Her Horse is Dying. When Are We Blind To a Beloved Pet’s Pain? Or, What We Owe Our Companions

Julia E Hubbel
8 min readJul 15, 2019


He stands in his corral with one back leg lifted. He can’t stand without pain. Both of his rear hocks are swollen.

The big paint-easily 17 hands- is as sweet as they come. Mild and affectionate, he was his owner’s since he was weaned. Now in his mid-twenties, he spends a lot of time standing.

In pain.

I don’t know his name. I have seen him every time I ride with my trainer on Sundays. His broad chest, his bright brown and white coloring. His friendly face. His huge strong body.

The other day I went into his corral to see about him. At the time I wasn’t aware either of his age or his infirmity. I’ve never seen him ridden. Never seen anyone in his corral except to muck out the horse apples.

He approached me curiously. I stood, and we exchanged breath.

I had a small apple biscuit. Good way to make an instant friend.

Satisfied he wouldn’t be asked to work, he relaxed. I went to work.

Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash

It’s remarkable what an old horse- just like an old person- loves. Like all of us: attention, love, care, affection. I worked on the paint carefully. When I scrubbed his withers, first he lifted his head high in the air. Then he lifted his upper lip and wiggled it. Twisted his head around, closed his eyes.

YEAH. Right there.

I could see the swelling in his back legs. As I scrubbed his belly with my fingernails, he relaxed one leg and cocked his ankle.

Then I took a carefully-considered risk. Not every horse likes this, and some can lash out. Mares in particular. I tried anyway. I reached high up inside his legs on his upper thigh and scratched methodically with my fingernails.

Up went the head. Up went the lip.

Yeppirs, that be the spot….Julia Hubbel



Julia E Hubbel

Not writing here any more. I may crosspost. You can peruse my writing on Substack at https://toooldforthis.substack.com/ .Also visit me at WalkaboutSaga.com