Monday, February 28, 2011

Come In From The Cold

Nasty Weather!

     This winter has been particularly hard on Massachusetts and our sister states in New England.   My husband and I had to spend $1200 dollars to have the roof of our house shoveled.  It took a swat team of four men four hours to clear it.  Then another $2000+ to have the fiberglass fender of my GMC Sierra replaced.  It shattered when it brushed against a snowbank while I was trying to keep clear of snow on the other side while pulling my trailer.
     "In the cold these fiberglass fenders shatter like china!"  said the gentleman at the body shop.
     "What's the point?" I asked.
     "Fiberglass doesn't rust."
     "Rusting's slower!" I replied  Another New England one-two punch--cold shatters and our wet weather and salt aids and abets cancerous rust.  Pick your vehicular trauma.
     But however difficult this time of year is for us, it's more so for our equine friends.  Temperatures that hover vaguely above and below freezing pose particular risks for horses like Dolly who are  immune-depressed and underweight.  Twice so far I've decided to shut her in her stall during periods of sleet and heavy rain rather than allow her to go in or out as she wishes.   Dolly clearly has grown up without shelter of any kind.  In fact, she was probably born outside.  Though she occasionally walks into her stall, she will remain there only if there's hay in it, and then only briefly.  She's much happier with her hay and grain outside on the fresh snow.  We let her go in and out of her stall to an outside round pen for two reasons:  to ensure she gradually but continually puts weight on her sorry frame, and to keep her stress level as low as possible.  But leaving her out in the cold sleet and rain was not an option.   We didn't want her to lose precious energy trying to keep warm, or getting so cold she could become ill, so we herded her in and rolled the door shut.  We were relieved that she immediately started eating, though she'd occasionally give an anxious whinny.   But those gradually grew fewer and fewer during the next two hours.  When I checked her later that evening she was happily munching hay.  And next morning I was glad to see that she'd felt secure enough to lie down.  
      These days most horses owned by humans are habituated to stalls because they're born there and from that time on spend at least twelve hours a day in them.  We forget that horses are natural-born claustrophobics, fearful of enclosed spaces.  (Trailering problems, anyone?)  My other horses have a choice; they can stand out in the rain or go in a stall or run-in at will.  They also sport waterproof turnout rugs.  Though Dolly is now allowing me to stroke her all over, it's still not without some trepidation--no chance she'd permit me to put a blanket on her.  And I have no desire to re-traumatize her, much less break my other arm.  


   I've mentioned that Dolly is in quarantine for thirty days (the word "quarantine" originally meant in isolation for forty days, "quarante" for forty in French) so now is the time that  I should go into a little more detail why.  You already know some of the reasons.  First, Dolly came to us from a horse wholesaler through which hundreds of horses, many of unknown origin, some sick, some physically compromised, are processed each month.  All are stressed.  Given her semi-feral state we simply assumed Dolly had never received the routine vaccinations needed to prevent tetanus, equine influenza, equine encephalitis and rabies, nor had she been wormed to control the various parasites horses are subject to particularly in poorly managed, maintained, or confined turn-out areas.  So we had to protect our horses from her until the incubation period for any of the diseases elapsed and her fecal exams showed she was no longer hosting parasites.  We also didn't want our other horses--with their strong immune systems--to transmit anything that they might be able to fight off but that little Dolly could not.   So we set up a round pen coming directly out of her stall to establish a twelve-foot space between Dolly and the other horses.  It was interesting to note that though horses almost always prefer to be with other horses and can become quite distressed when forced to be apart, Dolly seemed glad to have them near but expressed no interest in joining them.  Our horses are all fit and healthy, and I wonder if Dolly didn't recognize that on some level that--given her weakened state--being apart  from this robust and playful herd was safer.
    I mentioned in an earlier blog that Sirena, the Haflinger mare who'd been her traveling companion, was said to have pneumonia.  Fortunately, that turned out not to be the case.  But she did spike a fever of 102F several days after her arrival home in Connecticut, and was put on antibiotics, recovering quickly.  Five days later Dolly had yellow chunks of mucous hanging out both nostrils.  But, thank goodness, she didn't exhibit any swelling under her jaw--a possible indication of the hated respiratory disease Strangles--and she was alert and hungry.  As a precaution, we put her on a course of oral antibiotics.  Her nostrils have cleared but we're keeping a careful watch.
      And, of course, there were those lice!  I haven't seen any more but will give Dolly at least one more application before she leaves quarantine.  And of course we'll completely strip her stall, scrub it with bleach, as well as apply lice powder.

The Worm Has Turned

     Or rather, the egg has turned into a worm and the fly egg into a pupae!  Dolly's initial fecal exam was taken during her first week; it indicated a heavy dose of strongyles (bloodworms).   So we dosed her with ivermectin paste and will run another fecal in one week.  While picking out her pen we discovered what looked like bot fly larvae in a her manure.  Bot flies are invidious little creatures that lay eggs on horses' coats.  When a horse licks or scratches itself or grooms another egg-laden horse, these fly wannabes travel through the horse's saliva and arrive in the stomach, where they affix themselves to its lining.  For eight months they feed on precious nutrients meant for their host.  They  also prevent any nutrients they don't consume from being absorbed by blocking them from the lining with their bodies.   A large number of larvae can result in ulcers, even death.  In  late spring they're expelled in their host's manure and then burrow into the ground to become flies.  And so the cycle repeats itself.   I sent Dr. Merriam a jpeg that appears in this blog and asked him to confirm that if this was a bot pupae, was dead or alive, and what to do.  He confirmed that it was, but believed that it--and any others expelled by Dolly-were dead because of the ivermectin medicine.  He added that I should worm again in six weeks to head off the next phalanx.  Disgusting little creatures!   
Dolly, Our Horse "Dala"

   Though "Dolly" is a sweet name for our two-year-old baby, as she has begun to get healthy, and as I've seen glimpses of her athleticism,  I wondered if a more elegant name to put on her show records and entries might be more fitting.  Problem:  she now knows her name.   I needed to find something similar.  She's a red chestnut.  Hey, what were those funky, chunky, little carved red horses from Sweden called?  Weren't they "Dalas"?  I googled.  Yes, indeed, Dalas they were, and the story of their origin was as charming as they are themselves.  In the mid 18th century, war-weary, penniless Swedish soldiers were billeted among the people of the countryside.   These gentlemen repaid their hosts by presenting their children with little horses that they had carved from scraps of wood left over from local furniture and clock makers.  Because of the abundance of copper in the area they were traditionally painted red.  Well, this  had possibilities--discarded scraps of wood transformed into charming pieces of folk art.  Our once discarded and poor little Dolly girl is now "Dala," a gift to all of  us at Windflower Farm.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

There's Nothing Humorous About A Broken Humerus!

     Debbie Blascke called that morning to tell me her vet had found Sirena, the Haflinger mare, infested with lice.   She advised that I examine Dolly.
     Fortunately, my little red filly allowed me to stroke her chest then bend down below her head for a closer look, though with her usual caution.
     'Hmm--those little yellow flecks on Dolly's chest I'd thought were particles of shaving dust from her bedding didn't brush off.  I took a photo and sent it as an attachment to an e-mail to Jay Merriam, my equine vet of over twenty years:
     "Lice?" I queried
     "Lice!" read the return e-mail.  "Ring me first thing tomorrow."
I caught up with Jay early the next afternoon.  "Ainslie, go to your nearest livestock supply store and get lice powder.  She's highly contagious--not to humans--but to everything else you've got there.  Get it on today."
     "But, Jay, she's semi-feral--she barely lets me touch her neck."
     "She's just given you a great reason to speed up the gentling process."
      I went to our local Agway and purchased a cylindrical can of Insectrin Dust.  No way was Dolly going to tolerate an assault of powder being shaken from above then having it rubbed into her chest and legs!  As I told Jay, I considered it a triumph that she now allowed me to scratch her neck and withers.  She remained tense though I think she was beginning to attach some pleasure to the sensation.

     The label underscored the dust's toxicity, so when I got home,  I pulled on a pair of plastic gloves and poured the recommended dosage--two ounces--into a Baggie.  I then tied it off, took a small nail and punched about twenty holes into the plastic.  There, that should work.
     Now out in Dolly's round pen, I took a seat on the little mounting block kept out there for that purpose.   I then held out the white plastic bucket containing her lunch.  I needed to garner as much of her good will as possible to succeed at the task at hand.  As soon as I stood up,  she did what she's always done--crossed to the other side of the pen.  With a wave of my hand I had her walk forward, then had her change direction.  She was anxious but kept to a walk,  her inside ear cocked toward me.
    This was the dynamic between two horses--one senior, the other junior.  I was controlling Dolly's feet, and by compelling her to periodically change direction,  she understood she could not simply run away.  It was icy out--I didn't want her to slip--and I was relieved she showed no desire to switch to a higher gear.
    After a few more quiet revolutions and changes of direction,  I took a few steps towards her.  I made sure to keep one shoulder angled in and my eyes cast down--a less threatening posture.  Dolly slowed to a halt, turned her head and looked at me.  We had just had a a brief but successful exchange in what famed horse whisperer Monty Roberts calls the Language of Equus.  
     I walked forward.  Then, when it looked like the pressure of my presence might compel her to want to escape by walking forward,  I stepped back until, once again, she was marginally less tense.  Within a couple of minutes I was at her side scratching her withers and neck for longer than I'd ever done before.   I backed up, turned and went to get a lead from the barn.   I had a choice between a twenty-five foot or twelve foot length.  If I took the longer, I wouldn't have to pull on her face or let go if she spooked.  Yet, that was a lot of rope to handle while applying medication.  I decided on the shorter even though I might need to let it go thus causing a slight set-back in her training.

     Lead in hand, I began the process once again.  I clipped it onto the ring of her halter.  This was the first time since her arrival  Dolly was 'in hand'!  Holding the plastic bag, I stroked her neck and shoulder, then moved slowly along her back.  But every once in a while I returned to the more habituated neck and shoulder.  Now for her other side which, at present, was too close to the round pen. It would be foolish to try to squeeze in between this fearful two year-old and the metal panel.   I needed to get her to step away.   So I stood about three feet away from her shoulder and pulled gently on the lead.  The goal was to get get her to yield her head and neck to the steady pressure which I would then immediately release.  I'd repeat this process until she stepped in with her forehand.  But Dolly turned in right away reversing quickly like an angel fish in an aquarium.  She immediately stepped into trot absorbing the slack in the rope.  I tried to keep up in order to prevent it from getting taut but couldn't.  As soon as Dolly felt the heavy pressure of the nylon halter around her face, she bolted.  And, for some inexplicable reason, I failed to drop the lead.  That would have been the right thing to do.  It's what I had done many many times before.  But that day my neurons somehow misfired.  Dolly pulled me into a mammoth-sized manure puddle covering a flat sheet of ice that any Zamboni driver would have been proud to call his own.  I flew forward body-surfing several yards through the freezing fetid liquid.
    Dripping and chilled to the bone, I asked Dolly to trust me just once more that day.  Five very long minutes later she did, and I was able to undo the potentially dangerous lead.   Sopping clothes now in the washer, I showered and dressed as quickly as the increasing pain in my arm and shoulder allowed. I then called the emergency appointments at Acton Medical Associates.  I had to get their okay before proceeding to the hospital.  "I think I broke my arm and should go directly to the ER."
    "Or you could get X-rayed here.  On a scale of one to ten how would you rate your pai--"
     "Feel free to proceed directly to the hospital."

      "You've got an evulsion fracture in the upper humerus," said the doctor looking at the X-ray.  "The pull of the rope hyper-extended your arm.  A portion of your  tendon detached from the bone taking a small chunk with it."
     I groaned.  "Four to six weeks to heal."  (In my six decades of life I'd become a connoisseur of broken bones.")
     "About that, but you need to  see an orthopedic surgeon within the week."
     "I'm not going to need surgery?!"  My tone was half-interrogative, half-declaratory.
     He took it as a question.  "Don't know, but you are  going to need a good bit of  physical therapy.  Here's a prescription for some pain killers.  And get plenty of rest."
    "I mean it--rest!"
     When I got home I fed and watered eight horses and a mule.  The farm must go on.






Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dolly Arrives at Windflower!

      "Holly Jacobson is here!"
      "Send her up!"  I put the kettle on, spilled some cookies onto a plate and ran to my computer to save some photos I'd been editing.
      Five minutes later still no one.  I trotted downstairs, pulled on my Wellies and went outside.
     Ah, of course, she went right to my horses.  Silly me--anyone who knows anything about horses is familiar with this behavior.  Who cares about a house!  I walked up and offered my hand.
      "You must be Holly!" I addressed the back of  a petite person stroking the nose of my Haflinger mare Firefly.
      "I am."
      "Oh, my--the person who turned to me with a smile had no hands, completely lacked an arm,  and her face!   She had obviously suffered multiple burns and had endured multiple surgeries. At sixteen my son had been in a gun powder explosion and spent several days at Shriners' Burn Center in Boston.  He'd incurred first, second, and third degree burns on his neck, arms and face, but those had been  minor compared to what this woman had gone through.  I'd no idea when I first talked with her on the phone-- she chatted about  rides on the beach with her horse, how she competed in hunter/jumper  shows but was now focusing on dressage.  An extraordinary story was standing in front of me, but hearing it would have to wait:  She was here to listen to mine.
      As we shook hands I noticed Holly's  eyes tearing in the cold.  "Come in.  We can have some tea and chat."
      There were quite a few of us around the table; fourteen year-old Tim who had ridden with me for five years.  Multi-talented, an athlete with an intellectual bent, he has a heart the size of New England.   And four  members of a French family of six I'd met  over eight years ago when I ran into the parents--Anne and Richard in the woods. ( I was riding my Andalusian mare and ponying her ten year-old gelding behind me.)    Anne had ridden horses in France as had all her children.  They started taking lessons when they came to the U.S. but found it prohibitively expensive.  Well, I could take care of that!  (This was before I had my instructors license and started my little riding school.  Now I kindly accept payment.)   I resurrected a few lines of high school-mangled French inviting them to visit Windflower.   We've been dear friends ever since, and all her children--the eldest daughter now lives in Virginia-- have evolved into talented horse trainers in their own right.
      Hadrien is the second eldest, and when he's not at his studies at  UMASS Amherst, he is busy running his own Natural Horsemanship business.  Juliane--zipping through high school in three years--teaches, trains and rides  anything and anyone here at Windflower, while ten year-old Dana round pens, groundworks, and rides the ponies, mini gelding and mule. In addition to her teaching duties at two private schools, and her work as a nature photographer,  Anne manages to find time to ride and train here as well.  Of course, like any all-American mom in her "spare" time she serves as head chauffeur to her children.  (To better get to know these talented kids please feel free to click on this you tube:  It will also give you and idea what our activities are on and off the farm.)
      For the next hour we talked with Holly about Natural Horsemanship, describing how gentle and clear it is to horses since it speaks to them in a language of movement they understand and which incorporates herd dynamics.  We spoke of our relationships with our  horses and each other.  And we told stories--of our Welsh pony who came to us because she  adamantly said no to her unrelenting lesson program at a nearby farm; of Firefly, a beautiful  Haflinger who two years ago contracted Potomac Horse fever, ran at temperature of 107.5F,  foundered badly but is now completely sound.  And, of course,  Kip, the equine heroine in my book The Kaleidoscope Pony.   (available at, Dover Saddlery and Willow Books here in Acton.
        I heard the electronic strains of Pachebel's Canon in D Major.  Normally I would have turned off my cell for the interview.
        It was Debbie."We're on 495!"    "We'll be there shortly."
       "How's Dolly?"
       "Trailering like a champ!"

        "You're here on an exciting day."  I quickly explained the situation to Holly, excused myself, then walked down the driveway to meet Debbie and her husband Jeff.  I had hoped the interview would be over by the time Dolly arrived.   In fact, I hadn't really wanted kids here either except, perhaps, Juliane and her brother.   We'd already been disappointed once.  And I had taken this filly sight unseen.  She could have wobbles, strangles, flu-rhino. shipping fever--it could be a sad ending.  'Stop, enough, basta!  Today is going to be a celebration,' I told myself.  Yet, as  I walked down to our cul-de-sac I felt compelled to rap the trunk of a nearby tree with my knuckles for luck.
        I hopped into the the Blaschke's crew cab and after many moves between  piles of plowed up snow--now mostly ice--we managed to back to the open barn door.  Then I got my first look at Dolly:  Adorable--so very sweet and so very frightened.   But the camera had certainly added at least ten pounds:  Underneath her winter coat she was a bag of bones.
         The Haflinger,  Sirena,  and Dolly's  trailer-mate was also terribly thin.  Her right ear was split, she had lice and pneumonia. But saddest of all, her udders were full of milk.  She had to have been separated from her foal less than two weeks previous.   In the last seven years years of her life this fourteen year-old creature had lived seven places  and, while she was not as frightened as Dolly, she clearly trusted no one.  Poor, poor girl!
        We got to work. ( Those of you with experience training horses to load in a trailer know that they  must be taught to step backwards before they get fully in the trailer.  They need to learn to trust the footing and learn that they are not about to step off the planet as they back up.   But, of course, Dolly was semi-feral so at the auction house that had not been possible. Once in, the doors had to be slammed shut before she tried to rush off or even rear-up and flip over yet again.)   But Jeff Blaschke was a linebacker of a man with the calming magic of a child's teddy bear.   Once the back ramp was down he positioned himself in front of Dolly encouraging her with a gentle push of his body to take a small step backward.  Dolly planted her feet.
     I stroked her neck.  She was trembling.
     "Please, Dolly.  I 'm taking a leap of faith with you.  Please, --take one here with me."
      Another shove from Jeff--then another.  Her front legs took a single step back.  Much soft praise and stroking from Jeff.  Another push and another step, but her hind legs didn't budge.  She had assumed the posture of an elephant on a drum, front and hind legs nearly touching her back arched.  More praise, constant pushing pressure and finally her hind legs stepped backwards.   A couple of minutes later she was almost all the way out.  We pushed on her shoulder and got her to turn around.  She quickly ran through my barn, into her stall and out into the quarantine pen we'd set up that morning.  Dolly was home!
     The kids ran out to unhook the lunge line attached to Dolly's halter and 'filly-sat' while I ran into the house to write a check  which I hoped would at least cover the cost of the gas for the Blaschke's  trip.  They had been amazing.  I wanted to get to know them better.  But Sirena--now divested of her traveling companion--had grown anxious and fretful.  She was pushing against the butt-bar trying to get out.  They had to get going fast.  We traded e-mail addresses and promised mutual updates on our newly-adopted equine children.  Good-by hugs were exchanged.
       Holly--who by then had told me that she'd been in a car fire and that in her words, "the horses kept calling me back "--had to leave as well.   Late afternoon traffic on Route 128--even on a Saturday--was never pleasant.  And there was the added dimension of  having to steer her specially configured car with her feet.  Hadrien also had to leave to get back in time for a friend's birthday party, and Anne started making preparations for the evening feed.
      So now I could be with Dolly.  I walked into the round pen.  She was contentedly munching hay.  How I hated those two little green squares that read '613'  slapped onto either side of her rump.  Her hooves were lamentable--not so much overgrown as hideously worn and split.  Her pasture--no bucolic imagery here, please--must have been mostly rock.  Not a chance that this wild little girl who'd never seen the likes of a halter  would ever have a let a farrier and his rasp near her.  Those hooves had worn down--albeit badly--on their own.
      Tim, Juliane and Dana were standing at a respectful distance.  Dolly didn't seem terribly frightened.  She simply walked off if I came within ten feet of her.   Anne soon joined us and we talked softly about how extraordinary the day had been--a horribly neglected but dear little filly, inordinately generous strangers, an amazingly heroic writer and jounalist.   And then there were the  horses, all with their own special stories,  staring curiously at this little red chestnut filly, soon to be a member of their herd.  I glanced over at Dana--her pretty little face was buckling up with emotion.  Juliane put her arm around her sister's shoulder and then they both wept.
      "What on earth are you crying for?" I asked.  "She's been saved.  Cut it out, the two of you.  You'll get yourselves dehydrated!"
       I turned to Tim.  "It doesn't help that Juliane's currently  studying the Holocaust."
       I saw his eyes fix on the square green sticker '613'.  He spoke slowly.  "It's the same thing."





Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Camelot Auction


       I called Camelot Auction first thing Friday morning and talked with a personable woman named Kim. 
        "I'm interested in #613."
         "Let's see, 613--oh, still available.  He's as cute as a button."
        (Uh-oh, I said to myself, this was a boy!  I had mostly mares.  Herds are matriarchal and mares will accept a filly far more easily than a gelding. A weak underweight little guy would not do well with my girls.)    "'He?'"  Are you sure he's a he?  The listing said--"
         I heard a gruff male voice with a southwestern accent in the background,  "I'll take another look."
        "We'll get back to you," the woman said and clicked off.
         I re-scanned the list of available horses while I waited.   Maybe one of these emaciated bay two year-olds, or this black mare covered in mud and rain rot.   God, this was a heart-crushing process.  Saying yes to one meant saying no to others.  The phone rang.   A "New York minute" apparently had nothing on a New Jersey minute.  
          "Hi,  can't believe this but 613 is a filly, "Kim said.  "No idea how we got that wrong. You want her?"
          I didn't know what was acceptable auction house protocol.   Thousands of horses are funneled through them each year.  And yet if I didn't ask at least a few questions--   "Does she seem healthy, I mean sound?  Do you know anything about her?"
          "She came in with a bunch from Tennessee.  They weren't cared for--starved.  Should be okay.  Probably not even two yet.  Look like Quarter horses--unregistered, of course.
          "Know anything about the owner?
          "Nope.  Didn't know they were even coming 'til they showed up at the gate.   Someone probably just wanted to get rid of them.  Got a shipper  to clear out a field.  Who knows?"
           My temporal muscles started to tighten--that migraine was coming back.  "Okay,  613 it is."     
          Leap of faith taken in four short words.   I pulled out my credit card.

         My next task was to get little Miss #613 trucked up here as soon as possible.  I had a four -horse trailer pulled by a four-passenger Sierra dually.  It was huge rig to drive around New York City and across the George Washington Bridge.  In fact, it was a huge rig to drive anywhere.  And something else:  If I walked by a kill pen and there were horses heading to slaughter I was afraid I would loose impulse-control: I'd grab three more.  I was in a bit of a fix:  First, the reputable haulers that I knew would not run the risk of transporting a possibly diseased horse from an auction house.  I spoke with some listed on the Camelot site but no one seemed to be coming this way with a full load.   Trucking only one horse from New Jersey to Acton (a half hour northwest of Boston) would cost nearly $700.
         I called Kim back.  The more I talked with this woman the more she struck me as the Oscar Schindler of Camelot Horse Auction.  She had two horses of her own and greatly admired natural horsemanship trainers Pat and Linda Parelli.  No real horse person would consider stepping into an auction house unless it was to save an animal.  I have a friend who went to one in Virginia and ran out vomiting.  Yet Kim was in the thick of it, working as hard as she could to keep as many horses as she could off the meat trucks.  And she networked tirelessly to help people such as myself get their animals home without breaking the bank.  This without remuneration.
         I wanted to know more about her.  "Kim, most people would find the kind of work you do highly stressful.  I mean no matter how hard you work a number of horses must go to slaughter."
        She didn't answer but kept at the task at hand.  Oh God, I'd been too intrusive.
      "Ah, here.   A lady from  Connecticut is coming to pick up  a Haflinger mare.  I'll call and give her your number, and then she can call you if she wants.  Keep me posted.  And, Ainslie, about my work--?"
       " I thrive on pressure."


        Within ten minutes Deborah Blaschke--who turned out to be an assistant at an equine veterinary clinic--called me 
       "My husband and I are picking up our horse first thing tomorrow.  We'd be happy to help you out with your filly."
       "Wonderful.  Thanks so much.  I'll drive down to your place in Connecticut that
       "Does she have a name yet?"asked Debbie.
         An If I Were Going reading primer I had in the second grade told the story of an English boy and girl who lived in Hastings, England and rode a beautiful mare named Dolly.  Also,  I loved The Dolly Suite by Gabriel Faure.  "Her name is Dolly."   (These past two days I had gotten fast at equine decision-making.) 
         "What a sweet name."
      Debbie and I ironed out a few more logistical details and it was settled.  I'd drive down that Saturday afternoon as soon as I'd finished an interview with Massachussetts Horse magazine.   
         Debbie Blascke called at at 8:05  Saturday morning.      
      "We've been delayed.  We're still an hour away--lot of construction.  Didn't want you to worry.  We'll call as soon as they're loaded and were on our way."
       Two lessons later and still the phone hadn't rung.  It was approaching eleven.  I knew I shouldn't annoy these kind people.  After all, they called as soon as they were delayed--that they would phone when they were en route.  Still, I couldn't bear it.  I dialed and got Debbie's voice mail.   Hmmn, maybe there was a glut of people picking up their horses.  Or, maybe there was loading trouble.  I had visions of my filly flipping over backwards.  Within five minutes of my hanging up the phone rang.
       "Well, they're both on and the ad was right--she is one terrified baby.  She's never had a halter on in her life.  It took a half hour halter her and almost an hour more to load.  I'm afraid she got a bit dinged up.   She went over backwards but she seems okay."
       "Oh, God.  How am I going to load her when I get to your place?"                                                                                                                                                                 
       "You're not, we're coming to you.  You might never get out of Connecticut, and we're don't want to put her through it again.  We'll see you in about two and a half hours."
        Incredible, these wonderful people had already added and extra hour and half working with my obviously semi-feral filly.  And now they were adding yet another three hours to their already
very long and exhausting day.  And I had no idea that my day of  wonderful people--not to mention a wonderful horse little horse-- was just beginning.







Monday, February 14, 2011

Another Rescue at Windflower Farm?

After my sixteen year-old friend Juliane and I dropped Luta off at Bear Spot we both cried.  I knew he'd be fine:  I had made the best decision for my farm and him but it still weighed heavily on my heart.  If I had spoken with the vet who first examined him I would not have taken him to Windflower.   But for a variety of reasons I did not get this information until he was here.   However, at least Bear Spot Farm now had two vet opinions on this pretty fellow.

I slept fitfully the following night:  All I could think of were the horses, donkeys and mules that come into Camelot, New Jersey and New Holland, Pennsylvania auction houses.  The condition and circumstances of these creatures is as varied as the individual animals themselves.  Some are covered with rain rot and mud, foundered, wrecked with navicular, coughing with pneumonia or a hideous combination.   But some seem to be in fine fettle.    Who gives them up?  The reasons are as varied as their condition.   Some are no longer serviceable--old, tired and broken.  Others released for economic reasons:   By broken hearts that can no longer afford them or  by those who have no heart.  Word is out that there is actually one monster--I understand she believes herself to be a woman---who travels around the mid-Atlantic states answering ads listing free horses in such publications as Craig's List.  She says she is looking for a horse with whom to surprise her non-existent daughter.  Arrangements are made, hugs are exchanged, and she then takes the poor creature straight to the auction.   She receives a check for slightly less than meat market price.

I turned on the light, walked to my study and googled  Camelot Auction.   I  scrolled down the pictures of the over twenty available horses, ponies and one sweet-faced mule.  Heartbreaking.  I went to bed but poor sleep was soon overtaken by a terrible migraine.   Okay, okay, all right,  I knew the cure.  I got back on the computer and scrolled down to a head shot of a horse with a chestnut blaze and the loveliest brown eyes.  "#613"  CHESTNUT MARE?  14.2 AND 2 YEARS.  RAN  THROUGH LOOSE. ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED BABY.   THIN  $60

"Sixty dollars?"  Luta's meat market price had been $355.00 and he stood just three inches taller than this little girl.  She must be thin, indeed.  My 15 year-old shepherd mix shoved her head under my right hand.  She needed to go out--again.   Bo's health was failing.  If I didn't lift her hind end out the front door and stabilize her front end on the steps, it would buckle and and she would fall. But she was still happy and the pain from her arthritis well-mitigated by medication.  She was not ready to leave us yet.   I grabbed a coat and went out with her.  The cold February sky was black and awash with stars, the white snow yellowed and soiled by  my declining canine friend who could now only travel a few feet from her front door.   By the time Bo was ready, and I lifted her back up the the step, I had already decided to call Camelot in the morning and see if number "613" was still available.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Star and Luta

Hello everyone,

I'm sorry this blog is three days late but things have been hopping (as well as snowing, again!) here at Windflower Farm.  For the past three weeks we had the pleasure of having a  Quarter Horse here courtesy of Bear Spot Farm's rescue efforts.  Owner and proprieter, Dr. Jane Karol has just initiated a  a program that brings in horses that are headed to slaughter and re-homes them.  (For more information re: the great work Jane does check out the Bear Spot Foundation Website) Well, I fell in love with a sweet-faced 15.3 hand three -year-old named 'Star'.   And since it seemed all was well with him--there was some minor concern expressed to me about capsulitis--I thought he might do well as a citizen here.

 Sadly, it became quickly apparent that poor Star was in significant pain.  He retracted his back when my trainer and I took turns lightly touching it.  His stance was awkward.  The only time he trotted was at feeding time but would immediately fall back into walk after a few steps.  I talked with Jane who said she and her natural horsemanship trainer Gary saw him lunge and that he appeared perfectly sound.  (Well, possible reason-- Bear Spot Farm has gorgeous footing and I do not, at least not until Spring when the three feet of snow  has receded. ) She also gave me the phone number of  Erica Fuller, DVM who had  checked Star out shortly after his arrival at her farm.    I got hold of her later that day.  Dr. Fuller said  Star had multiple conformational challenges.  (No need to elaborate here but for those of you who are familiar with Quarter Horses, particularly those bred to show in the halter category, you  know what they are.)  She added that his feet were in lamentable condition and thought it best if I could let him go barefoot until Spring.

This made me nervous-- Jane kindly offered to take him back --but he was here at Windflower and everyone was already in love.  So I pulled his shoes and scheduled--and re-scheduled (more snow!)--lameness expert Dr. Liz Maloney to come give him a more thorough going over.  The news was not encouraging.  She believed his conformational issues central to his lameness.  At the walk turning to the right he she rated him a 3 out 5 for lameness and described the sole of his right foot as "partially prolapsed."  The check ligament on his right front was thickened and possibly also a factor in his lameness.  She found his back "extremely tight" most likely due to guarding for foot pain.  She said navicular disease was also a possibility.

Liz recommended that  'Star' be fitted with corrective shoes--wedges with break overs brought way back with snow bubble pads to minimize  pressure on his very thin soles.   Dr. Maloney said it would take 2-3 shoeings before she would be able to know if most of his issues were related to his misshapen feet, his being now barefoot or larger issues.  (Dr. Maloney also  noted that the shoes he arrived in here at Windflower had to have been  causing him pain because the rim pads would have been putting too much pressure on his thin soles.)

Dr. Maloney was concerned that even low-level dressage would be too much for him because of his poor conformation and that he should not jump for a year once he was determined to be sound.

In addition to Dr. Maloney's sobering assessment, I noted that 'Star' chose to spend most his time
in his stall rather than out on the snow.  I believe the bedding offered his feet more relief than the uneven snow.  As I said earlier, he was reluctant to trot and,  I never once saw him buck and play.

Sadly, I decided to return him to Jane who understood and deeply sympathized with all my and Dr. Maloney's  concerns.   We will miss him but I have no doubt that Jane and her staff will do their utmost to heal 'Star'.   I'm sure the clients in her incredible equine-assisted therapy program will be involved
in his rehabiliation. She has a top flight staff  and the facilities to give him the level of treatment --vet, farrier, chiropractic--he will require over the next several months. Not until then would Jane ever consider re-releasing him for adoption and only then to that special person who would  understand Star's needs and provide him with the love and care he deserves.