Rescued Horses and the Miracle of Human Attention
Last week Cardy, our rescued 35 year old New Zealand trotter, began slowly spinning in a meandering pattern in her paddock. Her movement reminded me of the teacups in Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World” ride. When Cardy was still, which wasn’t often, her hip was not over her stifles, but shifted to the left – not a stable position – and one she could not hold for long. Clearly, she was in pain.
Today’s story is part of our horses’ stories and underlies the power of this land and the power of human intent..
A bit of history – Cardy came to us in 2003 at the winter solstice. Carol Miller, a well known Mendocino advocate for animals had heard that an old mare was to be shot in Covelo, but that the owners preferred to find someone to take care of her through the remainder of her life. Carol, a former employee, knew that we had a lonely horse, Dan, who the town’s kids had named “Miracle Horse” in 1988 because he had survived a broken leg, much like the break suffered by Barbaro during the Kentucky Derby three years ago. Dan’s break was more difficult in that it was his front right leg: the front legs carry sixty percent of a horse’s weight. His break was a spiral, compound, complex fracture of the radius that resulted in the radius having to be fused to the carpals. Once Dan had healed to the extent that he could walk without a splint, he could be in the field in front of the Inn. Dan and his pasture mate, a beautiful black Morgan named R.J., became “herd-bound,” R.J. watching over Dan while he lay in the pasture to rest his legs.
In May 2003, neighbors moved in across the highway and allowed their two dogs to run. The dogs crossed the Coast Highways and ran into our pasture, scaring R.J. who slipped while running away breaking his right femur. This break was fatal – irreparable – unlike Dan’s. A vet came to put him down – but R.J. left his body, just as the needle was inserted. That alone felt to be a miracle.
Dan was now alone. I went down to him in the mornings and evenings to feed and medicate him. I talked to him and handle him, but I was not R.J. When Carol called about Cardy, Joan and I said, “Yes!”
Last week, Cardy almost toothless, lame was in pain. She circled in an attempt to become stable and was not eating. On Thursday, Ryan, who is our chief engineer – he handles everything from special building projects to overseeing every aspect of maintenance – spent part of the late evening brushing and talking to Cardy while Joan and I were out. His time with her helped Cardy to get through the night. The next morning she circled again and becoming increasingly exhausted.
Dana who multitasks as a Master Gardener, our sustainability expert (her MA is in sustainable international development), and assistant general manager, went to the pasture along with our newest massage therapist and energy worker, Wilea. They hung out with Cardy and after a while, Cardy felt safe enough to lay down. We believed that she was down for good due to her age and the extent of her lameness. Cardy slept, her lips quivering. Dana stayed with her, under a large garden umbrella that we brought out to protect her and Cardy from the constant rain. A couple of hours later, Dana called and had me look from the Inn. There, in the rain, Cardy stood next to her. Cardy hasn’t been spinning since. Dana created the second part of Cardy’s miracle. The vets came who had expected to put her down, checked her out, and then went up to the inn for some food. Karen Novak happily again prescribed “Bute” – phenylbutazon – a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, which Cardy had repeatedly refused in times past. Due to her soreness she was tractable. She suggested that Cardy be severely restricted in her movement which she hates. Horses depend on their ability to run to avoid protect themselves from predators and restricted spaces are not “safe” for horses not acclimated to them.
This morning the Bute is helping her. She wants out of the small paddock we created for her. She is alert and she is eating. I truly believe that without Ryan and Dana’s efforts she would not be with us today.