It's been a tough few months for me here. I have two off-the-racetrack thoroughbreds -- one I've had for almost 13 years now (since high school), when I got her pregnant and neglected. The other also needed a loving home and I couldn't bear to separate them once they'd bonded (horses are herd animals and get very attached to each other), so I brought him home when I moved back from Santa Rosa. So, now I have an almost 27-year-old horse and a 17-year-old horse. Twenty seven is a ripe old age for a horse, given they live 30-35 years. Seventeen is entering the golden years as well.
About five months ago, my old mare developed laminitis -- likely from eating too much unusually green grass this spring. This is where the layers of their feet essentially begin to separate, making them very sore and walking very difficult. Thus began a series of special foot trimmings to prevent further damage, then abscesses that required wrapping, and a very long confinement period in a paddock. This was shocking to me, especially since she's lived on pasture for 13 years, without a single problem. However, this wasn't an average spring, and I hear many people with otherwise bullet-proof horses had issues this year.
So, for a handful of months now I've been getting up early to clean the stall, wrap her feet, feed her a special diet, and generally care for her (including healthy doses of horsey pain killers when necessary). In the evenings after work I simply repeat the process all over again. It's been utterly exhausting, but what else can you do when you have a living animal that needs your help?
Last Tuesday was supposed to be the mare's last day in the paddock, the vet deeming her healthy enough to go back out to pasture with her friend. I was estatic, thinking we could both use a little time off. However, it wasn't meant to be. The night before, the big gelding (who happens to be blind in one eye due to a large cataract that developed in the past year), ran into something while he was out and cut open his leg to the bone, severing two major muscles above his knee. It was bad, and I immediately called the vet to come out, clean the wound up, and stitch it back together. He was a good sport, but wasn't used to being shut up. About 2:30 that morning he was whinnying and carrying on so much that I had to go put a night light up for him, so he could see his buddy out in the pasture (his poor eyesight made him anxious). This has solved our middle-of-the-night problems, thankfully.
Five days later, he's healing well, but has a long way to go. My mare has gone out to pasture, and he's taken her place in the paddock, meaning several more weeks of special diets, antibiotics, wraps and ointments, and stall cleaning.
The thing that shocks me is that all the professionals that have been helping me get them back to health keep saying how lucky they are to have me. Many people, with the current economy, can no longer afford vet bills and all the extras that I've bought for them to help them heal (like $300 shoes for the mare!). So, they simply put them down. My apologies to anyone faint-hearted, but I was appalled to hear that an unusually high number of people are actually shooting their horses rather than dealing with the costs involved or even paying the vet to come put them down. It's a tough time out there, but for me I couldn't do that. I'd max out all my credit cards to make sure we're trying everything we can. And luckily I have a very understanding husband!
So, all the ucky stuff aside, I'm now officially a two-horse convalescent and retirement home. I hope that, once everyone is healed, they'll have a simple, pleasant retirement where nothing else eventful happens! Let's all cross our fingers for that. This morning, as my mare was walking around in her new boots (SO comfy) and the gelding was happily munching his hay, I could almost see it happening.