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Horse's death like losing "a best friend'

An ailing 18-year-old horse must be put down, devastating her devoted owner.

College freshman face a host of issues, as became apparent to Hillsborough Community College student Samantha Cyment. In addition to a full load of courses and a part-time job, Cyment, 18, had the added responsibility of caring for her infirmed horse, Candy Kisses.

When North of Tampa met up with the young woman from Van Dyke Farms in September, Cyment was watching over her 18 year-old American Saddlebred horse, who had acute leg problems and could no longer be ridden.

The bond between the two was undeniable, and Cyment was adamant about caring for the horse in a dignified and loving manner. Then, in early October, Cyment learned what she had feared most.

"She started to have a lot more pain, and wouldn't walk out of her stall," she said. "We did all the medication but nothing seemed to work, and she just got worse. She wouldn't stand up anymore."

The dreaded advice came from the mare's veterinarian. Candy Kisses should be euthanized.

"It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make, but the vet said it was the best thing to do because it wasn't worth her pain to be around anymore," said Cyment. "It was my choice, but it wouldn't have been right to keep her alive."

On Oct. 11 Cyment came to Avalon Riding Academy in Lutz, where the horse had been boarded, and spent the day with Candy Kisses, feeding her carrots and her favorite candies, and talking to her.

"I told her she was the best thing that ever happened to me," Cyment said.

The following day Candy Kisses was put down.

"I felt like I lost my best friend," Cyment said. "It was very devastating. I was really upset for weeks."

And in an incredible twist of events, that same week another horse owner who had read about Cyment called Avalon, asking if Cyment would be willing to care for his two horses, a seven-year-old Arabian named Darla and her two-year-old son, Tyler.

"I knew it wouldn't make me really get over it, but I still decided to do it," she said. "Now I can ride them and do some of the same things I used to do with Candy."

As for buying another horse now, Cyment said the timing is not right.

"Eventually I will get another horse, but I have to wait," she said. "I need to get some school out of the way before I take on more responsibility, and owning a horse is a lot of responsibility."

_ Sheryl Kay