It’s been beautiful spring weather for a while, now, after a relatively mild winter (bar the two weeks of Siberia we had!) so nature is off to great start. Two Thursdays ago, therefore, Sturuss and I set off for a ride amongst trees whose leaves hadn’t quite opened out but whose buds were already bursting with promise. Sturuss had had a cough the two weeks prior to that, but with quick intervention and a few gentle walks instead of riding, it had been nipped in the bud and we were glad he was looking fit and greedy and yearning to get out into the field. He has always made everyone laugh, and Thursday was no exception, but he was calm and interested and so there were – for once! – no hiccups while we were out. Sure, he took an extra look at one or two things the sun was twinkling off or a new sign that had been put up, but as we headed homewards alongside the stream that was trickling and gurgling quite prettily, there was the usual quickening of pace as he became eager to get home to his lunch. A lady on a bicycle seemed to be keeping a look-out for the first young shoots of wild garlic, but otherwise, on this occasion, we didn’t meet a soul while we were out and we trundled quite happily back into the stableyard without incident.
The warmth of the sun and the excercise had brought out a bit of a sweat and as ever, Sturuss collapsed into a wriggly roll to “bread” himself with bits of straw and bark in his enclosure before plunging his face as deep as is equinely possible into his bucket, hardly stopping to take the banana I’d brought him as a treat. Life was looking good.
It was therefore with some surprise that I took a call from my stable mistress on Tuesday to say that Sturuss wasn’t eating properly, looked a bit listless and worst of all, had developed a temperature. Only the week before I had been discussing with the vet how well Sturuss seemed for his age and how he would be going strong for a long time, yet, despite a few natural signs of ageing. Unfortunately, blood tests showed that something was very much not right – although his kidneys were fine (the initial suspicion), his whole organism seemed very suddenly to be giving up and by Tuesday evening, it was clear that oedema had developed, he was uncomfortable, and a decision had to be made, since medical care would be long and expensive and wouldn’t extend his time by very much.
Very sadly, then, we had to agree to end Sturuss’ long life at the age of 28, on a bright, sunny, windy spring afternoon in his field. He munched a bucket of carrots, got to graze a little and then it was very quickly over. Our beautiful little Haflinger went down peacefully in mid-chew, as we talked him through it all and stroked his face and mane. We spilled many tears – but we also laughed a lot as we sat in the grass next to him, reminiscing about his funny and endearing ways. Everybody loved Sturuss and he had friends wherever we went, amused by the cheeky-faced pony with the blonde mane and eyelashes. He had us all very well-trained! From the first shove he would give when we went in to him, to his cute ways of begging for treats and a serious case of “the eyes”, to his wiggly lips he used both to beg and to show his approval – or disapproval – here was a pony who had humans sussed. He got it, all the way to knowing when to give in and be nice, even when he didn’t really feel like it, eventually, he would always co-operate, nudging you as if to say, oh, go on, I was just trying it on to see if you’d budge… So much character in 141cm, 430 kg of chestnut-coated pony.
Look what a baby he was! He and my eldest daughter were both 3 1/2 when this photo was taken, nearly 25 years ago. Don’t let the lack of muscle fool you – youth came to his aid and we had fun and games in this initial training period! But essentially, what you see is what you get and a more honest, loyal and altogether perfect pal would be hard to find.
Sturuss, you will be very sorely missed – my companion throughout my adult years so far, a quarter of a century. We can only hope you’re happy in Horse Heaven or Pony Paradise and are galloping around up there in luscious green meadows with the friends who left before you did…