Change of Direction

       The engine in my truck had been getting tired. Bobby Steele agreed to give it a rebuild. While wintering at the Morris family winter quarters, he hoisted the engine out and dismantled the engine. When the engine was almost complete, Bobby needed sawdust for bedding the cages of his bears. I had only one horse. I used the entire width of the back of my trailer, approximately 8×12, to make a stall. Sassy enjoyed the room in the back of the new trailer all to herself. I thought sawdust would be a nice addition on the floor so I joined Bobby on his trip to a cabinet shop.

     While we shoveled the dusty stuff into leaf sacks, he became satisfied with the coupe. Back at the elephant farm, we resumed the engine rebuild. Sassy was getting along fine in her new digs, now enhanced with sawdust. The engine project progressed nicely but Bill Morris didn’t have the ability for me to stay at his farm for the entire winter. Rain was coming. Plus, there was no pasture available for my horse.  I had to go.

    With the engine complete, I moved the rig temporarily to Billy Rogers’s trailer park nearby, during the wet weather. This place was not ideal either; no yard for the horse.  The parking location was on terrain that left the rear of the trailer elevated. While in this situation, the new metal ramp was useless due to the acute angle. Satisfied with the comfort I had created inside, I left Sassy loaded that day and continued my search for a better parking place.

    Having looked at a pair of mules recently, I thought to contact Gee Gee Engesser. I found out she had room for the rig plus a stall and pasture for the horse. I made plans to move out there immediately. That would also facilitate acquiring the mules. 

      Upon arrival, while leading the mare out of the trailer, I was horrified at what I saw. Sassy walked gingerly, obviously in pain. Her front feet were way out in front of her. Gee Gee called the vet who arrived in a hurry but didn’t know what he was looking at or what could have caused her condition.

    He shrugged and said with unenthusiastic resignation, “Let’s wait a few days and see what happens.”

       Not knowing anything else, I proceeded to care for her as best I could in her new stall.

     Not having any experience with this condition and not knowing anyone to confer with that had any knowledge left me at a disadvantage. Gradually I learned about founder. I also found out that the window of where treatment would have been effective had slipped by. 

       Sassy remained in pain. In an effort to get off her feet, she began to lay down a lot. I took every effort to provide comfort to this wonderful mare who also represented an important part of my future ambitions. I refused to embrace the truth. I began the relentless pursuit of finding out about something or anything I could do to eliminate this condition.

       A follow-up conference with the veterinarian who responded first established him as incompetent. Another doctor informed me that with the immediate introduction of an antihistamine, the inflammation could have been reversed, but only during the introductory stages. It ends up that the sawdust Bobby and I retrieved contained certain hardwoods that promoted a fever in her feet. Wood shavings traditionally used for horse bedding are pine or softwood because several hardwoods are poisonous. As the temperature in her feet went up, the laminae became inflamed.

       The resulting inflammation in her feet caused the tissue contained in the hoof to expand. Since the hoof wall acts as a container for this tissue, it can only expand downward like toothpaste coming out of a tube. That was why contact with the ground became painful. This condition gave her the inability to place her feet squarely on the ground and is why she sought to rock back on the heel in an effort to get off the uncomfortable, tender sole.

       I knelt down in the sawdust of her stall and gently stroked her neck. I looked into her kind eyes and saw her yearning to understand what was going on.

       “Everything is going to be okay,” I whispered.

    I was afraid in spite of believing there was something I could do to heal this horse. I spent time with here, gently tending to her every need. My attachment to my ambition of going it alone separated me from the truth. Sassies condition was grave. I bedded Sassy up to her belly every day to make her as comfortable as possible. I also provided her to a regimen of pain relief via supplements.

      As I tended to this wonderful mare, time seemed to slow down. In the first few months of sobriety, I was learning about life. This life is a dichotomy. I was finding out that life was not good or bad but that life is a blend of good and bad. As Sassies condition worsened, I was blessed with another to love.

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