Saturday, September 10, 2011

When it comes to this little horse, any shred of logic I've ever had disappears.

So I've been really busy this week. 

My tiny mare came up lame last weekend.  She walked past me Saturday evening totally normal, got a drink at the trough, and came back with her right hind sort of... dangling.  She's had her hind legs wrapped up good and tight since then.  

And she's walking on it.  Trotting and loping too, actually.  

The thing about Copper is that she's been a strange combo of fragile and resilient her whole life.  And we are stupefyingly in love with her.  She's so cute.  Look at her up there.  Everything about her is short and compact.  We joke that she's got a big head compared to the rest of her, but that big head is little compared to any other horse.  I buy stuff for her in the pony section which suits me fine, cuz I buy my clothes in the kid section sometimes.  

The kid section?  She belongs to my kids.  This summer we've had to finally admit that they have both grown out of her.  We knew it would happen.  So what?  She stays.  I'm not outgrowing her.  She's got a home for life. If I'm the only person who ever gets on her back from now on, that's fine.  

I decided years ago I'd probably not use her in lessons, partly because she is ridiculously sensitive and responsive.  I can stop her without touching the reins, just a shift of my weight and a quiet "whoa."  She moves from a walk to a jog and back again the same way, just with me shifting my seat.  Having an inexperienced rider would frazzle her.  She kind of spoiled my kids, having learned to ride with her, because they can't get why every horse isn't like that.  I'm not saying she's easy to ride; you have to be on top of every cue or she gets confused.  She's so eager to please she almost turns herself inside out to get it right for you.  But it's not work to ride her.  

I'd also not use her for lessons because she's had problems with That Leg before. 

I mentioned fragile and resilient.  

She's had all kinds of crap to deal with.  As a weanling, the other two foals in the herd only let her up to the feeder for leftovers.  Last year I figured out that her new bitchy snappy behaviour was due to a stomach ulcer.  She got a nail in her hoof a couple years ago and before that had to have stitches in her forehead.  (See why I'm paranoid about sharp things???)  And before that, when she was a yearling, soon after she arrived at the Ol Homestead here, she had a broken leg. 

Yep.  Right hind.  

We fixed her up the best we could.  Our vet couldn't promise anything.  We knew that... and decided to keep her anyways.  She healed up quite well, and I went ahead and saddle broke her when she was three, always keeping an eye on That Leg. She didn't take a wrong step, although her back end has always been a little... swishy.  I don't know how else to describe it.  She would probably have a little swagger anyways but it seems like her stride is just a tiny bit shorter on one side.  But then, I admit that I am looking for it.  Always looking for it.

We have enjoyed nine years with her.  She taught my kids to ride, which I would never recommend - young green horse plus little kids?  Nooooo! - but under my watchful eye they all thrived together.  

For nine years, it never left my mind that she could possibly end up really, terribly lame again.  I was always looking for that limp. Time bomb.

All the crap this horse had dealt with, and she just goes with it.  She still wants her forehead rubbed. She's always happy to see us.

When Dr Rob the Vet came to look at her on Tuesday, after I'd been wrapping her for a few days, I opted not to do the $200 Xray.  What difference does it make if it's cracked or sprained?  The treatment is the same:  wrap her legs, keep her still as possible, mild exercise, a little bute for painkiller, some mineral ice gel to help with the swelling... and no promises.     

I lived over an hour away the first time she was damaged, and had two small kids, and couldn't do much to care for her.  Copper got put on stall rest and got walked twice a day, usually by my dad.  Dr Glen the Vet was amazed at how this little yearling filly walked at the end of the lead rope with her head level, well behaved after being in her stall all day.  I wasn't there: no bandages and no fussing.  Now, at the age of ten, I don't know if she'll heal as well as she did then.  I'm cautiously optimistic.  

Part of our decision all those years ago to give her a chance, was that we would NEVER sell her.  I mean, you could tell a buyer that she has a healed injury and should not be worked hard - no jumping, no barrel racing - and after she appeared sound, it might be, oh heck, she's fine, let's take her to the rodeo, and then a few months or weeks or years later she's ruined and suffering.  It didn't matter because the kids wouldn't consider selling her in any case.  But, we also had to think about... the end.  I told the kids she might not live to be an old horse.  If she is suffering and I can't help her, we have to make The Hard Decision.  

I don't wanna talk about that right now.  Like I said, cautiously optimistic. 

Look at the muscles on this little fart.  

If she hadn't been injured, I think she would have been one hell of a competition horse.  She is blindingly fast, and can turn on a dime.  Just plant one hind hoof and pivot.  (Hmmm.  Wonder how she hurt herself this time?)

I've been putting her in a stall overnight, with the top of the barn door open so she can get lots of fresh air and see the other two, who are in the corral overnight.  During the day, they go in the pasture and she stays in the corral.  They have to be in her sight or she'll go berserk.  She can't function unless she knows where they are.  She'd hurt herself worse if she's left to spin and fret in her stall, worrying about the other two.  

This way she can see them, without them pushing her around, and also get some exercise as she walks in the corral.  

I make no money with this horse.  I can't afford to spend a whole lot on these horses at all but it's especially hard to justify for the little pet here.  I don't care.  For the cost of a few bags of shavings to bed her stall, I'll stable her at night for stall rest.  It doesn't cost anything but time to wrap those legs until I see the limp go away.  Maybe it's a stupid priority to keep feeding her when she's not the most useful horse in the herd, when I've got debts to pay and a truck that needs work, a husband who needs to go to the dentist and kids who need to go to college some day.  I don't know... My farmer's daughter practicality tells me it's foolish.  My foolish heart tells me I can't let her down.  She deserves to be taken care of.  

...those blinky eyes and brown ears, and that soft pink muzzle... 

Oh hell, what's a few hundred bucks a year for a couple hoof trims, a few squirts of dewormer and a  rabies shot?  

She's priceless.


jules said...

I hear ya, girl!

Anonymous said...

It's the same at our place. Finally have two great horses and a pony made of gold and I'd pretty much do anything to keep them. For them and for my sanity/therapy too :)

Can I use horses as a write off come tax time if they are my daily dose of therapy????

Nicole McInnes said...

Priceless, indeed. My first horse was an Appy, and I continue to have SUCH a soft spot for them. What a lucky girl she is to have you, Heidi (and you two make a pretty picture together, too).


mugwump said...

very lucky girl...the horse too.

Laura Crum said...

I'm currently facing a different (but similar in some ways) struggle, which I wrote about over at equestrianink. We just want to do the best for our horses and sometimes its hard to figure out what that is. Your little mare is very cute and she is lucky she is yours.