Last weekend I received an e-mail from a veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania that warmed my heart and, quite frankly, got me a little teary-eyed. Keep in mind that much of my correspondence with veterinarians involves clarifying 18-syllable words having to do with equine physiology and planning for upcoming coverage. I find these more clinical-type situations all very stimulating (I'm not kidding, I dig this information—just ask my staff how I light up when I start talking about the life cycle of Neorickettsia risticii!), but this e-mail was a special treat.
Before I tell you about the e-mail, here's a back story: My family and I bred and raised a mare that I broke to ride back in 2001. Mocha, a Westphalian/Danish Oldenburg cross, was out of a phenomenal mare that I rode my freshman year at Averett, and by a stallion, Aslan, who was at the school for a time.
The leggy bay filly with colossal joints was born one June morning in 1998 at my parents' farm. On a hillside. In a thunderstorm. Then her dam tried to step on her a few times with her huge, platter-sized feet. Mocha managed to survive all that and grew into a big-bodied, opinionated, but somehow very sweet mare.
As with every loved horse, there are many memories that accompany my years with Mocha, from her very first blissful canter under saddle (this riding stuff seemed completely natural to her) to the time she amazed us by jumping out of a pasture with a 5.5-foot fence because the other mares weren't so pleased with her. (I must add that she secured her position as alpha mare within a few weeks.) I ended up selling her in 2004, and she had several homes as a dressage horse before landing with a college student who adored Mocha as much as I did and tried her in the jumpers.
This spring Shoshi, Mocha's owner, called me in distress—Mocha was at New Bolton, suffering with a second bout of severe colic (she'd undergone surgery in 2009 already). Shoshi's academic schedule wasn't going to permit her to handle postoperative care if Mocha had to go to surgery, and she hoped my family and I would be able to take her.
I struggled over the decision and reviewed the scenario with my mom on the phone. My mom's barn, paddocks, and pastures are full, and I don't own a horse right now by choice; I want to make sure I have the time to devote to a horse before I get another. It was simply not going to be responsible for me—financially or time-wise—to take on a horse with two colic surgeries under her proverbial belt. I knew chances were high that she could colic again.
Calling Shoshi back, I felt like one of the more horrible beings on the planet. Through sobs I explained that I couldn't take back Mocha. She told me that it was OK, it looked like Mocha's condition had taken a turn for the worse, and they were going to have to euthanize. I was disappointed, but at peace that she wouldn't be suffering. Shoshi said she would save a lock of Mocha's tail hair for me.
The next morning I received a call from Shoshi, fully expecting the news of Mocha's passing. Instead, hold up: Shoshi sounded joyful! Mocha, although still requiring surgery, had an appetite and was looking more comfortable than she had the prior evening. One of the attending veterinarians had taken a liking to the mare, and asked if she could take the mare home as her own if she survived surgery. I was floored. Who was this kind soul who saw Mocha's stubborn tendencies and realized they could translate to survival?
Dr. Rose Nolen-Walston (DVM) had seen Mocha's persistence and a will to live despite her sad gastrointestinal situation. The surgery was successful, and Mocha went home to Dr. Nolen-Walston's pasture, learning how to coexist with the pig (which she was none to pleased about at first), and recovering to the point where she is now a solid trail mount. This brings us to the photos that I received in an e-mail from Rose last week, an example of which is below. In recalling my first comical separation from Mocha when she launched over a creek, I wonder how she got from point A (creek-o-phobe) to point B (water baby).
I'm sure it has a lot to do with age, experience, and ... quite possibly ... gratitude for having such a wonderful forever home. (Thank you, Dr. N-W! Mocha is blessed.)
Through all this I learned a valuable lesson: Sometimes a horse's best home isn't necessarily in our own pasture.
Do you recall a situation where it was hard to say no to a horse, but you found out that going with your gut meant the horse landed in an even better home than you could have given him/her?