The following week I was feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety – Jamie thought Raven was well enough to start her series of tests for strangles. This was wonderful because she was no longer showing the signs of active illness, and starting these tests would get us on our way to bringing her home to where I lived and beginning our training together. The catch was that all three tests in a row had to have negative results for her to be cleared; any one positive test would set us back and we’d have to begin them all over again.
On a sunny October morning, I drove up to Tinstar Ranch and got my girl ready for her two-hour trailer ride to the closest vet who was equipped to conduct the strangles tests, in Yakima. Now an overprotective new horse mom, I had bought a full (pony-sized!) set of shipping boots to keep Raven free of scrapes and bumps on her long ride. When I put them on her legs, she wasn’t so sure about them – she took big, exaggerated steps and did a little crow hop to show how funny they felt. It was so cute.
She walked right onto the trailer with me, and after a long drive, she was expected to allow a tube to be put up her nose to gather the sample to be sent to the lab. Poor girl! She wasn’t so sure about that either and wouldn’t hold still for the vet or the assistant. At first I stood out of the way to let them do their thing, but Raven kept moving around. When I stood next to her and kept my hand on her neck, talking to her, she stood still and tolerated the indignity of the tube. It only took a minute, but when it was done, she got to graze on some fat green grass in the vet’s yard for being so good. She hopped right on the trailer again with me after all that. I hoped that she would allow us to do this two more times, now that she was wise to what we were asking of her.
It was worth it – the first test came back negative. I was over the moon!
A week later, my girl still agreed to get on the trailer and be carted away to her second vet visit. This time, she got the works – sample tube up the nose, blood draw for a Coggins test (needed for boarding at a stable), and first round of equine vaccines. I wasn’t sure when (if ever) she’d been vaccinated, and the vet agreed that she was looking well enough to start receiving them. Miss Raven was a total lady through all the fuss. She also chomped the green grass in the vet’s yard like it was her last meal! It was a just reward for her discomfort. While waiting for the second test’s results, the plan was to increase her feed a bit (you can’t just pile food into a starved horse, you have to gradually build up the amount of feed to avoid serious issues with getting too much too fast). Winter was coming, and she would need the extra fat on her bones to keep warm.
The second strangles test results came back – negative! Two down, one to go.
Two days before her third and final strangles test, we had a setback.
Raven stopped eating and seemed to feel generally yucky. The thought that she might be colicking just before her last vet visit was a tough one. She had come so far, from nearly being sent to a horrible death at a slaughterhouse, to surviving strangles and weekly four-hour round trip trailer rides to the vet, and I was crushed. I sobbed in the bathroom at work; I was back to being worried about the survival of the little black mare I’d come to love.
But my girl had something to teach me. Jamie administered some digestive aid paste and kept a close eye on her. In a few hours Raven perked up again, ate her dinner, and let her spunky Arabian spirit shine through with her ability to overcome yet another obstacle. She was ready to power through to the last vet visit.
It was a long, rainy day of driving, but we made it – Raven proved to be an old pro at trailering (a common issue with having horses is convincing a prey animal to get into a loud, dark, scary, enclosed metal box and be calm about it). It took just a few seconds for the vet to get the last nasal sample from Raven, who was such an accommodating patient when she really had cause not to be. She kept showing me that you can bounce back from even the worst of circumstances.
We brought her back to the ranch, and she was rewarded with turnout into a nice big paddock where she could stretch her legs more than in her little quarantine pen. She could also see and visit with her mare friends in the next paddock. If her next test came back negative, I would be able to start making plans to bring her home! Leaving the ranch to go home until the next week, I stopped and said goodbye to my little pony, all snug in her blue ladybug waterproof rain sheet. I thought, Oh, what a boring life I would lead without the wisdom, beauty, and challenge of a little feedlot mare to put things into perspective.
The last strangles test came back negative. Soon, I would bring my Raven Blackfyre home.