By Gayle Carline
Horse Lover and Author
This is Rags. She's one of our lesson horses. We don't know a lot about her, except that she's a breeding stock Paint Horse and her registered name is supposedly Batteries Not Included. I joke that she's a repo horse - her owner walked away from her board at a friend's ranch. My trainer, Niki, needed a new lesson horse and she was a likely candidate.
She proved to be a perfect lesson horse. Nearly bombproof, she toted kids or adults around the arena, doing her best to figure out what their wiggling seats and flapping arms were trying to tell her. Her jog was slow and steady, and she's the only horse I knew who could actually sleep-walk through a beginner lesson. Her only problem was when you asked for the lope. She only knew two speeds, a slow gallop or a fast gallop. Loping, even cantering, was a pipe dream.
This picture was taken this week. Isn't she pretty? So fat and shiny. Too bad, she's foundering.
It started with what we thought was an abscess. She was walking, or should I say, limping, on her right front toe. Niki did the usual soaking, farrier, Bute treatment and Rags improved. And then she got worse again. The vet came out, and prescribed anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, etc. Rags improved again, right before she deteriorated.
The vet returned to take x-rays, the last resort. They told the complete story. Rags' coffin bone in both front feet had turned to point down. Fuzzy areas on the x-rays showed the bone pulling away from the interior of the hoof. In addition, her right suspensory ligament was shot. The suspensory might heal with enough layup, but nothing would make those coffin bones stop their descent. Her shoes were evening her out and supporting her in all the right places, but they couldn't reach inside and level out her bones.
No wonder she was limping.
Niki doesn't have a lot of options for Rags. Perhaps we could find a pasture somewhere, but Rags tends to be aggressive with other horses and kicks at them, especially around mealtime. Since she can't have her shoes removed, she might injure someone. And retirement would not help her hooves. She'd still need daily medication and someone watching over her. I'm not even sure that would extend her life.
We're making Rags comfy with Bute right now and letting everyone say their goodbyes. Niki will probably make The Appointment in a week or two. Send tissues. We'll all need them.
Here's the thing about an old lesson horse: they are worthless and priceless. You can't insure them, they're typically scruffy, and not very well put-together. You'd never mistake them for a highly trained show horse with perfect confirmation. And yet, finding that horse with a good attitude, a quiet mind, and and understanding heart, one that will teach a new rider confidence, is like searching for that pearl among the oysters.
Once you find them, you never let them go.
How I wish our old horses would never die! Or at least, they'd introduce us to their replacement.
Rest well, dear Rags. We love you.