Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Day in the Life of Faith

5:00 am Dan crawls out of bed, grabs a cup of coffee, puts on his boots and Carhartt jacket and heads downstairs with our two dogs. This morning was a chilly 20 degrees out; average for our little part of the world, but cold nonetheless. His first stop is Faith's stall; she greets him with her ears up only because he has hay in his hands. He slides the door open, throws her breakfast into her hay rack and takes her water buckets out of her stall. She stands there with a mouthful of hay, annoyed that our dogs are looking at her, and puts her ears back at them. Oblivious to her discontent, they stare at her and wag their tails even faster. Dan refills her water buckets and adds a scoop of electrolytes to each one, closes her door and continues on down the line of stalls. Thirteen more horses and a miniature donkey anxiously await their turn.

6:30 am After showering and checking my email, (of which lately: 95% are for Faith, 1% are for me, with the remaining 4% are from my long-lost and excessively rich cousin/uncle/prince in Nigeria who somehow needs my financial assistance,) I head downstairs to start my day, stopping first to take a pair of clean, still-warm leg wraps and quilts out of the dryer. I grain all of the other horses and turn them outside, and then it's my one-on-one time with Faith. I grab my grooming/medical kit and head towards her door.

7:00 am I enter her stall and she's still enjoying her breakfast. She looks at me and pins her ears back as usual. For a second she thinks that I have a treat in my hand, so her ears go up, eagerly awaiting a gift. She sniffs around and quickly learns that my pockets are empty; her ears go back and she drops her head back in her grain bucket. "Grumpy old lady," I say to her under my breath. She rolls her eyes at me, and I can't help but smile.

I begin my morning routine of pulling her wraps off of her hind legs and throwing them out into the aisle. I cut off the bandage over her abscesses (which are doing everything in their power to delay their own healing process,) and take a warm wet cloth to clean up the drainage. A warm compress is held to her wounds for about 10 minutes, then the area is dried and I'm ready to move on to grooming.

The mornings are cold here, so her blankets are first unbuckled and folded back, exposing the front half of her body. I begin brushing her and her ears quickly become glued to her neck again, her head still in her bucket. It only takes a few seconds and she'll remember that she actually likes being groomed, so they flop forward again. I duck under her head and groom the other side, then flip the blankets forward and brush off her hind end. By the time I'm done grooming, she has finished her grain and has turned towards her hay rack. I buckle her blanket up and put her halter on.

Faith slowly and carefully walks out of her stall into the aisle, one cautious step at a time. Mornings are tough for her; the small amount of muscle mass that she has takes quite a bit of time to warm up. Once safely in the aisle, I crosstie her and begin our rewrapping process. I tie her tail into a knot and grab the clean quilts and bandages. She normally stands well to be wrapped, but lately has found humor in resting the leg that I'm trying to bandage. It's always just as I get the quilt in place and start my bandage, that she moves just enough to bunch the quilt and send the bandage rolling away from me. Each time it happens, she looks at me - I swear she does it on purpose.

Then it's Faith's least favorite part of our ritual - time to put an antibiotic cream and gauze on her abscesses. Although they look better than when she first arrived, they are certainly in no rush to heal. I warm up the tube in my hands and squeeze some onto a gauze pad. I lightly press it onto the infected area and then wrap the entire section with vet wrap. She is getting better about it, but I believe it's only because it no longer hurts as badly. I then pick up all of the supplies and put them away. As I walk back to her, she perks her ears and waits for her two morning prizes: a kiss on the nose and an apple-flavored treat. (No need to say which one she likes more.)

8:00 am Faith is unhooked from the crossties and I lead her towards Amy's stall. I slide Amy's halter on, swing her door back, and the two girls head towards the arena, Faith on my right side and Amy on my left. I let Faith loose first and she walks a few steps forward and then trots down to the pile of hay in the center. Amy eagerly follows and they do their normal mare "let's-touch-noses-then-squeal-at-each-other-and-then-be-best-buds" routine. Amy now has supervision duty while I do barn work for a few hours.

12:00 pm It's lunchtime for Faith and Amy, so I bring in a few more flakes of hay for them and check their water buckets in the arena. Faith eagerly staggers over to me to get the first bites of the "new" hay. It doesn't matter that these flakes came from the exact same bale as the hay still left in the arena, this "new" stuff is just way better.

On a side note: I have owned Amy for nearly 10 years now and she is a glutton in every aspect of the word! This horse can learn any trick in no time because she will do anything for food. Let's just say that Amy is thoroughly enjoying being turned out with a horse who is fed free-choice hay...

2:00 pm Lesson students are showing up after school, and it's time to bring the girls inside. Faith and Amy have enjoyed being turned out, but Faith's exercise needs to be limited to only a few hours a day until she is stronger. Up until last week, she was only turned outside for an hour a day; now she's up to four! Faith is put back into her clean stall, with fresh shavings, a full hay rack and full water buckets.

2:00 pm to 6:00 pm Faith gets apples, carrots, pats on the nose, endless supplies of kisses, "Ooh's" and "Aah's" and "Oh-my-God's" from students and their parents. She enjoys every part of it. Especially the "food" parts.

6:00 pm Lessons are over and it's time to rewrap and do all the fun medical stuff with her all over again. She stands patiently on the crossties, knowing that her delicious dinner is waiting in stall for her. A student of mine helped with this project a few nights back and was eager to learn about the how's and why's of wrapping and bandaging. She commented on the process:
"You do this every day with her?" Miranda said.
"Nope," I replied. "I do it twice each day. Sometimes three
times if she needs it."
She was impressed.

6:45 pm Faith carefully enters her stall and waits patiently for me to slide the halter off of her face. She turns around and immediately heads for her grain bucket. I pat her on the shoulder, still impressed with how much fight this old lady still has in her. Impressed a little with myself as well. I continue feeding the others and sweep the barn aisle.

10:00 pm Nighttime check before I head to bed. I throw Faith another two flakes of hay and top her water buckets off. I pat her on the neck, walk back down the aisle and head upstairs. For the past few nights, I no longer need to check on her every few hours. Dan and I live directly above the barn and I listen intently all through the night in case she gets herself in trouble. Thankfully, she hasn't had any issues at night for a while now. Nonetheless, my sleep schedule will continue to be out of sync for weeks to come...

* * * * *

It has been 15 days since Faith has been here. When she arrived, we measured her with a weight tape. It said she weighed in at 1,076 pounds. Now, we know for a fact that's not even close - she's around 850 right now - but at least it is giving us a benchmark so we can approximately judge her weight gain. I'm glad to announce that the tape claimed she now weighs in at 1,111 pounds! That's an increase of approximately 35 pounds!



  1. Woman, you are a MACHINE! I work a desk job and can barely make it through the day!

    So glad she has you to take care of her!

  2. 35 pounds in two weeks isn't bad... okay, I actually don't know what weight gain for a severely malnourished horse should look like. But it sounds pretty impressive. At least she's going in the right direction!

  3. Boy Faith is a busy girl! ;)

  4. A rescue horse is quite an easy way for publicity and more clients..... not to mention extra food to feed your own horses.

  5. Those weight tapes aren't even CLOSE to telling you what the horse weighs. Of course the best way is to take the horse to a scale (one of the commercial ones that weighs truck loads), weighing the trailer empty first and then again with the horse aboard. However, those aren't exactly located on "every corner," so I use this formula and my vet says it's a lot closer than the weight tapes:

    Measure the heart girth. Measure the body length (point of the shoulder to the point of the buttock, halfway between the corner of the hip and the tail). Then get a calculator (:o)

    Multiply heartgirth x heartgirth x body length. Divide the answer by 330 to get the weight in pounds.

    I got this formula from a gal marketing ChaffHaye, a fermented hay product.