Thursday, June 24, 2010

Alli, My Food-Faced Appaloosa 2008


‘Alli, the Food-faced Appaloosa’

There is an ancient Appaloosa mare living at our farm right now. She’s 26 years old and is one of the most kind, dear mares I believe I have ever been blessed to own. “All The Best” is from regal breeding, with her father and grandfather both being national and world champions. Alli, herself has been shown at the World Appaloosa shows. She’s only 14.1 hands tall and has white spots all over her reddish brown body. She has some small deep brown ones too, making her coat pattern most interesting to see. Now she is old, and not as healthy as before. Her stamina is fading and I no longer ask her to give many riding lessons; just one or two a week for those special riders who come to learn.

 Alli is blind in one eye, but no one would ever notice unless they looked at her face. She’s well adapted to not being able to see on that side, and so long as she knows a person is there, she is relaxed and content. Her front legs have become crooked from many miles and great age, so Alli requires special front shoes to keep her happy. Luckily the farriers who care for my horses know this and work hard to keep this kind mare moving with out pain any longer. A good farrier is a wonderful thing to have found here on this new farm!

I bought Alli back in 1999 from some folks out in the Midwest. She was thin, sore footed and certainly Not the 15 hand tall horse I had been told about. But she was very kind, and did anything asked of her. We bought her and Alli came to live with me. Its been a long and good friendship between the two of us. Alli helping me teach beginners to become horsemen and women, all the while offering us a sampling of her great sense of humor as well.

 The one thing she does ‘bad’ was to toss her feed out of her feed tub- all over the stall floor. It was funny to hear from the other end of the barn, but I knew that Alli needed all the grain she could get and shoving it out of her dish was not good.  I went the next day to buy a protective ring that would hang over top of her dish, so when she did try to toss her feed out, it would land right back in that dish. Alli was going to be getting All of her feed this way. Oh what a clatter she made while eating!  Smack, shove, plastic hitting wooden walls, and that poor feed ring being pushed all over, as Alli tried to do the grain toss she adored doing. I couldn’t understand why, but I guess She figured it was an okay thing to do. Alli was one exuberant eater; that was for sure. In doing so, Alli would end up with feed slimed on the bridge of her speckled nose. It was sticky from the molasses in her hi-fat feed, and a bother to remove too. Each day- there it was showing me her feed was going into her tummy where it was most needed.

Time passed, and Alli proved herself to be a grand riding lesson horse. She was smart, but gentle- stopping when ever she thought one of her small beginner riders was off balance. She’d put her neck up so they could balance on her, and not fall to the ground. One time, a little gal toppled off and Alli couldn’t help her re-gain her balance. She fell off to Alli’s right side… her blind side. Alli stopped immediately, and began looking about for her small rider. Not moving a hoof, she looked all around to her left side, then swung her head to her right. THERE she was and she was fine. Alli lowered her head down to her little toppled rider, nickering softly as if to ask “ are you Alright ?? I was so scared”.   This is the sort of horse ‘All The Best’ is…

By now, Alli is older and her joints creak and snap with age and arthritis. She gets some joint supplements to help those joints stay sound for a few more years and they seem to be helping her. The horses and I have moved to a new farm and its got great long hills to gallop up or down. Because of these hills they all have gotten more fit here. Alli is so happy now as she has another job: To be an Auntie to my two year old Percheron filly, Evie. She has been teaching Evie how to be a proper young horse ; how to mind her elders and have good manners in a herd of horses.  Alli loves being Boss.

One evening while we were at a horse show, our helper called to let me know that Alli hadn’t been interested in her dinner, nor her hay, and that her manure was very runny. I said I’d check on her when we got home that evening.  I did check on Alli, and she just didn’t feel good. I got no welcome nicker from her, not even even much of a look. Her temperature was fine, she was alert but definitely was not feeling good at all. No signs of a stomach ache (called Colic to horse folks) nor any thing else to alarm me. I thought to leave her alone – perhaps she’d work thru what ever it was bothering her by morning.

The next morning, Alli didn’t want her breakfast. She picked thru her breakfast hay and stood quietly in her stall. Her manure was very runny and that was alarming to me. I called our vet to let her know what was going on and that I was going to try to give my mare some probiotics to help her deal with this problem. The vet agreed, and to call her if anything changed. Well, it changed- Alli stopped eating anything more than a few handfuls of feed a day!  She didn’t want to eat.  Her manure was slowing down because there was not enough going thru her system to make any. Some good friends who had horses of their own suggested many things, but nothing tempted Alli. She didn’t want steamed, crimped ( and very expensive !) oats, she like alfalfa cubes though.  For one day.  She didn’t like Aloe juice, didn’t want anything topped with sweet things horses like- but only maybe for a few more handfuls than normal. Alli was loosing weight like crazy and there wasn’t much I could do about it.

The vet gave me some antibiotics to help with horses who had Colitis…and I had to give it to Alli by a big syringe as there was no way SHE was eating it on her own. I learned it tasted horribly, and mixed it with rich maple syrup.  Still  she wasn’t hungry…. And ate hardly enough to keep her going. She lost More weight, and was looking terrible. Alli was weak, and had no energy at all. I thought I was watching my good friend die. I gave her that antibiotic for a week, twice a day. Each time it was a struggle to convince my little 800 pound mare that it really was good for her. That hopefully it would help her heal and feel better.  There was one evening during all of this that I checked on her late one night. She was laying down, and like most horses would have, didn’t even offer to get up. I stroked her thin neck , sitting with her in the stall. I told her that if she was to weak, that it was alright to ‘move on’ – but I’d miss her terribly.  The next morning, there she was :up and wanting something to eat. She only gave it a taste and was done eating.

This went on for two weeks. Alli now had lost around 250 pounds and was so weak she could hardly walk around outside in the sunshine. I know that horses Need to be moving or more troubles are caused, so I let her out during the night where it was cooler. Summer days in Pennsylvania can be so hot. During the heat of the day, she got to be in her stall with a fan for some fresh air pointed in on her. She could move off to one side if she chose to be out of the breezes.

I noticed that no more was there sticky old feed on Allis’ nose nor any noise in my barn. No welcoming loud whinny in the mornings, and nothing welcoming me in the evenings. No more anything from her. The rest of the horses were all fine- but Alli always was the loud one- always whinnying, “ Hello ! Is it Food Time ?.”  I felt so sad – there wasn’t much more I could offer her in order to tempt her to eat. It didn’t seem as though the medicine she was getting was helping very much either. It seemed as though I was watching her die and feeling totally helpless.

This is a photo of her.... its hard to tell how terribly thin she is, but she looked horrid in real life. I thought I was loosing her, and snapped this last picture.

One evening after letting Alli loose around the barn, I was watching her. She seemed to be searching for something only she knew about. She wasn’t finding it, because she kept going from weed patch to weed patch, sniffing each weed or grass carefully before moving on. I thought it was odd, so I followed along, watching her. When she would find what she thought she wanted, she would graze it down to the roots, and move on, searching.  She ate two different types of weeds and then grazed on some grasses.

My friend did some searching on the internet for what those weeds were and discovered that one kind helped settle upset stomachs. It's called Pennsylvania Smart Weed--I found that the other one did the same and added more help in balancing the flora in a horses’ digestive system. Alli Knew!   She knew what she needed to continue getting better, and had been hunting for it around my barn. What an amazing creature these horses are to me. So the hunt continued most of the evening, and the next morning, I was greeted with a small whinny of welcoming.  Alli felt better…. We walked down the barn aisle together- slowly- and she ate half of her breakfast. Two days before, she’d nibble at it, maybe eating a handful.  Could it be that she might live after all? That evening, she ate another half of her dinner, and went out to search for more of those weeds. It was incredible to see her hunting, sniffing certain weeds, or grasses. She knew what she needed to help her get better, And the antibiotic was no doubt helping her as well. She was all done with that week of syringes full of syrup and medicines. We were on our own now. Would her troubles return?  The blood work showed only that she had a severe bowel inflammation. Would we need to have another week of antibiotics?  I know I hoped not- and I had a good feeling my mare didn’t want to go thru that again too.

The next morning, a warm Sunday morning, I was greeted by a hearty loud whinny from her. She met me at the barn gate and we walked down to her stall together again. She kept whinnying from her stall for me to hurry up with her breakfast.  She ate every single grain of feed in her dish this time, and wanted More. Knowing better than to let her eat all she wanted, I began offering her many very small meals that day. She ate each one with pure happiness. She began to get stronger and gained a little amount of weight with each day. Alli was getting fed a LOT of feed, but she wanted it, and couldn’t wait until her next ‘snack’.  Her appetite had returned, and the day she made her first manure pile in her stall in two weeks, I wanted to celebrate. 

Only another horse person could understand the significance of a small manure pile in that stall…. It had been a little over 3 weels, and my mare was going to Live.  Her digestive system was beginning to work again, and while we never have figured out what went wrong, it was alright. 

One day, just this week, Alli was being groomed by one of her riders. She was being her normal pesky self, and I commented on how wonderful it was to be hearing her calling to me whenever she saw me. That it was a sign she was returning to normal. Also- that she had a messy,sticky face again.  The student nodded in agreement. Alli had molasses all over the bridge of her nose once again, and that was GOOD.   Alli was going to pull thru and we were all pleased with that.  She truly IS “all the best”.

 Cc Kristales 8 2008

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