The New Zealand bred horse who played Shadowfax in two Lord of the Rings movies has died at the age of 25.
The Spanish horse Blanco was originally trained by Don Reynolds before being owned by Wayne Mackormack and Amelia Cook. He played Shadowfax in The Two Towers and Return of the King, and also appears in the Hercules television series.
He traveled to the US with his new owner, Cynthia Royal, after finishing filming the LOTR films.
Royal said over the past few months Blanco had fallen critically ill, requiring an array of urgent medical care and a lengthy stay in a horse hospital.
A battery of tests proved inconclusive, but revealed serious issues with his intestinal tract and liver. A host of supportive therapies – from conventional to alternative – were provided. Royal and her family visited Blanco daily at the hospital.
“Some days, he was distant – a physical shell devoid of the opinionated Blanco I’ve known so well. Other days he would rally as soon as he heard my whistle from afar. On those days we’d go on short walks together, allowing for scratches, hugs and a few nibbles of the green grass on the hospital’s lawn.
“One day in particular toward the end of his hospital stay, Blanco returned to his old enthusiastic self, demonstrated by an alert ‘head’s up’ and a loud and joyful whinny to see me. After the hospital staff disconnected him from the IV, he snacked on carrots I’d brought him from home and we went for a long walk around the hospital grounds, even doing a little trotting in unison. When we arrived back at his stall, I told him if he continued to feel better, that we planned to bring him home the following day to continue his rehabilitation there.
“Early the next morning, I received a call from one of the many vets overseeing Blanco’s case, informing me that he had taken a turn for the worse overnight and that I should come to the hospital right away. When I approached Blanco’s stall, he was in an obvious state of shut-down and distress. While kneeling down by his side, I asked Blanco if it was his ‘time’. Without a second of hesitation, he turned his head to me, looked me straight in the eye and at that moment, I knew he was ready.”
Royal said that safety policies at the hospital meant that only staff members would be present during euthanasia. “This was something I was simply unwilling to accept, as I knew my duty to to Blanco and our extraordinary relationship would not be complete without being able to be present to support him during this final leg of his earthly journey.
“Instead of allowing him to be taken away to an isolated room to die with strangers, they agreed to euthanize him in his stall and allow me to be by his side – as long as I could persuade him to lay down on his own. Although it took several tries and lots of encouragement due to his severely weakened state, Blanco gave me the gift by laying down for me one last time in response to my gentle request. Although my heart was breaking, as my final gift to him, I stayed strong, balanced and focused, as the Blanco I’ve known so well and loved so deeply slipped away.”
Veterinary bills for Blanco’s treatment came to $US18,500, and already supporters had donated just over $4000 on GoFundMe to help.