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How I may have killed Bucky

Vincent J. Attardi
Bucky is my 10yr-old Eighth-of-a-Horse (1/2 Arab, 1/2 QH).  As I type, he stands in a sand and sawdust stall at the Large Animal Hospital at the University of Illinois.  There is a distict possibility that Bucky will die, be unservicable for life, or just permanently mamed.  If he does die, I  k i l l e d  H i m.

Bucky has had the misfortune of being owned by a bull-headed novice rider with a poor understanding of what conditioning means and an even poorer capacity to recognize the signs of a horse in trouble.  I have been at this sport for 3 years and Bucky and I have been at this sport together for 1.5 years.  All last year we did LD's and for the first part of this season we did the same... until we recieved BC on the LD ride at Longstreet Charge.  I figured..."Now we MUST be ready to do 50s."

Up until this point, we fought warm tendons.  I eventually gave these warnings thier proper attention and adjusted my "way of going" to preserve sinue (sp?).  And it worked.  I would come back from long training rides with cold feet.  I thought I had this "conditioning" thing down.

Metabolics you say?  Well, Bucky, aka "Bucky the Wonder Horse" also posesses the unfortunate natural ability of incredible heart rate recoveries.  He can trot into camp at 98 and hit 58 by the time we walk up to the P/R check.  It is unfortunate because, as a bull-headed novice, I mistook that for a sign that my horse was "conditioned" or at least conditoined for the way I was riding him.  I had myself fooled.

This past weekend, at the IDRA ride, it was extremely hot and humid.  Our pace was slow and the Turtle award was our goal.  Nothing could go wrong...I gave Bucky electrolites..double doses.  We never went fast.  Bucky drank oceans of water!  How could anything go wrong?

He gave me a sign before our last loop.  He layed down in his corral for a nice roll....but he hesitated on his side and rubbed his head on the ground.  "Must be enjoying the cool earth" I told myself...but there was something else...he had stopped eating.  Perhaps one or the other was nothing... but both were a sign and I missed it.  I knew we were both tired.  I decided to take 1.5 hours for a break instead of the mandatory 40 min. gate hold.  It wasn't enough.

I walked Bucky off-saddle for about 7 of the 15 mile loop.  He was still drinking up a storm...but I did not want to push him (he was in serious trouble already - I just didn't know it).  I troted him in the last one or two miles and he came in at 58.  Vets passed him and many a rider commented how well he troted-out.

When I got him back to his corral.. Bucky, who had been waiting for this moment for a long time... laid down to die.  That big-hearted animal, who would do anything for me because of the trust we developed together, had done his duty to satisfy my demands, and was now going to take his eternal nap.

The quick hands and minds of my wife, friends and the Vets that were brought to the scene, were the only reasons Bucky breaths today.  They worked on him for almost 3 hours before he was stable.  I am told that his heart fibrilated twice during the episode.  He had to of seen the horsey-light those times.

It took 2 hours to make it to the University hospital.  He was out of metabolic trouble, but is now fighting founder....and it might kill him...or shall I say he might die from it... I am the one who will kill him.

For those novice riders out there who have turned a deaf ear to the advice of experienced riders and the need for Complete conditioning...please don't.  I would give anything to have that day back.  Bucky, like many horses, will go until they drop.  Bucky is the first horse I could call my own.  He and I have become real pals.  I cannot convey the depth of guilt and heart-ache I bear at this time.  I just do not wish it for anyone.  Condition your horses...take them up slowly...and never take any new behavior during a ride as "OK"  Check it out...have the vets give it a second look... don't take the chance.

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