Sometimes it’s not about the money…

I hope to think, that in most cases in my life, it’s not about the money.  To me, money is something that is necessary to be able to do the things that I like and to live the lifestyle that I would like to live.  I need to have what I need, enough for the future, and some for emergencies, but I don’t need a ton of it to be happy or to feel successful.

That being said, to say that I don’t worry about money would be a lie.  For now, things are okay.  But, where will they be in 2 years, in 5 years, in 10 years, in 20 years?  Will I be able to pay for a college education for Nathaniel?  Will I be able to pay the mortgage?  Will I be able to afford hay?  Let’s face it… John’s death took away my financial stability.  John’s job was secure and paid much more than mine.  He has a small retirement, but it’s very small.  Only time will tell.  I try to be responsible, I try to be frugal.

But at the same time, I have things that I don’t want to compromise on.  The house was John’s dream, the farm was mine.  I have no plans to leave.  The horses are my life, some days they are what keeps me going.  They’re probably the reason that I’m not heavily dosed on anti-depressants.  They give me a reason to keep going.  I kid that they’re very expensive dogs since they’re pretty much “pet” horses right now.  John wasn’t a compromiser- he liked quality things and he had quality things.  I think I’m entitled to keep a few things in my life that make me happy and keep me sane.

During evening feed, I was staring at the sky as I do more than ever.  I was looking at the bright stars and watching planes.  I find myself looking to the sky for answers that aren’t there.  Although, I haven’t found answers,  I find myself captivated by the beauty and in awe of the vastness of the night sky.  I embraced the cold and enjoyed the peacefulness.

I waited for Wilson to finish eating, so I could remove his grain bag.  I thought about Wilson.  His creation was not planned and a vet misdiagnosis kept him alive.  Had the vet told me the mare was pregnant, I would have aborted the pregnancy.  I didn’t need another horse.  I didn’t want another horse.  I would have never opted to breed his mother and never purposefully created the cross.

Willow is a dear sweet mare and usually my horse of choice to ride.  She is a purebred, but unregistered Standardbred with her own interesting story of surviving abortion.  Willow is common and just a plain Jane, a bit like myself.  She doesn’t even have a single bit of chrome… solid bay.  She has a heart of gold but as a whole she is firmly implanted in the average department.  She’s a bit of a klutz and a rider needs to keep her together because when ‘self carriage’ was handed out, she missed the meeting.


I only found out that Willow was pregnant about a month before she foaled.  A maiden, she carried her secret well and hid it under the guise of ‘a little plump from the spring grass.’

Willow in May 2007, a little over a month before she foaled.

I had nightmares of what the foal would look like… in my head I created a hugely disproportionate beast with a huge Standardbred jug head, almost mule-like ears, long thin spindly Thoroughbred legs, and an Arabian croup… the poor creature in my dreams was doomed.

I was surprised beyond my wildest dreams, when out popped a colt who could have been a clone of his sire, whom I dearly love.

Wilson, 3 days old

Wilson, 8-25-07 What a mover!!! He took my breath away.

Wilson, August 2007

Wilson, Summer 2007

Wilson quickly stole my heart.  In my head I have a “keep” list and a “could go and I wouldn’t be heartbroken” list.  Wilson, Winston, Willow, & Squall are firmly implanted on keep list.  Remi bobbles between the two.  Tiny and Amber are on the later list.

Wilson, September 2009

Last February,  shortly before John’s stage IV diagnosis, Wilson managed to get a nail head in his knee joint (link to his injury after it had been treated for a while- graphic).  It was one of those… you could never repeat it if you tried injuries.   It’s never a good thing when the vet says, “this is bad… (pause)… really bad.”  She wanted him to go to New Bolton (U of PA’s vet school– where Barbaro was treated).  However, I don’t have the funds that the Jackson’s have and Wilson is not a Kentucky Derby winner.   I knew that I’d walk away with at least a $5,000 bill.  The vet didn’t give Wilson a good prognosis (even if he’d go to New Bolton).  Full recovery was unlikely- highly unlikely.  Permanent lameness was very likely.  The injury going septic and losing him was also possibility.

I didn’t want him to go to New Bolton.  I knew we didn’t have the funds for that and I know how quickly a vet bill can grow exponentially there.  John more or less vetoed New Bolton.  He didn’t flat out say “No!” but he said, “he’s not worth what you’ll put into him for a vet bill.”  He left it at “he’s your horse.”

I was faced with a tough decision.  On one hand, Wilson was young.  As a coming two year old, he had probably 20 or maybe even 30 years ahead of him.  Euthanizing  a young animal is not a choice anybody wants to make.  But living an entire life as a cripple isn’t an attractive option either.  Feeding a lame horse costs the same, if not more, than feeding a sound horse.  Unlike Squall, Wilson, hasn’t earned a retirement.  I looked into Wilson’s eyes.

Wilson, June 2009

It reminded me of when I had to make another tough decision when Squall had an impaction colic in 2003.  I recalled looking into her eyes and I didn’t see a dying horse.  When I looked into Wilson’s eyes, I saw a horse who was full of life.

I couldn’t put him down.

I opted to treat him at home for a while.  The vets weren’t thrilled with my decision… they wanted him in a hospital setting.  Shortly after Wilson was injured, John got his stage IV diagnosis and my world turned completely upside down and my stress level was through the roof.  My vet wanted to try a clinical procedure to try to fight the infection and I think she realized that I needed a break before I had a complete breakdown.  So, Wilson went to the vet clinic for a few days.  They were shocked that he was sound and the x-rays although not stellar had positive signs.  Luck, good medicine, ultra heavy duty antibiotics, lots of treatment,  diligent wrapping, over a case (or two) of  co-flex, and probably a little bit of a miracle finally beat the infection.   It took months for his wound to completely heal.

John would patiently help me with the wrap changes.  We theorized over how to keep his wrap in place as it had a tendency to slip.  John helped me find supplies online to save money.  He theorized that “human” abdominal pads would be more effective at absorbing the leakage and fluid.  After confirming it was okay, we began to use them.  John was always so good at helping with the horses and so patient.  Helping with the horses wasn’t something that John did by choice and I don’t think he ever loved them, but for a non- horse person he did a great job handling them.  Remi adored him, he always liked John more than he liked me.  John used to say that Remi was our only “real horse” (because he was a good size- unlike my shorter equines).

Wilson sporting his wrap job. It was called a "stacked wrap" because it required two sets of quilts to cover the length of the leg. I'm not the most competent at wrapping and it was very challenging. I think it took around $20 worth of supplies for every wrap change. Co flex, 4"x 4" pads, gauze wrap, cast padding, quilts, standing wrap, and more...

At this time, Wilson’s knee is a little larger and he has a scar that is close to an inch long.  Honestly, I don’t know that anybody would notice unless they were looking for it.  I’ve paid more in vet bills (I think they topped at between $2,800 and $3,000) than he’ll ever be worth.  He’s sound and man, is he a mover!!!  I have a secret dream of getting him all fit and conditioned and showing him in hand at somewhere like Dressage at Devon, just to hear people say, “He’s cute.  What’s his breeding?”  It will probably just stay a dream of mine.  Who knows what Wilson’s future holds?  I don’t know if he’ll stay sound under work.  He may need a career that doesn’t stress his knee to much.  Of course, that won’t be a problem, since my riding is low key and I no longer jump.  I’ve never regreted my decision… sometimes it’s not about the money.

Tonight, after he was done eating, I took his feed bag off.  He stood by me wanting some pets.  It was just me and my little buddy hanging out together in the darkness.  He’s very bonded to me.  Most horses would have gone to eat their hay but all Wilson wanted was some companionship and love.  Yeah… sometimes it’s not about the money…

Wilson, September 2007

About Mary K. Smith

I was widowed in July 2009, when I lost my beloved husband, John, to melanoma. Cancer SUCKS. We have a young son who was just a year old when his father died. I live on a small farm in Maryland which is home to horses, cats, and a dog. I started this blog as a way for me to heal, a way to remember my husband, and eventually I'd like to share it with our son so he can see the love that his father had for him, the love that we had for each other, what a great person his father was, and how hard his father fought to live.
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1 Response to Sometimes it’s not about the money…

  1. I literally stumpled upon your blog post. So happy I read it through. Love the story about Wilson. You are so right, its not about the money.
    Sorry for your loss as well, the horses I hope will continue to fill your heart.
    From one horse lover to another, I get it.

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