We are so sorry to report that we had to say goodbye to our Rio, a 28 year-old paint horse who has been at Hanaeleh since 2009. Rio colicced early on Monday, January 3rd, and while we called the vet out immediately, an ultrasound showed that he had twists in his lower intestine which could only be resolved through surgery. Due to his age and health issues, we had to make the very difficult decision to end Rio’s suffering.
Rio was rescued when his owner was unable to support him financially and was so behind on her board payments that he was in danger of being sent to auction and potentially slaughter. We were able to work with the stable to have them turn him over to us instead of sending him to auction, and we made sure to get him the vet care he required. Rio was quickly adopted by our treasurer Lori B., and although he continued to live out his life at Hanaeleh, she took care of him and paid for his care.
Rio’s greatest asset was that he was a very steady, reliable horse. He did not feed into any horsie or human drama, and just focused on the task at hand. He helped people who were somewhat scared of horses get over their fear by being calm and placid. We used him as a trainer for many of the new volunteers, teaching them how to groom and how to lead or exercise a horse, because we knew that he would take care of any new people.
Rio participated in the Swallow’s Day Parade twice, and carried the flag during the 4th of July Parade. Lori and her daughter rode him all over the trails in the canyon, and he was always rock-steady out on trail. We noticed that his coat was getting long and he was not shedding it during the summer, so we had him tested for Cushings. Thus went the multi-year fight of trying to hide his Prescend pills in carrots, apples, treats, or whatever we had on hand. He finally stopped taking any treats from us, knowing that it was highly possible a pill was in that treat.
When Rio’s nose began bleeding a few years ago, the vet diagnosed a hematoma in his nasal cavity near his eye, and while it was not possible to remove it surgically, the vet injected it with formaldehyde to reduce its size and allow him to breathe more efficiently. We kept him on a small dose of steroids until the end of his life to keep the swelling down and his breathing normal. A few years ago, his third eyelid in his right eye flipped over randomly, and we ended up having it removed, which meant that he had to wear a fly mask year-round in order to prevent any infection in his eye. He developed DSLD (a congenital issue that affects the tendons in the fetlocks) in both hind legs, but it wasn’t until his hips began to get arthritic and his hind end started to go out, that he was no longer able to be ridden. He still enjoyed working in the arena at liberty, however. The last year of his life he only walked in the arena or round pen, although every once in a while he would kick up his heels and buck and play.
Rio’s best friend was Tamahome, and they hung out together for many years, until Rio had to be separated due to his medical and nutrition needs. Both of them had the same low-drama approach to the world, and we would make up stories as if they were humans, what sports teams they would be on, or what they might sound like (Tamahome would sound like Matthew McConaughey because he’s from the Kentucky, and Rio would probably sound like a So Cal surfer).
We are going to miss Rio terribly- he has been at Hanaeleh for 13 years, and he was a big part of all of our lives. He leaves a legacy of being a sweet, quiet and trustworthy horse, which is about the best thing you can say about any horse. RIP Rio. We will love you forever.