It's so difficult to write this without getting in a muddle. This is actually my third attempt.
I had turned Zak and Barnaby out and was nearly finished in the mucking out department, when my vet rang to say she'd be with me in half an hour, and Leigh (potential buyer) rang immediately afterwards to say she was on her way as well.
I decided to take Max for a little walk to make sure he wasn't stiff from standing in the stable all morning, then gave him a bit of a groom, and before I knew it, the vet had arrived.
It turned out Leigh had requested a five stage vetting (to my surprise). The vet needed to look into Max's eyes, but it's quite bright in our stables, so I got a stable rug and put it on him, and gradually worked it up his neck, which he thought was fine, then lifted it over his head and the vet got underneath it with him, as obviously it was quite dark under there. Max wasn't sure he wanted to get that intimate with a stranger, but he was very good and just stood and let her check him. He looked so sweet standing there with a blanket over his head.
She checked his teeth (not his favourite thing) and his muscles on his back and stomach, then it was time to take him out. She looked at him from behind to make sure he is level, then I had to do the flexion tests. They lift each leg up in turn, as high as possible, for 45 seconds. As soon as they put the foot down you must go into trot and trot away from the vet. They are checking for arthritis, which I didn't know before. The vet said 13 is a very common age to start the beginnings of arthritis, but she said his recovery from the flexion was excellent for a horse of his age, which cheered me up no end, as the flexion test is the most common thing to be failed on. My old mare, Penny, failed on this. I was livid at the time, as there was nothing wrong with her at all, and it was the same vets doing the test today, which is why I had been dreading it.
She tested all four legs, then I had to put him back in the stable and tack him up so I could ride him. I had to ask Missis if I could ride in our field over the road, as we normally use it for haylage, but she said it would be fine and unlocked the gate for me.
At first I was quite nervous, as Max hasn't put a hoof on grass this year, so I thought he might be really strong, but he had a good look round and did exactly as I asked. I had to trot and then canter him to bring his heart rate up. We went round and round in circles, and we were both really enjoying it. It was at this point that Leigh and her mum turned up so they could see me belting round and having a good time. I really wanted Leigh to see that he is more forward going than he was when they came on Saturday, as I want Leigh to know she will have a good time on him as well, not just her mum being able to plod round.
Finally the vet said we could stop and she checked his heart, then we went back onto the yard. He had to have the flexion test again in his back legs, and he was a bit slower to move off this time, but still fine. The vet called me back and I put Max back in his stable and untacked him. Then the vet took a blood sample. They keep this in storage for six months, so if the new owners suspect, for instance, that he was on bute or some sort of sedative today, they can request a test on the blood sample and it would show he had some foreign substance in his blood on the day of the test (which of course, he hasn't).
The vet just said, "Thankyou very much, you can turn him out now if you want to," and put her gear away. I thought, 'Who tells me the outcome then?' She then said to Leigh, "If you'd like to come to the car, I can discuss a few things with you." I thought, 'A few things? What things?' Surely if he'd failed the test, it would only be on one thing? I know he doesn't have splints, bone spavin, sarcoids, a cough or anything, so I'd love to know what it was.
They went outside for quite a while, and I got fed up, so I prayed like mad then decided to turn Max out. I had to go past them, but couldn't hear what they were saying. I loitered at the field gate for a while, and when I came back the vet was just getting in her car to go.
Leigh turned to me and I realised she was beaming. She just said, "Job's a goodun'" and I realised she meant Max had passed. I was so relieved I hugged her and her mum. I said, "Was that as stressful for you as it was for me?" and they said it was. It must be just as nerve wracking for the buyer, mustn't it? It costs a couple of hundred pounds, so it's not cheap for them either, they must be desperate for the horse to pass. I have never had any of my horses vetted, so I don't know how it feels.
So then it got down to me asking when they wanted to collect him, and to my shock, Leigh said, "Either tomorrow or Thursday." I was expecting them to say Saturday, so I was very taken aback. When I thought about it though, I thought, 'Why prolong the agony?' and agreed he could go tomorrow.
So I have given him his last tea, and tomorrow he will have his last breakfast. They will come about 1.30pm so I will turn him out in the morning, then get him in at lunch time and give him his last groom. I will probably cry and cry. It is the end of an era. This horse has taught me so much and given me so much. We have had a lot of fun, and a lot of adventures together. I really did think I'd have him for ever. Such a strange feeling.
Mr O rang and I told him all about it. He is getting a half day off work to be with me, and I am going to need him to be there. I am just so sad that he hasn't got a clue what's going on and he needs to say goodbye to Barnaby. That's what upsets me the most. They've been like brothers for five years and tomorrow is their last morning together. I am so sorry, my darlings. I love you both very much.