Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Old Guy

From as far back as I can remember I've been in love with horses. When I was a kid I lived and breathed Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry books. I've never met a horse I didn't like and to this day I can find something good about the worst of them. If money were no object I'd take in as many abused, neglected and old broken down horses as I could just to let them have a little peace and comfort...but unless I happen to win the lottery, it's probably not gonna happen. The old broken down ones tug at my heartstrings the most.

I'm not in the horse rescue business because horses are expensive to keep.  God forbid I should end up being like one of those hobo's ass rescuers who show up in living color on the Fugly blog.  I have three of my own and I don't need any more equine mouths to feed with the price of hay being as ridiculously high as it is. Not to mention vet bills...I cringe every time I have to call the vet. 

There's a couple of different roads I can take to get to and from work.  The flow of traffic usually determines which way I go which means I always choose which ever way the booberdoober in front of me isn't going.  I just don't have the patience to follow someone who wants to drive ten miles per hour under the speed limit.  The first way is definitely shorter in distance but the other way offers me peace of mind and keeps me from intentionally ramming the poor schmuck in front of me who has no idea he's become the target of my road rage.  The long way led to the old guy.

Like most horse owners, I always look at horses pastured along the road when I'm driving.  I do try not to drive off the road while I'm doing this.  Does anybody really keep their eyes "on the road"?  I don't think so.  Anyway a local rancher has a barn and corrals alongside the road and I always look to see if horses or cattle are in the pens.  The first time I noticed him there weren't any cattle in the corral, just a big ol' gray horse munching on a pile of hay.  The next couple of times I drove by, I could see that he was a little ribby, but since he always had a pile of hay in front of him, I never thought too much about it. 

For the next month or so my life was relatively booberdoober free so I didn't have to take the long way by the barn.  When I finally saw the old gray horse again, all I could think was "holy shit he sure went downhill fast".  He looked like a walking skeleton...munching on a pile of hay.  I immediately wished I hadn't seen him. 

The following day was booberdoober free but I drove by the barn anyway, mostly to see if the old guy was still alive, silently praying I wouldn't see him laying there dead. To be honest, I'd really rather have the Disney version of life where everyone lives happily ever after and the little rabbit always makes it to the hole in the nick of time leaving the bobcat scratching his head and finding his chow somewhere down the road out of my sight.   I prefer to avoid the harsh realities of life whenever possible.  Until I felt myself sigh when I saw he was still standing there I didn't know I'd been holding my breath.  On the rest of the drive to work I start wondering if the guy who owns the barn would give the old guy to me.  I know the barn owners last  name but what would he think about some strange woman calling and asking he'd give away his horse? 

As soon as I got to work I called my friend, D, who's pretty fearless, knows everybody, and more importantly, is a fellow horse lover.  (She has ten by the way...not that she's a hoarder or anything...really.)  I asked if she'd seen that old gray horse by the barn.  D said she hadn't really noticed him so I told her how he'd gone downhill pretty fast and asked if she thought the owner would give him to us.  Notice how I said "us"...I pretty much guilted her into helping by telling her how pathetic the old guy was and in the end, I think she agreed to call the owner just to get me off the phone, probably thinking the owner'd tell her to go pound sand.  Bless her heart.

(FYI, I wanted to call the Barn Owner, BO, but it made me think of stinky body odor, then I thought about calling him BM, for Barn Man,but it obviously made me think of bowel movements, so I simply left him an unnamed "he" most of the time....just thought I should clear that up.)

D called me back after she talked to the barn owner who said he'd be happy to give us the horse but he'd have to clear it with his dad.  The next day when he called her back he asked D if we were sure we wanted the old buy?  He said the old guy was twenty-nine, couldn't be ridden, and was pretty much on his last legs.  Since the younger horses were pushing him around, the old guy ended up in the corral by himself so he could eat as much as he wanted without being run off from the feed.  He wondered why would we want him?

"We're just a couple of crazy women who like old horses" D told him.  He didn't get it.  Most people wouldn't.

Yikes!  Now I had to call OF (Old Friend of undesirable snackage fame) and ask her if I could put an old horse in her barn.  OF said sure...we could put him in what she jokingly calls the "medical unit"...which is basically a stall with mats and a gate.  Bless her heart.

I went to the barn that afternoon to pick up the old gray horse.  D was supposed to meet me and she wasn't there yet, but the barn owner was there.  I recognized him from riding with him years before, shook his hand and introduced myself.  He's a really nice guy who figured either nature was gonna run its course or he was going to end up having to shoot the old gray horse.  He kinda laughed when he asked again if I was really sure we wanted to take him.  I laughed and told him I was sure.  He still didn't get it.  Most people wouldn't.

When I led the old guy to the trailer he seemed a little stiff and wobbly on his feet.  Holy shit, I thought, what if he can't step up into the trailer???  He sniffed the trailer floor...another holy shit never occurred to me that the old guy might not load well.  This was obviously not a well thought out plan...I mean, how much pressure do you put on an emaciated horse to get them to load?  At what point is he better off with a bullet?  Thank God I didn't have to find out.  After a little sniffing, he managed to haul himself up and in.  After I got him loaded, D showed up and we both thanked the barn owner for giving us the old guy.  On to OF's place...with another mouth to feed.

Please God, don't let him die in the trailer.  That's what I'm thinking all the way to OF's place.  I didn't want to leave the old guy loose in the trailer because I was afraid he might need something on each side to lean on.  I tried to go really really slow around the curves in the road.  D followed me and was probably shocked at how slow I was going.  How come I never noticed this many curves in the road before?  Jeeez...can't they build straight roads?  Why do they have to have all these curves?  I finally hit a straight stretch and got to speed up a little.  I just wanted to get there before he died in the trailer.  I started to relax a little in a short straight section of road.  It was a brief respite.  I shouldn't have sped up...up ahead was a four way intersection with a traffic light and the intersection had a giant hump in it.  I knew this hump was there because many a time I've felt like my car was going to go airborne trying to make it through the intersection before the light turned red.  Yellow light...go very fast (Remember Starman?) This was a fairly new intersection, and you'd think they could have done a better job leveling it before the final paving, but nooooo, they left that giant hump in it.  I know it sounds like I'm exaggerating here, but really, I'm not.  The light at the intersection turns yellow.  Please God, the prayers continue...don't let him die in my trailer.

I was in a I stop or do I go?  There's nobody to tell me what I should do.  D's the one who I'd usually ask about all things driving related but she was in the truck behind me.  I didn't know if I should slam on the brakes and throw the old guy against the trailer wall or speed up and make a mad dash through the intersection?  I didn't know what to do.  Which would cause him more problems?  I had no idea.  If I went flying over the hump in the road will the trailer go airborne?  Will the horse go airborne inside the trailer?  Would all four feet go in the air and, more importantly, would he land on all four when he touched down?  I'd never thought about this.  I'm guessing it'd be the horsey version of an E Ticket ride.   "Please God", I prayed, "just don't let him die in my trailer" I gunned it through the intersection.  Why?  Because I just wanted to get there before he could die in my trailer.  I's a stoopid reason.  But it worked.  He didn't die in the trailer...although he was a little wide eyed and sweaty when we got to OF's place. So was I...

God love her, D laughed about the intersection debacle when we got to OF's house.  "I didn't know if you were gonna go for it or stop"..."and then you went".  Looking back, it was pretty funny.

After a couple of days, OF said "I think we should call him Earl"..."it fits him".  And so the old gray horse got new name.  At first he didn't seem interested in soaked pellet mush, until we started adding a sweeter senior mix to it.  Seems old Earl has a taste for the sweet stuff...don't we all.  The first time I heard him nicker for his food was a couple of weeks later.  It made me smile inside.

I'm so friggin' grateful to have friends like OF and D who, without any hesitation, said yes to some scatterbrained idea to try to help an old horse out.  They get it.   Most people wouldn't. 

Most people would think it was the stoopidist thing.

P.S.  Before & after's of Old Earl.  He's now 29 and lives entirely on a diet of soft senior pelleted feed.