Inspiring Kindness and Compassion towards Animals, Our Planet, and Each Other
Inspiring Kindness and Compassion towards Animals, Our Planet, and Each Other

A King Amongst Kings

Ten years ago, we went to look at some horses at a local horse rescue. Other organizations know that we take in animals no one else wants, so they call us when they have an animal who is too old, too sick, too lame, or too scared to be adoptable. They told us of two twin horses, brother and sister, who are way too much for a normal adopter to handle but are not doing well separated. They wondered if we could take them so they could be kept together. When we met them, the fear, sadness, and frustration in their eyes was all we had to see to know that they would be coming home with us.

Zoe and Lazar were born in Canada to the Premarin Industry. Premarin is a hormonal replacement drug for menopausal women, made from the pregnant urine of horses. Hundreds of mares are impregnated and kept standing for ten-months with a catheter extracting the pregnant pee. At the last stage of pregnancy, the horses are released into a pasture to have their babies. They are allowed to stay together for one month. At a month old, the moms are impregnated and imprisoned again and the babies are rounded up and sent to slaughter for the Asian and European meat market. Zoe and Lazar were born in a pasture that was twenty degrees below zero. All the other babies were dying on the spot, but miraculously Zoe and Lazar survived. At a month old, they were taken from their mom and sent to slaughter where they were rescued at the last minute and brought to California.

At just a few months old, Zoe and Lazar were adopted out to a family of their own. But instead of giving them love, affection, or stimulation, they were kept in a small pen alone for two years. They were then returned to the rescue. By this time, Zoe and Lazar were big, angry, lacking in socialization skills, and afraid. They were “much too much” for a normal person to adopt them, so the rescue separated them thinking that they might be able to train and adopt out Zoe and leave Lazar in their wild herd. However, when the two were separated, they were inconsolable. Zoe became angry and violent, and Lazar became even more feral. The rescue asked us to take them so we could keep them together and mend their broken hearts.

It took years to rehabilitate Zoe and Lazar. After being taken away from their mom, Zoe had stepped into the leader role in order to protect them. She was in survival mode trying her best to make decisions and take care of them both. She was very dominant and aggressive and it took us years to show her that we would take care of them and she could be humble, relax, and feel safe. Lazar was so scared when we brought them home that he would hide behind his sister and shake. We could not brush or pet either of them. Over the course of the first three years, we boosted Lazar’s confidence, got Zoe to be vulnerable and soft, halter trained them, taught them to be groomed and have their feet taken care of, and they turned into lovely, delightful horses and members of our family. Our promise to them was that they would always be together and would never be separated. We groomed them, walked them, fed them, and brought them in and out of the barn together. They would spend hours each day grooming each other, in their own little world, just the two of them.

After years of Zoe and Lazar being healthy and happy together, Lazar fell ill one day, all of a sudden. One minute he was fine and eating breakfast, the next he was gasping for air and struggling to stand. We immediately took him to the hospital where the veterinarians after extensive tests diagnosed him as having pneumonia. Lazar spent a few weeks at the hospital fighting for his life. Gradually, his fever and heart rate decreased, his strength and appetite increased and we were told he was well again and could come home. We were elated and could not wait to reunite him with his worried sister. As expected, his twin met him at the gate with loud whinnies and the two were inseparable once more. They groomed each other for hours and were so happy to see each other again.

Lazar had some hind-end issues from being so sick in the hospital that we were treating with acupuncture, but he was responding and recovering very nicely. We thought we were completely out of the woods and could look forward to many more years of loving and caring for our twins when one morning we found Lazar limping terribly. We called the vet right away and he told us that Lazar’s foot was in bad shape and that the prognosis was poor. He did, however, give him between three and five days to see if it could heal. Our vet put Lazar on anti-inflammatory medication for the pain and swelling, and antibiotics for the infection. We were so sad that after all Lazar had gone through that he was still struggling. We were hopeful that he would overcome this as well.

Three days later, Lazar was not healing and was in fact getting worse. We called our equine specialist to return and take x-rays and more tests. The prognosis was devastating. Our veterinarian explained that the pneumonia caused poor circulation in Lazar’s body. The poor circulation over several days caused edemas and swelling in his body. The swelling and the high fevers caused his hoof to slowly separate from his hoof wall and the coffin bone inside his hoof to rotate and separate from the muscle and tissue. The coffin bone was slowly sinking deeper into Lazar’s foot. Both our equine specialist and Lazar’s doctor at the equine hospital both agreed that Lazar’s condition was irreversible and that helping Lazar out of his body was the kindest thing to do so he would not suffer.

I asked Lazar for permission to help him out of his body and what he said was remarkable. Lazar said that when he was in the hospital he was terrified that he would never see his twin again. He said that had he passed away in the hospital he would have been full of regret and sorrow. Coming home, however, and seeing his sister one more time, knowing that she was safe and in good hands, and being able to say good by to her meant the world to him. Lazar said that he knew that his body was done being able to function properly and that he didn’t want to be in pain anymore. He was grateful for an amazing life where he could gain the confidence needed to find himself, stay with his sister, make friends, find peace, and enjoy our affections. Lazar was ready and at peace to transition out of his body and go home.

As we prepared Lazar for his passing, he groomed my arm with his mouth, thanking me for his life and the home we gave him. He kept reassuring me that it was the right decision and that he was at peace. Even at the last moments of his life, instead of feeling afraid or conflicted, Lazar marched forward with confidence, with gentleness, and with peaceful surrender, caring for me while he left. Lazar took my breath away! He was thoughtful, considerate, loving, demonstrative, and a gentleman. Jay and I are grief-stricken. When I think of the pasture without him, the pain is unbearable. When I think of giving Zoe cookies and not feeding her other half, I can’t stop crying. My hearts aches that I won’t be able to see his magnificent mane, his soft eyes, and his giant stride coming towards me. When I close my eyes, I can still feel his glorious presence in the barn next to Zoe, and know that his spirit will stay right here with us for a while more. I just have to open my mind and close my eyes to know for sure.

By Ellie Laks
Founder, The Gentle Barn

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