I got Saxony in late September and then spent much of October and November getting a sense of her and giving her a sense of me. We had no more than a dozen rides before the odd, erratic winter that was to come began to blow our way. Having no indoor arena, I put away the saddle and bridle and embarked on a program of priming Saxony for springtime through steady contact and care. My vet came and met her, we X-rayed her all the way around and started her on Cosequin ASU, I settled on a farrier who understood Saxony's feet and trimmed her beautifully, and I soon eased into a groove to carry us through the winter that enabled me to feel as though I actually did have this sweet new mare and I really was involved with her.
Saxony still had her wolf teeth, and we'd planned to remove them in early spring, when she'd be due for a float. I scheduled an appointment for March 7th. As luck would have it, she popped an eye infection the week before. A specialist came out to see her and diagnosed a blockage of the left nasolacrimal duct. Saxony's natural tears could not drain to the nostril and out, so the duct would have to be flushed. It would be done by my regular vet when she came to take care of Saxony's teeth. It all turned out well, but what a rough afternoon it was for my girl.
Dr. B began with the flushing, after the sedation had taken hold. A huge syringe was filled with warm saline which was then forced through the needle-thin tip into the tiny opening of the nasolacrimal duct set high in Saxony's nostril. The sensation irritated her, so she struggled against it, sneezing and snorting. The right duct flushed easily; within seconds saline bubbled up into the corner of her eye, welling over, running down her face. The left duct, blocked, was a bear; it was very trying for Saxony. Again and again the saline blew back, dripping out of the nostril. Dr. B went through an entire bottle of saline, though none of her patience, and my blood ran cold when she eventually began to ruminate out loud about "surgical alternatives." There came a moment of professional curiosity, however, when she seemed to think back to the textbooks, searching for an explanation for the stubbornness of that duct. And there was an explanation, an unusual one. It turned out that Saxony had two duct openings in her left nostril. One was a sort of "twin," long enough to accommodate most of the syringe tip, but closed at the other end. Of course, that's the one Dr. B had been trying to force the saline through. Once she switched to the other tiny portal, it was just a matter of time and pressure. When the saline finally exploded up into Saxony's left eye, we all shared a moment of silly celebration.
Except poor Sax. The flushing had taken so long, Dr. B had to give her more sedation for the dental work. Her wolf teeth came out easily, with one loose and wobbly all ready and the other needing just a quick prod. There were many hooks on her molars and evidence of the injuries they'd caused to her cheeks. And somewhere during the dental work we discovered a cut on Saxony's upper lip that presented itself by snagging on the dental brace. It was a bloodless tear a couple of days old, one of those mystery injuries of no known origin. Suddenly squeamy, I had to turn away when Dr. B snipped away the jag of flesh.
I stayed with Saxony in her stall until the sedation wore off. I just kept near and looked at her, peaceful and close. I was thinking about what I'd been doing with her through the winter, taking care of her, readying her for what is to come, which is us building our partnership. I felt I'd used the winter well, like cleaning out the attic or emptying the basement. With all that work out of the way, there's a lot of clean new new space for us.
After most of the sedation had worn off, I gave Saxony a flake of hay and groomed her while she ate. I swooped my shedding block over her hindquarters, back and belly, tracing her curves and feeling as though she were a piece of fine woodcraft undergoing painstaking restoration. That's an awkward metaphor, but I was thinking of discovering what lies beneath her winter coat, the rich swirls of color and shading I'd begun to find, like the beauty of old wood grain rediscovered. And all the while I worked, all the while I stayed there with her, I felt how much I've loved caring for her, seeing to her. Maybe that's what I love most of all.