How do I write this?…

Sunday, November 29th, 2015 | Filed under Mama Tess

How do I tell you about Mama Tess’ decision to leave?

It was so personal and private, yet I owe it to you… but I can hardly bear to tell you.  It happened on November 13th.  It was a Friday, two weeks ago.

There was no drama, no horrible condition, nothing awful.  She simply decided that she was done.


The last time I wrote about Mama Tess  was just 10 days previous – and she was doing very well!

What happened? All I can assume is that the Naxcel injections made her feel so good, that she overdid it and hurt herself even more.

During those two weeks after her injections, MT was all over the place.  I found her up by the arena and way past the pony pasture… she went places she hadn’t been in months.

She was thrilled to be feeling so much better and she wanted to GO!

A few days before we were to start her 2nd round of the Naxcel injections, I noticed that she had slowed her travels.  MT was still very happy and engaged, just slowing.  So, I asked for the injections to be overnighted  for us to begin the next course immediately.

That next morning, MT held up her left foot – the one that always looked the worst but was the most pain free – and she couldn’t put it down.  No weight at all.

I was devastated to see that her ‘good’ foot was hurting her.  But, I felt it was infection pain.  I thought that her right foot had cleared up and now she was showing me that the left one needed attention.

The injections arrived that day and I gave her the first shot.

–The next morning, no difference.

She held up her left foot as she had the day before.  I could tell that she had been having difficulty maneuvering in the barn because things were out of plce place (knocked over and strewn about).  But, the Team Maggots were coming on this day and they would surely help…

I looked into her eyes and told her that Team Maggots were on their way.  I asked MT if it was OK for her to hang in there for 48 hours. That was our rule.  We had a ’48 hour rule’.  If MT was in bad shape and didn’t turn around within 48 hours, we’d address it.  Tess agreed.   For the past 32 months, she always got better.

So, I gave her the daily Naxcel shot and applied the Team Maggots upon their arrival.

–The next morning, no better… but I had remembered that the shots took 3-4 days to show any improvement last time, so I administered her shot and tended to her all day.  I increased her pain meds to make her comfortable.


On Friday morning, I really had no hint that today would be different.   The Naxcel was such a miracle previously, I was very hopeful.  Tess had always gotten better before – it didn’t occur to me that she wouldn’t.

As I approached the barn on this fine, crisp morning, Tess was laying down.  Not unusual.  As I greeted her with a morning kiss, she seemed very happy.  She nickered for food.  I prepared her special buckets and gave them to her as I went about my chores.   Tess ate with gusto.  Ahh, I thought to myself, see… she is much better today!

I still didn’t know.

As I finished the morning feed, Tess indicated that she was going to get up.  Great, I thought, I can give her the shot before I have to go in and start working.

Still, no indication…

But, as she got up, everything in my world changed.

Not being able to put any weight on that foot made her rising very difficult.   She knocked over both of her water buckets and stood splayed.  I had never seen her like this.  Immediately, she went down again.

She looked at me and I knew.

She didn’t shriek in pain, she didn’t refuse to eat, she wasn’t sweating profusely or giving me any other indication – except she told me.

I had always told myself that I would know when it was time.  That moment in the barn – it was as if I was thunderstruck.  There was no denying.  She told me.

She looked at me and her soul told my soul.


I do not know how I proceeded other than to say that I had help from above.  Not only did I have a packed work morning (conference call after conference call), but I wasn’t totally prepared for this eventuality – what was presented before me now.  I knew, basically, what to do, but I hadn’t done a dry run because I thought I had time.

Someone helped.  An angel flew into my body and worked some phone and scheduling magic that made it all come together perfectly and easily.

Throughout those precious morning hours, every chance I had, I flew down to the barn and loved on every part of her.  She wasn’t upset.  She wasn’t afraid.  She wasn’t upset that I was upset.  Tess had made a decision and now she was preparing herself, I think.   And she was standing.  She chose to stand and look outside of her window, as she always did – standing in the light.

I gave her all of the foods she hadn’t been able to have in 3 years.  I showered her with love and treats.  She ate it all up.

To say that I drank in her scent and buried my face into her body would be an understatement.  I tried to never ever forget all of her.  But, I didn’t know how.  I just kept trying…


Everyone I had summoned came early.  I was actually still in a meeting when I heard the trucks rumble up the driveway.

I went outside.

The reality of it all collapsed me.  Seeing the vet was my undoing.  But, I knew I had to help prepare my girl.

The vet blocked both of her feet and Tess walked outside of the barn, head held high.  She didn’t worry at all that the vet truck was there.  On this day, she had a higher purpose.

I made sure that the most noble, the most gracious, the most loving, the most brave, the most incredible mare I’ve even know – was ready… and I left.  After one last drink of her, I ran inside, sobbing horribly.

I could not bear to watch her evaporate out of her broken, but lovely, body.


I truly wailed for longer than probably ever… had I let her down?, had I failed?, what had I done?  did I kill her? and… how much I loved this mare and how much I would miss my girlfriend who lived in the barn.

And then in the middle of this actual physical wrenching of my heart – it was as if someone grabbed my shoulders and stood me up – I saw a very vivid picture in my mind’s eye.  Clear as day.  I was somehow seeing MT from just above her hips.  She was running and throwing her head from side to side in pure joy.  I could see her knees pulling up high as she blew huge torrents of air through her nostrils while she thundered across a field of tall grass.

She was free, and she let me know.

I stood up knowing she was gone.  A few moments later, I collected the courage to look out the window… and I watched as the trucks rumbled away down the driveway.  All in all, after I ran into the  house, it took 18 minutes for Tess to regain her freedom.

And with that, the last own daughter of the history-making, three time World Park Harness Champion Morgan sire, NOBLE FLAIRE, herself a World Park Harness Champion, left this earth with the same grace and nobility she carried every moment of her life.

HVK NOBLE HEIRESS,  b February 1, 1990  d November 13, 2015.

I am so proud that she let me help her… and I am utterly heartbroken that she’s gone and that we weren’t able to fix her.  The barn is so very quiet…

HVK NOBLE HEIRESS (Mama Tess). Incredible being who set foot on his planet February 1, 1990 and ran free November 13, 2015. God Speed, my girl, god speed.

HVK NOBLE HEIRESS (Mama Tess).  An Incredible being who set foot on his planet February 1, 1990 and ran free November 13, 2015. God Speed, my girl, god speed.






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62 comments have been posted...

  1. LaBella

    I think I was able to read three sentences through clear eyes. The rest through vision blurred with tears.
    Thank you.
    Thank you for sharing Mama Tess with us, thank you for letting us get to know her, and thank you for letting us love her too.

  2. Peg

    Devastated to learn of Tess’s passing. You fought the good fight for her. She was amazing. Your tenacity and loving carried her far longer than any of the experts could have predicted. She knew it too. You’ve given many people hope for their own struggles with laminitis.

  3. Michelle

    Oh, Dawn. I’m crying. What a beautiful testament to your beautiful friendship. I hope your memories are a balm to your sore heart. I’m so very sorry.
    –Love, Michelle

  4. Mary Lu Kennedy

    I lost my last post this morning to cyber space. I just wanted to say that you need to eventually write a book with MT ‘s story. My mare is doing well with her sunken coffin bone right now but I learned a lot with your experiences with Mama Tess.

  5. pkquest

    My heart is with you Dawn. Thank you and Tess for all the wonderful stories, the care and sharing that went into her treatment. Not only did I learn with you, I came to love your mare…for her strength, her personality, her perseverance. What a grand mare. She will be missed hugely. I’m so very sorry for your loss. p

  6. Claire North

    tears, that is the most beautiful tribute to her, I know exactly how you feel, I still miss my Shadow I had to put down a couple of months ago, I thought somehow we could take away her cancer but it was just too much ….I know she is happy and free now. You did what any person who loved her could do to give her her right to be pain free. You did right but we always bear the pain of the loss…..

  7. Christine

    Dawn, I have just read your post. I am so very, very sorry. Chris xxx

  8. MorganG

    Through your posts I felt as if I knew Mama Tess on a personal level. I worried when she wasn’t doing well and cheered when she rallied. It just does not seem possible that the great MT is gone from this earth. Dawn, I know you are devastated. More than devastated. Thank you for listening to Mama Tess and letting her run free. It is a big hole in this old world that she leaves behind.

  9. Karen

    Dawn – My heart aches for your loss. MT was an inspiration for me with my rescued mare, Sonya. Mama Tess is happy and pain-free now. Thank you for allowing me to get to know her, admire her, and love her.

  10. Judith

    Dawn, I am so sorry. I have been in your shoes, and I know you did the right thing, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt! It does, terribly. I have loved your tales of Mama Tess, and I am sure your recounting of her treatments has helped others.

  11. Liz

    So sorry for your loss. I lost my beautiful boy a week before you. I wish I was so eloquent as you in my thought process that I could write such a lovely remembrance. My guy was only 14 but at least I know he is no longer in pain and like my sign says “There is no heaven if there are no horses” so I will see him again.

  12. Deb Carlino

    Oh my! I’m so sorry. Thank you so much for sharing her. I will miss her.

  13. ally loneagle

    We’ve never met and I never got to pat Mama Tess and I simply have no words to express my sorrow and love. You two have given me and my 80 year old Marine many many hours of conversation about Mama Tess, blogs, horses, thera plates and so much more. We both will miss her, remember her and always be grateful to have shared some in her journey here.

  14. Dawn Gazzerro

    I am so sorry I lost my brave mare 2 years ago from laminitis I loved her more than anyone could ever believe I will never forget that day she told me she had enough, she went down peacefully I stayed with her and it was a heartbreaking experience I never want to go through again, I know it is so sad for you, God protect you and her soul, so sorry. Dawn

  15. Matilda

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your great mare. You did everything for her and gave her the greatest gift in the end.

  16. Jane Augenstein

    I am so very, very sorry for your loss. You went above and beyond what most people would do, you were Tess’s angel.
    Blessings to you

  17. Carol

    Mama Tess was absolutely beautiful. My heart goes out to you Dawn. There is never a right or wrong time, but somehow it is always just as is was supposed to be. Her showing herself to you running in joy was the best gift she could give to you. What a kind soul.

  18. sandra

    I’ve been dreading this day. I totally understand why it took a few weeks to tell us. I don’t know of any other horse who was loved and cared for as much as Tess. I was with you all the way, giving her every chance. But all horse owners know…at some point we can’t seem to do anymore. Still, one of the hardest decisions to make in our lives. Tears now far and wide for a wonderful, loved, horse.

  19. Maggie

    I have followed you and Tess on this journey for quite a while. I’m glad for MT that it is over with but so very sad for you. Hugs Dawn.

  20. Kathryn Baker

    Dear Dawn I am crying for you and for Mama Tess as I write this. I have not been in touch for a long time. I followed Mama Tess and her story for a long time. I have been where you are now and my heart breaks for you. The only thing that got me through was knowing I had done the right thing. Love,Kathryn

  21. Maureen Harmonay

    I just want to say how sorry I am, Dawn. I cried as I read this, as I’m sure everyone else did. Thank you for sharing Mama Tess’s brave story, and for being courageous enough to share the details of her last day in her body. I believe that she will always be with you. She is changed, not gone. Sending heartfelt sympathies, and sharing your tears.

  22. Stacey Adams

    Dawn – as they others have said, all of our hearts are with you. Two weeks is not long enough to make each day bright again, we all know. Well done to you for the strength to share this with us. We all avidly followed her courageous fight and cheered for the better days, and prayed on the worse days. You were both lucky to have each other.

    And as someone told me last month when it was my turn, “You’d never have had to say Goodbye if you’d never said Hello – can you imagine all you’d have missed if you never said Hello?”

    Hang in there.

  23. KarenTX

    So, so sorry. Mama Tess was a special horse. You are blessed to have owned and loved her………or maybe she owned you? You were her staunch supporter in life and in death. I hope she finds my Sally, they would like each other. Hugs from Texas.

  24. lisa arkfeld

    Oh Godspeel Mama Tess, I’m crying but so proud of your many many days extra here on earth because you, Dawn, are an angel. I lit a candle and my tears are mixed with being very very glad I got to share in both your journeys. Thank you for writing so beautifully about Tess, she became one of my beloved souls with four legs and I share in your joy she runs free thru the great sky now., and forever.

  25. Susan Montgomery

    I have been dreading the day this post would come. I too face the same decision with my Shadow girl. Thank you for showing us all how to love without restraint and say good bye with honor.
    Run free, Mama Tess, but stop by to see your human occasionally, she misses you.

  26. Angie Friehauf

    Oh Dawn….I have been watching your struggles and triumphs with MT for a long time now. I am deeply sorry for your loss. I have this poem from when I had to put my last sweet horse to rest and wanted to share it with you-

    Crossing the Bridge

    I stood beside your bed last night, I came to have a peep.
    I could see that you were crying; you found it hard to sleep.

    I whinnied to you softly as you brushed away a tear,
    “It’s me, I haven’t left you. I’m well, I’m fine, I’m here.”

    I was with you at my grave today; you tend it with such care.
    I want to reassure you, that I’m not lying there.

    I walked with you toward the house, as you fumbled for your key.
    I put my head against you, nickered and said, “It’s me.”

    You looked so very tired, and sank into a chair.
    I tried so hard to let you know that I was standing there.

    It’s possible for me to be so near you every day.
    To say to you with certainty, “I never went away.”

    You sat there very quietly, then smiled; I think you knew.
    In the stillness of that evening, I was very close to you.

    And when the time is right for you to cross the brief divide,
    I’ll gallop across to greet you, and we’ll stand there side by side.

    I have so many things to show you, there’s so much for you to see.
    Be patient, live your journey out…then come home to be with me.

  27. Kathy

    I am so sorry for your loss. I know MT left a huge mark on your life and you will miss her so much. She was a gallant mare and even though I am sad to hear she is gone, I am also inspired by the connection you had and the way you communicated with each other right up to the end. I so much want that for myself and my gelding. We recently lost our 16-year-old family dog and I think I understand a little of the grief you feel. It’s so hard, but it’s so worth it…eventually. Sending you comforting thoughts. May Mama Tess run free in your heart forever.

  28. Nancy Ott

    I am so sorry to read about Mama Tess. My most heartfelt sympathy. I admire your bravery and selflessness to keep on publishing and working when your heart was breaking. I cried reading about Mama Tess, as it brought to the fore memories of our own lovely Rhythm. Both such loving and special mares.

  29. Pam

    This is the post that I had been dreading to read. I could only read half of it first thing this morning and then once I got my crying under control, I went back to finish reading. I wish I had some words to take away your grief but I know firsthand, having lost my beloved mare in 2006 that nothing helps except time. Time to adjust to life without your girl.
    Your journey with Mama Tess will help others in the future who deal with similar hoof problems. You were a great Mom to MT! I know she appreciated everything you did for her.
    I hope that the other horses are doing OK. They must miss her, too.
    Sending heartfelt condolences to you, your husband and all the animals on the farm who will miss her, too.
    Thank you for sharing this personal moment with us. Your strength helps us face our own sorrows.

  30. Pat Wages

    I’m so, so sorry Dawn.
    We just had to make the same decision for our daughter’s precious mare Baskette. It was arguably the hardest choice I’ve ever made, but the one-in-a-million Sketti deserved this final kindness.

  31. Sonya

    I am so sorry for your loss, Dawn.

    But you know… Mama Tess was a “Go girl”. You let her go everywhere, and you let go UP… I am so proud of you for allowing her the dignity she so deserved.

    Just remember, Dawn… Animals choose YOU. They are closer to God than we well ever be, as they are unfettered by guilt, or shame. They are simply dependent on God for all things… no matter what. So, that she chose YOU, says so much (to me) about who you are…

    Thank you for sharing such a large part of your life. Sending you prayers, blessings, and peace.

  32. Ronnie

    Dear Dawn,

    I woke up this morning, to the computer, & your messages the 1st I read. The tears started immediately. Then the hard crying. For I had fallen in love with Tess.
    Her funny, vibrant personality. Her regal posture. Beautiful body & so shiny coat. A most lovely face that one could read her feelings: happy, loving, mischievous,.. Her brave willingless to be well. Perseverance.

    Dawn, the love, the bond between you & Tess was so unbelievably strong. You walked the miles in care for Tess. And she knew it. Beautiful. Bless you.

    I had my Kitty for 23 years. We went through so much together. She had an illness that was fatal but she survived to live many more years. And when the time came.she laid down, the dying process. The last battle could not be won. And after she passed, I felt her presence close to me, for weeks. She was taking care of me in my grief. I could feel it!
    Tess is now taking care of YOU. Letting you know she is free of pain, running faster than the wind! Loving you for loving her.

    I believe our animal persons do stay with us for awhile after they have died. And when the time comes, they are waiting for us at the “Rainbow Bridge.” Until that time, Love to you, Dawn. Until that time, RIP Tess. Then the JOY! <3

  33. MARY

    Dawn – It is so hard to type with tears in my eyes. I am so sorry to read this post. I feel your pain, as I am sure every horse person who has had to make that decision for their soul horse. Run Free MT, say hello to my Robbie, we’ll all be together again. HUGS to you Dawn, for making the hardest decision out of love.

  34. Janet Cavallo [Anna Mae on fb]

    what a beautiful photo you have posted here. This photo is perfect to imagine her running ‘on the other side’. So sorry about this.

  35. Vicki Long

    So so sorry Dawn. You did the most unselfish act – you took her pain away and made it your own. Soar on Mama Tess, green pastures forever.

  36. Kitty Bo

    :'( I think where I really lost it was when you said you drank in her scent and buried your face in her body.We who have lost beloved horses all weep with you….profusely. We understand.

  37. Mary Lu Kennedy

    When I got up this morning I had a feeling of sadness. I am so sorry. I loved Mama Tess as all of your readers did. When the tears stop I will make a donation. You did everything that could be done and most of all you truly loved her. That was the most important thing. I wonder how your other horses are doing with Mama Tess not there. I am sure there is sadness for them too.

  38. Marge

    Did you bury her on the farm? Thank you for sharing this heart wrenching story.

  39. Kathy Sutton

    I am so sorry to hear about MT. I have a Morgan mare that is IR and has had a few really bad bouts of laminitis. The last time was a few years ago and was in all four feet. It was a miracle she pulled thru. I have eagerly followed all you posts about MT. My mother passed away November 3rd and I have missed some of your posts, so glad I didn’t miss this one. Godspeed Mama Tess.

  40. Toni Rohm

    I am so sorry for your loss. What you did for MT was truly amazing. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  41. Ellie Miller

    Oh Dawn….the day I prayed would never come…..You showed such love for Tess. Such caring. Love we all hope to provide for the ones in our life. Run free Mama Tess. Give Dawns love to The others who live in Heavenly pastures…until the day you are all together again. I send you love and peace my friend.

  42. Laurie

    Oh Dawn,
    My deepest condolences to you and your husband!
    You have taught me so much.

  43. karen mast

    So very sorry for your loss , i cried reading this . I have followed her for what seems like forever .R.I.P.mama.

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