Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Great Physician and Healer of All

'Sometimes memories sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks.' -unknown
I knew the minute I walked up the hill to the barn early that morning something was wrong. Instead of cantering to greet me at the gate, my horse Trig was nowhere in sight. My heart began to pick up the pace immediately.

Pushing though the gate I rushed into the barn and there he stood. I knew my buddy was in big time trouble and I felt the rush of panic. Opening his stall gate and stepping to his side, I noted he was trembling and slightly weaving.

His head was hanging so low his muzzle was nearly touching the ground. He had mucus dripping from his nose as well and his breathing was raspy, too shallow.

All of these symptoms did not scare me independently as my one collective thought...oh dear God, I think my horse is dying!

Tony had taken care of the evening feeding the night before while I fixed dinner and when he returned I asked how it went. He looked concerned, shaking his head saying, "I don't know.

Something’s off.  Trig doesn't seem to be himself. He was lethargic and didn't seem to want to eat. I scratched his head and when I touched his ear he seemed to flinch and pull away. Do horses get inner ear infections?" 

Yikes, I didn't know but I told Tony I thought Trig was a little off his charm at the morning feeding. I would be calling the vet first thing in the morning. I had been meaning to get Trig's teeth floated and I'd go ahead and get him a thorough check up.

Legs trembling, I ran and grabbed his horse blanket and threw it over my beloved horse's back and quickly buckled it. All the while I was murmuring to him that his momma was going to get help. I was alone at the cabin that morning as Tony had left for work and I was terrified. Once again I questioned the wisdom of boarding my own horse.

When I finally bought this horse of my dreams, a Tennessee Walker, I had decided to have a barn built up here behind Bear Cabin and board Trig myself. The fact was I had never boarded one of my horses myself and knew very little about how to go about it.

I had Shirley Mitchell, my dear friend and owner of a Tennessee Walker breeding farm, who had spent a year with me teaching me about owning a Walker. She promised me she would be a mere phone call away should I need her and I had already worn my buddy out regarding that commitment.

As Shirley watched Trig and I grow together, I remember the day she told me it had been a long time since she had witnessed it, but my horse and I shared such a close bond that if anyone ever tried to hurt me, she believed he would attack them.

Yes, I had learned a lot...but never how to deal with something like this.
Assuring Trig I would be right back, I ran to the cabin and called the vet. Incoherently, I began to babble in my panic that my horse was dying. HELP!

Trying to calm me, the lady finally extracted from me his symptoms, and then she told me it sounded like Trig was choking on something. I was to keep him calm and not let him go down; she would get a vet there ASAP.

Cell phone in hand I flew back up the hill and on the way up left a message for Tonya Ritchie, my very knowledgeable horse buddy in Elizabethton. As well as I recall that hysterical message left on her voicemail went something like this, “Tonya. HELP! I think Trig is dying.”

I found Trig still standing and I began stroking and talking to him softly while doing my best to ratchet myself down a bit. As he and I stood there for what seemed like an eternity with me pressed up against him to steady him, my handsome, strong horse began to weave uncontrollably. He went down on his side and I simply could not stop it from happening.

He lay there with his legs in a crumpled up position. As I looked at Trig's legs, half crazed I was reminded of a granddaddy longlegs that had dropped accidentally into the hot tub this past summer. Before I could get him and put him on the side of the tub, it was too late.

As I lay the little wilted body on the side, his long dangling legs were crisscrossed over each other in a deadly pose.  As Trig lay there, I tried my best to get him up but it was impossible. Blinded with tears, I finally sat down beside him and lifted his huge head and laid it across my lap.

Several thoughts had already crossed my mind. If this was my child or grandchild and he or she was choking to death I would try to dislodge the matter with the Heimlich maneuver. Here I had a seventeen hundred pound, big boned, 16 hands tall horse on my hands.
A search of his mouth and throat was impossible as he had his teeth clinched. Should I get up and get the scissors in his grooming box and thrust the point into his trachea to give him a breathing hole? Where in this long beautiful black neck is his trachea? Could I really do it? SOMEBODY HELP ME!

A frantic follow-up call to the vet’s office from the cell phone in my pocket, letting them know, “MY HORSE IS DOWN! I could not keep him up. His head is in my lap and his eyes are closed; he seems to be barely breathing. WHERE IS THE VET!?” This full-blown panic was met by the response that the vet was just leaving the office which was a good hour away.

To be candid with you...I cannot remember what I said at that point but I don't think it was very lady like. I felt quite sure there was no need for the vet at that juncture; my horse was not going to make it. It had already been nearly an hour since I made my initial call.

Another quick call to Tonya gave me her voice mail again. “He is down, Tonya! He is dying!”  I have never in my life felt so helpless; the pain in my chest was crushing.

Then is when I finally gave up. I simply did not know what else to do.
So I turned my face up to the rafters in that barn and, with tears streaming, cried out audibly to my Great Physician.

"Father God, don't take Trig. You brought him to me Lord, You know You did. Please, don’t take him away from me now. Please.”

Embodied within that prayer was a multitude of realities I did not need to share with my Heavenly Father. He knew and understood it all in the simplicity of my words.

He did very definitely bring Trig into my life. Shirley and I began looking for me a Tennessee Walker months before we found him. But before we began our search, we gave it to God. We wanted the horse God wanted for me in His perfect timing.

As my dear friend and I struck out time and again all over this part of the country checking out various Walkers, the door would shut over and over. We were very calm, very assured and very thankful for God’s guidance. We knew when The HORSE came along, God would reveal and confirm. And He did. That day we went to look at General Trig ‘O Nometry, we had him saddled, rode and the check written, all within an hour.

And even that day I did not realize why God chose this particular horse other than he was perfect for me. It turned out he was also perfect for my husband, Tony. All my life while riding horses, this was the one ‘sport’ I did not share with my partner in life. Tony had a fall from a horse as a teenager and he had a lifelong fear of horses from then on.

But Trig wasn’t just any horse. He was, though spirited enough to give me a lot of enjoyment while riding, a perfect gentleman with his barn behavior around Tony.  Losing his fear, Tony fell in love with Trig as much as I and spent every day with me at the barn sharing that love. 

Yet another huge unknown bonus with this magnificent creature was revealed when Trig was introduced to our small grandchildren. I have never in my life around horses heard of or knew of a horse who had such a nurturing spirit with 'little people'. When the kids are staying up here at the cabins, Trig knocks out every step they take in his zeal to play with and be loved on by them. What an awesome gift from God.

After crying out to my Father I sat there with my beloved horse's huge head in my lap as the long minutes passed. He did not move. I then got a text from Tonya. DO NOT LET TRIG ROLL! ON MY WAY!
I did not know how far away she was but I continued to look down at the massive black heap lying next to me. And typical me, I figured God had not heard my prayer so I hopelessly thought...My precious Trig, if you are going to die in my arms...the last words you are going to hear are the soothing words you hear from me as I give you your daily massage.

With his eyes still closed I began to murmur softly to my big boy, "Trig, you are so handsome, yes you are. You are so very, very strong. And you are the most wonderful horse in the whole wide world. Yes you are! Everybody says so and it's the truth. You are brave, and so big and smart and sweet. Momma loves you, did you know that?”

As I am murmuring these words, I see Trig's right hoof slightly move at the small pastern. Then I see the right leg begin to slowly stretch out at the knee as it untangled from underneath the left leg on top of it. And then the left leg began to slowly stretch out and both legs began to coordinate. When he had all four legs out in front of him, Trig tried to roll. I yelled out of fear, remembering what Tonya had texted.

Trig immediately came to his feet! I let out a yelp of praise and then, because he was still so wobbly, I slid my shoulder under his neck and let him rest his entire head on me. And there we stood. And stood. And stood.
Again, the wild things that ran through my mind while in dire distress...

I thought about that scene in the original Godfather movie where The Don, Vito Corleone, had the chopped off head of the prized stallion of a movie studio owner deposited in his bed to ‘strongly encourage’ him to cast The Don’s
Godson in a coveted movie role.

I remember thinking ... I know now how much that horse’s head in that bed weighed.  I did not care though how long I had to stand there. I just knew I had to keep my horse quiet and not let him get upset or stressed as the possibility of whatever he may be choking on may get further lodged and cause further distress for him. That idea was petrifying for me.

By this time nearly an hour and twenty minutes had passed since I had made my last emergency call to my vet. Suddenly Trig began to buck up a bit. He took his head off my shoulder and began to take a few timid steps. Then he stepped out a little more firmly in his 10’ X 20’ stall with me right on his tail.

Just about that time my friend Tonya came busting through the barn door like a woman on a mission. I flung myself into her arms, bawling. She gave me a quick hug and took one look at Trig and barked, “Where is Trig’s halter!” Shocked, I pointed to it. “What are you doing”, I asked in a shaky voice. “This horse is going to die of colic if I don’t get him moving! Right now!”, she snapped.  WHAT! But the vet’s office said...

Within a moment Tonya had my horse’s halter and lead rope on and was leading him out of his stall. He walked with some hesitancy but he was moving out. I stood and stared in shock and then starting following them out into the pasture.
I trusted Tonya. But the word COLIC struck tremendous fear in me. I had heard horror stories through the years of riding and boarding my horses. I knew that colic was the number one medical cause of death in horses and I had friends whose horses had died of colic.

My friends, my horse was dying from colic that day, not choking. It can happen that quickly. The vet finally arrived and confirmed Tonya’s diagnosis. And she did what was necessary to my Trig (running a long plastic tube down his throat and into his stomach nearly took me out) and left me with a list of instructions for the next two days.

Do I believe God heard me as I cried out to Him with all my heart to save my Trig? Absolutely yes. He spared the horse He gave to me and my family and I will forever love and be grateful to Him. I also believe He used my dear friend Tonya in a mighty way as well and I owe her a big debt of gratitude.

I want to leave you with this conversation I had with my overbearing beast of an equine this morning after he survived the minus twenty degree temperatures (with wind chill factor)  up here on the Roan this past week.

Trig: Mom, ‘member not long ago when I nearly died from colic ‘cause you and Dad were over feedin’ me too much sweet feed?

Me: Yes, Trig, stop reminding me of that. It still hurts my heart every time I think about it.

Trig: Well, this week you both nearly killed me by freezin’ me to death.

Me: Trig, for heaven’s sake. What do you propose we do about that? We greatly reduced your sweet feed but can hardly do anything about the weather my love.

Trig: I happened to hear through the grapevine there’s a place called the “Sunshine State” and that horses there never have to put up with bull hockey weather like this.

Me: Trig!  Muzzle that mouth of yours, young man! So what are you suggesting?

Trig: Well, shiver me timbers...I thought you’d never ask. I was thinkin’ we could maybe spend the winters there where it’s warm and the springs, summers and falls up here on the mountain. What ‘cha think ‘bout that idea Mom? Huh, huh, what ‘cha think ‘bout that idea?

Me: Trig, you jackass! I think you have this incorrigible habit of being manipulative. Now why don’t you mull over THAT idea!

And I turned on my heels and stomped back down to the cabin.
Let me bottom line it... Tony and I are leaving the first of the week for Citrus County in Beverly Hills, Florida to look at homes in Pine Ridge Equestrian and Golf Estates. I guess we are going to buy Trig a summer place there.
Holy cow. What we won’t do for our kids.

Post Script: Tony and I did leave  that next week for Florida and a Realtor did show us properties in Pine Ridge. Unfortunately, the crash of 2008 had decimated that area and most of the property owners who had lived there with horses had leased out their homes/barns to folks who did not even own horses nor ride and that once stunning complex had badly deteriorated. Frustrated and saddened we returned back to the Roan with the only other alternative we could think of. This winter that spoiled brat of ours will have radiant heaters in his barn to ward off the chill. :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment