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Friday, April 1, 2011

The memory of one horse's gratitude and love for her veterinarian~

Mya is the horse standing up.  

We see the vet once per year so he can pull blood for coggins tests (we travel a lot).  It was May of 2010 that we last saw Dr. Miers, but as soon as his truck pulled up, Mya took off running.  I thought she was just playing with Sterling, but it turns out she did not like the idea that the vet was here!  She is hilarious because her whole leg is only 8 inches long and she is so fast! She's a comedy show all in her own!  Well, Mya got everyone enrolled in the frolic. Ignoring the fracas one by one together, the vet and I went to all the horses, I haltered them and the vet pulled the blood, but it was when we got to Patches that it happened.

Ms. Patches of Winter 2007

It was fourteen years ago on Palm Sunday that I was trailering a friend over to the Meadow for their first show of the season, Patches and I came along for the ride, to just hang around the show grounds and stand tied to the trailer.  It was a great day with beautiful warm weather.  We were just a mile or so from home when I saw my friend's truck speeding up alongside of mine and she was screaming something, so I stopped the truck and couldn't believe what had happened.

I saw pieces of wood on the road and blood dripping out from my trailer, when I opened the door there were three floor boards missing and Patches was standing on the remaining four with blood pouring out from her shipping boots.  Immediately my friends Dad began looking for something to put over the gaping hole in the floor so we could make it back home.  To my amazement, he picked the door up off it's hinge and slid it into the trailer to cover the hole in the floor.  Someone drove the truck home while we became a human door locking arms across the opening where the door once was.

When we got home I wondered how Patches would get out of the trailer because the door/floor was placed like a teeter totter.  To my surprise, Patches turned around and drug her hind leg with her, someone stood inside on the door/floor and Patches went directly in the barn into her stall.  I was grateful for her good idea, because I didn't have any.

Patches eating a tumbleweed in Texas in 2005

I called my vet, and in those days cell phones were a novelty, but everyone had pagers.  My vet, Dr. Kaplow was away in upstate NY, so we set out on a mission to find another vet.  The kids were young teenagers then so we sent them in the house where the phone was with the phone book to find another vet.  Meanwhile we took off Patches shredded and blood soaked shipping boots and helplessly watched as the blood poured out of ground flesh on both of her hind legs. I think we applied frozen vegetables or something.   Gratefully Dr. Jennifer Platt was found having dinner in Philadelphia and responded to our emergency immediately.  We did not know Dr. Platt, so for her to come out immediately was a gift.
Our new trailer purchased in "06 Patches likes it! 

Dr. Platt examined Patches legs and wrapped them, I remember in bright pink vet wrap, all the way up to her stifle.  I don't really remember what she said, the rest of that night is a blur.  But I do remember as she told me we needed to get to the New Bolton Center, I told her we needed to go to Walnridge Equine Clinic in Cream Ridge.  Dr. Kaplow told me, years before that if I ever needed surgery for any reason I should go to Walnridge instead of New Bolton because the hospital in PA was a teaching hospital and by virtue of that there are just more people involved and more potential for problems.  The only thing I knew about Walnridge was that I had seen their sign up on Route 537 and I really liked their logo! Dr. Platt made all the arrangements for us to be at the Clinic at 8 am Monday morning.

Patches and I on a trail ride near New Orleans Louisiana in  '05

When morning came I dreaded what it might take to get Patches into another trailer and of course the drive.  To this day fourteen years later, after trailering all over the country and for work In the Company of Horses at least three days per week, I am still never comfortable driving with horses.

As I remember it, she got into the trailer dragging her hind leg with her. Trailering this horse was never easy.  She only got on the trailer that Palm Sunday because I told her to.  Once she got on the trailer she was fine; getting on was the problem.  I give Patches all the credit for my ability to help horses with trailer loading issues, she taught me much.   This trailer belonged to my friend and was a quarter horse trailer.  Fourteen years ago, quarter horses were smaller than they are today, so this was a small trailer.

Patches and I sharing PMS tea at the Gloucester County DREAM Park in 2010 while waiting for clients from Seabrook House to have their Equine Assisted Psychotherapy session.

Dr. Miers gave my horse a 50% chance of survival.  I was surprised because I was sure she would not only live but be fine.  He explained how the road is a very dirty place with lots of bacteria living on it.  The surgery consisted of cleaning the wounds.  No bones were compromised , just the ligaments, muscle and skin.  The ligaments that ran across the front of her fetlock joint were sheared off and it looked like broken rubber bands on the top and bottom of her joint.  Dr. Miers said they would never grow back but they would attach themselves and she would learn to flip her hind foot up in front of her to move.  On the way to her recovery stall after surgery, Dr. Miers wrapped a lead rope around her pastern and lifted her leg so she could take each step.  Her right leg had mostly coronary band damage which still causes ridges in her hoof growth but has never been a problem.

 At the hospital, Dr. Miers invited me in to watch the surgery.  Pretty sure I did not need to see this, I said yes.    I felt so incredibly guilty and responsible for not keeping my girl safe after she only got in that trailer because I told her to; seeing the surgery felt like my responsibility. I remember years ago when Seth (Kaplow my first vet) told me that horse owners need to have broad shoulders.  Horses are big and it takes a lot of heart and desire to stay in the game with them.  I remembered so much of our journey together as Patches recovered and I stood sentry outside of her recovery stall or inside or slept in my chair wrapped in blankets, mostly crying and feeling really guilty, but never even thinking she would be anything but fine.

Patches and I high atop 8 Mile Mesa in Pagosa Springs, Colorado

At Walnridge, George's barn where Patches went to recover, was next to the stallion pastures.  Walnridge is a Standardbred breeding farm. I remember how much I liked the horse "Beach Towel", I think I liked his name more than anything!  I got to witness how they would take the stallions to the breeding shed and tease him with a mare in heat and collect his semen while he mounted a dummy device.  I learned about artificial insemination in the race horse world.  It was surprisingly like an assembly line, on the breeding days, the mares didn't even get out of the trailer, they just pulled up, the vet inseminated them and off they went.  I have often wondered about he mares, what do they think about all of this?  When do they realize they are going to have a baby.  And George who ran Georges barn was a cantankerous old fellow.  I loved him.  He had seen the worse side of many a sick, injured and ailing horse.  He had the scars and the attitude to prove it over his many years in the business.  I loved him because Patches loved him.  As he made sure she had water and hay and checked in on her all day and night.  I made sure he had donuts and coffee.

Dr. Miers explained that we needed to be on the lookout for infection, he showed me what the signs were and  just three days later we were back in the trailer to go home. She was suppose to have months of stall rest with hand walks every day.  That was not going so well because on those hand walks, she would get all excited and jump around and rip open the granular tissue that was growing to close the hole in her leg.  After just a couple of days of that, we agreed, being out was best for her.  And it was.  She knew how to take care of herself.  I wrapped her leg every day for the next year.  Our relationship grew as I spent so much time taking care of her.  I learned about bandaging really well and how to keep the granular tissue to a minimum.  She never seemed to be lame after she came home.  Occasionally she would catch her toe on the ground and rip open her wound.  We have been through quite a lot since then.
Patches helping me mount ~"05 Savvy Conference at the International Study Center of Parelli Natural Horsemanship

 Patches is my first levels horse in the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Program (PNH).  She carried me through 36 weeks of consecutive study at the International Study Centers of PNH in Colorado and Florida, jumping, spinning, flying lead changes, side passes, half passes, barrel racing, cow working, sliding down scootch mountain, many mountainous trail rides, beach rides, she helped me pony dozens of horses who needed to get from one place to another without being ridden, we've camped and jingled and participated in endless classes, clinics and workshops all the way up until now!  Patches is a founding member of In the Company of Horses, facilitating countless Equine Assisted Psychotherapy sessions and carrying many students for therapeutic riding and friends for recreational riding.
Patches assisting a young rider at the Gloucester County DREAM Park in '08 when In the Company of Horses brought Therapeutic Riding to that bran new facility.

So yesterday when the vet was here and the whirlwind of activity Mya was creating settled down, we came to Patches.  I think Dr. Miers and Patches made the same quiet nickering noise to one another. After he drew her blood, the three of us walked over to Jacquie; I put on the halter, Dr. Miers took the blood and Patches put her muzzle right on Jacquie's forehead, no doubt to comfort her and teach her not to fear her friend.  Ms. Patches had such a look of love on her face.   It was a mutual knowing and appreciation for a miracle that took place fourteen years ago.


1 comment:

  1. Wow, Patches was a very lucky girl... I'm glad for both of you that the story had a good ending!

    Petra Christensen
    Parelli 2Star Junior Instructor
    Parelli Central


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