A couple of years ago, I rescued a shetland mare named Rosie. I had stopped in on a whim at a horse sale in my neighborhood and there, among the fine Arabians and Pureblooded Thoroughbreds, was this dumpy little grey pony with a couple of half-grown foals at her side. The woman running the auction could only tell me that her name was Rosie, she was about eight years old, had been born and lived her life in a free-running and free-breeding herd on a large Eastern Washington ranch, that she was halter-broke but no more, and that she was mine for $50. Otherwise she was headed to the local auction, which is more or less a death sentence.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I bought her, on condition that she be delivered, since I don't own a trailer. For some time, I entertained fantasies of turning her into a riding pony (Pony Love), but fairly soon realized that Rosie was far too wild to ever be more than a pasture pet. Nonetheless, I was overjoyed at having a pony again for the first time since I was twelve years old, and at the possibility of giving my children the chance to know equine love.
Nobody told me - because I presume nobody knew - that Rosie was pregnant. The spring after she came to live with us, she gave birth to a beautiful chestnut filly with a wide white blaze whom we christened Poppy. Poppy has been a delight since the day she was born - at first awkward and adorable, and then amazing us with a rate of growth that quickly outstripped her dam and made us wonder just what the hell sort of equine giant Rosie had mated with. I have come to feel blessed by the chance to work with Poppy from her childhood (foal-hood?) and, if I am diligent, to provide my own children with the life-affirming relationship with a horse that I enjoyed as a child. There's a story for another day - but for now, let's just say that my relationship with a pony when I was six to twelve years old was one of the most fulfilling bonds I've ever known - even now I remember that relationship with a tenderness and love that I can't apply to any other relationship in my life.
That might sound odd. If so, substitute "dog" for "pony" and think of popular tales like "Old Yeller." A Boy and his Dog is a theme celebrated in American literature. The theme of a girl and her horse is less celebrated, but I assure you the bond is just as strong. I have plans for Poppy Pony, and those plans involve making available to my children the great love than can exist between a girl and her horse.
Not to mention, Poppy is just a total sweetheart. She has grown into a big strong pony some twelve hands high, sturdy, bright, affectionate, and willing. She is a deep, bright red with a somewhat curly hide; a bright eye, and a muscular body with a deep chest and a strong arched neck. She likes to lick and nibble like a puppy. She stands for the farrier, allows injections, and kets me lift all four of her feet. I personally adore her more than it feels seemly to say.
When the farrier came two weeks ago, he told me that Poppy had been into something: she had blood in all four of her toes and that's a big deal. He trimmed up her feet so as to put the least amount of pressure possible on her toes and told me to be on the lookout for any signs of pain - bobbing her head when she walked, for example, or general stiffness.
Foundering, or laminitis ( Laminitis Page) is caused almost exclusively by an overdose of rich feed like grain or apples. I have no idea how Poppy might have gained access to such rich feed - our goat and chicken food is kept locked securely in a separate barn. The only thing I can think of is that Homero's nieces, who were here for some six weeks and who loved to go visit the horses, may have made a habit of feeding Poppy large amounts of grain. If they did feed her too much, it's entirely my own fault for not laying down the ground rules. Also, the recent hard freeze may have some of the blame - even a healthy horse can acquire similar symptoms by running over hard, uneven ground. If Poppy had some laminitis caused by overfeeding and then spent a lot of time running around over the hard-frozen ground, she could be exhibiting severe symptoms from multiple causes.
Whatever the cause, Poppy now has a medium-severe case of laminitis, and has been visited by the vet and the farrier multiple times over the last few days. They gave her a set of hoof-pads made out of thick pink foam insulation strapped on with duct tape. I will take a picture, I promise. She looks entirely silly. If she is not substantially better (as measured by...?) within a couple of days, then the vet will be back to take X-rays of her hooves. I am giving her anti-inflammatories morning and evening and confining her to the soft-floored barn.
Wish me luck. Horsey people, please give advice. I love this pony beyond words, and I want to relive her suffering and preserve her usefulness both. Thank you -