Story submitted by GEVA (Glen Ellen Vocational Academy)
by Anne Koletzke
Tiny arrived at GEVA, an Equine Retirement and Rehabilitation Foundation and Sanctuary in Glen Ellen, CA, in 1999 at the age of 14, not too long after a successful career as a Grand Prix jumper known as Camden Woods. At 17 hands, Tiny was so big and bulky, we all just assumed he was a warmblood or warmblood cross of some sort, and never even looked to see if he had a lip tattoo. Only years after his arrival did a veterinarian assisting with a routine dental exam discover he did indeed have a lip tattoo—lo and behold, Tiny was a registered Thoroughbred! An inquiry to the Jockey Club revealed that Tiny’s registered racing name was Early Radio. Further research revealed he had been raced hard as a youngster, starting (and finishing!) 47 races in only two and a half years (June 1988 through October 1990). So between all that racing and all that jumping, Tiny arrived at GEVA pretty burned out, physically and emotionally, so he was declared absolutely, unequivocally, indisputably, and incontrovertibly retired.
Tiny’s very best friend was Macho Man, an honest-to-goodness Warmblood who was even larger than Tiny and 3 or 4 years older. Although the quintessential gentle giant when it came to people, Macho was a force to be reckoned with among the horses, which was good for Tiny, who, despite his size, was quite a timid horse, and was, in fact, at the very bottom of the hierarchy of the herd.
Then in late May 2008, around 10 AM, Macho had a fatal stroke or heart attack. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to immediately bury or have carted away a horse who dies unexpectedly, and for various reasons, this was the case with Macho. So when I arrived at the farm an hour or so after Macho had died, I had the opportunity to witness throughout the day how a small herd of horses dealt with the death of one of its own.
Interestingly, the horses’ reactions were not at all uniform. Most of them basically ignored Macho altogether, although every now and then one would come near, look, and then walk away. Two horses, however (Chillao, the only mare in the herd, and Tiny), came over to Macho at completely different times and very softly placed their teeth—so softly you couldn’t really call it a bite—on the bone above his eye—perhaps it was their way of confirming that Macho was indeed dead, because when he gave no response, they, too, just walked away.
At the end of the day, all the horses had to be fed, so we did that. And it was when we’d just finished throwing out the last flakes of hay along the fence line, that I noticed Tiny. All the other horses had moved over to the hay once they’d finished their mash, but Tiny had not; he was standing about 20 feet from Macho, staring at him, oblivious to everything else. I don’t know how long he’d been standing there before I noticed him, but once I saw him, he must have stood there for another 5 or 10 minutes before finally walking slowly and deliberately straight toward Macho, stopping only when he was within inches of him. After a moment, Tiny lowered his head and licked Macho’s belly slowly and deliberately 3 times. Then he backed up, raised his head, saw the others eating, and slowly started walking toward them. Tiny had said his final good-bye to his friend. He was ready for his hay.
Life goes on.