Gummy Bear

Our dear Gummy Bear was found at a slaughter auction. While we rarely rescue from kill pens or slaughter auctions, we opted to make an exception for him. See, he had a very apparent disease that ensured he’d never be bought by a good home, he had no hope of a safe landing if we didn’t step in. Gummy Bear had DSLD, this is a disease that causes all the connective tissue in the body to breakdown and not be able to repair itself, like a healthy horse. This is a genetic disease that would be easy to get rid of with more careful breeding choices, but instead horses like Gummy end up with a long suffering path to the early end of their life. It was apparent he had this disease because he had the iconic sunken pasterns, his hind fetlocks nearly touched the ground. While in early stages of the disease the lower legs may just appear more flexible than average, until the breakdown becomes more obvious.

In a typical situation a horse who is diagnosed with this disease is immediately stopped completely from any work or physical labor, in order to reduce their suffering and prolong their ability to live out their life with minimal pain. But that didn’t happen in Gummy Bear’s case, he was an Amish work horse and was seen as a piece of work equipment, not a living being. He was used until the last drop of effort they could get out of him. Then he drove his own carriage to the auction, where they removed his shoes (for their next horse to use), they cut off his hair to sell for wigs, and sold his body for meat. You could see the entire harness engraved into his body, he likely lived in his tack. We knew this horse deserved at least a moment of freedom before the end of his life.

We knew with his disease our time with him would be extremely limited, we thought we’d maybe only have a month or so to spoil him rotten. We were lucky enough to have an amazing team of supporters for him, including chiropractic, acupuncture, support boots, and pain managing medications. With this great effort Gummy Bear opened his eyes to his first pain-free days in what could have been years, and he decided life was worth living. He spent the next couple years loving life, doing tons of fun clicker training, and getting completely spoiled all day, everyday.

Until the day it happened, the day we knew was coming, something in his body let go that was too important to live without. With his disease and how hard he was worked it was only a matter of time. A tendon in his hind leg gave out and he was no longer able to walk. We stuffed him full of his favorite candies, hugged and kissed him as we let him rest for the final time. He got to know love, freedom, and fun, he had a reprieve from his suffering, and when we couldn’t hold it off anymore, we let him pass humanely and with such dignity. His life had been used up for someone else’s benefit, then thrown out for the last few pennies they could squeeze out of him, but then, when things were at their darkest, he found a glimpse of joy and a quiet, loving end all horses deserve. I only wish we could have gotten him sooner.

The amazing author, Susan Larson, wrote a wonderful blog post about Gummy Bear, “The Amish Horse”

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