Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

My Ace in a Hole

Working on a huge farm owned by a vet has many benefits. In my year there, I learned things that still carry me today. Being able to take care of all kinds of wounds is an important one. Not being shocked by what I see is another. Sure, Ace had an atrocious injury, yet it wasn’t something I couldn’t deal with. I had the time and stubbornness to treat him, and my mother was determined to bring his poor face back. She’d fostered dozens of children over the years, and one of them had to have his legs massaged and exercised at least twice daily. I was bound and determined to bring Ace back to health, and mom was just as determined.

Having him nearby was a big help. We could work on him far more easily, and for longer periods of time. Mom would hold him, massage his muzzle and the side of his face. He would shut his eyes and lightly rest his head against her, and appeared to love the attention. It was great that he did, as it made soaking his leg so much easier. Our persistence paid off. Ace healed and with time, his face and lip also came back. The drooping was gone and he could eat properly without any help from us. Until that time, we had to hold mash in his mouth so he could chew. It sounds like a lot of work, but when you’re involved with an animal, it really doesn’t feel like it. Besides, when the animal recovers, it’s worth every bit of time and energy. It wasn’t expensive to help him heal, just a bit of work and a whole lot of patience. Handling a horse so much, also tends to make it easier to work with, especially if you’re helping it and relieving pain and discomfort. Ace was a barely halter broken horse, yet he became as sweet and loving as a puppy in no time at all.

I had seen serious hoof and leg injuries when I worked for the vet, and I knew from firsthand experience that amazing things could happen. Hooves can grow back, and though I was sure Ace would probably lose his, I was certain he’d grow a new one. After all, he wasn’t as bad as many I’d seen, and they’d all healed and grown new hooves. His injury had been a tightly wrapped rope around his whole pastern, from hoof all the way to fetlock. It had cut in deep and had undoubtedly cut off some blood flow for a period of time, how long, I didn’t know. I knew not to use a topical antibiotic more than three days. I certainly didn’t want to promote, the growth of proudflesh. This was before I learned about the healing properties of raw honey, and I was limited to what I had available to me. I had Furacin, all kinds of wound powder to keep the flies off, healing paint that was the vet’s own concoction and of course, I soaked him in warm water and Epsom salts as often as I could, at least twice a day. Slowly but surely, he healed until the wound was gone. By gone, I mean he had a significant limp, it took some time to heal that face of his, but it came completely back so it was impossible to tell that anything had ever happened to his poor face. As the weeks turned to months, there were visible signs of a new hoof growing underneath the old one. Much like when a hammer meets a fingernail in a most unpleasant way, there’s damage from the trauma, The fingernail usually falls off when a new one grows in underneath. It’s the same with a horse’s hoof. If it’s completely ripped off in some way, it will grow back uneven and bumpy. If the hoof remains as a guide, a form per say, then it will grow back quite well.

Though he maintained that limp, I left his hoof to grow and didn’t mess with it too much. That new hoof was slowly pushing off the old one, and that was as it should be. He no longer had any pain in that hoof or leg, and he ran and played with the best of them. It was as if he was walking on high-heeled shoes, and had broken the heel off one of the shoes. One foot was taller than the other, but it wasn’t a big problem. With his face healed and the injury on his pastern no longer a wound, we decided to start training him. By training, I mean someone hopped aboard and rode him when we went on trail rides. He was so easygoing that he just went along. He was more than willing to go along with his buddies. Never fond of being left behind, he enjoyed the outings and would be right in the thick of things when we got horses ready to ride. A lead rope to the halter sort of horse, he willingly went where directed. Because of his significant limp, he couldn’t keep up with the other horses if we trotted or cantered, but he certainly gave it his all.

One fine, early spring day, we were out for a ride. The snow was still on the ground, yet the weather was rather lovely. There’s a huge floodway that skirts the east side of Winnipeg, more of a giant ditch than anything else, and it was very popular with snowmobilers. Because of them travelling on the snow all winter, there was a wide, packed area much like a wide snow road that we liked to ride on. This particular winter’s day, we all felt the call of spring. Riders and horses alike were full of the joy of life. We all wanted to run, Ace included.

Off we went, the horses snorting and blowing with the excitement of this perfect day. Of course, Ace fell behind as he always did, though he certainly was as excited as any of the other horses. Every now and again, I glanced back at Del on Ace, and he would give a wave that they were doing fine. The next thing I knew, the pair were suddenly passing all of us. They came up on us and passed like a locomotive on a track. I don’t think there was a single one of us, person or horse, who wasn’t taken aback by the sight of Ace and Del blazing by. When we caught up to them and we all pulled up with a great deal of surprised laughter, we soon learned the reason for Ace’s sudden turbo boost of speed. That hoof of his, the old hoof that had been slowly being pushed off by the new one underneath, had finally fallen off. Del said it had flown by his head as they slowly cantered, and the second it did, Ace had gone into overdrive. We all had to inspect Ace and sure enough, there was a perfect, slightly smaller hoof. From that point forward, he no longer limped, not even a little. His face had healed. He had a new, perfectly formed hoof and the only sign that he’d ever been so horribly injured was the black hair that had grown in where the injury on his pastern had been. Ace had matching white socks on the front, matching white stockings on the back, and one had a black, wide band of hair around the pastern.

A horse is an amazing animal. It’s resilient and if given a chance, can heal even the most horrid of wounds. At least that’s what I’ve experienced. Ace had his own Ace in the hole, people who weren’t about to give up on him.

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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