There’s so much that we want to share about what we do here. It’s hard to know where to start. That said, the past few weeks have been keeping us on our toes with a few of our rescues. So, this week we are going to talk about the reality of the rescue.
Rescuing can be equal parts heartbreak and hopefulness. When we bring a horse back to the farm, more often than not, they are in pretty poor shape. Sometimes we have history on their lives, but many times we know very little. On top of this, most of the horses here at the rescue are older horses. They might have arthritis, lameness due to injury, parasites, muscle issues, you name it, we’ve seen it. They may also have had very loving homes previously, but due to circumstance they had to be surrendered and are missing home and their loved ones. Anyone that’s ever had to leave their people know how that feels. Not all wounds are visible.
With all that being said, let’s talk a little bit about what happens when you must call in reinforcements. The past few weeks we’ve had the vet out here at Toni’s Ponies THREE times. Two emergency vet calls and one routine check-up.
Last week we talked about Rusty. That was our first vet visit. He was checked out, sedated, belly tapped, and tubed. The prognosis was leaning toward euthanizing him if things did not get better. The tests that were done onsite pointed to that being the most likely outcome. We were devastated. It’s crazy the emotions you go through on a day like that. You wake up a little tired but get out there to greet the day and the animals. I can’t speak for everyone, but, especially on those cool sunny mornings, it is the best way to start the day. They’re always happy to see you, and you have that sense of accomplishment as you scoop the grain combination into the buckets and set about the day’s work. But then, something doesn’t seem right. One eager boy isn’t where he’s supposed to be. You already have this inkling that the day is not going to go as planned. Worry sets in and you have to figure out how bad it might be.
While my neighbors, Toni and Andy have been around horses for a long time, I’m relatively new to this. I didn’t know how bad of a sign it was that Rusty was pretty sweaty on one side and only wanted to lay down. The horses here at the farm lay down all the time. When we first moved in next door it really freaked me out. I texted Toni asking if that was normal. I was always under the impression that horses slept standing up. Which apparently, they can, but when they feel comfortable and safe, they have no problems flopping down in the middle of the field for some poor equine novice to assume the worst!
Rusty was not just napping. From the time Andy found him, he knew something was really wrong. He was in so much pain. And not long after we got him up and moving, he was back on the ground, thrashing. It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. Andy and Toni worked quickly calling the vet, and then it was a waiting game. After the vet left, we waited and waited and expected the worst and hoped for the best.
On the day to day making choices is hard. I hate deciding what’s for dinner each night. The choices Toni’s had to make during her time running this rescue are just impossible. How long do we wait for the poop to come? Is he in pain? Is he just really stoic? When do we take him in? Surgery at the price tag of upwards of 10K is not really an option. The other horses still have to eat and have money available for care. These are very hard choices even when the practical decision is clear. Because it’s not just about practicality. Your heart is invested and you sit with the knowledge that you rescued this beautiful soul just a month ago. He’s made it to his forever home, and he’s going to get the best care from people that love him, and how could that possibly be coming to an end so early? In Rusty’s case, as you know, he beat the odds. The poop eventually came, he kept grazing. Toni was up every few hours waiting for more poop and checking on him throughout the night. He’s a happy boy these days and our hearts are so happy.
Now let’s talk about Princess. Princess is a 30-year-old mini horse. Exactly one week after the Rusty scare, we went to feed in the evening only to find that she hadn’t eaten her grain from the morning. When we walked around the corner, we were shocked to see clear snot running out of her nose. It was clear to Toni that she likely had an obstruction and was having a hard time breathing and passing any extra food. When she was brought to the lawn, she still wanted to eat, but now that clear snot turned green instantly. The vet was called and they sedated and tubed poor princess. For those of you who don’t know what tubing is; they put a plastic tube through the horse’s nose and try to flush out any obstructions that might be lodged along the digestive system. They run warm water, salt, and other minerals through them. In Princesses case it didn’t seem to do much. The vet then asked if we had any Diet Coke around. She explained that getting Princess to take Diet Coke (caffeine free) every two hours might help in breaking up whatever obstruction there was. So, Toni, Andy, and Shelby were set on the task of administering the Diet Coke every couple of hours through the night and for the next 24 hours. The vet said that about 70% of horses will actually just drink it up. I guess Princess fell in the other 30%. She was not having it. For Princess there was no real decision to be made. This either worked or it didn’t. She was too old and too small to have any kind of surgery. It didn’t make it any easier to see her in pain though. And of course…there was the waiting. Again, we found ourselves waiting for poop. Luckily it came in the form of a tiny little patty about 14 hours later. More followed! Another happy ending.
Our third vet visit was for our big boy Finn. This was just a check-up and everything went beautifully. He was such a good boy. Finn has an older injury that he needs to be on medication for. That medication has to be prescribed so a vet visit was in order. It’s was also good to get him checked out for anything else that might be going on. Sure enough, the vet found a little lump on his sheath and a biopsy was done. I have to give credit to our vet. He got right up under Finn and took a little chunk right out of him like it was nothing. The next time he got under there though, a couple things happened all at the same time. Stella, the Great Dane, coughed and a carrot was broken in half close by and Finn jumped straight up in the air. I’ve never seen someone move from a crouching position to 5 feet backwards so fast! Good reflexes Doctor! As for Finn, he was just as chill as ever once his feet hit the ground again.
These stories all had a pretty good ending. We know when we take a horse on that we are not guaranteed a medically sound animal. We know the risks and we take them anyway. We know that once they come to this safe place, that does not mean they aren’t going to colic or choke, or fall. Horses are big animals and they can get hurt in so many ways. Many of them have been hurt and that’s why they ended up in need of rescue. It’s not always a happy ending. Sometimes they don’t make it. We do everything that we can and it isn’t enough. Those are hard and sad days. We’ve poured our love and time and money into them and they still don’t get better. It’s really expensive to rescue, on many levels. Financially these past couple weeks added up to about $3000 in medical bills alone.
That said… there is nothing more beautiful than watching a new horse join the herd, or walk up to someone for the first time and let them pet them. On the days that I look outside and see five or more horses all laying out in the sunshine sunbathing and feeling safe; those moments make my heart swell. When you get to see an old ranch horse that outlived his usefulness so he was shipped off to a feedlot only to find a teenage girl that completely falls in love with him and essentially, he’s getting a second life… Gosh there aren’t words for how good that is to see. We don’t have all the answers and we wont always have happy endings but we do what we can for the horses we can. We are hopeful that this rescue will grow and that we will be able to save more horses and build a place where they are loved and they come in contact with people who need them just as much as they need us.
When you support Toni’s Ponies you are supporting horses getting a second chance, which in many cases means a whole second life. Thank you for being our village and letting us do the things we do. Heartbreaking and hopeful.
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