July 14 th


Farewell, Tatonka

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I have not blogged in a while because we have had a lot going on and not all was well.

We made the hard decision to euthanize Tatonka. We also got the go ahead to do so from his former owner, Jessica. Tonka came here 16 months ago, after Jessica had him posted on the internet for 6 months. He was once a wild mustang, captured in 1999 at one year of age. He was eventually trained for English riding and excelled in jumping. Jessica had let several trainers/instructors use him for jumping lessons. He could clear 3 feet, which is admirable for a 14.2 hand horse. Unfortunately, he severely injured his head about 5 years ago in a freak stall accident. It caused him to lose the sight in his left eye.

When he arrived here, he had some fairly severe hoof problems, which required months of trimming and soaking to even improve. I also noticed he often seemed spaced out. My vet also said he had recurring uveitis in his good eye. It was hard to know at first if his spaciness was just his vision or something more. I rode him for a few months (as Jessica had hoped I would) and he was a wonderful mount, but had episodes of  severe spooking, so I stopped. I suspected he had some neurological/brain stuff going on. Because there had been a horse sick with Lyme at his former stable, I also treated him for Lyme and detoxed him with Jernigan Neuro Antitox and zeolite. He really perked up for awhile, but then relapsed. Re-treating seemed to be less effective. Several months ago, Tonka began hanging his head through the corral bars and pressing his neck,  often for hours each day. Our vet thought he was doing it to release endorphins. He also was losing weight and muscle mass, despite extra feedings. The other horses no longer wanted to interact with him, seeming to know he was not well. As a grey horse, it was also possible he might have melanoma which sometimes can metastasize. At any rate, he was going downhill despite our efforts.

The hardest part of animal guardianship is knowing when to let them go. The most important question to ask, in my opinion, is whether or not the animal is still enjoying life. We must not let our emotional attachment cause us to let an animal linger in a state of discomfort or unhappiness that is unresolvable with the resources we have available to us. I felt I had done everything possible in our situation.

We hope Tatonka is galloping across greener pastures. He was a great little mustang and it is too bad he did not get to live his life in the wild, as God and Nature intended.

“Somewhere…somewhere in time’s own space

There must be some sweet pastured place

Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow

Some paradise where horses go

For by the love that guides my pen

I know great horses live again..”

-Stanley Harrison


Tonka after a hosing and roll in the dirt!

Categories : News


  1. Janet Ferguson says:

    Bye Tonka, enjoy your freedom from stalls, jumping, illness, bits, flies, and other earthbound cares. Hope your herd members who passed on before you will take you to their favorite pastures where you can rollick in freedom.

    Cathy you did everything you could and did everything just right for Tonka.

    What a pretty boy he was! Thanks for the photos.

  2. Cathy Ritlaw says:

    Thank you, Janet. It was hard, but he was not looking happy nor healthy the past few months, despite extra feed and care.I do hope he is off playing in a place where horses are free to be themselves without having to serve man.

  3. Monica & Baxter says:

    Run free Tatonka. Run like God intended you to run, free.

  4. Cathy Ritlaw says:

    Thank you, Monica & Baxter. It breaks my heart to see more mustangs being captured right now…every week, more are found at slaughter auctions, or starved and neglected. The adoption program is a joke, ~40,000 are already being warehoused and still they capture more…..

  5. Phyllis O'Reilly says:

    So sorry to hear about Tatonka. It so sucks and glad he is no longer unhappy. So sorry.

  6. Cathy Ritlaw says:

    Thanks, Phyllis <3

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