Dash a big hug for me.


  7. My heart reaches out to yours across the many miles of ocean. The tears flow for your family’s loss. May the memories sustain Dash and you all.
    Lynda M O´s last blog post ..The Month Slid By…

  8. Good memories to hang on to! May God’s comfort be yours. I know nothing about horsey stuff. Do you know of what he died?

  9. So sad…..but I know you are thankful for the great pictures of Pickles you got on that last day and for the memories Dash will have. Sending hugs….RIP Pickles.

  10. ♥ to you all and especially your young man. xx

  11. One of the truly great bonds to experience is that of a child and their horse. Sending much love to you all, xoxo

  12. Such sad news for a little boy to deal with, I grew up on a farm and I know that is a part of life but it never gets easier. Give that little boy a big hug from Florida and tell him how brave he is.

  13. Oh, I am so sorry. So sorry for your loss. That dear dear horse.
    Kate´s last blog post ..Images from my camera phone

  14. Memories are good things – so smile when you think of one. Best thoughts always.

  15. My heart goes out to your boy . He’s so young to lose a friend such as Pickles. As a youngster on a remote ranch eons ago, I tear up when I remember a similar heartbreak. Hugs to your son and to all of you. The hurt will fade in time, but Pickles will be remembered.

  16. So sad to lose a trusted friend too soon.

  17. Very sad indeed.
    Dash seems to be showing a great deal of fortitude at this sad time for him.

  18. Loved that Dash got to enjoy one last lap before he lost his buddy….the love letter got me…bless him. Hard but valuable lessons in life…. more hugs sent to Granite Glen. xx

  19. I have had a few tough days of my own and have only just allowed myself to read this blog. I sit here in tears for your family on the loss of your beloved Pickles. I also understand and see some similarities as our kids are also wise beyond their years due to suffering similar losses throughout their short lives. Hoping Pickles rests well and that Dash carries forever the memories that he has of him. I’m sure he’ll be missed always but forgotten never. Best wishes and my heartfelt condolences to you all. Thank you for sharing this sad but wonderful story. xx

  20. I’m so very sorry Amanda. We’ve endured losses to colic too, and also managed to pull some through, no rhyme nor reason to why some recover and others don’t. He was far too young that’s for sure. My thoughts are with you all.

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