Last Wednesday night, after work, I went out to the barn to see Buckshot. After helping feed some of the farm’s horses, I went to Buckshot’s pasture. He was nibbling on some hay, but looked up as I came near. I stroked his neck and chatted with him, gazing out over his pasture. There were a few trees I idly thought I’d look at, so I headed across the pasture. As I walked, Buckshot joined me at my side. Wow, I thought, that’s nice, he wants to go with me. I walked deep into the pasture and Buckshot stayed right at my side. I wonder if he wants to do some of our groundwork exercises, although he doesn’t have his halter or lead line on. So I tried one of our exercises and he did it great! We did another one and he did it exactly as if he had a lead line on! I kept going, amazed at him! I wondered if he thought he had a lead line on, so close and exact were his responses to me. I didn’t have treats with me, so I gave him hugs after each exercise. When I left, I was awed by him- I had never seen him respond so perfectly to my cues without halter and lead line! I praised him and told him what a smart and wonderful horse he is! And I smiled all the way home at these memories of him.
On Saturday, the weathermen got even with me. The previous weekend I thought I had cheated them out of their mean forecasts by having a great time with Buckshot, despite rainy, gloomy and uncertain weather forecasts. But this Saturday, they got even. The forecast wasn’t alarming: high 50’s, partly cloudy, windy, slight chance of rain. By the time Buckshot was tacked up and we were in the arena doing our walking, there were a lot of, well, interesting looking clouds, and some wind, but not too bad. Buckshot isn’t usually bothered by windy conditions so I felt confident continuing our ride. A few other students came out into the arena and we began our lesson. It went well and despite the growing windiness, all of the horses stayed calm.
We walked down the farm road to the hay arena, opting to stay out of the woods in case of branches coming down. While at the hay arena, the wind picked up to gale force, we could hear and see metal awnings and roof parts clattering on nearby houses, and when we looked up, large, dark clouds were moving quickly toward us. Riding in the arena suddenly seemed dangerous; we immediately headed back down the road to the barn. As we walked down the road, the wind gusted to what felt like tornado or gale force winds; I sat back in the saddle and deliberately breathed out to keep my nerves in control. Buckshot wasn’t bothered; in fact, none of the horses spooked at all. But us humans were another story – we were worried! But we calmly walked our horses down the road, got to the barn and dismounted, letting out sighs of relief. Very scary wind and clouds out there! But all horses and humans were safe. A good ride, but not a fun one.
By Sunday the wind had subsided, the sun was out and it was a little warmer. When I went to Buckshot’s pasture, he was still eating his morning hay, so after hugging him and talking to him, I did the little chores I do at his pasture. I got him another salt block for his stall (one hung on the wall of the adjacent stall); I emptied and cleaned their water tub, I picked up poop from their stalls and the section near their stalls/water.
Then I led Buckshot over to the main barn and got ready to ride. During our walking, he was a bit resistant to move forward; I had to encourage him more than normal. But after our twenty minutes, he was ready to trot, so we did some trotting patterns. A few other riders came out and we rode in the arena , and then headed onto the trail Buckshot was a little stumbly on the trail, perhaps because his feet had been trimmed a little too closely in the previous week. When we went up two inclines, I heard him exhale as if, perhaps, to say, whew, glad that hill is over. At the hay arena, we worked for a short while and he did two very good canters and several trotting exercises. He seemed to be heaving a little so I asked the BO if he was exhaling strongly through his nostrils. She said he was, a little. I decided to stick with walking from that point on.
We walked back to the barn after a bit and I dismounted. Buckshot didn’t want to move right away, so I gave him a treat from my pocket and stood by him, telling him what good work he had done. After a few minutes, we went into the barn. My usual procedure is to take off his bridle, rinse the bit in the water bucket, take off the saddle and pad, brush him briefly and then give him some carrots. He might turn to the hay or drink some water during this time.
Surprisingly, after taking off his bit, he kicked the wall with his front foot, and started circling in a pre-roll maneuver. Surprised, I pulled his saddle off, put his halter and lead line on and immediately took him back to the arena, to let him roll on the dirt (and not in the enclosed area of the stall). He didn’t roll there, but did whinny once. I was perplexed by his behaviors. I took him back to the stall and brushed him quickly on the girth area, and he again circled the stall, bending his legs slightly as if to roll. I stuck his carrots in my pocket and decided to get him over to his pasture, which is where he usually rolls.
So we walked over to his pasture. He wasn’t interested in any grass on the way (unusual for him). When at this pasture, he immediately rolled. Then he stood up and I took his carrots over to him- he didn’t want any! He circled around and laid down. I was worried by this point – not wanting carrots is unheard of, and laying down is unusual. I stood there and watched him, he didn’t seem to be in distress, he wasn’t pawing at his stomache or at anything. After a few minutes, I went to find the BO and tell her as I was worried about him. I told her I had seen him poop twice that very day, good fairly solid poops. She came up to his pasture and seeing that he looked alert, and not in distress, but laying down, with head up, we thought he had a stomache ache perhaps. She went to get a dose of Banamine and when she got back he was laying down all the way. We got a halter on him, and he lifted his head up into that upright position, and we gave him the Banamine. He took most of it; he only spit out a little of it. We thought we’d watch him.
I busied myself and in a few minutes, he was standing, which made me feel good. I talked to him and told him I was so sorry he felt poorly, and I hoped he felt better soon, with the medicine. Not wanting to watch over him like a hawk, I headed back to the barn to do a chore, and I saw him slowly head out into his pasture with Lucky. When I came back within the hour, to start feeding, he was out in the pasture, laying down, in that head-upright position. I walked out to him and talked to him; again, he looked interested and alert, no pawing, or rolling, just laying down. I sat down by his head for a few minutes, but not wanting to hover over him, I then got up and headed into their barn feed room to make dinner for the seven horses in the area.
As I brought out Lucky and Buckshot’s feed, Lucky bounded into his stall with normal enthusiasm. I gave him his dinner, and then walked out to Buckshot, who was still laying down. I showed him his dinner and he started to eat some from the scoop. I pulled it away and he immediately stood and came with me to his stall and ate his dinner, as normal. He then ate his after dinner hay as normal also. I was really glad to see Buckshot do both of these things! I hugged him and told him I had to go on and feed more of the horses. When I left the barn he was still eating his hay.
I have been in the parenting-limbo of “he’s probably alright today, the BO hasn’t called me with any bad news, but still in the back of my mind, I do worry about him." Since I’ve never had any children, I haven’t gone through the parenting-worry-syndrome except with Buckshot. It is an emotional experience, on the one hand, I can’t help worrying – did I give him some bad hay? Did increasing his feed a tiny bit the day before cause a problem? Did moving his salt block make him not get enough salt? Did I work him too hard on a hot day? Did I work him too hard for his age? Will he be alright? It’s so darn hard to tell what is happening since he can’t talk and say, this really hurts. Or this just hurts a little bit.
On the other hand, I want to be cool and calm, and responsible without being a worry wart. So he’ll probably be fine. Things like this happen; he can just have a stomache ache for an unknown reason. Reading his condition from his behaviors is fine; it’s what all horse owners do. His not feeling good is probably not anyone’s fault. Just get on with life and work and chores and keep an eye on him, as the BO will. But, still, I really can appreciate what parents must go through with their children, when they get sick. It is a tough, emotional roller-coaster, that comes from loving the little things so much, and wanting them to be healthy, and knowing how many things in life are not totally in our control, not even with our loved ones. I know you have probably experienced this as well. Thanks for listening!