The loss of Viking was among the most painful losses I’ve ever experienced. He was so unique, so beautiful and so very loved. Viking was born from a crazy accident where a shetland pony got loose and was bred by a Gypsy Vanner stallion. This happy accident was apparently unwelcome as they were both sold to auction. At 2 weeks old he found a new home – at 6 months old he found his third. At 8 months old he was so aggressive his owners couldn’t contain him. He was sent to a rescue, where he grew up.

At 4 years old he finally came home with us. The first year was rough. He was hard to contain, hard to lead, hard to groom, hard to do anything with. We experimented with a number of ways of working with him and put a heavy focus on his positive reinforcement training. We worked hard with him regularly but he just struggled. It was like his brain and body were fighting with each other. Finally we cleared it up. He was neurological. His spine was compressed in a way that pinched his nerves. He literally couldn’t control or feel parts of his body, his body just didn’t do what it was told and he was SO frustrated with it. Despite all this he was actually a happy little boy, playful and silly. He loved playing with toys and fighting with friends over the fence. He lived with his surrogate momma, Tank who tolerated him fairly well. Eventually he switched to Wispy who cared about him much more, she even allowed him to suckle on her feathers – what a silly boy. He loved playing clicker games and while sometimes he would get frustrated with his body, he would just storm off for a few furious laps until he settled back into playing.

In his last year our oldest student Emerson began working with him intensely. She spent many hours a day working on physical therapy exercises, helping him learn to control his body and become aware of his surroundings. All of course with positive reinforcement. They had a wonderful time together – he learned to love being groomed, getting his whole body itched and scratched (which he couldn’t do for himself, as he couldn’t roll). Together he had learned so much, but his disease progressed. His body struggled to keep up with him, his head aches and coordination worsened. So they were forced to work more specifically on his physical therapy, massage and chiropractor. Gradually he lost his ability to have his hooves trimmed, he was too painful.

After all the effort and love, we weren’t able to stop the progression of his disease as his body continued to fail him. When his hind end could no longer support him we said a terrible farewell. He had a short 6 years here on earth – but his last was the most wonderful any horse could ask for. He has known the love of a young girl. She will hold him in a unique place in her heart forever.

His ashes are buried in our memorial garden and placed special statues out for him. He was so unique, so sweet. He will be sorely missed and forever loved.