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Real Life Drama: We held her for the last time

Melody was one of the kindest, sweetest horses you could ever wish to meet. So imagine our devastation when she became unwell...

I have been very lucky and have had four wonderful horses, who have helped make me a better rider – and given me so much pleasure.

My mum, however, hasn’t been as lucky…

We live in Western Australia, but Mum originally comes from England – that’s where all her horsy madness began.

She started off successfully with a donkey and some horses, but when she moved to ‘Oz’, that’s when her bad luck really kicked in.

First, there was Oscar Wilde – the name says it all! Then there was Cody, a psycho Thoroughbred. After that was Willow, who was drugged when we got him.

Then in January 2005, just when Mum was on the point of giving up horses for good – and after a long search – she found a lovely Welsh Section D cob mare, her favourite breed.

She was in South Australia, however, which was a long way from us. There was no way we could go to see her, so after looking at loads of photos and making many phone calls, we decided to buy her.

She was a 15.2hh chestnut mare called Melody, with a flaxen mane and tail, a beautiful white face and three socks. She was unbroken and had had two foals. And four months later, in May, she arrived on a giant horse truck.

When we first saw her, she looked like a complete scruff-bag and we wondered if we had made the right decision. But we had. Her inner beauty shone through her scruffy coat and bedraggled mane.

She was absolutely gorgeous with a lovely temperament to match. She got on with the other horses and soon settled in.

We fed her up and she gained weight, and soon her coat shone and there were no more tangles in her mane. She looked loved.

In August, she was sent away to be broken in, then when she came back, the first thing Mum did was ride her. And Melody proved to be as kind and loving when you rode her as she was on the ground. I rode her, too, but Mum put in most of the work, and soon Melody’s hindquarters and neck were bulging with muscle.

We had loads of fun with her – enjoying long, leisurely hacks and taking her to Pony Club events. Then in October last year, we put her in foal to another Welsh cob.

Everything seemed perfect, until early November, when tragedy struck. Melody was showing obvious signs of colic – rolling, lying down, getting up, pacing and looking at her stomach.

We thought it was sand colic, because every paddock on our farm was bare due to the drought. We rang the local vet, and she gave us some advice. which we followed. Melody seemed to improve after this and we took turns to check her every 10 minutes.

At about midnight, we thought she would be all right for the night, but at about two o’clock in the morning, we had to call the vet in to stomach-drench her. Thanks to her, Melody recovered well.

A few weeks later, however, our lives were turned upside down once again.

I was travelling home on the school bus and I had been reading the latest issue of PONY Magazine. I looked up and noticed that both my parents were waiting for me at the bus stop – that was unusual, I thought. And soon I discovered why they were there, when Mum uttered the seven most dreaded words in a horse lover’s life. “Melody has had to be put down.” I threw my arms around her – this had become the worst day of my life.

Apparently, Mum had gone to feed the horses when she noticed that Melody was dripping with sweat and rolling – she was colicking again. Mum rang the vet, who told her to take Melody in. She was very good and loaded without any problem – it was as if she knew Mum was trying to help her.

But not long after Mum started the journey, Melody lay down. Mum got her up, but it was no good – Melody was in terrible pain and just lay down again.

When she arrived, the vets and nurses looked at her and told Mum the devastating news – there was no hope for her. So all Mum could do was hold her for the last time as Melody slowly went to sleep – forever.

Dad dug a pit for her grave and for the last time, I brushed the sand off her beautiful face, knelt beside her body and said goodbye to the sweetest, most loving horse in the world. No one will ever replace her.

But I know that she will always be with us no matter what, because we love her and we know that she loved us. The sad thing is, however, that we never even found out if Melody was in foal. It was a truly awful day that no one could forget – the day the most lovable horse in the world died.

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