Monday, September 19, 2011

Mouthy Monday Returns!

Heidi the Hick is a talented writer from Canada with a very fun blog. I bumped her up in line a little because she'd like some input on her horse....


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 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.

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.


  1. deedee sonnyduo@yahoo.comSeptember 19, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    Quite wonderful!

  2. Why yes, yes she is. And so are you, for seeing her value is beyond dollars.

  3. Good for you! I have a 24 yr old App in semi-retirement who has a forever home with us. Hope your girl heals up quickly.

  4. Hi Heidi,

    Lovely story about your little mare and best of luck, I hope she heals quickly. Good for you for giving her a forever home.

    I don't see that you have to justify it at all, it's a perfectly reasonable decision. She has given your family much and deserves much in return. So often I hear people more or less apologising for keeping an older or less sound horse which has given them long service; keeping them seems to me to be the only honourable decision. I suspect 'practicality' is used to justify callous attitudes towards animals, so big respect to you for not taking that approach and for being committed to your mare.

  5. Heidi: your generous spirit is likely what's kept this little mare strong through all her trials.

    Sometimes the hardest thing for those of us with old ponies have to learn is how to be OK with mitigating issues rather than solving them. Fortunately, the "less is more" approach is also often the right thing to do for an old horse (rather than expensive and/or experimental vet treatments).

    Horse ownership just doesn't make sense financially--for those of us who just love 'em, it's a money pit from the get go. You know that old saying "you can't take it with you...?" Well, there is one thing you CAN take with you--the love you've shared with Copper. Best wishes and best of luck to you both.

  6. Heidi, She's lovely and deserves time to heal for sure. You're preaching to the choir though, I have a mare, bought as a foal, my pride and joy, who got a bacterial infection at 2 (leptospirosis) and was blind by 5 because of it. Another amazing athlete who never got to prove it; so gorgeous I could spend 24/7 just watching her walk around her paddock.

    Sending healing energy to Copper!

  7. I have just spent that last two years getting Lily healthy/sound. She's not perfect, not competition worthy, but she sounds like a cousin to Cooper. She can't do lessons because she takes every cue seriously. She has more try than any horse I've ever seen. And if her joints were better, she'd give them a run for the money.

    We finally got her sound through, oddly enough, her mouth. She had some tooth problems, the pain made her throw out her shoulder and her joints were never that good after barrel racing.

    Now she's on MSM, regular (every 6 month) adjustments, and her teeth kept in good shape (because she has two the vet messed up, I had to bring in a real equine dentist).

    And it's been worth every darn cent and time of worry and fretting. Cuz she's my shiny penny girl.

    (Cooper looks great in her boots. :) )

  8. yep I second the you're not alone. I have a 13 year old, not cheap reining mare that crippled due largely due to a training accident and fracture at 3 yrs. It took me 10 years to save $$ to get another one, but my crippled mare still lives like a queen and will until the day her life-quality deteriorates. I never mind feeding her, paying for the farrier, grooming her daily, etc. She is just too kind and beautiful. she didn't ask to be on the receiving end of a bad decision.

    I love it that you recognize her worth; her sensitivity and attributes, and that you called the vet. Dr. Glen has a good clent :)

  9. Wow, it's so comforting to hear all this assurance that I'm handling this the right way. I have a hard time (sometimes) getting past the idea that every animal has to be useful/ earn its keep. And that maybe it's ok if that little gorse is just there because we love her. It's hard though, when there are bills to pay and mouths to feed.

    I just feel like she deserves a good life. She was so good to my kids when they were little. So yeah, she's got a home with us permanently. And I don't need to justify that!

  10. Mmhmm...I think I'm in love. I can't help it. Hi, my name is Anna, and I'm an Appaholic.

  11. Nice horse! And like everyone else says, you are preaching to the quire! My gelding is only 13 and has a bad stifle due to training when he was young as a cutting horse. I Can't afford to do the injections like everyone tells me I should, but I do have him on joint supplements and natural pain management. He seems to be holding up really well. I hope that your horse heals..I know what you are going through!

  12. I'm a little (lot) late to this and hackneyed to boot, but: you can't buy love and money doesn't make you happy.

    That said, of course lack of money can make you unhappy. It's very hard when there's a calamity and it's going to cost £££ to fix and you haven't got the money. I've sent a horse on before now because I was getting too attached and I couldn't afford to keep it forever. And I've also had one put down that maybe, might be, possibly, expensively, could have been fixed and that hurt too. I'd never condemn anyone for taking that step if they had to.

    Happily it doesn't sound like you're at that point, so I guess what you really mean is emotional investment enough of a reason to keep a horse? And so my answer joins the choir of hell YES!

    As to the practicalities - is it the cannon or the splint you think might be fractured? If it's the cannon, I have seen an older horse come back from it (21), and a splint bone fracture is definitely recoverable. The main thing I found was to avoid any and all hard ground (concussion impedes the knitting process) be seriously diligent with the wraps and hosing/icing (of both legs) and be really really careful about trimming - you don't want her feet getting long as any imbalance will strain the fracture site, but overly radical trims can actually make things worse.

    Sometimes you get amazing horses out of the odd crosses. One of my favourite horses ever was just such an unprepossessing, he was appy x tb x QH x ??? - he threw to the appy side - he was barely 15hh, cowhocked, and inclined to face balding in summer, and he had such a plain head but he was always so brighteyed and knowing you hardly noticed. He was also horribly butt high with that typical high knee, plunking appy trot yet was one of the lightest, most athletic horses I've ever ridden - he could jump the moon and what's more do it from a standing start. So careful, so quick, so clever - and so naughty at home. He was the past grand master of the spin-spook-dropped shoulder and buck and dropped almost everyone who ever rode him at least once. He'd then play tag with you for about 20 minutes with the wickedest expression of fun on his face. I never came off but I watched him do it to dozens of other people. He just felt so safe - until he wasn't! Naughty naughty pony. I loved him and trusted him utterly over fences - he never ever played up when you were seriously working. He's another one that if you hadn't ridden him you wouldn't understand why he had several very very expensive knee operations and tiresome rehab, but the owners paid up without a murmur, despite his lack of objective value.