Endurance Riding

Oct 23 2011

Saying Good-Bye to Donovan, A Southern Gentleman

Published by under Endurance Riding

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Two years ago, my mom adopted Donovan, a Tennessee Walker who had belonged to my girlfriend’s mother. I had promised Randi, moments before her death, that I would take care of her treasured horses, Donovan and Forest. While my mother had provided a wonderful home for Donovan over the last two years, she was no longer able to care for him. I had hoped that when the time came for my mom to re-home Donovan, I would be in a position to adopt Donny. However, after a long discussion with my husband, we decided we would not be able to provide the best home for Donovan. We were afraid of taking on the expenses of another horse after just buying a house. I was also worried about the extensive hoof care Donovan needs, as he has some issues with one hind foot. Being an endurance rider as well, I knew Donovan was not a horse fit for endurance, although he is a pleasure to ride.

Donovan has a quiet mind, a kind soul, and gentle gaits. He was the horse who taught Jakob to ride. He was also the horse who taught Jakob to fall, and then to get back on and ride. My mom enjoyed Donovan and it was difficult for her to give him up, but she knew it was in his best interest. She found a great home for him in Oroville, with two women, Susan and Margie. He has 10 acres of pasture, 3 new gelding friends, and 2 llamas to get to know.

On Sunday, we visited Donovan and said good-bye to our precious friend. Before we left, Jakob had a moment alone with Donny. As he put his hand through the gate and touched Donovan on the nose, he began to cry. Donovan, with his big muzzle, nudged Jakob’s cheek, wiping away his tears as if to say, “It’s okay. I like it here. I am going to be fine.” As I witnessed this most pure conversation between two animals, speaking to each other not in words but in feelings, I began to cry. And I was, once again, thankful for the horses I have known and the things they have taught me.

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The family showing Donovan some love.

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My mom and her husband, “Mr. Albino,” enjoying time with Donovan.

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Jakob and Donovan, in a quiet moment together.

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Mr. Albino, kissing Donovan good-bye.

I had a difficult time saying good-bye to Donovan. I was attached to the fact that Donovan was a part of Randi. Below is Randi’s story, a short memoir I wrote after her passing in 2009. As I think of Randi now, I think of the love she had for her horses and I am glad Donovan has found a forever home where he will be loved…


I was sitting in front of the computer at work, inputting my patients’ vital signs, when I got the call. Randi, my friend’s mother, was taking her last breaths. I went into the break room to return Melissa’s message, sure that Randi must have already passed. When Melissa answered the phone, it was obvious that she had been crying, but surprisingly, her mother was still breathing.


It is supposed to be any time now, Melissa told me. Any time now. Melissa put the phone up to her mother’s ear so that I could say good-bye. I asked Melissa if she wanted me to drive out to the hospital, but she said no. It was a five hour drive and Melissa knew her mother would be gone before I made it there.


I had last seen Randi just a couple months earlier, the day before Mother’s Day. While I feared she would eventually succumb to her cancer, I didn’t think it would be soon. She was bright and lively and full of hope when I saw her. She was not a hospice patient. She was actively fighting her disease, and putting up a pretty big battle against it.


That evening, when I got home from work, I called Melissa to see how she was doing. She was still beside her mother, watching her breathe her shallow breaths. I asked her again if she wanted me to come to the hospital. But the doctor had just been in and said it again – any time now. I told Melissa that I would call her first thing in the morning. If Randi was still alive then, I’d make the drive to the hospital.


At 6 am, Randi was still hanging in there, although her breaths were fewer and farther between. She hadn’t had any urine output for over 24 hours and she was unconscious, as she had been for more than two days. My husband and I dropped off our children with some friends and started driving towards the hospital. We kept the cell phone near us, expecting to get the call that Randi had died on our way to see her. We were ready to re-route our trip to Randi’s home at any moment.


Five hours later, Gary and I made it to the hospital. We walked up to the oncology unit and when we entered Randi’s room, she was surrounded by family. Alicia, a close friend of Melissa and I, was also there. Melissa was next to her mother on the hospital bed. She hadn’t left her mother’s side since Randi was admitted several days earlier. I approached Randi and Melissa, leaning down to kiss Randi’s soft, bald head. And while I was struck by how thin and pale Randi was, I remember thinking she looked peaceful.


I decided to take a spot against the wall in the room, next to Alicia, to allow the family to gather around Randi. Music was playing, prayers were being said, and a photo slide show of Randi and highlights of her life flashed on the laptop in the room. After a photo of Randi walking out to see her horses for the last time popped up on the screen, Alicia turned to me and asked how the move was going. Gary and I were moving our family to a new home, complete with a three stall horse barn on the property. Melissa over heard this conversation and said, “You’re moving to horse property?!? Could you take Donovan and Forest?” Donovan and Forest were Randi’s beloved horses, and Melissa did not know where they were going to go after her mom left this world.


I went up to Melissa, taking Randi’s hand in mine, and said, “Well, I only have one horse and a three stall barn, so there is room for Donovan and Forest.” Melissa and I were still talking horses a few minutes later when I noticed Randi’s breaths were really slowing down. Suddenly, the color in her face left, and I knew Randi was dying. I was still holding her hand when she took her last breath.


Before we left the hospital that afternoon, Lynn, Randi’s sister, looked at me and said, “She was waiting. Randi loved those horses and she wanted to know what was going to happen to them before she left.”

One response so far

One Response to “Saying Good-Bye to Donovan, A Southern Gentleman”

  1. Jennifer Lee Ferrinion 30 Oct 2011 at 12:44 pm

    these transitions are hard, but take it from me… often for the best!!! I wish Donovan Love and happiness in his new home… it looks great!!!

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