Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”Carrie Fisher
Sunday was the FIRST beautiful, sunny day in in January, and I knew that I wanted to take advantage of the energy the sunshine brought with it, so I made a plan to go and hang out at the barn all afternoon. First, I did some cross country skiing, something I picked up when the kids were young, and they learned to do at school. I kept one pair of skis for myself when my son outgrew them in sixth grade, and threw them in the car, heading out.
It was the first time on skis for about 3 years, but I wasn’t phased by the rusty-feeling, and just decided that even if I fell over, I could just pick myself up. I did take a little hill a bit too fast, ended up on the forest floor, laughed, and decided to stay put and enjoy some sunshine while I was there.
Next I wanted to take Teddy out on a walk in the other direction, and give him the opportunity to get some exercise as well. We headed out and before long he dug through several inches of snow on the path and took a few bites of grass below. Forever resourceful our Teddy is. We went along, and he did this a few more times, I didn’t think too much of it, a little bite of grass here and there, some trotting and even cantering in between and we travelled along the edge of the hay fields, and up around a big hill as we made our way back to the paddocks. I was happy to see the rest of the herd was relaxed and also basking in the sunlight while Teddy and I were out and about. No one was any too worried that he was having more fun than they were.
Then came time to do some training. I had taken out some orange pilons and the target and treats, and prepared a treat bowl to mark the end of the session. I put a little apple sauce in the treat bowl for an extra little something, not thinking anything much of it because I had used some before on a lick-mat. The training session went really well, the the end we were confidently weaving in and out of the pilons at liberty, and it was time to return to the herd and call it an afternoon.
That night everything seemed fine when he was brought in, but the next morning, he had quite a bit of hay left over which was unusual for him. I checked on him a few times during the day, he was eating and drinking and not acting particularly ‘off’ but, something didn’t seem quite right either. That evening when I brought him into the barn, it was more clear that he had some tummy troubles. Since this was the first time I have had this kind of thing happened, I asked the well-experienced horsewoman who owns the barn for her opinion. She shared that she thought he’d be ok, since he was eating and drinking, but if it was still an issue in the morning to call the vet.
I accepted her opinion, and then headed out, thinking that this was one of those times where I would return for nigh check. Aaron and the other woman at the barn ended up trying to take his respiration rate and temperature after I left, to no avail. I decided then that I should really assess his vitals, something our vet had not yet been able to do because Teddy, as was just proven again, wasn’t remotely interested in having a thermometer anywhere near his rear end, during his wellness check just a few months prior. This time, I knew it wasn’t an option.
Back to the barn a few hours later, stethoscope around my neck, and ready to take on the full responsibility for what was to happen next. I grabbed the thermometer, and used the 15 second timer on my phone to count the rise and fall of his chest. Normal. Next, I decided that since he was eating, rather than take him out and put him in cross ties, I would give him some Timothy hay pellets in a dish next to the wall and stand on the other side, and try the thermometer once again. At first he kicked out a bit, but then, to my surprise he relaxed and let me get the information I needed. Normal. Finally, I took the stethoscope out, and introduced it to him. I knew if I were to actually hear his heart he couldn’t be eating, so I slowly brought the end of the stethoscope around different parts of his upper body, and then down to the area just behind his front left leg, set the timer again, listened and counted. Normal. Phew! All of Teddy’s vitals were normal, and, before I left his tummy seemed to have settled.
In the end, I felt a sense of relief, and a sense of pride. I felt like when I was with Teddy, taking his vitals, and monitoring his wellness, that “I” disappeared, that there was this person stronger and greater than who I have known myself to be, stepped in and took charge in a loving, capable way. Part of me also felt guilty that something I did, allowing Teddy to eat some grass, or giving him some apple sauce, could have caused his tummy troubles, but in the end, I was so relieved to have him well again, and that I was able to grow as a horsewoman and horse owner from the experience.
What was your first horse health related experience? What did you learn about yourself, and your horse? Share in the comments!