Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

Smokey’s Eye

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.)

My Farmtastic Life - Smokey the mustang heals from an eye injury
Smokey bending down to sniff and be petted. I sat on the floor of his stall, talking to him.

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.

My Farmtastic Life - Smokey the mustang healing from an eye injury
Smokey sniffing his towel and finding comfort in the scents of home.

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.

My Farmastic Life - Smokey the mustang heads home
The veterinary staff getting ready to load Smokey up for the trip home. Let’s just say, this fella is not a the easiest loader. (The patches on his neck were from his IVs. Such a fashion statement.)

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.

 

 

 

 

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Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

We Simply Love Them

I have a confession to make. I’m not one of those girls who can claim I’ve always loved horses. In fact, the truth is for most of my life, horses have downright scared me.  I much preferred it if there was a fence or two between me and them. (I know, hold your shock.)

Now don’t get me wrong, all you have to do is take one look at our Meet the Farm page to know that Cowboy and I are animal lovers of the highest magnitude.  But I also understand that horses are bigger and more powerful than me, and definitely have minds of their own.  Boy, do they have minds of their own.  In fact, they’ve often awakened the fight or flight in me, and the few times I’d been around them in my past they had me on the flight side of the fence.

For example, as a kid I had taken a ride at a stable with our youth group, which seems to be a harmless right of passage for lots of kids.  I was excited to try it out, but being vertically challenged, they couldn’t make my stirrups short enough. However,  with a mischievous smile they told me not to worry, I was on a gentle ride, and all I needed to do was loosely hang on.  Hmmm ….  should have been warning sign number one, don’t ya think?

Warning number two – the guides told us absolutely no screaming, as the horses were trained to run if you yelled, thinking you were in danger.  Fabulous,  simply fabulous. So there I sat, feet dangling in the top of the stirrups keeping quiet.  Not an easy task for a girl whose first grade teacher called her motor mouth and mouth of the south (but that’s another story).

Well you guessed it, my horse trotted, loped, and flat out ran for the barn.  Picture a puny 13-year-old whisper-yelling, “Help, help, help!” while trying desperately to keep her bum from bumping right off that horse.  Not surprisingly, the flight thing came naturally after that.

My Farmtastic Life Photo - Smokey and Ranger, American Mustangts
Smoke in the Valley (a.k.a. Smokey) and Lone Star Ranger (a.k.a. Ranger) having a nice little munch. This is one of my absolute favorite pictures of them – and just looks like love to me!

Enter 2008.  Cowboy and I attended the Extreme Mustang Makeover, sponsored by the Mustang Heritage Foundation, in Fort Worth, Texas.  Holy cats (or should I say horses), what a show!  Patriotic, majestic, amazing.  We walked the barns looking at these mustang horses, and there was just something in their eyes. It went right down to my soul.  And a tiny voice whispered, “Could you possibly be a horse person?”

My Farmtastic Life - Ranger
Ranger as a yearling. You could already tell that fella was going to have great hair and a crazy fun personality.

Then came the yearlings’ stalls.  And one very special little guy trained by one special little girl did me in.  She had done a great job with her fella, but had other horses at home, and so this one needed a fur-ever home. You know what’s coming next, right?  One little mustang yearling was adopted that day and headed home with me and Cowboy.

Fast forward more than eight years later, and Lone Star Ranger has changed my life.  We’ve got two more mustangs, one aging quarter horse, and two charming donkeys. I’m a horse person now.  Who knew?

But what does that really mean anyway?  No, my house is not decked out in western regalia; I don’t run around in cowgirl boots most of the time; and I don’t have a desire to be the rodeo queen (trust me, this is a good thing for all involved).

But these horses have a story and that speaks to me in a million ways.  Most of the time when we meet other horse folks, the first thing they ask me is, “What do you do with them?” I’m not sure why this is, but Cowboy and I have experienced it over and over.   Everyone expects you to DO something to justify why you have them.

My Farmtastic Life Photo - Mustang River
Mustang number three – A River Runs Wild, a.k.a. River. This guy had a rough start, but he’s probably the biggest lover we’ve got.

 I often feel sheepish as I know they are waiting for me to impress them with tales of riding or rodeo antics.  And the truth was I used to always feel guilty because I wasn’t a great rider, heck if I’m honest, riding still scares me.

And then one day, someone asked me once again, and the right answer finally came to me.  We love them. We simply love them.

Because that is the truth.  They got their second chance at life and love at the farm, and they are our family members.  We even moved to the farm so that they would have room to roam and play, and yes that is also why we ended up with more.  (Just a friendly warning, horses are like potato chips.  One is never enough.)

We’ve built stalls and runs. We brush them, share carrot snacks, and love on them.  Sometimes Cowboy even rides them. (I don’t call him Cowboy for nothing.)

Could this have happened with any horse?  Maybe, but I like to think it’s the magic of the mustang.  The deep connection they make with their humans.  They simply love us.

P.S. A version of this story was submitted to the America’s Mustang Essay Contest.  While I was not a winner, these great equines make me feel like a winner each day.