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Saturday, September 13, 2008

How I wasted a solid hour and a half

Big Brown Horse has a stone bruise and some thrush in her passenger side front - the stone bruise happened I think when she and the big Yellow Horse broke into the goat pasture and chased them around.  Old rickety girls in their late twenties, they should not be cavorting around a small pasture posturing like roping horses and making quick slidy turns in the corners.  The thrush is just a bi-product of this wet wet summer.  The grass is lush and wet most mornings and it has rained two or three times a week for a month or more.  The treatment for the thrush is a quick dip in bleach water, the treatment for the stone bruise is a soak in Epsom salts, followed by a dressing consisting of a newborn baby diaper duct taped to the foot to keep dirt out and the Epsom salts on.  I was chatting with a horsey friend the other day about this and she said that in the barn she had when she was growing up they had horses with injuries from going through fences, weird skin diseases and other stuff, but never a stone bruise.  We've never had THAT stuff, just colic (horrible, mostly fatal) and stone bruises.  Interesting that there is a theme to barn episodes.

Anyhow, the vet came yesterday and took a look and said the soaking is the cure and gave me some butte (horse aspirin) to take the pain away. The butte is for the horse.  No one is interested in taking MY pain away.  She said that shortly the bruise will abscess and burst and the pain will go away and it will heal.  The thrush I need to bleach.  If you are going to have lameness, this is the best kind - not stiffles or founder or laminitis, or any of the other expensive and horrible things that can cause it.  

This morning I went out to do the baby diaper/duct tape/epsom salt/bleach soak thing feeling very comfortable, very much Woman Healer.  I had all my supplies - the butte, the diapers, the duct tape, scissors (very proud of myself for remembering them - scissors being the actual TOOL you use to cut duct tape - instead tearing it with your teeth while balancing a 1200 lb horse's foot in one hand and mangling duct tape into your hair - like I have done before), warm water in a thermos that says Property Of Charles.  I can't find the horses, but activity in the barn usually brings them in for starlight mints and sweet talk.

Sure enough, while I am PRECUTTING the duct tape - so proud of myself for thinking ahead, Big Yellow Horse and Big Brown Horse come thumping into the aisle.  Miraculously, Big Brown Horse is still wearing her halter from yesterday so she is easy to catch and put in the cross ties (one tie on each side of the aisle securely anchored with carriage bolts into 200 year old oak  as hard as rock).  This fall, when the foliage on the trees is gone, I expect to find about six brand new halters hanging in branches or stuck on rocks or dangling from fence posts, because she just won't keep them on.  But this morning, everything is going fine fine fine.  Which should have given me prickly hairs on the back of my neck.

I give each horse a starlight mint and Big Yellow Horse actually goes and stands patiently on the other side of the barn.  Horses are like curious, critical seventh graders - you can not do ANYTHING with just one of them.  They poke their nose in (literally) to anything you are doing and comment loudly about the idiocy of it.  

I lean over and grab the tendon that runs down the back of BBH's leg, below what would be her knee if she was human and she lifts it cooperatively.  I dig a big dark oyster shaped clod of dirt out of her hoof.  She is standing quietly while I do this and my confidence soars again.  I am HEALER, I am INDEPENDENT!  For the rest of the day I will walk among mortals, smiling at children and making the lame walk and the blind see.  I will work the story of my success at healing into conversations with total strangers at the Dunkin Donuts.  Others will seek me out for my wisdom and skill.

I put her foot down and you can see the relief on her sweet big face just from having the muck removed that was pressing on the abscessing wound.  Even SHE is impressed with my skill at easing  her pain.  Like Androcles and the Lion, we are crossing anthropomorphic boundaries and forging a bond worthy of a Disney movie.  Any minute, bluebirds are going to start at my feet and weave a prom dress up my body while singing!  Crickets will smile benignly at me from my hearth!  The mice in my kitchen will start wearing big white gloves and red short shorts and stop eating my cornmeal muffin mix!  The rooster will stop being an ass and become charming like Fog Horn Leg Horn. Okay, maybe that won't happen.   Now it's time to soak that foot.

I carefully measure out the epsom salts and mix them with warm water from Charles' thermos in a blue feed bucket.  I test the temperature - because I am a caring, considerate animal healer.  Perfect.  I say Give and BBH lifts her foot cooperatively.  I guide her foot into the soothing waters. 

She backs up, rips her head out of the halter holding her, gets her foot between the bucket handle and the bucket making it clang around on the floor, rears up and slips on the water spilling out of the bucket and goes down like the three quarter of a ton animal that she is. 

I watch helplessly as she thrashes around between the stalls on the slippery cement floor.  I can't do anything til she either stops struggling or gets herself up.  BYH helpfully GALLOPS out the door screaming.  

She eventually gets herself free of the bucket, flinging it across the barn with determination of a Hellfire missle and stands up and shakes herself.  Calmly limps out the door to join BYH.  They take off for the field at a fast dressage-y lope and run in circles.  I try to catch my breath and and stop panicking.  She's okay.  I'm having heart palpitations.

I pack up my supplIes and decide to try this again later when I have help and a bucket with no handle.  

I am going inside for a nice cuppa tea.  At least that is the plan.

On my way out, I notice that Old Brain Damaged Dog is rolling in the grass inside the goat pen.  He got kicked in the head as a puppy because he was hanging on the tail of a horse - just like his crazy mother.  Her life was one big episode til she was finally killed by a Bud Lite Truck while hunting ground hogs.  Old now, he doesn't hear well, doesn't see well, has small seizures where he leaves the planet and basically doesn't give a flying fig about anything but his immediate comfort.  Right now he's comfortable, rolling in goat pee.

The goats, however, are the most dangerous, unpredictable, sociopathic animals I have ever encountered.  And right now they are conspiring like the Sante Kimes family and staring gleefully at the clueless dog.   I throw the only thing I have in my hand - the easy boot I was going to clean for the horse.  It makes no never mind to the goats.  I should have thrown it at the dog. I finally get his attention and he trots through the gate. 

I go inside and have my nice cuppa.  I am exhausted and it's only 8:30 am.  The kids arrive to work on the addition and are full of youthful exuberance.  They want to chat.  They want to share plans.  I want to go back to sleep.

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