I have been around and involved with horses for many years. I have handled, ridden, and/or trained everything from donkeys to draft horses, wild mustangs to gentle and seasoned show horses, and every age and gender. I have volunteered at mustang adoptions where bloodied, injured, and upset horses are a fact of life. However, last night, S and I experienced a true “first” that I will never forget.

After hearing about an annual event this weekend celebrating the pure spanish horses, we decided to have a date night for once, get a sitter for the kids, and go to the Friday evening performance. I was so excited to watch the dressage and different acrobatics performed by these amazing horses, as well as watching how the trainers cued and handled these well-trained animals. The evening began with a halter demonstration of some very impressive spanish stud (breeding male) horses. They were a variety of colors, but all gorgeous and graceful. This was followed by a Medieval performance of some spanish horses and trainers from a local advanced performance venue. Then the performance got into some dressage performances. If you have never seen dressage, it is amazing. It usually involves some type of classical music, and looks as though the horse is dancing. It is truly the epitome of grace and fluidity in a horse and rider team. We watched several of these dressage displays, and about half way through the evening, were treated to a synchronized dressage performance using two very impressively bred studs. Two horse/rider teams performed identical movements as they stayed very close together. It was beautiful.

As we sat there awestruck, they concluded their performance, the horses bowed to the crowd, and as they turned to leave, one of the horses (the grey one) seemingly stumbled and fell over on his rider. It is very unusual for this to happen, and particularly in such a highly-trained horse. Despite his obvious pain, he very calmly turned and ensured the reins were loose enough for the horse to rise. The horse attempted to rise, giving the rider just enough time to slip his leg out, then fell over again, and appeared to start having a series of seizures. From our viewpoint I am not positive whether it was seizing or struggling against pain, but in either case, we knew it was bad. A bunch of trainers and stable hands immediately ran out and removed his tack, but the horse continued to flail and thrash. We could see his breathing became very labored and slowed to minimal breaths. And then, right in front of our shocked eyes, it was obvious that life left. He died right there in the middle of the arena, probably 30 feet from us.

In the span of about 2 minutes, this amazing horse concluded an amazing performance, bowed, and died. As a vet tech and animal person, I have witnessed and even assisted in countless animals dying. Horses, however, have always had a special place in my heart and I have never experienced the death of one. I actually cried as I watched this horse’s owner and trainer console each other. It became a reminder that no matter how gorgeous, well bred, valuable, or highly trained a horse is, it is still just a horse–susceptible to anything any other horse is. And in the blink of an eye, a dream or way of life can end.

As a side note, I found out this morning, he was diagnosed as having a “cardiac incident” similiar to a human heart attack.