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March 3, 2013: Horse Injuries

Yet another beautiful day, the sun’s shining brightly, the temps this afternoon will be in the 30s. The horses are now beginning to shed their thick, wooly coats. The term used to describe being in mid-shed is “blowing the coat.” I like this phrase; it makes me think of them all puffing themselves up and the hair and dander cutting loose. Of course, it doesn’t happen like this; instead, our thick coated horses need an assist. This is a slow, laborious process, at our place multiplied five times over. Dog designed the seasons so that coat shedding happens when it’s warm; otherwise, the horses would remain harry. Even those of us who brave the winter to feed, scoop poop, and ride would forego spring brushing if the temperatures were 0°F or lower. After all, we’re only human.

The drawback (and there’s always a weather-related drawback) is that horses can easily become overheated at this time of year. So I have to be cautious when I ride them, and not go too far or too fast. Some deal by clipping their horses. I’m reluctant to do this because I fear the temperatures might drop at night, in which case they might catch a chill. I could do as my friend Vicki does, and blanket them, but I don’t because it would then become possible for one horse to get caught up in another’s webbing.

I know from experience that this can happen. I once got home late and immediately went to check on the horses.

The wind was howling and the snow was blowing sideways. I knew, as I entered the pen, that something was amiss. It was just a gut feeling. I was right. Siggi and Tinni were side-by-side. I went over to the pair and discovered that Siggi’s leg was over the middle strap of Tinni’s blanket. The two were just standing there, stupidly. Neither had made a move to go their separate ways, although they could have. I very quietly moved in, and released the buckle. For some time, the two horses continued to stand there, Siggy’s head over Tinni’s back.

Stories beget stories about horses doing dumb things. Our neighbor Ray once remarked that horses too easily get themselves in trouble. Ray’s right about this. Like, there was the time in which Raudi put her rear leg between two rails of the fence panel. This happened in Tok, the day before we finished Part I of our trip. We were so close to the end that I relaxed my guard a bit. We put Raudi, Siggi, an Signy in the Miller’s visitor’s pen. Raudi and Cindy’s horse immediately began mixing it up, squealing and kicking. Raudi’s leg then slipped over the rail. She stood still as we extracted her. If she’d struggled, she could have broken her rear leg.

Quite often, things happen, and you know how they came about. For instance, Hrimmi’s cutting herself on a piece of metal siding behind the shed was totally our doing. But the odds of this happening were really slim because this was the only piece of downed metal roofing on the property. She sustained a pastern cut. We treated it and doctored it daily. And it healed nicely.

Sometimes things happen, and you just don’t know how they came about – like Tinni’s forehead laceration. After, we searched and searched, but could find no hair or blood anywhere. We summoned a veterinarian who did a wonderful job stitching him up. He still looks a little like Frankenstein’s mount, but the hair is growing back in.

In both instances, we got lucky.

Cuts, dings, bruises, lacerations, swellings, they all go hand-in-hand with being a horse owner. Indeed, stories beget stories, like the one about the range horse who fell through a cattle grating and had to be cut free by volunteer fire department people. Or the police horse whose rear legs upended a manhole cover. (I don’t recall what the outcome to this one was). And there was the pony who got her head stuck in a bucket. (The metal handle was up over one ear.) She could see just well enough to keep moving. Apparently, it took a long time to catch her.

Interestingly, all these accounts have a human-related component. I could spend all my time fretting about all that could happen here. And sometimes, at night, when I’m tired, I go through my mental checklist, asking myself, did I put the shovel and rake away? Secure the shed door? Fasten the enclosure gates? Fill all the divots in the packed snow left after I scooped poop? Separate Siggi and Tinni? This list is then seemingly endless. But if I think I forgot something, I’ll put on my boots, hat, mittens, coat, and headlight and go and check what I think is amiss. Most of the time, everything is okay. But every so often I find that earlier, I erred.

I then have to abandon the list, and of course I remind myself that I have done my best. There are no injury-proof horse facilities out there. For example, even a simple electric fence set up can be problematic. Hrimmi, for example, tested out Vicki’s fence, by jumping over it. Our facility is, I think, as close to being safe as one can get. But, things do happen. So I just have to accept the fact that injuries go hand-in-hand with being a horse owner.

Next: 63. 3/4/13: Moose Sightings—a Right of Spring