This is My Trail Horse; Love at First Awe

By Patti Thomas Baker
The first time I saw Winston I knew he was special. He was a double registered spotted saddle horse/ Tennessee walking horse. He was Sir Winston’s Dandy. Beautiful sorrel and white and at the top of his game in the show ring. A lot arrogant and not cuddly. He had been brought low by a tiny cut about 1/4 of an inch on his hind leg. This tiny little cut became infected and turned his tendon into a wet noodle. He was so gorgeous and so pitiful all at the same time. It was awe at first sight.

After 6 months of intense treatment he was saved from euthanization, but due to scar tissue he would never show again. I didn’t think I would see him again. 2 years later, the man who worked for the stable walked into the clinic where I worked and came straight up to the counter and said, “I need some one to take Winston”. He was scheduled to be euthanized due to his severe arthritis. My heart exploded. Before consulting my husband I dived in head first and blurted out, “ME! I will take him.”

All the arrangements were made and I went to see my new horse. I had always wanted to own my own horse and I had all these thoughts in my head of how it was going to be; rehabilitating my beautiful boy, sugar cubes and carrots, fuzzy rubber lipped kisses and walking through meadows. Boy was I in for a rude awakening.

When I showed up to the muddy lot that held my boy, he had just freshly rolled in in the blackest puddle of mud he could find, his head held in the perfect ‘Trail of Tears’ horse pose. Back leg cocked and out to the side and looking a bit disjointed. I walked up to him and whispered his name and he immediately showed me his extremely muddy butt. I was so sad, but still I made the commitment, loaded him up and took him to my farrier.

My farrier was familiar with Winston because he was key in his treatment 2 years prior. He fashioned the brace that Winston stood in for 6 months. I told him that he was arthritic, and wanted to know what I could do foot wise to make him more comfortable. I love my farrier, and in only the way he can he ignored me totally and walked around my horse grunting and sighing. He told me to walk him this way and that, and in his blunt as a spoon way, he said to me, “Whoever told you this horse has arthritis is an idiot.”

For the second time in a short time period my heart did funny things. With a mixture of dread and hope I took a deep breath and braced myself for the news to come. It seems, his tendon didn’t heal correctly He went on to explain to me ever patient with my ‘new horse’ owner ignorance. He laid out a plan for me that he felt would work, but there were no guarantees. He stressed that my role in his rehab was huge and if I slacked then I couldn’t expect miracles if I didn’t work with him daily and persistently. SO for 3 long months I would saddle him and ride him in left hand circles for 20 minutes. I was greeted every day with his dirty butt turned to me as soon as I entered the pasture or barn. Despite bathing and brushing him constantly he always found the nastiest mud to roll in and was completely un interested in me and anything I did. Every other step his leg would stretch and he would stumble and it was painful to see this gorgeous horse brought so low. I was becoming disheartened and wondering if this was ever going to work.

The last week of our 3 month, exercise 20 min. a day, I pulled up to the pasture and he headed to the barn as soon as he saw me. I leaned over and was fumbling with the lock on the gate and I had warm snuffles on the back of my neck. Thinking it was my nieces horse, I nudged him away and continued as I glanced over I realized it wasn’t Blaze. I absolutely froze. Still as a statue except for my hand, I inched it up and placed it softly on the side of his nose and just stood. He came to me. I was giddy! I said, “Hi boy”, and just as quickly as that I was staring at his newly muddied butt and he was ignoring me again. I took him in to his farrier appointment, hoping that 3 months of blah would turn into something great.

I walked him across 1.5 acres and we stretched every other step all the way to the waiting farrier. He then trimmed and fitted him with his signature custom made shoes. He said it looks funny but I believe this will do the trick. I told him I didn’t care what it looks like if it eases the discomfort. He buttoned him down and had me walk Winston. He took the first step stopped dead in his tracks and whipped around to look at his leg. He took another step, stopped and stretched. Then we walked in circles and back to the round pen without stopping one time to stretch that leg. I was amazed.

The rest of that week his whole attitude changed. He met me at the gate singing. Three weeks later he was doing a beautiful running walk up and down the fence. He was gaining weight and shedding his winter coat. I was riding him with his special shoes and boots up to an hour a day. Eventually, this horse that was scheduled to die not once but twice, became my go-to trail horse. For short periods of time I can ride bootless, but with the boots I can now ride up to 3.5 hours without any complications.

They said he would never be ridden again and look at us now. He runs to the gate and searches me for graham crackers, and now when he whips that dirty muddy butt to me it is for me to scratch that special spot because only mom can do it just right. He is still an arrogant snob with most people, but he has included my husband and children into his small elite group. Despite his snobbery, he is mine all mine and I love him dearly, and I think he loves me too!

Many thanks to Durvet Apple Wormer for sponsoring “This is my Trail Horse”. Winston will receive a gift from Durvet.

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