No, this is not a post about smudged eye makeup trends. It’s about our soft-hearted fella of a horse and his journey back to health.
For those of you who follow us on Facebook and Instagram, back in the spring, you saw pics of our big grey mustang Smokey in the equine (a.k.a. horsey) hospital with an eye injury. This is his story.
Horses are fun-loving creatures with big personalities, big bodies, and some times they can get themselves into big trouble. Because we live on a farm with trees and fences and stalls, sometimes these precious babies injury themselves. And try as you might, you simply just can’t fool-proof your farm. (I mean, seriously, we’ve got horses who can open gates, but that is for another time.)
One spring evening at feeding time, Smokey moseyed up to his stall as usual for a snack. But this time, something wasn’t quite right. He had his right eye shut tight, tears streaming down his cheek.
After a little eyelid wrangling, we could see he had something going on with the eyeball itself, and made an after hours call to the vet. Two things to note here. First, trying to pry open a horse’s eye against his will, oh holy cats that is not easy. It’s a crazy combination of eyelids of steel and a bobbing head. Second, as we’ve said before, these things don’t happen between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Nope, if we are going to injure ourselves, we’re going to do it right. No sense in playing games.
It was quickly determined the next morning that he had, in fact, scratched the eye. Drat! The remedy? Eye meds four times a day should do the trick. Did you see my comment above about strong eyelids? Well it got to be a game. We’d look out and see him with his eye wide open. He’d see us, and yep, you guessed it, he’d slam it shut. Quite honestly, he was just tired of us messing with him.
Seven days went by, and the vet came back out and determined that not enough progress was being made. Smokey was at risk of going blind in that eye. In order to save his vision, he would have to go the horsey hospital where they could put an IV system through his eyelid and dispense medication directly to the eye. (Oh if I could have reasoned with this big beast and told him what was coming, he may have opened his eyelids big and wide.)
So off he went. It was slow going. And after a week, not only did he still have the eye issue, Smokey decided he didn’t want to eat much and developed a fever. Not eat? That horse has never missed a meal.
Here’s the deal. Horses are herd animals, and mustangs especially. Smokey was born in the wild to a herd, and ever since he arrived at the farm he had his band of fellas, one bossy mare, and two ornery donkeys. Smokey doesn’t leave the farm. It’s his sanctuary. He hates change and snorts and blows at anything different just to let you know he’s paying attention. Heck, once our farrier (that’s a horse pedicure giver for our city friends) showed up in a different vehicle, and Smokey was all about letting us know something changed. He’s observant. To a fault.
So Cowboy and I decided we had to go visit our fella and see if we could help figure out what had him down. I had the wild idea that maybe if we could bring him a sense of home, he’d relax. So I took an old towel and trudged out to the pasture rubbing down all the horses to capture their scents. Yes, they all looked at me funny, quite suspicious, and probably convinced I was just a bit nuts. Cowboy also thought I was slightly off my rocker, but as he always does, he just obliged me.
Off to the vet we went, towel in hand. Oh if I could just adequately describe that moment. Smokey sniffed and sniffed. He touched his nose to the towel. He visibly perked up. He would move his nose to the towel and then back to take a bite of hay. He was eating!!! He softened to our touch. He was relaxing. My heart was aching for our big grey soulstang – he missed his herd, the people and the four-legged ones.
So Cowboy and I made a promise to him. For the rest of his stay, no matter how long it took, every day one of us would try our best to make the 60-plus mile round trip to talk to him, to brush him, to comfort him. And just like magic, it worked. Slowly but surely, he settled in, his appetite returned, the fever left, and he healed. It took nearly three weeks, but Smokey still had his sight and an even bigger heart.
These horses continue to teach us so much. No one wants to be alone in this world, and when we’re hurting and scared the most is when we need the touch, the scent, the spirit of home. And if we soak in the healing, we too will be able to see again.
P.S. Big thanks to our amazing vets, especially Dr. Imel, at Peak Performance Equine Hospital. They are simply the best. They allowed us to visit Smokey as often as possible, texted us with morning updates, and took the best possible care of our fella. We will be eternally grateful.