Rounding the first corner, I heard a racket that clearly told me he had gone down. I looked back, searching for that familiar head in the trailer window, and was relieved when it came into view. I pulled over and went back to check things out. He was standing but the trailer tie emergency snap had come loose. I refastened it and told him to hang on, we had to go. I determined to drive more carefully.
Next corner, however, I heard the racket back there again. I saw his head in the window, and I went on. Another corner and again the sound of a horse scrambling in the trailer. I looked back and could not see a head in the window. I pulled over and ran back to look.
I will never forget the image of my good old Traveller lying there in the trailer, trying to get up with the center partition over him, his head twisted up into the corner. I ran to the truck and got my cell phone. Traveller was trying to get back up, but the partition was in his way. I put my hand on his leg and firmly repeated, “No, lay still!” Meanwhile, I wondered who to call for help.
I thank God that my vet was nearby. When I called his office, Dr. Ervin left his patients and came right over. Together, we pulled the center partition out of the trailer, pounding loudly with a hammer and a wrench at each end of the partition while Traveller lay there beneath us, quietly waiting. Dr. Ervin pushed him back a bit to give him room to move but even after he was free to get up, he lay there. Friends from the stable drove by and stopped to help. Dr. Ervin said, “Call me if you need me,” and went back to his patients.
I called and left a message that I couldn’t make it to my appointment. I couldn’t take another chance on Traveller going down and it was getting late. While I was turning around, Traveller got to his feet. I drove the two miles back to the barn very slowly. He unloaded and walked without difficulty and I was deeply thankful that he didn’t show anything worse than a small abrasion under his jaw and a warm swollen area on his left shoulder.
Now the question was: did he go down in the trailer only because of the wet flooring? I hate to admit that I took that first corner a bit faster than usual because I was feeling pressured to get somewhere. I usually take corners very carefully!
At this point, I am reminded of a recent incident at Fairmount Race Track. We like to watch the races on Tuesday afternoons and cheer for our friend, Cynthia Medina, who is a jockey. During one particular race, as the horses were entering the track, she suddenly hopped off her horse and took him back to the paddock area. We watched as they resaddled him before she mounted again and went back out onto the track. She later told me the saddle was not in the right place for good balance. She had the presence of mind to fix a situation that could have been uncomfortable or even dangerous.
Wish I’d had that mentality the morning I tried to load Traveller into a trailer with a rain-washed rubber trailer mat! If he had not had back problems before that day, he surely has the possibility now! But was it possible that Traveller’s back problem kept him from balancing himself in the trailer?
I had loaded him in the trailer in April and we had enjoyed a good ride at Spanish Lake Park. On June 17th, someone at the barn told me he was running in the pasture, slipped on the wet ground and fell. If I did not know that one little fact, I would have accepted my husband’s current assessment that Traveller is just getting older and not as full of energy. But I have felt something when I’m on his back recently that I didn’t feel before, and I have ridden him for seven years. I did ride Traveller bareback in the arena a few days after he fell and I don’t remember any problems then. On June 28th, I rode him bareback again, and he seemed different. He didn’t want to trot, and kept putting his head down. The farrier trimmed him a bit short on the 30th and he was sore footed for several days. On July 7th, I rode him again and he still did not feel “right.” That same day, I loaded him in the trailer and took him to Dr. Ervin for a checkup. He loaded with no problems (alone), stood in the trailer without going down and trotted quite nicely for the vet’s exam. I could see why everyone thinks I’m looking for problems that aren’t there! But I was the only one who got on his back during this time.
The thought has occurred to me that Traveller was simply depressed. I’ve been riding Lady since March instead of him, except for the one ride in April. He clearly liked Lady and he was visibly hurt when she favored Sammy and drove him away. You may laugh at this, but it’s very real to Traveller. He and I have had a special partnership, and he has been a very sensible and sensitive horse! I’ve seen him get depressed before.
Though he walked quite normal for a few days after the trailer incident, he has shown problems since. Bute has helped immensely, and warm liniment baths. One morning he came out of his stall and could hardly walk! His left front ankle and leg was swollen and hot and he could put weight on it, but did not want to. He was wobbly, and I was greatly concerned! Then I decided this swelling had nothing to do with his original problem, and perhaps something bit him. I did kill a very large black spider that day in his stall. I applied cold soaks and the swelling was gone a few days later.
Another vet looked at him recently, thinks he has “neurological disease” and is checking for EPM. I still believe he may have a back problem. He trots and sometimes canters on his own, yet under saddle does not feel right. He seems to be moving better on his own now without Bute. Perhaps he is simply healing after straining something when falling. What I can do for now, is to help relax the muscles of his back with liniment, massage and warm baths, and give him time to heal.
We often come up against difficult situations that are not easily understood. We must develop our knowledge and have the confidence to trust our own common sense. I know my horse better than anyone else. I need to be sure my vet knows all the facts and I need to do all I can to help the situation’s outcome.
I am encouraged by two thoughts from Scripture. Philippians 1:27-28 says, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel, without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” Paul was speaking to a body of people, but I choose to take his words to heart for myself as one person. I need to “stand firm” against circumstances that would cause me to do things I might later regret!
Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” I need to learn to stay in control of myself, to stay calm and focused on the task at hand. I need to keep my mind “steadfast” in my faith in God’s help and guidance.
I realize I am too easily pressured at times by situations. I hate to think Traveller was hurt by my driving a bit too fast on the corners that day or by the mere fact that the trailer floor was wet. From now on, I will always be careful of slippery rubber mats!