Let's face it, owning a horse means that inevitably something will go terribly wrong one day. Yes? The question you have to ask yourself is, "What does my support system look like for when that happens?"
Recently, a woman I board and ride with had that very bad day happen to her. Let's start this like all good friends should when something bad happens and they need to let you know . . . Spoiler Alert - Everything is OKAY.
Last week, I was with the husband when I noticed my BM calling. When the person who owns the place where your critters live calls you, you pick up no hesitation.
"Hey, What's up?" I asked.
"How close are you?" she replied.
At this point, I knew something was up. This woman is a solid rock. To hear her nervous is enough to make me want to grab some canned food and prepare for the Apocalypse.
"I'm not far," I replied. "The husband's truck's down so I'm actually waiting for him to drop it off at the repair place...What's going on?" I asked cautiously.
"So-and-So horse is down," she said.
"Down?" I questioned. This is the oldest horse on the property. Down could mean a multitude of things.
"He's down and can't stand back up. I think he was caught in barbed wire. The vet was my first call, you were my second. How soon can you get out here?"
"Fifteen minutes," I replied. "But wait, have you called-?"
She cut me off. "No! I have not. Let's get things under control and the Vet can call."
"I'm on my way," I said and hung up.
This was bad. This was really bad. What on earth was I going to find when I arrived out there? A bloody mess, that's for sure! No sooner than I hung up the phone did I hurry into the truck repair shop.
"Husband?! Husband, where are you? We need to go!" I shouted. "A horse is down."
There was a line of people all waiting to have work done, but the look on my face must have said it all.
A man at the front of the line looked to my husband, then back to me, then to the owner taking care of him. "You might need to let this feller go," he said. "Looks like they've got somewhere to be?"
I thanked the room, watched my husband turn in his truck keys and together we sped out the door. On the way to the barn, I explained what was going on and apologized for rushing him. He didn't care. I was nervous and honestly thankful he was there to assist with whatever may need assisting. He isn't a horse person by any means, but he is, however, super strong. In situations like these, where you're not sure what you're going to encounter, super strong is always comforting.
As we pulled down into the farm I was further comforted to see the vet was behind me - the experienced, good vet that I know. Not that I have any issues with any of the others, but if I could have picked who I wanted there, she'd have been the one.
I drove to the barn immediately and could see the horses all gathered around our old white man. Yup, he was down.
The vet headed straight for the field. I needed to toss on some muck boots, and my BM hollered to grab a halter - good sign, he's not dead.
I sent the husband with the halter while I quickly shoved some tasty things in a pouch and followed after. In the field, I found my BM and her 20-something-year old niece and two nephews she'd just picked up for a visit.
"Ha! Welcome to West Virginia," I nervously yelled.
I could see it in my BM's face. Nervous jokes were all we had. If we needed them, use them. Just keep calm. After shooing the other horses away from the down fella, I got my first look at what we were dealing with. The only thing I can say is that it looked like this poor guy's back end had gone through a meat shredder.
: : PAUSE::
This property uses a barbed wire fence - something I do not condone. It's dangerous and should never under any circumstances be used as a horse fence. That said, it is the situation that it is and while it could have been entirely preventable had the fence been a horse safe fence - it wasn't. I hope anyone reading this, if they do use barbed wire, never had to witness this and can work towards changing their fence asap. While the focus of this story could continue on in gory detail about injuries, I prefer to discuss the positives.
: : RESUME: :
I wasn't sure this guy was even going to be able to stand up. We all looked at each other with a question in our eyes directed towards him. He was tired, but not out! In less than a minute the vet actually coaxed the poor boy on his feet. She then gave him as manly shots of numbing stuff (sorry couldn't tell you want she really did) as possible.
Now, I am the last person you want on your team when gross blood is flying. Sadly, I am one of those that gets so sick they nearly vomit at the sight of gore - this was no exception.
There I was in the field, the second most experienced horse person out of 6 people. The vet looked at me and told me we had to walk this animal to the barn - no less than half a football field away. She also said he'd likely cut the equivalent of his Achilles tendon (thanks Liz) and that he would likely knuckle over on his back right foot.
"It's gonna look weird," she said. "Try not to let him go too fast so he doesn't do it."
"Okay," I said faintly.
She took off in her truck to prep for surgery and together with the BM and I just looked at each with dilated pupils.
Together, my BM and I scouted the ground and as slowly as possible walked this guy forward. I was in charge of searching the easiest path forward and watching the back feet so that they didn't do the "knuckle over" thing, while BM walked him forward. This was about a 20-minute painful process filled with treats, the good boy calling, stopping, and so much effort not to vomit.
When we finally arrived at the place where the vet had prepped my BM handed me the horse and said, "Here. Your turn."
I'd like to say the words that came out of my mouth were PC, but they weren't so we just won't say them.
I took the horse by the halter and held his head speaking as calming as I could while softly rubbing his neck. Believe it or not, this was by far the better deal. I faced forward while the vet and my BM went to work with these little wooden scrapper blocks and a hose. They had to clean the blood off this grey horse to see what really needed to be done. They went to town cleaning and scrubbing and soaping and cleaning and scrubbing while I did what I could to keep the horse still breath.
This is the part, believe it or not, that I am going to say, "good friends," and where the title of this post comes into play. Only after getting the horse diagnosed and to a point to things were starting to come under control for better or worse did we call our friend / his owner. Knowing the person, she would have lost her mind had she shown up prior to the vet. I WOULD have absolutely lost mine had this been my horse. To me, the most comforting thing that can be done in an out of control situation is regaining control. The fact that we waited to get her there is exactly what I hope someone would do for me if things ever would be in reverse.
I say this because honestly, I'm no vet. What would I do to help? I would panic and cry - just like she did. Only the tears were less because I believe she felt like things were beings taken care of as best as possible - AND THAT'S THE KEY.
That day, I learned just how important it is to have someone come when you call. I can not overstate that message enough. The reciprocity of friendship is having people that will take care of you and yours better than you can yourself AND vice versa. It is a powerful thing to know that when the world caves in, people can be there with or without a plan, but level-headed. Having people you can trust to not only get a job done but get through a traumatic situation is absolutely priceless.
The rest of this story is simple. The horse's owner showed up, and before we knew it he was all buttoned up. He's still getting through the worst of it, but he's going to be okay. While we did not exactly plan it, I believe we followed one heck of an Emergency Action Plan. In future posts, I would like to develop a few for various scenarios.
Here's a great start if you're looking to create your own along with me.
This summer is flying by. It seems like just last week I was so excited for it to begin, now nearly three months have gone by. That isn't to say Jean-Luc and I haven't covered some miles though. Honestly, it means something to me to know that since we've been together we've logged conservatively 200+ miles together - mind-blowing.
The riding club I also ride with is having a "Buns of Steel" competition. The rider with the most hours in the saddle by the end of the club season (in this case it looks like October 2018), wins a prize!
I never thought I would even be a contender, but what's the saying, "never say never?" Since April 28, 2018, the two of us have logged 83 hours together (specifically in the saddle, groundwork doesn't count). I had taken that number twice because it just feels ridiculous. Little hour rides add up, though. Last week we added 25 miles alone!
Today, though I have no pictures for proof, we even had some amazing canter work. It was short, sweet, and in a round pen, but it was the most solid I've felt in the saddle yet. The key to this seemed to be a two-fold.
The other part of this, though is that I felt strong enough to hug his barrel with my legs and roll with the motion. When I sat harder or thought about slowing down, that's exactly what happened! I guess what I'm saying is despite less collection and in the mouth, I had a much better contact in my legs - a good thing.
Trying to piece together what was going right is a little difficult. I really wish I did have a video of this because of how connected I felt. While I can't remember Jean-Luc's head placement, I do know it was the first I actually could have held a dollar bill in between my thigh and the saddle and not lost it - apparently, this is an old trick parent around here use to encourage children to learn the correct way to sit the canter.
Other things I would credit would have to just be the sheer amount of miles I've put in on any horse in the last week. A blog for another time is definitely about going to between two different quarter horses and Jean-Luc's gaited self this past week. The short version, though, is that I was reminded just how differently those horses can be.
Thanks to Liz, I had the opportunity to ride up and down Timberline resort on her rock solid quarter horse Stan, or as we lovingly now refer to him as Stanimal! The one thing I will say is that there truly is a serious difference in speed. I knew this, heck everyone can say that gaited horses just move out much faster. What I did not realize, because I've only been riding my gaited horse for the past year is that his walk is even faster than Stan (and other non-gaited breeds) trot.
Liz knows she has a tendency for being a bit brutal to ride with if you don't know what you're doing. I was nervous to even go ride with her because I'd already done 8 miles on a rail trail with my husband biking alongside earlier the same day we were supposed to ride, but I figured, what the hay! I could hang on long enough.
What I wasn't ready for was the fact that I COULD handle it all. Maybe she's making me feel good about myself, but the fact that her horse was just as smooth at his trot as I'd been working at the walk made my life cake! I really could have gone on forever - something a year ago that would have killed me. We rode less than four miles but that put my total for the day at 12 miles, something I usually only do with the riding club and make a pretty big ordeal out of. To do this like it was nothing made me feel really good.
And can I just say, riding a horse you can post on rather than do the hula on (pacers) is really nice.
I plan to go in detail about some of our other accomplishments soon, but the short list includes
My name is Chelsey.
Generator's Cuevo Gold, or as he's known around this barn, "Jean-Luc Ponycard", was foaled in 2004 from Generator's Hurricane & Cheyenne's Little Bit.
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