February 14, 2011

Confessions of a Horse Lover: More Than A Vet Check

Horses are funny animals. Certain horses- nothing phases them. You could take them to a mountain top, in the freezing cold and they'd eat their hay and grain just as well as they do at their own barn. Other horses need time to adjust.

After a few days at our barn, my new fella still wasn't quite adjusted. It concerned me- with his already thin frame, that a few days with no grain could be a tell-tale sign of a bigger issue. What do you do when you have a concern like this? You call for backup.

My backup arrived and we discussed possible issues as to why he may not be eating. Everything from ulcers to the simple- he just doesn't like his old feed from his old home. With horses, the issue is almost never as simple as they just don't like their grain...but this time- it was! While discussing the grain issue, we noticed some serious weakness in his hind legs. He wouldn't fall over when tugged on- but he was far from resistant. This is a key symptom in horses who have Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis or EPM. I was devastated. I couldn't even research it b/c it made me so sick to think that someone could sell a horse with this disease...especially to someone who'd be riding this horse with a child.

Conversations with the previous owners flooded my mind almost like a dam breaking. But they said he was shown hunt seat? He was a jumper? How could he do all those things with all this weakness? Is this why they traded me?

The following day I went for a ride with some of my favorite girlfriends, on one of their extra horses. The talk was mostly about my new horse...and what our options were. (I say our because that's how horse-people are. If you're in a funk, they're going to be in the funk with you...until you find a way out of the funk.) We discussed possible treatments, other diseases that could cause the weakness and even that it could just be from malnutrition. I don't think any of us really thought it could be malnutrition- that's just way to simple right?

One of my other good friends called me daily. She worried just as much as I did about my new fella. On the morning of the vet visit, I got a call from her...which I thought was just to tell me the ETA of the vet b/c he was coming from her place. 

"So, we'll be heading over in a few minutes," she told me.

"The vet will be?" I asked.

"Well, yea...soon- but we're coming for support...for you. And because, you know- we just really want to hear the vet say he's ok!" she said.

What can I say? I'm blessed with some amazing friends.

The vet arrived and started right in with the shot giving, teeth checking exam. I hesitated mentioning anything about EPM- I guess I didn't want to jinx it. I told the doctor that I'd noticed some weaknesses here and there with my new boy and he stopped me, told me to walk him in several small circles. My heart was in my throat as we circled tightly. I held my horse's face, as if that would change the outcome in my favor.

"What he has is like this...he's very thin, with very little muscle. So it would be like you standing on stilts. There is not muscle connected those stilts to your actual leg, right? So you'd be a bit wobbly at times...that's how he feels with those long legs," he told us.

"So it's not EPM?" I asked with tears in my eyes. (covered by large sunglasses)

"No. I'll tell you why..." he began explaining.

I could hardly listen to why it wasn't EPM because the words 'he's fine' kept ringing in my head. I hugged my horse, I hugged the doctor, I choked back tears until the vet left...and then the happiness flowed right out my eyeballs.

That afternoon (per doctor's approval) I took my new fella, Broadway "Mr. Big" Braunstein, out for his very first ride around town. We brought along our friend, Cindy, who shared in prayers and support through the two weeks of unknown. Mr. Big and I took it along slow, just walking the streets of Manteo together. I could literally feel our bond growing with the sound of each hoof hitting the pavement. Mr. Big is not all about other horses, which is a welcome change. He sniffed noses with my friend's mare, Dice, but quickly pinned his ears back- as if to say, "don't get to close...I won't share my food with you, no matter how pretty you are." He is a wise man, another welcome change. He wants to protect his rider- so long as they protect him.

As soon as our ride was over, I was ready to ride again. However, the weather didn't so much cooperate with us until this weekend. We set out for our first trailered-ride together. My friends, Cindy and Mary joined us...and we had the most amazing time. Mr. Big did a phenomenal job. We ran into several obstacles that would've sent me up into the treetops had I been on Storm- but Mr. Big stopped, looked and carried on- like it was no big thing. (Because a go-cart really isn't a big thing!)

Thank you all so very much for the thoughts and prayers for a healthy vet-check. It was so much more than just a clean bill of health to me- it was the gain of a new best friend and companion. :)


  1. Aw, I'm so happy for you (and Mr. Big!). It's always SUCH a relief to get the good news. I think you guys are going to have an amazing connection :) You'll be the one who saves him and he will always be grateful to you for it.

  2. God is Good! We have always been blessed with our four-legged friends. I am writing to you this a.m. with Borat sharing my chair.

  3. I'm so glad!!! I love the name Mr. Big!!! It's perfect!! Yay!


  4. Funny, my horse Riley has a nickname....Mr Big haha. So glad to hear all is well Eden! -Dannon

  5. Hey Eden,
    I am so sorry to hear about Storm, I know that must have been hard for you. But I completely understand why and you cannot take a chance on a unpredictable horse especially with a child. I hear ya. I know you loved him though. So you will probably still think about him from time to time.
    I am in Manteo for a few days and happened to drive by your parents house (of course on the way to my parents ;) and saw a brand new horse standing near the fence. I thought, has Eden got a new horse, I need to check her blog. Since I am not on FB anymore, I feel out of the loop sometimes, but for me it is a good thing. Anyways, I read both posts and am pulling for you and your new horse! I hope he works out great! He instantly reminded me of Brandy! Hope to see you out riding him! P.S. I bought a skinny horse before and after a year of having him, or even before that, you would not have known it was the same horse! Imagine what a little love, right food, and the right horse can do for you and your family. I am so happy for you and praying that everything goes well with you new wonderful friend! Great News!