Friday, November 5, 2010

The Longest Walk I've Ever Seen

That instant of realization last night when Molly didn't come in for dinner. She's always the first one to the barn, the flat, willowy length of her pressed against the door. She would not separate herself from the other horses, never. Molly, who we work so hard to keep weight on, an old OTTB from Canada, pin fired long ago, whose knees buckle when she sleeps, causing her to fall, even as she wakes, down to the ground, from which she instantly springs up. I called E: Molly didn't come in. I'm going out to look for her. I'll be right there, she said.

Throwing a hasty flake to the other horses, grabbing the dim flashlight, Molly's halter and lead rope, and heading to the pasture, dark with night. I moved toward where I'd last seen her, calling her name, swinging the flashlight at eye-level in wide arcs before me. Finally the beam reflected off her eyes. There she was, standing, not moving. She was in trouble; I could see it before ever I got close to her. I went to her and slipped her halter on, then looked at her leg, left front, hanging awkwardly from the shoulder to the tip of the hoof.

Molly was shivering and shaking. Again and again she curled her upper lip. E materialized out of the darkness and felt the leg. It was easy to fear the worst; it looked like the worst. She asked Molly for a step, but it didn't happen. She could not move. E ran to call Molly's owner and get blankets. I called K, just had to. I'm standing out in the north pasture with Molly. She's injured. I'm on my way, she said. Click. Just like that. I called H.G. and told him the same thing, adding don't wait up for me.

Molly and I stood there, connected helplessly. There was nothing I could do but be with her. The wind kicked up. Then there was rain, chilly and brief. More wind, then just fast- dropping temperatures until harsh cold settled in. I worried she was going into shock and scrubbed the length of her neck hard with my fingers, trying to keep her warm, keep her distracted. She began to lean on me, lean so hard I thought she might fall with both of us.

E returned in her truck, bringing blankets and Bute. Two grams, the vet had said. Molly accepted the tube listlessly. We double blanketed her. It helped, having a couple of things to do. Molly's owner arrived, and then K arrived. She and E hurried to the barn to give the horses their grain - I'd postponed that to go find Molly.

We waited 90 minutes for the vet. It seemed to take forever. The four of us stood out there with Molly, paying attention to her, trying to steady her with our presence. She called to the barn every now and then, answers ringing back each time. It was so cold, and the barn looked too far away. She ate a little hay, fed by hand. She swayed more and more as the minutes passed, her other legs growing sore from bearing all of her weight and being immobile at the same time. We were vigilant that she not fall.

Click, click, click. The images in my mind, the seconds captured. Every car that passed on the country road. The blinking signal light that lifted us because it could only be the vet. Her driving right into the pasture, headlights casting a pool of light that comforted us all. Her hands fleet on Molly's knee, her forearm, her elbow, her shoulder. The quick jab of the syringe into Molly's neck. The splint rapidly constructed along the whole length of her leg. The pressure her assistant exerted to straighten Molly's knee as the splint was taped in place.

A few moments to rest after the splinting, then time to begin the walk. I crept ahead in E's truck to light the way across the pasture. How it looked from the rear view mirror of the truck as Molly tripoded haltingly toward the barn, the vet lifting her splinted leg, moving it out, around to the front, and then planting the hoof, one step at a time while E pulled her forward and the others kept her from going down. I think it was something like 250 yards from there to the barn. I lost all sense of time. It might have been a half hour, it might have been more, but it seemed an eternity, knowing how she was suffering.

Once the rest of the way was obvious, I pulled the truck out of the pasture and ran down to prep the barn. The horses were agitated, keen with awareness that something was different in their world. I cleared the aisle and swept it clean, talking to the horses with words I don't remember. I could only think of Molly and her owner. He lost another horse just last year. Too much.

Somehow they made it all the way, Molly and her five-person transport team. In the barn, she sagged against the stalls on one side of the aisle. The splint was swiftly removed. Twenty or more X-rays, all the way around the elbow, a couple of the shoulder. We took turns holding Molly's ever heavier head, craning our necks to see each X-ray as it lit the laptop screen. No fractures. We'll never know how she did it, but she severely damaged nerves in the bundle under her armpit. There's massive swelling on the inside of the elbow and she will not use the leg.  She was re-splinted and trailered late to the clinic for treatment with DMSO and whatever else they can think of.

It was the longest walk I've ever seen. What did you do, Molly? What happened?

3 comments:

Kate said...

So very sorry to hear this - there's nothing worse than a horse in pain. At least she's got no fractures - that gives her a fighting chance. Sending good thoughts to all of you.

Wolfie said...

Poor Molly, but she's one fortunate horse to be surrounded with people who look out for her. I hope her recovery is quick.

Rising Rainbow said...

Tears from me. I hate that feeling when the horse is not there you know should be. I remember it too well. Sounds like maybe there is hope for Molly. It's times like this you really wish they could talk.