Something was wrong. I’d felt it and gone out to check on him at 4 am. He did not rise to meet me. I’d noticed that he’d had a little hitch in his giddy-up the day before. Now he could barely walk when he finally stood. He was hobbling and picking up his front left hoof. I posted a frantic HELP on Facebook.
I called my friend Laurie McCarthy who lives at the base of Mt. Magazine and keeps horses. She flew over, coffee in hand, pink paddock boots on foot at 6 am and helped me take some video and photos of his condition. She is a wonderful and experienced calming force who’s equine background I could rely on.
Some weeks earlier a fellow equine Mom and friend, Beverly Taylor, had referred me to a farrier who is an acquaintance. She uses a holistic approach to hoof care.
Sarah Alishire is a natural farrier who has a great deal of knowledge. There are many out there, but I’d followed her posts and liked the way she communicates about her horses and her attitudes towards care. How a person handles communication helps me to pre-determine how they will communicate with my animals. Sarah knows how to wait for the animal to feel confident enough to participate in his care rather than forcing it. There is no forcing Catalunya into anything.
When I called Sarah I could tell quickly from the questions that she asked that she was the one! She asked me what I feed him. Some may wonder what that has to do with his hooves, but I’d researched and knew that she was trying to determine if it was laminitis, an abscess, or if he was foundering or colicking from having been fed the wrong diet. I sent her the photos that Laurie took and she thought that she saw white line disease and that she could definitely help.
I’d left an hysterical message for Dr. Moon early. He sleepily called me back. He hadn’t even left for his office yet. He asked me questions trying to determine if it was colic or founder or hoof related. I didn’t understand some of his questions due to my lack of experience and couldn’t convince him to leave his practice and come out right away. He was not convinced that it was not something for the farrier.
“So, what on earth am I going to do?” I thought. “How will Sarah be able to work on Catalunya safely?” He knows “knee” and “foot” and “pick it up”. But it’s going to take months to train him to stand calmly for a stranger while his feet are worked on. I’ve only worked with him through the safety of the fence and he still kicks me sometimes when he becomes insecure.
He will have to be tranquilized in order to have this situation relieved. So, if we’re going to have to put him under, may as well have him castrated at the same time. I did not want him to experience anesthesia twice.
I asked Sarah to communicate with Dr. Moon on my behalf and to schedule the castration when he comes for the visit. I hired her to do his feet and be sort of the producer for the procedures. She knows about castration, the various conditions that could be at play, and she could answer Dr. Moon’s questions and assist him in the procedure.
Sarah got it done and the date was set for two days away. We would have to continue to watch him suffer like this and it was the middle of July. Nothing like having a gaping wound that you want to heal quickly in the hottest part of the summer. All kinds of infections love warm moist environments and the flies are horrendous. He will suffer more after the procedure. Ugh.
But, all of the experts say that in order for him to become a good barnyard buddy, he’ll have to be castrated. Most rescues won’t accept in tact males except for the ones rounded up for the government and they are sent to a specialist. Whom I spoke to a few days after Catalunya’s arrival.
After obsessing for 24 hours about how in the hell this was gonna work without a rodeo or a dart-gun, I began to ready Catalunya for what was to come. During our training that day I’d asked him to bring me his tail. He’d arranged his back legs so that his rump bumped into my target hand. I took syringes that have no needles and pushed them into his thickly hided rump. I’d asked Alan to remove one of the 14ft cattle gates from his second turn out pen and to re-set it on a post inside his barn corral. This way when he comes in for food we can get on the other side of the gate and slowly close it while moving him into what would create a narrow chute with the hayloft on one side and the long gate on the other. He’ll be pinned in so that Dr. Moon can administer the anesthesia.
It worked. He walked in. We all moved in; me, Sarah, Dr. Moon, and his 14 year old son. Alan and Sarah’s daughter, stayed on the outside of the surgery area ready to locate a wrench or rope or caribeener or whatever I’d missed from obsessing about the surgical area all night. I’d hung extra lighting, gathered gloves from my hair coloring kit, raked the straw nice and smooth, and filled a cooler of cold drinks. It was sweltering.
He struggled a little as we closed him in but he had been in so much pain for the past three days that he was worn out. He was ready for anything to change his situation. Dr. Moon got the shot in quickly and in just a few seconds Catalunya was knocked out. Dr. Moon’s son lied on his neck in case he woke up. Sara quickly did his feet while Dr. Moon did the castration. Catalunya’s goat buddies peeked through the walls and didn’t let out a sound in reverent support.
My goals for the day were to keep me and my family safe and to be able to give Catalunya the care he needs and deserves. Nothing more; not gonna teach him dressage, nothing less; not gonna let an animal who has come to us for help continue to suffer on our watch.
The sense of relief when the procedure was over was uplifting. After a successful production, we all hung out and shared stories like you do on a film set after the martini shot is in the can. Dr. Moon was very engaging and so special. He and his son have mules and horses and hunt elk and pack on their mules. They and Sarah shared equine treatments, procedures and strategies. The teenagers hung out. I was so grateful and happy for their skill and successful communication that I gave Dr. Moon my grandfather’s Veterinary Medicine book from the 1940’s to show my appreciation.
Before he left, Dr. Moon explained that he’d double clamped the arteries and to watch for pooling blood. Dripping is normal, pooling is not. “So, now I get to obsess on him bleeding to death” my inner voice said.
Catlunya had a rough recovery and Alan I were distraught again. After sometime, it seemed that the problem was balancing on his newly shaped hooves coupled with the pain of the of his incision site rubbing against his inner thigh with each step. One hoof has a deep hole in it. Possibly eaten away by white line disease. It seemed to have something in it and bothered him more than the others. He was still hobbling and drunk on pain killers and anesthesia. He would not allow us to come near him in order to check his wound site or hoof.
Finally, that afternoon we both approached him while he was standing up. He came over to us, Alan with the treat bowl and I with the hoof pick. I asked him to pick it up and he did. I was able to quickly gouge out a small stone form the cavity in his hoof and Alan was able to administer the treat quickly. He seemed greatly relieved after that and things started to trend towards the positive.
The next day I noticed a white, foamy pool of what I guessed was puss. I noticed the incision site on the right side was full of puss. For our training that day I asked him to bring me his belly. He arranged himself so that I could touch his belly through the fence. He allowed me to apply a cloth that I’d soaked with peroxide and then allowed me to apply a charcoal based wound powder on the incision site. Stood perfectly still while I cared for his wound. When he is ready for his environment to be improved, he allows care.
All of our training up to this point, (224 days in a row at the day of his procedure) went a long way in making that day possible. He allowed me to care for this very painful wound in a very sensitive area for weeks until it healed. Our bond went to a new level that day. The moon was in Equus that day.