I know! I can't believe it either! Mouthy Monday is back!!! Whoop! Whoop! Autumn had some great photos with this story, but I can't get them loaded.
So we'll have to use our imaginations....
The first time I saw Lazarus he looked like a cow.
I had just lost my “once in a lifetime” horse to colic a few months earlier. After many many tears, I had finally reached the point where I could even comprehend thinking about maybe buying another horse.
One day that spring I got a call from my barn owner. “We picked up a horse that I think you should take a look at. We didn’t know if he was going to make it at first…but I think you might like him.”
My barn owners had received a tip that someone was giving away a TB gelding…and the first person who showed up could haul him away. They took the hour long drive sight unseen, and arrived to find a 16 hand, skinny, scrawny, dirty bay gelding. Supposedly the horse had belonged to their daughter, who went away to college.
The parents divorced, and not knowing how to properly care for a horse, they stuck him in with their cows, roached his mane, and fed him like one of the heifers. My barn owners found him inside a garage-turned barn, chained to a wall, with overgrown feet and zero muscle tone. While they didn’t know if he would make the ride home on the trailer, but took the chance and loaded him up anyway.
They decided to call him “Lazarus”…the theory being that if he even survived, it would be like he came back from the dead.
When I got the call about Lazarus, it was about a week later. He had started to pick up weight, and they felt pretty sure he would come around. They sent me to the top pasture to take a look.
As I strode up the hill, I couldn’t pick out the bay gelding they described. Finally I spotted a head poking out from behind a round bale. He was so exhausted still, he was laying down….but not stretched out on his side…he was tucked up like a cow, curled up right next to the round bale, snatching mouthfuls of hay. He was too tired to stand…but not too tired to eat. I walked up slowly….he didn’t budge.
As I reached out to stroke his neck, he turned to look at me and heaved a big drawn out sigh, as if to say “oh thank god”. He then turned and continued to attack the round bale.
In the following months Lazarus, or “Laz” as he came to be called, continued to improve physically. We discovered from his lip tattoo that he was 6, and had raced 4 times (and was a whopping failure.) He arrived with feet that probably hadn’t seen a farrier in a year. An abscess that had blown out the coronet band slowly grew out.
He came sound, and I was the first one on his back. When he arrived, Laz was fearful of men, and would fly backward if you pulled on his face. Randomly, he also refused to pick up his left hind foot. Nevertheless, I had fallen for this big gangly horse, and made him mine.
And as the summer went on, Laz continued to improve mentally and physically. He had obviously had some quality training at some point after his race career…he had a solid WTC, moved off your leg, and went in a frame. I even progressed to the point where I started him over small crossrails. I was ecstatic!
The very next day after our first jump, Laz came in from the pasture 3 legged lame. There was a small cut on his left hock, and a small amount of heat, but no other obvious cause. Per the vets instructions, we cold-hosed and gave him stall rest, and he was weight bearing the following day.
2 weeks later he was moving around fine, but was still “off” at the canter. Figuring better safe than sorry, I loaded him up and off we went to the vets. As he trotted for the vet, I distinctly remember her saying “Well he’s moving way too well for anything to be broken”.
Ha…famous last words. X-rays showed he had chipped off the back of the cap of his hock. The bone chips were now floating around in his hock, causing pain and swelling. So off we went to Cornell Vet Hospital, to get 5 bone chips removed to the tune of $3,000. I still have the jar of his bone chips they gave me after the surgery…it sits on my desk.
3 months of stall rest and hand walking followed that winter. I would bundle up and hustle out to the barn early in the morning and on my lunch breaks… where my mild mannered gelding proceeded to turn into the beast from hell.
He danced, he pranced, he knocked me over on our daily walks. He refused to return to his stall…standing outside the barn, planting both feet, and flying backward if you dared to pull oh his face (granted, I wouldn’t have wanted to go back in either…so I can’t say I blamed him). And yet somehow, he recovered fully. That hock will always be a bit large…a bit ugly…but he recovered.
That summer I dove back into schooling Laz. We worked in the ring, went to a schooling show…we took our first trail rides. Things were going according to plan. And then he colicked. I got the call as I was leaving work. Laz was down and trying to roll…obviously in great pain. I raced over to the barn, and when I arrived, was greeted by my barn owner walking a much calmer Laz in circles. Laz had been thrashing so hard that they were unable to give him Banamine IV…so they had given the shot in the muscle of his neck.
I was immediately concerned, as my vet had warned against giving Banamine in the muscle, saying it could occasionally cause a serious reaction. Unable to reach my usual vet, another local vet came out to treat Laz’s colic. I voiced my concern about the IM injection, but he assured me that he had given Banamine IM many times. Luckily, the colic was a mild gas colic - painful…but quickly resolved.
2 days later I got a call from the barn. Laz refused to walk. When I arrived, I found his entire chest swollen and puffy. The “once in a million reaction” had occurred. Laz spent the next 10 days in the vet hospital, on IV fluids and antibiotics. I watched pus squirt 5 feet across the room from an abscess we lanced. The section of his neck where the injection occurred became infected, and a giant chuck of skin and muscle literally fell off.
I watched the vet put her entire hand into the hole in his neck. She said that she could actually grab his cervical spine. If the injury had been one inch to either side, the infection would have entered his spine and he would have died. And yet, somehow, again, he survived. The hole slowly closed, the infection cleared, and he recovered.
He has a full range of motion, and the only sign of the injury is a loss of muscle on that side of his neck. My vet now refers to him as “the wonder horse”.
Today it’s been 2 years since Laz has had a serious injury (knock on wood!). He still tests me on a daily basis. Some days he is a pleasure to ride, some days the beast from hell resurfaces. He’s still a hard keeper…and now requires joint supplements and hock injections…probably from the hock surgery as well as his previous racing days. But I love him nevertheless. A few days ago I watched him in the pasture as he stole a jolly ball from his pasture-mate, and proceeded to knock the other horse over the top of the head with it. He certainly keeps me entertained. And he has definitely lived up to his name.