For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Farewell to Tristan

Today, I note the passing of Tristan. No sense looking in any harness racing programs to find out who Tristan was. You see Tristan, was a Belgian Draft horse that Horse Rescue United (HRU) rescued from New Holland. Anouk Busch, the founder of HRU, outbid a kill buyer for Tristan by offering $35. This was back on January 3, 2011.   He was euthanized this morning, August 13, 2016.

 For $35, there must have been something wrong with the horse and sure enough there was (Anouk knew this while bidding). You see, Tristan had eye cancer in his right eye. It was clear to see there was a problem with his eye and one can't wonder why his prior owners did nothing about it. Tristan was given some medication to ease the pain and treat the eye and once his quarantine was over, a trip to New Bolton was made to see if his eye could be removed to extend Tristan's life. Unfortunately, the eye was neglected so long that the cancer spread into his bones and HRU was advised Tristan had anywhere from a few days to six months to live.

 With that information, Tristan was brought home to live out the rest of his life the way horses should, being a companion horse living life in a paddock with a belly full of hay and medication to keep him comfortable, knowing when the time came when the pain became severe, it would be time to say goodbye to Tristan. For whatever time that was, his fate would be a lot better than it would have been had Anouk not outbid the kill buyer.  As fate would have it, the $35 spent to purchase Tristan was the best money spent.

Tristan at the HRU Farm.  He looked 100 times better than
   the thin horse HRU got from New Holland.
There was something about Tristan that connected with me. Perhaps the fact he had to deal with a serious illness, maybe it was the fact he escaped the slaughterhouse. Maybe it was like me, he was a big palooka. When Horse Rescue United had an open house, Tristan was in the field waiting to meet his fans so my wife and I went down to see Tristan and the other rescues of HRU.

What a sweet horse he was.  He was very affectionate with those in attendance that day, being allowed as many carrots as he wanted.  Here was this amazing animal and I wondered who could have done this to him; let his eye go untreated for so long to the point he was beyond help?

Tristan with my wife Sheri

I am sure the standardbreds at HRU must have initially wondered what kind of horse this giant was, only to appreciate him for the kindness he offered them despite the definite size advantage he had.  But on that Open House day, Tristan and the other horses were together, being admired; each being treated specially.  My wife connected with Tristan too, which was quite an accomplishment as up to a few years ago she had a fear of horses.

Tristan with Me
Tristan was everything I expected, a gentle giant.  Not one to push his weight around, he was kind to all and trusting.  I was fortunate I had a rare day where I could do without my wheelchair, so Tristan and I met on equal terms and he allowed me to handle his face as he seemingly enjoyed the attention.  While his eye may have not been the most attractive, I stood in awe of the majesty of this gentle giant and I knew despite his illness, he was in a good place.

Talking with Tristan

After visiting with Anouk and some other friends at HRU, it was time to leave so it was one final pass by of all the horses who were out greeting the visitors.  As I left, Tristan came to the fence to say goodbye and I spent a private moment with him.  I told him he was in good hands, and I hoped to see him again.  Unfortunately, while I have kept up to date with his progress, it was the last time I saw him.  In October, nine months after the original prognosis, the decision was to remove his right eye to give him more time without pain.  A smart decision for a rescue on limited funds?  Perhaps not, but he had that infectious personality that everyone loved.  How could you not do anything to provide "The Big Palooka" more time on this earth?

Well, those days turned to months, those months turned to years.  Finally, five and a half years later with the cancer spreading to his other eyes and his quality of life deteriorating, the decision was made to euthanize him.

While I will miss Tristan, I do not mourn.  I celebrate the quality life HRU gave him, well past the few days to six months that the doctors originally estimated, years the kill buyer would have denied him.  As I write this, I look at a picture of him from the winter of 2011 running through the paddock with one of Anouk's dogs aside him.  I am sure Tristan had a hard life and instead of meeting a horrible death in Canada or Mexico, he was given his dignity back, living life to the fullest until the pain got to the point where letting him live would have been for our benefit and not his.  So thanks to HRU and their supporters, instead of a terrifying end, Tristan's end came peacefully, surrounded by people who cared about him.

Horses.  It is funny how that one special horse can reach into your heart.  I am glad I got to know him and have memories of him that will stay with me till the day I die.  Mitch Albom wrote a book called "The Five People You Meet in Heaven", I hope Tristan is one of them.

So long Tristan, you may not know it but you have greatly influenced me and taught me a valuable lesson about living with serious illness and not letting the illness rule you.  You do the best you can, with the cards your dealt.  I don't say goodbye.  I say till we meet again...

Horse Rescue United is an animal rescue group which primarily rescues horses, with a focus on standardbreds.  For further information about Horse Rescue United, you can friend them on Facebook or you can go to their website   There you can see a list of current horses in need of new homes which will allow HRU to rescue other horses.  Who knows, your next friend may be waiting there for you?


Gloria Ciavardini said...

A wonderful tribute to a wonderful horse. I am very sorry I never got down to see him. I always followed him on the hru fb site. So sorry for his passing, but he had a super life with HRU.

Unknown said...

Thank you for telling us the story of Tristan. Never got to meet him, but love him just the same. �� Sheryl.

Count said...

Great tribute and touching story there Pacingguy! As a fellow animal lover, I am very happy to hear about the quality life given to Tristan and with all those who were positively affected by him not to mention the fantastic work that the HRU is doing! God bless you!