Saturday, February 7, 2009

A New Best Friend

Around 8am I brought Faith for a walk around the arena to stretch her legs out. She was alert with her ears up, her pace was noticeably quicker. At her request, I let her stop and sniff the ground in a few places. After about 15 minutes, I brought her back into the barn and we did our twice-daily routine of meds, wraps, bandaging and grooming.

Faith has been in compression wraps (or standing wraps) for two days now, and what a difference it has made! All of our vets suggested using these wraps as she still had excessive pitted edema (swelling) in both hind legs. When she first arrived, her hock was actually narrower than her cannon bone, fetlock and pastern. Our previous plan was to hand walk her a few times each day. The walking would almost instantly reduce the swelling, but it was only temporary and it would come back within an hour or so. She has been in compression wraps since Thursday night, and has made a huge improvement. You can actually see the tendons in her left hind leg now!

I pulled her wraps off and put on a set of clean ones, and she stood like an angel for me. Once that was done, I needed to clean up the abscesses on the inside of her legs. They are obviously quite painful, and she kept her ears pinned to her neck from the second I'd start touching them until the end. I learned quickly that giving her a carrot actually does solve everything. This horse is apparently physically unable to put her ears back if there is something in her mouth, with the exception of a paste syringe, of course!

Dan came into the barn just as I was ready to administer her antibiotics and pain meds - perfect timing! With his help, I was confident that we were surely going to be successful in getting all of it into her mouth. And we actually did get all of it into her mouth. However, this time she outsmarted us and just pretended to swallow. Believing it was over, we let our guard down. And then it happened... again. A white spray of medicine shot out of her mouth and landed all over us. We both grumbled at her and then looked at each other. Dan had chunks of paste on his face, I had more in my hair. We laughed... (Score: Faith 4, Julie 2, Dan 0)

* * * * *

Saturday mornings are quite active at our barn, as its one of our busiest lesson days. This morning Faith was greeted by a few of our lesson students and their parents. She was attentive and focused on the carrots and treats they were feeding her. They asked about her condition and a few were noticeable upset. “How could someone do this to her?” one of the 7-year-olds asked. “I don’t know,” was the answer I gave her. I couldn’t fathom it either.

Her spirits seem much better than the past few days. She is alert and acting more like a horse instead of the sloth she has been over the past week. Like a typical mare, she pins her ears back when you walk into her stall. Once she recognizes you they point forward, looking eagerly for any treats you may have. This would normally aggravate me, but I'm actually glad to see that she has a bit of an attitude. It means that she's feeling better and is coming back around to her normal self.

Faith ate her breakfast in her stall while I taught lessons for a few hours. A whinny would be heard from her stall every time a horse left the barn. Although she had a horse in full view directly across from her, she acted as though she wanted to be outside with company. I think she was finally ready to take on that challenge. Plus, I knew that it would help with the healing process in two ways: First, her ability to move around freely would help her muscles and overall body condition. And secondly, the thought of having equine companionship would help her mind. After lessons were over, it was time to introduce Faith to Amy, the horse who will eventually become her best friend.

I have owned Amy for years - 10 to be exact - and she is an absolute sweetheart. She is a registered breeding stock Paint, 900 pounds and a whopping 14.1 hands tall. Amy came to be from a neglectful situation in 1999 and had NO trust in people when I brought her home. Over the first few months we worked together every day, building trust in each other with each session. She went on to become a champion in the show ring and my most trustworthy lesson horse. She is very passive in nature, and I knew that she would be a good match for Faith to bond with.

Around 2pm, I led both of them into the arena and cautiously set them loose. As usual, Amy went straight for the hay. (She’s a glutton, what can I say?) Faith ignored the hay at first and slowly meandered around the arena, still a little shaky on her hind legs. She smelled every corner and checked out the doors. She eventually walked up to Amy and introduced herself...

One squeal came from the little mare, and their herd dynamics were established. No kicking or fighting, just a vocalization from one stating who the boss was, and they were instant buddies. I had made a good choice.

A few hours later, after checking in on them every 20 minutes or so, it was time to bring them in for dinner. I walked right up to Amy, put her halter on and threw her lead over her neck. She was next to the arena door and knew that her grain was on the other side of it - she wasn't going anywhere. Then I meandered down to Faith, and was in for a shock...

She didn't want to be caught! I walked up to her right side and she turned her butt towards me, and headed in the opposite direction. I jogged up to her left side, and she turned back. (She still has balance and strength issues, so I was doing my best not to encourage her to trot.) I finally said "Whoa" pretty firmly and she turned towards me and stopped. I walked up to her with a halter in my hand and she turned around again and speed-walked away from me! I was shocked! I finally jumped ahead of her and had her cornered. She knew she had been defeated and put her nose out towards her halter.

Into the barn we went, Faith on my right side and her new best friend on my left.


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