Monthly Archives: June 2012

  • The Long Haul

    Written By Julia Edwards-Dake


    Author's Note: This essay was originally published on the website www.militarystables.com
    All photographs © 2008, Julia Edwards-DakeI grew up a Navy brat. My parents hauled me across the country more times than I care to remember. Hwy 40 and Route 66 are not just names to me. I know them. The sights and sounds. The motels where my family slept or the diners with shiny counters and plastic booths that always offered ‘French toast.’ The Painted Desert and how big Texas seems in the back seat of a hot car are clear childhood memories. Just as clear is the memory that each time my family picked up and moved to a new station, I left something or someone behind; a best friend, a school or a pony. The best friend and the school I could forgive but the pony? The pony was the unforgivable.As an adult, I hauled my horse all over the west, riding the mountains and the coast. However, circumstances often dictate changes in our lives and after 35 years in California, I found myself once again on Hwy 40, traveling east toward South Carolina. This time however, I didn’t leave the pony behind.

    The decision to haul across country wasn’t made easily but once made left me both exhilarated and a bit frightened. I would be doing this alone, a 50 year old woman — alone. Two thousand forty seven miles with a dog and a horse, staying in strange places with nothing but the amazing, blazing internet and the experience of others to guide me — I was planning a real adventure!

    I started my journey with research. I searched the internet, surfing the websites, reading and planning. I found places to stay with links to the various horse motel websites. My favorite and most used sites were www.horsemotels.com and www.horseandmuletrails.com. I followed links to other related sites such as www.usequestrians.com and found more information.

    I emailed people at the various facilities along my planned route, getting directions and distances. It is important to know what one can expect as far as roads, conditions, and when the weather might turn bad. I determined that I would haul no longer than six hours per day with half hour rest stops every two hours. Layovers of a day or more were planned to give my horse a real rest from the vibration and noise of the road.

    Professionals, such as my vet, counseled me making certain I had the correct health certificates as well as ownership/brand papers. My gelding’s vaccinations were all up to date and he is microchipped. I updated that information. Lastly, I had him freshly shod as I planned to ride during the trip.

    I spoke with professional horse haulers, most of whom were willing to answer my questions. I needed to know what to expect on such a long haul. The consensus among the professionals was to ship the horse. The trip could be made in four days with a day layover. My horse would ride in air-suspended luxury with the best of care. Interestingly enough, in 2006, the cost to transport professionally and the cost of fuel to cross the country were about the same. But why haul an empty trailer? I was going anyway so why not ride some of the places I’d only read about in magazines.

    On such a long haul, there are a myriad of things that must be attended to, some of them so mundane as to risk being forgotten. I included in my ‘travel kit’ a power of attorney both for myself and my animals should an accident leave me unable to direct medical treatment. I had ‘In Case of Emergency’ information about my horse, my dog, and myself in the travel kit. I wanted authorities to know who to call. I also purchased roadside assistant from U. S. Equestrian, designed specifically for those of us who haul horses. I used the service twice while on the road and then again when I reached my destination.

    I would never have considered this haul if I’d not had a large horse trailer and a big safe truck. My rig is a three horse slant with living quarters. I haul with a Dodge 3500 dually diesel 4x4. The rig is comfortable with good suspension, well padded and well ventilated. I have fans over the horse slots to keep the air moving during rest stops. The slot for my gelding is wide and safe. (The only change I would make is to pad the side of the divider to ease the right hip. Dakota bumped the right hip for nearly 3000 miles. At the end of the journey he had a significant bruise that took some time to recover from.)

    I didn’t wrap my gelding’s legs as he is not used to traveling that way. I didn’t tie his head. I don’t believe in tying, thinking that a horse is better off lowering his head and having a good cough. Nor do I travel with shavings in the horsebox. The dust fills the air and the lungs. These are my personal preferences gained from years of hauling this particular horse. Another horse with a different temperament and I might have made different choices.

    At each rest stop, I offered water but no food. Because my gelding loves watermelon, I had several in the bed of the truck along with hay, bran and pre-measured grain. I would offer him slices of the melon to keep him hydrated and encourage him to drink. He eventually took water at each rest stop. My biggest concern, hydration, was eased within the first two days of travel.

    Having the living quarters meant I didn’t need to stay in motels thus saving money. In addition, I was able to stay on the site with my horse or leave him and the trailer at the horse hotel to explore. The Cowboy Hall of Fame and the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame were nice stops along the way. A guided tour of Native American ruins was one of the highlights ranking right up there with the nights in the Painted Dessert. I spent one night in Amarillo with the Budweiser Clydesdales in a beautiful facility. My quarter horse suddenly looked very, very small.While on the road, I never pulled my horse from the trailer. The risk of losing control of him due to a spook or something equally silly was too great. So Dakota stayed in the rig until we reached our nightly destination. Once at my destination, I would unload and walk, giving my horse (and me) the opportunity to settle from the road and get his legs under him. I would water him and, if the facilities allowed, would turn him out to roll and relax.Parking the rig, hooking up to electricity if available and cleaning out the horsebox portion of the trailer takes up the next hour. Keeping the mats clean and dry makes the road more comfortable and safer for your horse. Eventually I am able to tend to my dog. He was welcomed at every horse motel at which I stayed, as long as he was well behaved (I always checked with my hosts before I hauled in). An invaluable companion along the way, Dru never once criticized my driving and he was always happy to finish off a meal.Dakota would be stalled for the night. At some facilities, I provided my own bedding. Others provided a varying quality or type of bedding. I provided my own alfalfa hay and, as the trip progressed, slowly changed to the hay I would be feeding once I reached my destination. A warm bran mash to compliment his hay inevitably ended up in his ears or on his knees but he enjoyed it and again got plenty of moisture.

    Finally, I would find a moment for myself: dinner, a glass of wine and time to unwind. My very own shower topped off the evening followed by television or, if the horse hotel offered it, a surf of the web. I kept my friends and family updated via evening emails and uploaded photos.


    I followed this routine for nearly three weeks. Unlike the breakneck races across the country with my Navy parents, I had the luxury of taking my time. No new station or posting awaited me. No children wailing for a bathroom break or the tee pee motel in the desert, the rumble of my truck and the occasional country music station was the sound I enjoyed as I hauled my pony and my dog to a new life.

    In retrospect, I am struck by the difference between crossing the country in the 21st century and crossing the country via Route 66 in 1966. Cell phones and wireless laptops, food chains and horse-friendly motels make the trip safer and a lot easier. I didn’t see a single road sign that read “Next services 400 miles” but I remember such signs. I also remember my parents taking the advice seriously.

    What would I do differently? Fewer clothes and more food come to mind. Definitely more hay. I’d also take more time to ride and ride more of the places I passed. There are never enough pictures when you get to the end of the road. I am sorry I don’t have a picture of myself and my dog beneath a Route 66 sign. I would also include a real, paper map in addition to my navigation system.

    As a woman traveling alone, I would remind others traveling alone: if your intuition nags at you or screams at you, pay attention. A ‘horse motel’ in Alabama comes to mind along with the twang of banjos and the theme from ‘Deliverance’. I turned around, hauled out. I called my mom and tasked her with finding me another place to stay. Later that night, in beautiful Leeds, Alabama, I blessed the folks at Heather Farms for welcoming a stranger into their midst even though they were not a horse motel or even a boarding barn.

    Planning with more depth and following the plan would have made a few moments a bit less harrowing. I missed rush hour in Amarillo but hit it dead on in Atlanta. I spent several hours on a ‘detour’ because I missed the turn back to the freeway. On the other hand, I consider spontaneity to be the chocolate syrup of life. Three extra nights in the Painted Desert are still with me. The trip is a little sweeter with a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

  • After Surviving Three Gastrointestinal Surgeries, Moose’s Separation Anxiety was a Serious Challenge!

    Written By Leigh Pyron

    All photographs © Leigh Pyron

     

    I met Moose, a very handsome Silver Lab, when he was about a year and a half old. Preparing to pet sit for clients of mine, I learned they had rescued him from a couple that had no time for a dog. Moose had lived most of his life all alone in a fenced in back yard. Thanks to his new owners, he would finally have the home he deserved with two wonderful, loving, caring, compassionate people who loved dogs, and another fun-loving Chocolate Lab named “Kodi.”
    Before I had the pleasure of meeting Moose, the owners warned me that he was a handful and the two dogs together could be quite explosive! So, I told them I’d try to work in a little obedience training with the two of them while they were away. When I arrived at their home the first day of pet sitting, the owners had already departed. They told me they would leave the dogs in the backyard. As I entered through the front door, all I could hear was a cacophony of dog barking and an intermittent thumping and scratching of nails on thick glass. When I walked into the kitchen I had a full view of the sliding glass doors to the deck and backyard. I couldn’t help but laugh at the two of them bouncing up and down simultaneously, doing Olympic jumps of four-off-the-floor in a syncopated rhythm. Moose would wiggle the front and back end of his body in opposite directions and then elevate his whole body up off the ground in one gigantic leap, followed by a resounding thump of 90 pounds hitting the wood flooring of the deck. Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me trying to achieve obedient calmness from these two. First things first, an off leash run in the open space would be our immediate event for the day!
    After an hour and a half of exercise, Moose and Kodi were two totally different dogs. The rest of the evening would be quite peaceful with them both crashed out on the couch. All was well until about 3:30 in the morning when I was awakened by the sound of Moose choking and heaving. As I staggered out of bed, he began to throw-up some unidentifiable white material in a ball on the carpet. I quickly rushed him outside and cleaned up what looked like the remnants of a white sport sock. All I could think was, thank goodness he was able to throw it up! Moose seemed to be fine the next day, so I decided to take them for a long hike. We were about 30 minutes into the hike when all of a sudden Moose started choking and heaving again off to the left side of the trail. I walked over to inspect it and this time he threw-up some kind of black, shiny pieces of material. I had no idea what Moose had gotten into, but from then on I made sure Moose had no access to any kind of clothing items. Luckily, the rest of the week remained uneventful.
    Neither the owners nor I had any idea at the time that Moose’s eating of non-edible objects happened to be a bad case of separation anxiety. But after Moose ingested a whole red potato (surgery number 1), a small cardboard encased light bulb (surgery number 2, in which he lost 18 inches of his intestines), and a chewed up plastic squeaker from the inside of a stuffed animal (surgery number 3, in which he almost didn’t survive), something had to be done!
    It seems to me that Moose must have been a cat in his former life that didn’t get the chance to use up his nine lives! It’s a miracle he is still here today — he wouldn’t be without the amazing work of Dr. Mary Press of Larkspur Landing Veterinary Hospital in Larkspur, CA. Thanks to Dr. Press, Moose still has six lives to go — let’s hope he never has to use them!
    By the way, I finally figured out what the black material was that Moose threw up that day in the woods… About three weeks later, I was pet sitting at another client’s home and I’d just gotten out of the shower and reached for my small, shiny black robe. I didn’t think anything of it until I stood in front of the mirror to dry my hair. As I raised my arms and looked into the mirror, I stood there in shock. Moose had somehow strategically managed to chew off the right and left side of the sleeves to my robe, they were completely gone!
    Separation Anxiety
    Separation anxiety is when a dog experiences a certain level of panic due to feeling alone and unsafe, being confined, and his inability to determine when his suffering will end. Dogs will do anything they can to try to escape and relieve their anxiety. People have come home to find their furniture torn to pieces, holes in the walls, curtains shredded, doors and window frames chewed, and their dog's mouth and paws bloody from endless attempts to escape.
    There are a number of ways to go about resolving separation anxiety. Here are a few things I think are very important to address:
    1.      Making your dog feel safe and secure in his own environment. Be sure the area where you are going to leave or confine your dog is free of anything he can destroy or that will hurt him. Use baby gates or exercise pens or a dog run to create this space. Do not crate your dog unless you are positive he is at ease and comfortable in his crate.
    2.      Creating routine and consistency in your dog’s life. Be predictable, if your dog knows that when you leave you will always return, then he won’t have difficulty being alone. The most important thing to do when you are ready to depart is to act very calm and relaxed. Take your dog to his confined area, ask him for a “sit” give him a treat and say a quick, casual good bye such as “see ya” or “off to work” and calmly leave. Then, when you return home be sure to completely ignore him until he is in a calm and relaxed state. Then reward him with a greeting and affection.
    3.      Building his confidence level. A dog that is confident feels a sense of security when his owner is gone. It’s important to be there to support your dog through this difficult process, but it’s also important not to coddle or nurture his neediness. You can help your dog gain confidence through basic obedience training by teaching him “Sit” and “Down,” “Wait” and “Stay.” Using these exercises you can build up on increasing distance from your dog and practice being out of his sight. Another fantastic way to build confidence in your dog is to enroll him in socialization classes such as, agility, herding, canine freestyle and scenting or tracking classes. Any of these exercises and classes will give your dog an ability to adapt to new situations and a sense of being safe in various environments.
    A few other great ideas…
    ·         Leave your dog a yummy, treat-filled smart toy such as a Kong or Buster Cube.
    ·         Leave some music on or the television. Be sure to choose a channel that you normally listen to and turn it on for a period of time before you leave.
    ·         Try using natural treatments such as “Rescue Remedy” Bach Flower Essences, aromatherapy or homeopathic remedies.
    ·         Be sure to exercise your dog before you leave.
    ·         In severe cases consider medications. Contact a professional behaviorist and your veterinarian if you want to explore the options of using pharmaceutical alternatives.
    If your dog’s case of separation anxiety is extreme, you should contact a professional to help you through the process. It’s imperative that you take the time to work with your dog through the beginning stages of this process. It can be very time consuming and arduous, but well worth it in the end for your peace of mind and your dog’s long-term health and well-being.

  • Dolphins and Dogs: Protect Your Heart

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    All photographs © Jenny Pavlovic

    A quick note: A few weeks ago I discovered that Bandit’s tags were missing. I keep them in a tag pocket on his collar to protect them, and the entire pocket with all the tags was gone. I immediately got him a new ID tag. After my experience with hundreds to thousands of lost dogs after Hurricane Katrina, I wanted Bandit to be easily identified from a tag (even though he is microchipped), if for some reason he got lost. For more information, look for the special offer on the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book at the end of this article.
    I’m excited because I’m preparing for a trip to swim with wild dolphins (if they’re willing) in Bimini with animal communicator Mary Getten. In 2008, I had amazing encounters with gray whales at Laguna San Ignacio on a trip with Mary. I’ve been reading books by Rachel Smolker and Horace Dobbs about encounters with wild dolphins. I knew that dolphins are remarkably intelligent, and reading these stories impressed me about just how connected they are. We’re often ignorant of other species’ capabilities and needs unless we take time to observe them and get to know them.
    Smolker wrote about a wild dolphin, called Holly, in Australia. When Smolker was in the water with Holly one day, Holly tried to get Smolker to swim down into deeper water, but she didn’t follow the dolphin because the water was murky and she couldn’t see well. Holly then dove down alone and carried something up from the bottom of the sea. It was the toolkit that had been lost from Smolker’s boat in a recent violent storm. Holly the dolphin had retrieved Smolker’s lost toolkit!
    Dobbs wrote a similar story about a dolphin, called Donald, in England. Dobbs had lost his new underwater camera when the strap broke. He’d been searching for it for a while when Donald dove to the bottom of the sea and pointed to the lost camera, finding it for Dobbs. This is another example of a dolphin helping a person find something they had lost! After spending much time swimming in the ocean with wild dolphins, Dobbs hypothesized that they used their sonar to identify the heartbeats of their human friends from a distance.
    During the same week I was reading the dolphin books, while out doing errands I heard snatches of a cancer researcher speaking on the radio. I later looked up the broadcast and found the podcast at http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/04/27/mpr_news_presents/. Dr. David Agus, cancer doctor and best-selling author of the book The End of Illness, spoke about diet and exercise and genes, but what jumped out at me the most is what he said about dogs. He said that the landmark Framingham Heart Study showed that the most protective factor for our hearts is having a dog. People who have dogs are healthier because dogs keep us on a regular schedule. He stated that having a regular schedule for diet, sleep, and exercise is even more important than how much food or sleep or exercise we get.
    When asked how this helps, Agus said that our bodies don’t like surprises. Our bodies care about surviving, and having a predictable and regular schedule helps our bodies know what to expect. Stress hormones are more likely to be activated when our bodies are surprised or miss something. When we have responsibility for a dog, we’re more likely to go to bed and get up at a certain time, have regular mealtimes, and go out regularly to walk the dog. We have to get home by a certain time to let the dog out and are less likely to stay out late because we have to get home to the dog (or we know that the dog will wake us up early even if we stay up too late!). This regular schedule is good for our bodies.
    I knew that having a dog was good for my heart, but I hadn’t thought about it this way!
    Next Dr. Agus said something that I hadn’t exactly heard before. He said that if you work out for an hour per day and sit for the rest of the day, all that sitting negates the benefits of the one hour of working out. Sitting for too long isn’t good for us because our lymphatic system has no muscles. When we walk around, the rhythmic contractions in our leg muscles circulate the lymph, helping our bodies get rid of waste. Helping the lymphatic system drain regularly by moving around makes us healthier. People who go to the gym for an hour per day may be fit in some ways, but their chance of getting cancer isn’t reduced by exercising unless they continue to move around throughout the day. People who have dogs tend to move around more regularly. This helps drain our lymph nodes and keep us healthy. Of course, this probably only pertains to people whose dogs live in the house with them and who spend time with and pay attention to their dogs.
    According to this thinking, Bandit hitting me on the leg with the rubber chicken or dropping the ball in my lap when I’ve been sitting at the computer for too long is actually helping me stay healthy. Every time I take a short break to go outside, run around with the dogs and kick the ball, I’m milking my lymph nodes, helping clean junk out of my system. I always thought Bandit was a genius. He’s even more of a genius than I realized. I call him my recreation director, but perhaps I should call him my personal trainer too.
    In turn, I do many things to help keep my dogs healthy. I give them off leash exercise, with room to run every day. I take regular breaks to play outside with them. I let them be dogs, don’t give them junk food, don’t use harmful chemicals on the lawn or the carpet or the floors of our house, avoid exposing them to toxic substances, let them express their natural instincts like tracking and herding, take care of their basic grooming needs and veterinary care, feed them high quality grain free food, and, of course, give them Omega Canine Shine® and Omega Nuggets™ to help meet their nutritional needs.
    Dolphins and dogs are more intelligent and aware than most people realize. They give us their best. In turn, let’s take good care of them too. Next month I’ll report back on my visit with the wild dolphins and on Chase’s therapy dog certification and stint as an acupressure demo dog.
    Announcements:
    Great gift for dog lovers, graduates, dads, and more: Signed, hard cover copies of The Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book are available for $15 each (40% off). Email me at jenny@8StateKate.net with “BOOK ORDER” or “BOOK INQUIRY” in the subject line. Quantity discounts are available for orders of 10 or more books. Find more info and the book trailer video at http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?page_id=1542.
    Braveheart Rescue in Hastings, Minnesota needs to place many wonderful dogs by the end of June. If you would like to adopt a dog, please check their adoption page athttp://www.braveheartrescueinc.com/Available_Dogs/available_dogs.html and contact them ASAP. Thank you.

  • Obesity in Horses

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Just like in people, many horses suffer from obesity related health issues. Overweight horses can have more trouble with joint issues, suffer from exercise intolerance and can even develop metabolic problems. While many horse owners know the risks of having an overweight horse, it may be difficult to reduce weight in these horses – certainly the horse is usually an unwilling participant!  In this article we will address management techniques and dietary strategies designed to reduce weight, but still keep the horse physically and mentally healthy.
    First of all, which horses are good candidates for losing weight? Ideally most performance horses should have a body condition score around five. Horses that are slightly overweight, or have a body condition score of 6 or 7, shouldn’t be at a great risk for health issues, but certainly will perform better at a condition score of 5 or 5 1/2. Horses above a 7 have more risk of developing health issues such as insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, or even Cushings in their later years. If the horse with a high body condition score also has uneven fat distribution, he is more likely to have metabolic issues, and may even be harder to remove weight from than a horse with a more even fat distribution (personal observation). Horses that have cresty necks, substantial amounts of fat over the tailhead, enlarged abdomens and fat in the area of their mammary glands or sheath fit this category.   It is more critical for these individuals to lose weight. Now that we have identified the horses which need to lose weight, let’s address a healthy weight loss plan.
    One of the first issues to address is the quality of the horse’s forage. Ideally we will feed dieting horses harvested forage/hay, rather than pasture as it is easier to monitor their intake. Horses that are overweight will do better on mature grass hay which has less caloric density than alfalfa or alfalfa-grass mix. When selecting hay, look for more mature hays that have been cut at a later stage of growth. Typically these will be coarser stems and have seed heads present in the hay. However, when looking for lower energy hays, don’t sacrifice the overall quality of the hay – it should not contain weeds, debris, dust, mold, etc. We are just looking for fewer calories, not hay that your horse shouldn’t eat! Once we have the correct hay type, the owner will have to limit their horse’s intake. This can often be confusing, as we typically teach owners to feed based on a percentage of the horse’s body weight. However, in this case, we have a horse that weighs too much, and is consuming more hay/forage than it should. Let’s take a look at the math involved to determine how much the horse should eat.
    For an example, we will start with a 1300 lb horse who has a body condition score of 8. If we looked up this horse’s energy requirements for maintenance, it would need 19.7 Mcals per day. But that energy requirement is based on a horse that is in a lean body condition. Remember that it takes more calories to maintain metabolically active tissue like muscle than it does fat.   So even if we fed our horse at its maintenance requirement, it is still receiving too much energy for its body type. We will now assume that for every body condition score we want the horse to lose, it should lose about 45 lbs. For our 1300 lb horse, our target weight is actually closer to 1165 lbs [1300 lbs-(45lbs x 3 body condition units)]. The maintenance requirement for the lean 1165 lb horse is 17.7 Mcal per day.    Using these numbers, we will calculate out how much hay this horse would need to provide that amount of energy. For this example, I will use a grass hay of advanced maturity with a caloric density of .86 Mcal/lb as fed. The amount of hay the horse would consume using our 19.7 Mcal figure would be 23 lbs of hay (19.7 Mcal/0.86 Mcal/lb), while the horse would receive 20.6 lbs of hay if we intend to provide 17.7 Mcal (17.7 Mcal/ 0.86 Mcal/lb). Let’s compare that with the standard feeding guidelines for horses based on body weight. If the target weight of our horse is 1165 lbs, and we fed at 2% of the target body weight, our horse would receive 23 lbs of hay. That certainly wouldn’t work because that would provide enough calories to maintain his current weight of 1300 lbs! So how much do we need to reduce his hay intake? If we feed the horse at 1.75% of its target body weight, the horse would receive 20.4 lbs of hay per day. However, even feeding at this rate will probably not get us to their target weight. Therefore, in order to really achieve weight loss in our horse, we should probably feed closer to 1.5 % of the horse’s target weight. That means our horse would only be eating 17.5 lbs of hay per day. For the horse owner, this means that in order to successfully achieve weight loss, we need to get a scale out to the barn, and physically weigh out the amount of hay the horse will consume in one day. While this may be time consuming, it is the most accurate technique to deliver the correct and consistent amount of calories.
    Now let’s talk about some other practical issues. A horse that is only consuming 1.5% of its target body weight is going to have some “free time” that it is not used to having. We need to provide mental stimulation for this horse or it may development unwanted stereotypies such as cribbing or wood chewing. Continual stalling would not be ideal as this will certainly lead to a great deal of boredom and frustration. If possible, the horse should be kept in a dry lot (free access to pasture certainly won’t help!) with secure fencing. Do not underestimate the horse’s ability to get through the fence to graze! Also, providing other horses with which to interact, stable toys, etc. will help relieve boredom. If you find your horse finishing his meals too quickly, putting the hay in a hay net which is tightly woven may also slow down his rate of intake and alleviate boredom. While these strategies may sound tedious, it is important in order to improve the overall health of your horse.
    Next month we will continue to discuss the dietary needs of a horse in a weight loss program, as well as how to safely use an exercise program to encourage weight loss.
  • A Tale of Two Mares

    Written By Barbara O'Brien

    All photography© 2011-2012, Barbara O'Brien

    My most recent horse rescues are two lovely Morgan mares that came from a Pennsylvania horse auction widely known to be attended by large-scale slaughter brokers. Fortunately, a sales broker who works with the group Forever Morgans, purchased them. Forever Morgans' mission is to find good homes for horses that would have most likely ended up on a slaughter truck.
    The first mare, Laurel, arrived in the summer of 2011. She was a 16 year old mare that had been an Amish carthorse. When she arrived, she still had on a full set of driving shoes, which we quickly pulled to let her just be a horse. Although, she had a lovely temperament, she didn’t really understand being a pet. She didn’t know what apples or carrots were and did not understand why we would just come into the pasture and brush her for no particular reason. It took awhile but she soon began to realize that she had a new life here, full of lazy days in the pasture with lots of treats and kind words.
    In December of 2011 we rescued, again through Forever Morgans, a 17 year old mare we call Ivy. She had had some success in the show world and then had been sold to the Amish to be a carthorse and broodmare. She had been run trough the auction with her six month old filly who was sold separately and unfortunately did not make it. She was a flashy big bay with a graceful long neck and big expressive eyes. When I rode her, it felt like I was going like a freight train, but her trot was as smooth as silk. Remembering her early life as a show horse, she was appreciative of the treats and good food and lots of love so she settled quickly into her new life with us.
    The winter of 2012 was mild here in Wisconsin and passed without a fight. Laurel did well all winter. With her heavy winter coat, and 24/7 access to hay she gained weight quickly and was looking good. But, no matter how much grain and hay I fed Ivy she did not seem to be gaining as quickly I would have liked.
    Even though she was ribby, I noticed her belly getting wider and wider. It was then I suspected that she may be pregnant, but no… that couldn’t be. She was sold as open (not bred) so she couldn’t be pregnant… could she? So I increased her feed just in case and kept an eye on her to see how she progressed.
    I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when on April 1st, I noticed the first signs of eminent foaling. She was all bagged up, meaning her udder was developing in order to nurse a foal. I was happy and excited. We had not had a foal around for years. How fun to have a surprise one and most likely a purebred Morgan at that! I prepared a stall for her and began the waiting game.
    After many restless nights spent checking on her every few hours, on April 10 she had a beautiful, healthy bay colt. As a firm believer in imprinting newborn foals (the practice of familiarizing a newborn foal with humans) I spent the next few hours carefully touching every part of his silky soft body and tiny little hooves.
    Ivy proved to be an excellent mother and it was evident that she had done this many times before. She was calm and let me handle the foal with no sign of nervousness or stress. We decided to name the foal Quincy, as it seemed to suit the friendly colt’s exuberant personality.
    Laurel, who was in the paddock with Ivy all along, proved to be an excellent auntie. She gave Ivy plenty of space with the foal but stayed near enough to make her and Quincy feel safe as part of a herd. When Quincy was a little older he naturally, as colts do, began to pester Laurel. She, being the good-natured mare that she was, would gently reprimand him and teach him important horse manners.
    One morning when Quincy was about a month old, I was surprised to find Laurel missing. Ivy and Quincy greeted me like usual, but Laurel was nowhere to be found. There had been a thunderstorm the night before and I checked the fence to see if she was frightened by something and ran off but it was working just fine. It was then I found her behind the barn. She was covered in mud and in obvious pain. She grunted and rolled and I knew right away we were dealing with a bad case of colic. Horses cannot burp or release excess gas through their mouths and so whenever they get a stomachache or a blockage it needs to go through their whole system. I called the vet and then went back and got Laurel up and began to walk her. Walking helps get their systems moving again. There was nothing to do now but wait.
    When our vet, Dr. Tom, arrived he treated her with medication to ease her pain and help her muscles relax. We also tubed her with mineral oil to ease her digestion. We were instructed to keep an eye on her and see if her symptoms and her pain subsided. Laurel's condition turned out to be what was most likely torsion colic or a twisted gut, a much more serious case, where part of the gut gets twisted, like a kink in a garden hose. We planned on giving her the night to allow the mineral oil to work but when I went to check on her about 8:00 that evening she was thrashing in her stall. My heart sank as I realized Laurel was not going to recover, and it became clear to me what I had to do. I called Dr. Tom and asked him to come out and put her down, as she was suffering and I knew she wasn’t gong to recover. I went back out and led her out onto the grass to wait for Dr. Tom. It was then I let out a short sob, which startled Laurel and even in her pain she leaned her head into me as if to say are you ok? Her attention made me cry even harder. She was finding it hard to walk so I just stood with her, and a moment later she lay down in the cool spring grass. She was breathing heavily as I knelt down and stroked her head. “You can go now,” I said. “You can go.” With that, Laurel looked at me one last time, her eyes soft and warm. She heaved a last big sigh, and then she was gone. I wept while I petted her, not wanting to leave her, but I knew I must Tell Dr. Tom that he did not have to come after all. I finally went inside, thinking how courteous she was, saving Tom a trip in the dark night and me an additional vet bill.
    The next morning, I let Ivy and Quincy out into the paddock. They quickly realized that Laurel was gone. Ivy called for her but after awhile, she went back to eating her hay.
    I noticed Laurel’s grooming kit with the extra soft brush for her face and the empty hook where I hung her halter and I began to cry again for my poor mare. As all animal lovers can attest, it is never easy to lose the one you love.
    While I openly wept for my beautiful mare, I tried to console myself that Laurel had a good life here. There was always food, there was always pasture, there was no work or a harsh smack from a whip, and there was plenty of attention from children, who were only too happy to brush her coat and comb her mane. I had to tell myself that at least we did what we could for her and both our lives were better for having found each other.
    At that moment, I felt something come up behind me and nibble on my shirt. It was little Quincy, trying to get my attention. He jumped and snorted as I turned and then came up to me again, cheerfully demanding to be scratched and fussed over.
    Hey, I’m still here. He seemed to be saying. You still have me to love. And that is just what I am going to do.

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