Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

Happy Appy

Standing in one spot, never mind on several feet of packed manure, surely is a bad thing. One would expect a horse to have the worst case of thrush ever, yet with the young appaloosa, my friend Jim named Happy the Appy, this wasn’t the case at all. His hooves also didn’t splay out like plates, or grow long in the toe to the point where they curled like Aladdin’s slippers. Not only that, he didn’t lose his heel either. In his case, the body did an amazing thing. His foot grew tall, ever so tall, as if he was standing on several inches of highheel shoes. We figured it wasn’t a good idea to take them down all at once, and he didn’t know how to pick up his feet anyway. Because of this, we decided to work on them a little bit at a time.
It took a few days to teach him to pick up each foot without fussing, and Koppertox was applied to the underside of each foot on a daily basis. Jim held him, while I began to work on a hoof. To my utter astonishment, a thick layer of foot simply peeled out. It was as if it had grown to protect the gelding from the manure it had no choice but to stand on, and now that was no longer the case, those layers of protection were letting go. It didn’t take too many days of trimming each foot, to begin to see results. With each trim, a good quarter of an inch of foot would peel away. Almost before we knew it, Happy had a perfectly proportioned, healthy foot.
It would’ve been wonderful if his hooves had been the worst of his problems. Alas, they were not. Poor Happy had no concept, no idea at all, of what the great, wide world was all about. For years, his life had been a dark, dank, low barn. He knew nothing about socializing with other horses, nothing about wide open spaces, and he wanted to stretch his legs and run. Thankfully, he wasn’t a spooky or nervous horse. His curiosity at all things new, didn’t come with dramatic reactions. For as sad and miserable a life as he’d led, he wasn’t angry or afraid either.
As much as we hated to do it to him, when not being worked with, he did spend his first days in a stall. The fences were electric. We didn’t want to take any chances, at him going through them. After a little bit of time, a corral of panels was set up, and the horse that had rarely known sunshine and fresh air, suddenly did. I can only imagine, what the experience was like, for the young, thin horse of three or four years old. Suddenly, he’d left the depths of dark despair, to feel the world in all its glory.
Everything was going along far better than anyone could’ve predicted. Happy was gentle with no vices, submitted to pressure, and seemed more than willing to learn. We all had high hopes for the lovely appaloosa.
At home and just about to have breakfast early one Sunday morning, I had a call from Jim. Happy was gone. He must’ve jumped the fence and taken off.
Of course I did what we all did for each other, I jumped in my truck and headed for the land I rented. Though we had no idea where a horse that didn’t have any sense of where he was, might go, I hoped he would find his way to my horses. Horses are herd animals by nature. If he had any clue that they were a half mile up the road, he might have gone to them. I had my fingers crossed.
Between where Happy had run away from, and the land I rented was an older farm that no longer had animals. Unfortunately a good many fences still stood, barbwire fences. Rusty, old wire with wicked barbs that could shred a horse’s soft skin, like a razor blade. I found Happy along my outer fenceline, and it wasn’t a pleasant sight. That poor horse was sliced open in horizontal, long lines from mid-neck all the way down his chest, and even across the tops of his legs. It was so shocking, so awful to see that I was overcome with extreme calm. There was no one, who was going to fix this. Nobody was going to take charge and make this better for me. I had to keep it together.
Luckily for me, the homeowner of the property I rented was home and outside. He called the vet for me, and I did what I had to, I waited.
I can still remember the tedious job of stitching, the vet had to do. He didn’t get overwhelmed by the gruesome task before him, and didn’t hesitate at all. He simply got to it. After a thorough, careful scrub with warm water and Betadine, he perched upon the low stool we set out for him, and began to stitch. Sitting there on that stool, glass of Kahlua and milk on the ground beside him, that man sat directly in front of Happy, and sewed him back together. Stitch by stitch, the long, inch wide strips of skin that evenly hung on his chest, were one by one attached to each other, starting at the top at his neck, and finishing at his legs. By the time the task was done, Happy looked like a cross-stitch pattern that was as even, straight and neat as could be. The whole time, and it was considerable, Happy quietly stood. Maybe it was because he’d lost a considerable amount of blood. Maybe it was because, though he’d been starved and neglected, he’d never been physically abused, but whatever the case, Happy simply stood through the whole, long procedure. I was amazed, and so was the vet. Turned out, Happy was a very good boy.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB