Last Sunday I received a panic stricken call regarding my one horse who is around 24 years old, typically in great shape and has been my horse since she was 4 – she was on three legs, and the 4th leg was swollen about 3 times normal size. The important thing to realize with this is that if a horse needs to lose a leg for any reason, you can’t just amputate it like a dog – they have to get the pink stuff. All four legs mean survival in flight animals, anything less means death.
By the time I got to the barn, she had amassed a throng of followers who were standing around looking at her, as if their stares were going to make the swelling magically go down. I had already called my vet, who proceeded to tell me that “a lame horse is not an emergency” to which I replied, and excuse the language, “her fucking leg is swollen from hock to ankle. Would a foot abscess cause her whole leg to blow up?!” Perhaps it was the tone in my voice, or possibly the fact that my step father had driven the whole 10 minutes to the vets farm, but he did eventually realize I wasn’t blowing smoke up his ass and about 20 minutes after I cussed him out over the situation, he showed up at my barn, with numerous shots in hand. What occurred next involves pushing a tranquilized, muscle relaxed 12oo pound animal, with 3 legs, up a hill and let’s just say it wasn’t a pretty site.
Since that horrible afternoon, my mom (God bless her) and I have been trading off medicating duties as my mare is on oral antibiotics twice a day, a pain medication twice a day and an antibiotic inter muscular injection once a day and frankly, it’s a pain in the ass to deal with alone. Happily, she’s doing much better 5 days into her captivity and excessive medication and it does my heart well to see her improving day by day. The swelling has all but resolved, she’s not in near as much pain as she was on Sunday but her patience is wearing thin. Horses, by nature, are herd animals. They like to be with other horses and it causes my mare great worry to see the rest of her herd mates in the top of the upper field, while she is locked in the paddock at the barn. Every day I see her to give her her medications, treats and fresh hay and water, and every day I tell her she’s got to deal with this shit until the courses of antibiotics are finished, much to her shagrin.
Yesterday, I pulled her out of the paddock and into the yard to give her an opportunity to do what horses do – eat grass. She was so calm and collected, I even took her off the lead and gave her free range of the yard while I mucked her stall and got her meds together. Tonight when I went to care for her during a break in the monsoon that the mid eastern seaboard is currently dealing with, I thought I’d offer her another opportunity to get some chlorophyll and since she has always been afforded the opportunity to graze in the yard in the two decades that I’ve had her, I tried my luck and took her off lead again, despite the fact that her friends were not within sight. DUMB MOVE. She lasted about 3 minutes, then let out a loud, exasperated whinny, turned on her back heels and took off across the yard, hollering all the way. It’s hard to describe, but this mare and I have a bond that only 20 years will create. Typically, I can just turn on my mean voice and she knocks off whatever it is that she’s doing, however, this evening, she wasn’t really listening. After a moment or two of stupidity, I was able to get in her path and she skidded to a stop with her face about 2 inches from mine. Needless to say, I hooked her back to the lead and didn’t let her off again until we were in the safe confines of the paddock.
My point with all of this is that I really miss spending time with my horse. There used to be a time in my life where I was either home, or at the barn, and I’ve really lost touch with that over the years. As I get older, so does she, and while she’s in great shape and health for her age, it’s reality that horse life spans are only about 1/3 that of humans. She’s relatively OLD in horse years – and one of these days, she’s just not going to be around for me to go see or let graze in the yard or feed peppermints to. Sometimes, it takes a traumatic event to really make a person see what it is that they have been missing, or want in life. When her time comes to go meet her horsey maker, it’s going to be a gut wrenching day for me since she’s been a member of my family for most of my life, so I’ve resolved to get back into hers from now until that sad day comes, come hell or, no pun intended, high water. She’s probably not going to let me get within 10 feet of her for a few days once she’s turned back out, but I’m not going to let that discourage me. She’s been such a wonderful horse, in so many more ways than a typical horse can be, and I’m going to get her healed up, and start giving her the love and attention that she deserves. It might even be good for MY soul to reconnect with the peace that I once found with my beautiful, old mare.