Early one morning last week, I went down to turn out the chickens as normal and noticed a strange horse in my neighbor’s pasture. Standing in a corner. Not moving at all. With only three legs. . . I didn’t think that was possible in a horse. So I took a closer look. She had four legs but one of them was hung up in the fence.
So I headed over there, phoning my neighbor as I went. No answer.
The mare was standing as if it were a perfectly normal thing for a horse to stand on 3 legs for hours at a time. (Sort of reminded of Ferdinand the Bull just sitting and smelling the flowers.) However, she was trapped in a corner. I didn’t know her. She didn’t know me. This is what you’d call a stressful situation involving 1,000 pounds of animal controlled by a walnut-sized brain. Working around a horse without an escape route is not a place I ever want to find myself. (That’s a good way to die. Well, maybe not a good way, but it’s certainly as easy way.) But you do what you have to do.
So I talked to her and rubbed her a bit, trying to think of all the things that could go wrong if I managed to get her foot loose. Then I just started to work trying to lift, push and pull all at the same time. The mare really didn’t seem interested in helping. She seemed frozen in place and that lessened my worries about how she’d react once I freed her. But after about 5 minutes, I didn’t think I could set her free so I called my husband to bring the bolt cutters. I really didn’t want to cut my neighbor’s fence, but I figured he’d understand.
While I was waiting on implements of fence destruction, I continued to work the hoof and the mare finally decided to take part in her own rescue. She lifted her leg just enough to get out of the first trap – the barbed wire. We took a few seconds to breathe and then I lifted again, guiding the hoof through the woven wire fence. Quite suddenly she was free!
I don’t know really what I was expecting her to do – run away from the thing that had held her trapped – I suppose. But, no. She just stood there. And that’s where my husband and my neighbor and the bolt cutters found us – standing there in the corner loving on each other. She was very friendly.
We watched her for a while. She had gotten nicked by the barbed wire on the way out of the fence, but it was a very small wound that closed over and disappeared quickly. When my neighbor’s alpha mare, Dolly, came over to see if there were treats, the just-freed mare began to move and move well. She was unharmed by her ordeal and Dolly’s attacks were why she ended up tangled in the fence in the first place.
The mare’s name is Sadie and Sadie is now living with us. It took Ophelia just a few moments to decide that having a minion in her own pasture was a wonderful thing. Ophelia has a herd again which is both a blessing and a curse. It is blessing in that we can pasture horses anywhere on the farm now, instead of always keeping Ophelia within eyeshot of the neighbor’s horses. It is a blessing in that we are replacing the fence line on the east side of the farm and really needed to move Ophelia out of that pasture during the process. With Sadie here, the move was easy and painless.
It is a curse in that Ophelia has completely forgotten how to be alone and when Sadie wanders out of Opie’s line of sight, there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth again, and running of fence lines, and complaints to management, etc. Sadie, for her part, has taken to being Ophelia’s minion and comes when Opie demands it. As for Ophelia, she’s a needful Empress of the Universe but not cruel or vicious in any way.
A week has now passed and this evening Sadie taught me something new about horses. Ever heard the term “bolt the grain?” I had heard it, but now I really know what it means. When I fed the horses tonight, Sadie took a few mouthfuls and started coughing, but in between coughs she was stuffing her face. About 5 minutes later her owner showed up and explained that Sadie had bolted her grain (basically swallowing without chewing) and Sadie was now choking.
Lovely. I saved a horse only to kill it a week later. AAAAGH!
So for the next few minutes we stood with Sadie watching her try to clear the blockage on her own. I have never seen a horse throw up before. I didn’t even know horses could throw up. But they can. Some of the stuff comes back out their mouth and some comes streaming out their nostrils. I thought about taking pictures, but I was very cold and very wet and it was raining. You probably don’t want to see horse vomit anyway.
Sadie’s owner consulted her vet and was instructed to stay with the horse and keep her from eating for an hour once she had completely cleared the blockage. This isn’t the first time Sadie has choked on feed. And this time it was my fault. I had given her a little of Ophelia’s hay stretcher to keep her occupied while I fed Ophelia a nightly ration that’s designed to keep my horse feeling full without adding a lot of calories. The pellets are large and dry and require chewing. Which of course Sadie didn’t do.
Sadie’s fine now, muzzled after an hour in the barn. And now we know. Sadie doesn’t take her kibbles neat. The smaller and wetter the better.
I begin to wonder . . . if Sadie has a thing about Tuesdays. Last week it was the fence. This Tuesday – the choking episode. I have a concert next Tuesday night. Pray for Sadie.
I shared this post at The Backyard Farming Connection Hop