Welcome to Joker AFire's Rainbow Bridge Memorial Residency
Joker AFire's Rainbow Bridge Pet Loss Memorial Residency Image
Memories of Joker AFire
A Tribute to Joker Afire
Susan Vecchio

Have you ever seen a horse cry? What a question? That would be a display of emotion, sadness, regret, things we are told that horses cannot experience. Yet, we that have spent any time with these glorious animals know better, they do feel emotions and display them, sometimes at the most inconvenient time. But, to answer the question, yes, I have seen a horse cry. An experience I will never forget, unbelievably sad and heart wrenching yet somehow almost surreal and spiritual. But, let me start at the beginning to explain what led to that moment.

This is the story of my daughter Ashley and her horse Joker Afire. Her devotion and obsession started at the Ohio Buckeye in 1993. Ashley was just turning 9 years old when she saw Afire Bey V for the first time. It was love at first sight. As she watched him the first time she was bitten. As I tried to watch classes, she kept disappearing and I would have to go look for her. She was always at the same place, Afire Bey V's stall. I kept telling her not to bother him and the Shea's, that they were very busy showing horses, but within a short time she would be back again. After the second day when I was again demanding her to leave them alone, she declared to me that one day she would "own one of his babies!" I agreed, anything so I could get back to classes.

For the next ten years the little girl grew into a young woman but she never waivered in her desire to find her Afire Bey V baby. When she was nineteen we started to look for her baby. After three years we had been to numerous shows, checked internet sites, magazines, farms I finally said to her we should go to Afire Bey V, if it's his baby you want we should go to his home. She called Marty and made an appointment. Ashley was beyond excited, we had to leave a day early and stay in a Hotel close to the farm because she didn't want to be late. Marty and Tim whom we had just met treated us like we were old friends. Along with Allen they showed us several horses that would fit the needs of Ashley, who had been riding her whole life, but was new to Saddle Seat. We were down to a choice of two, a beautiful chestnut and a bay. Ashley was drawn to the bay, he looked like his dad and had a sparkle in his eye that matched his name and Ashley's personality. Joker Afire. After she had ridden him and he was back in his stall we went up to his window and asked him if he wanted to come home with us. He shook his head yes! That was it, he was hers.

Their first year together was interesting, Joker had just turned 4 when she got him. Ashley had to learn the specialties of Saddle Seat and Joker had to learn what it meant to be a show horse. Joker accepted everything Ashley asked of him and she showered him with love, attention and every toy and gadget made for horses. They had a connection, a deep bond.

They went to the Buckeye the first year and showed in Open and Amateur. They did great but it was obvious they needed a trainers help to move to the next step. The choice was made and Joker would be leaving home to go to the trainers in January 2008. Ashley followed the trailer to Pennsylvania and she cried all the way home after she left him. Every week she would drive 3 hours each way to spend a day with Joker. She would have a lesson and then spend the rest of the day just hanging out with him, her best friend. As the show season began they started to make small improvements at first and then really started to improve. They were really starting to understand what each other needed to come together as one. It finally happened at Region 14, Ashley and Joker went Top 5 in County Pleasure Horse AOTR 18-39. Ashley was so thrilled and excited it was the highlight of her young life. She felt they were finally on their way.

Ashley was going away to school in the fall, a school she chose to be close to Joker, she had decided not to take Joker to Nationals this year but wait until "09". Ashley started school and visited Joker every week.

Then one beautiful October morning I got the call no horse owner ever wants to get. One of the trainers from the farm calling to tell me Joker was injured and it was serious. I was told he was in their pasture and had broken his leg. He wanted to know if he was "insured". My heart stopped, insured? There is no insurance to cover the heart and soul of a girl in love with a horse, a horse she tells everyone is her "best friend" the one who knows all her "secrets". I heard the voice saying the Vet was on his way but it was bad, real bad. At that moment I pictured my daughter at school 2 1/2 hours away from me and how was I going to tell her. I got in my car and started driving toward Ashley. When it became obvious a decision had to be made I called Ashley's school got a hold of her riding instructor filled her in so she could tell Ashley. Ashley called the farm and told the Vet to send him to Ohio State she was going to try to save him.

I got to Ohio State first and met Joker when he got there. Ashley arrived next. The Vet at Ohio State did her evaluation and gave him a 20% chance of survival. That was enough for Ashley, she authorized the surgery and treatment. For the next almost three months instead of her driving to the farm to see Joker, she would drive home every weekend and we would go to Ohio State to see Joker. She bought him a radio and cd that we hoped would keep him calm and peaceful, treats and what ever she thought he would like. She tried to convince him the lift would not hurt him but help him. He had good days and bad days and we expected that, but then when he should have made the turn for the better "we ran out of horse".

On December 18 the Vet had planned a surgery to check his broke leg and to see if he was developing laminitis in his good leg. Ashley drove home the day before and we went to the clinic to spend the morning of the surgery with him. Joker was himself, even though he was uncomfortable he was still Joker, trying to see what he could get away with, being a clown. Still Ashley's best friend.

When the Vet came out of the surgery room the look on her face told the story, Joker's leg had stopped healing and was breaking down. He had less than 5% chance of survival and his quality of life would be unacceptable. Ashley made the hardest decision she has ever had to make, she decided to be his "best friend" and end his suffering. As we walked back to the surgery room to say good-bye, there was no sound, everyone we passed put their heads down, they couldn't look at us. Joker had quite a following after being at the clinic for so long, he had lots of visitors from students, Vets and even the student's families. Joker was an ambassador for the Arabian bred, no crazy Arab as some have said, just a great horse, with a great personality who really loves people. A great patient who everyone was pulling for, a friend no one wanted to lose.

After we said our good-byes Ashley said she would not leave him to pass alone, she insisted on staying with him. The surprised Vet agreed and they started the meds. As I watched my daughter crying with her head laying on Jokers neck and her hand stoking his face, I could hear her whispering to him, how she would miss him and how much she loved him. I became aware of the only other sounds in the room, the sound of the machine breathing for him and the heart monitor. As the monitor slowed and Ashley continued talking to him to comfort him, I looked at Jokers face and in the corner of his eye a tear had formed. As I watched, Joker cried a single tear as he left Ashley. A single tear from one best friend to another, a single tear to show that horses do love, they do have emotions. As that single tear slowly rolled down his face, I knew that Joker will miss Ashley as much as she will miss him. A single tear

Joker was cremated and returned home December 20, 2008

Joker Afire
August 10, 2002 - December 18. 2008

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