On the Sunday morning after Raven was settled at Tinstar Ranch, my friend Simone and I made the two hour drive up to see her. I didn’t know what kind of shape she would be in; Jamie had let me know that her leg had been draining pus, a possible extension of the strangles abscess. She also hadn’t been eating as well as she should (horses literally live to eat all day, every day, so if they’re not eating, something’s wrong).
When we pulled into the ranch and said hello to Jamie’s dogs, I looked over at Raven’s pen. She was looking at me with her ears perked. I said, “Hi, Baby Girl,” and she nickered back at me. I gave her some Honeycrisp apple and talked to her. Her nose was very crusty, and her front legs were covered in dried mucus from her rubbing her nose on them. There was also a bit of dried pus from her leg draining, but she was alert and walked freely around her pen. Jamie’s dad came to say hello on his way out of the house near the pen; he told me he had gotten Raven out twice to walk her around, and the swelling in her leg had gone down from the extra circulation from light exercise. I thought that was really sweet, and Jamie said she had joked with him, “Don’t get attached!” He had said back, “I’m already attached!” He had learned to ride on Arabians and was fond of Raven. It warmed my heart that they truly cared about her, that she wasn’t just a way to make money.
I’d brought some grooming supplies up with me, so Simone held Raven while I cleaned the crusted mucus from her eyes and nostrils. Then we hand-walked and jogged her around for about 20 minutes to stretch her legs a bit and let her graze on some grass. Her leg swelling had gone way down, she was putting weight on it, and she seemed to be in good spirits. Her spunky personality started to peek out, just as I knew it would.
We hosed and cleaned her front legs, getting all the dried gunk off. She tolerated the first leg cleaning pretty well, but when we came around to the second leg, she’d had enough and was walking in circles to get away from the water hose. We called it good and put her back in her pen. I brushed her for a little while as storm clouds gathered; she felt the electricity in the air. I couldn’t believe how much improved she was after just a few days since we brought her here – she was energetic and alert. Jamie said she was eating and drinking better. As we stood outside the pen and talked, Raven backed her rump up to the fence to itch her butt against it. We scratched her rump for her then gently pushed her off from leaning against the rail. She took a few steps forward, then turned her head to give us a look as if raising her eyebrow, then backed right up again for more butt scratches. It made us laugh as we repeated the process a few times. She was being cheeky!
After saying goodbye, I told Simone on the drive home that I just felt a weight come off of me – I expected Raven to be worse, lethargic, still not eating – and then we saw her, energetic and spunky, asking for butt scratches! I was so relieved, my heart felt lighter. She was still fairly sick – she had white fluid draining from her nose and was a few hundred pounds underweight. The abscess beneath her jaw had drained and was scabbing over, no longer swollen, but Jamie said we’d need to watch out for any more abscesses developing. Her own rescue horse Ember had previously recovered from strangles, and when they first thought it had subsided, she ended up with a new abscess every week for several more weeks. Jamie also told me that once the strangles symptoms cleared up, we’d have to get Raven tested once a week for three consecutive weeks at the vet to be sure she was no longer a risk to other horses.
I was worried about being able to find her a place to board after her quarantine. Strangles is a scary illness and a curse word for horse owners, for good reason. It would present a big challenge for me since I didn’t have my own property to keep her on. For the moment, Raven would be staying for longer than the planned 30 days, and I just hoped that she would continue to improve and heal up, and I would be there to see her every weekend.
I was excited to get to know her, to see what she knows and what she could do. Just witnessing that spark of her Arabian personality gave me a glimpse of the feisty challenge she would be, and I welcomed it. I appreciated her spirit. In the meantime, I prepared to keep working hard in anticipation of some big vet bills, but I didn’t mind. I was going to take care of her. I already loved her so.