Never Give Up
By Betsy Kelleher
“Your Grandpa never gave up on a horse,” I was told by a cousin. My Grandpa had been a blacksmith and his father had been a blacksmith. After Grandpa married Grandma, he farmed and always kept a team of mules or horses to do the work. That’s how I got hooked on horses.
I remember Grandpa always kept a bottle of Hanford’s Balsam of Myrrh on hand and used it for almost everything. Advertised as good for man or beast, it was both liniment and antiseptic dressing. He swore by that product to heal any injury! Back when I was conditioning my first horse for competitive trail rides, I was partial to Stemz liniment. I used gallons of it on legs and shoulders until the company no longer made it. I still have the last bottle I ever bought, with some left in it because I hated to use up that last drop. I believed Stemz was my wonder worker for sore muscles.
Unfortunately, many horses have problems that can’t be solved with liniment. I’m thinking of several horses whose owners currently have a serious dilemma. One friend has been with her mare for four years, developing a rare partnership and riding all over the countryside for miles around our boarding stable. She and a riding buddy often go off for 3 or 4 hours at a time. She has ridden under the highway overpass and on roads with big equipment passing by. She’s got more courage than I do! This mare used to kick at other horses while being ridden, but not any more. She is still an alpha mare, but she has become a very special alpha mare. And now she is blind in one eye with a cataract. Many tears have been shed over that situation, believe me!
But this owner hasn’t given up. Not willing to just do nothing, she searched for a solution and found hope in an eye drop advertised to dissolve cataracts. These eye drops have about ten years of research in Europe and Russia, but are not yet FDA approved in the United States. No guarantees here, but if you care enough about something, it’s worth doing what you can. She is also feeding a product for eye health. I think she is doing right by attacking the problem from both inside and out. And even if the drops and the supplement don’t work miracles, I know she will continue to love and ride her mare.
I recently met a gal who has owned a rescued horse for almost two years, and he was doing better, gaining weight, and then suddenly got thinner. Based on a fecal test, could be stomach cancer or some kind of viral fungus in the colon, she told me. She doesn’t want to give up either, in spite of recommendations. While reading books on cancer cures because of my son’s battle with a form of cancer, I found a product that has worked on animals. I can only pass on the information I found. There is always the fear of false hope, but a little hope and an open mind helps us keep going, to keep looking, searching, waiting, asking, and trying. Sometimes we get lucky.
While men are more practical, I believe that women have an emotional need to fix things, especially when it’s a horse we love. We don’t want to give up as long as we think there is something that can be done. We feel a connection and we feel responsible. But we are often persuaded to go against our feelings by financial limitations, circumstances or negative influences.
No matter how difficult, we need to make decisions balanced with wisdom and financial practicality. Without unlimited resources, it’s foolish to buy a lot of expensive products that might not work, or ask for expensive operations with high risk. It takes objectivity to know when to keep trying and when to decide otherwise. If you have a similar situation, do your homework. Research the problem as much as possible and consult with several vets if you can.
Sometimes you just need to find the right vet. Like human doctors, they are not all alike. Each one has special knowledge and experience and some know about this and others know about that. One vet may say a situation has no solution, because he hasn’t yet found it. Doctors don’t usually venture beyond their training and experience. It may take time and effort to find the medical professional that can help you. It’s sometimes a good idea to look for a second opinion. Maybe look into chiropractic, herbal supplements, massage, whatever pertains to the problem at hand. Decide on action after you have as much information as you can gather.
I had a mare once that developed a fistula of the withers. I called about 12 vets before I found one that had any experience with that particular problem. Even then, I ended up donating her to the University to be put down and later wished I hadn’t. They kept her another ten years. I gave up too soon. Another horse took off a huge piece of a front leg sliding under a wire fence. I doctored that swollen, injured leg for over a year, watching while the hair slowly grew back to cover all but a small dark area of skin. Ready to resume riding, I was told by my farrier that the ankle was frozen. Discouraged, and seeing this as the last straw, I gave him away. He was ridden by a young girl and the ankle later got unfrozen. Again, I probably gave up too soon. I realize now that a person needs the right encouragement and support at those times of decision making. During those moments when everything seems just too overwhelming and too impossible, a true friend helps by being objective without taking away all hope. We never know if the final outcome will be a success or an expensive failure. Some take the risk anyway. There are times when something inside drives you to keep going, to keep trying. Then again, sometimes you just know when it’s time to stop.
My Traveller was diagnosed with EPM in 2004. I didn’t have the money for the approved treatment, but I was told about another product that seemed to work. For years, I tried various natural products and many different supplements. At the moment, he is doing very well and hasn’t had strange seizures or unsteadiness for a long time. He is still able to give me a good ride now and then, and to make me feel like a new person!
Lady has also been my project for several years. At first, she was just a headstrong Alpha mare. Then her fear of large machinery and trucks became an issue that scared and challenged me. Now I am starting to wonder if her vision could be part of that problem. More research is needed. Her appetite seems endless, even eating limestone, dirt and parts of a rubber mat rising out of the dirt. And we are still working to resolve her anemia.
We can’t solve every problem. It may be good to pass the situation on to someone else. I know of a place in Illinois called Crosswinds Equine Rescue near Sidell, owned and managed by AnnMarie and Mike Cross. Just have to mention them, because I would trust them to take a horse, work with its individual needs and find it a new home with the right human. I admire their expertise and knowledge as well as their many resources.
I’ve been amazed at how much help I have gotten from the internet. There are many resources out there, if you look. Type the right words in the search box, and you often find all sorts of possibilities! But you have to do enough research to be sure that your possible solution is legitimate and not just someone else’s income. Emotions can become passionate, wanting desperately to see a miracle. I have seen miracles and answers to prayer, but I’m not going to tell anyone that every horse or human can be healed with prayer. Only God makes the final decision.
I do believe, however, that God never gives up on us. He knows us and loves us unconditionally. He continually works to reach into our minds and hearts to help us understand who He is and what He can do, even when we get discouraged and even though we often don’t seek His will above our own. In Luke 18:1, “…Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and got give up.” And in Luke 11:9, we read the famous admonition to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” All through Scripture, I have found indications that God rewards perseverance based on faith.
I don’t have the knowledge to advise anyone to never give up on a horse; but I can say with certainty to never give up on seeking God’s guidance and never give up on believing in His love. He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
(Originally published in the October 2010 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)