This is Blue:
This is Ivy:
This is Blue Ivy:
Well, it is, and it isn’t. I’ll explain.
At the beginning of the summer, when Mark and I were still in the throes of our horse search, we found Blue (the horse) and his family. In my last post, I described seeing a couple horses who weren’t right for us, then finding, in Blue, the one that was. He’s a draft cross– a big horse, but light in the hand. He didn’t feel discombobulated and luggish the way so many heavy horses do. He was bright, maneuverable, and happy to jump whatever I pointed him at. He stood, contentedly tied to the back of his owners’ trailer, while we worked with him and dogs skittered around his feet. He loved the peppermints I offered. After we drove away following our initial ride, it took all of five minutes to admit that he was the one I wanted.
A few days after our visit, once we’d arranged to buy him, his owner took him to an equine clinic in Omaha for a thorough prepurchase examination. The objective of a prepurchase vetting is to evaluate a horse’s physical capacity to perform the job his future owner intends for him. In our case, we were looking for the vet to tell us whether she thought Blue would be physically able to jump around lower level eventing courses and the mostly 2’6″-2’9″ fences in our hunt country. The vet there checked his vitals, sensory responses, and overall health before moving on to a soundness exam. Blue trotted away from the vet happily enough, but, when he turned back, he was noticeably lame on one front leg.
Because he had trotted out fine, we surmised that he had probably stepped on a piece of gravel that stung, leading to the lameness observed when he returned down the lane. X-rays of that leg showed no abnormalities, but he was barefoot and his sole was low and thin. Everyone’s had the experience of playing barefoot in the summer and accidentally stepping on a rock, right? No bueno.
In talking with his owners, we decided to give it another shot. Owner graciously offered to have him trimmed and shod in front, affording him some protection from the gravel. We waited a week and brought him back, at which point he showed no sign of lameness. We were thrilled. We had the vet update his vaccinations and float his teeth while he was at the clinic, and made arrangements for his owner to drive him out to us in Chicago a week later.
The day before he was to arrive, his owner sent a text. Blue wasn’t eating his grain. She suspected that he might be harboring an infection in his mouth (the vet had extracted a wolf tooth the previous week). She let me know that she’d be taking him to the vet in the morning instead of bringing him to us; I was in complete agreement the this was the right thing to do.
The next morning, I received another text– the one I’d been hoping wouldn’t come. When his owner first reported that Blue had been refusing his grain, I had actually hoped for that infected tooth. When a horse person hears that a horse is off his feed, though, that’s not where the mind most often goes. The horseman’s mind goes to colic.
Colic is a catchall term for digestive upset in horses. It can be mild or severe. Sometimes, colic can resolve with administration of medication, but sometimes it can result in surgery or euthanasia. Most people know how painful gas can be– that awful, doubling-over sort of pain. Horses commonly get this type of colic, but they can also have colic caused by an impaction– a blockage of the intestinal tract. These blockages can be caused by ingested sand building up in the digestive system, dehydration, rocks, fatty tumors– you name it. An impaction is a serious problem in that it prevents the horse from pooping and can cause the tissues of the intestinal tract to become compromised. Sometimes, the impaction can be moved along with administration of mineral oil. Unfortunately, the longer an impaction remains unresolved, the more dire the situation becomes.
On the day he was to arrive at home with us–the day we were to have bought him-Blue was diagnosed with an impaction colic severe enough to require surgery. It was a completely unexpected event one week following a veterinary exam that he essentially “passed” with flying colors. His owners were confronted with the difficult decision of how much money (how many thousands of dollars) to invest in treating this horse that they loved when the outcome of treatment was very, very unclear. This was quite a reversal, I’m sure, given that someone had been about to give them thousands of dollars for Blue. Instead of selling him, they were now faced with paying thousands to save him.
Ultimately, they proceeded with surgery. He is still in the early days of his recovery. Having spent several days at an equine hospital, I think he’s now back on his owners’ farm. Though I haven’t been in communication with his sellers since the day following his surgery, it’s safe to say that every day that passes with him in good health moves him closer to the possibility of a full recovery. He’s a wonderful horse, and we’re certainly rooting for him.
In the days following Blue’s surgery, Mark and I spent a lot of time shaking our heads at the unlikeliness of it all. Young horse, no colic history, the day he was to arrive– it all seemed impossible. Eventually, when the shock wore off, I began to revisit some of the other horses I’d considered in the search that eventually brought me to Blue. I’d found an ad for a mare in Indiana who looked interesting. We went to try her last weekend with both children in tow. Similar in age to Blue, she is entirely different in type. A registered Quarter Horse who looks more like a thoroughbred, she’s the same height as Blue but a much lighter model. Interestingly, though, I felt they rode much the same– light, thoughtful, and responsive. While she’s been working on dressage most recently, she was happy to jump the little fence we set for her from both the trot and canter without fuss. My children fed her carrots, and she stood patient and still as they moved about her in the barn. She sold herself, this chestnut mare.
Ivy was was vetted last week at Purdue University’s equine clinic and arrived at our farm on Sunday. I took the picture above last night as the sun was setting over our 45-minute grazing session.
Blue and Ivy. Hopefully, the future will bring good things for both of them.