“He’s THREE?!” I must have heard her wrong. Probably meant thirty-three. Dr. Sarah stood, brushing hay from her worn jeans hemmed in red clay, and not a small amount of manure, and smiled at me. “Nope. Three, maybe five at most,” she laughed brushing the dirt cocktail and golden hay seeds from her clothing. Staring at my newly purchased “senior” horse calmly munching his fragrant hay, I tried to come to gripes that my quiet old boy had pulled a Dorian Gray and been proclaimed a youngster.
You see, yesterday, I had attended a horse auction. And come away with a horse represented to be an old broken down nag. Perfect for me. In a split second, some alternative universe proclaimed him an unbroken 3-year-old youngster. Oh my. This was about to get interesting.
Harley seemed completely unimpressed by his new-found youth and placidly shifted his sodden grass from one cheek to the other. Blowing softly, he bestowed a gentle rain of half masticated vegetation on my shoulder. Absently, I brushed off his benediction and mentally revised my training plans. “Well, let’s get his teeth floated and his feet trimmed since it looks like he’s going to be a riding horse,” I declared. “No problem,” assessed my diminutive but incredibility mighty vet.
Several days later I stood expectantly as my farrier, Bob, lined up his tools preparing a routine trim of my horse’s very overgrown hooves. Picture a Guinness world record holder of the longest fingernails, and you can visualize how overgrown Harley’s hooves, essentially his toenails, had become. They curled up at the end with a jaunty but unhealthy flair. However, hooves are trimmed gradually to avoid pain to the animal, so today’s trim was expected to be uneventful. Unfortunately, my dear Harley never got that memo. If you have ever seen a cranky toddler during his first haircut, you can imagine what happened next. With a look akin to incredulous shock, he flailed, then shot straight up on his back legs, threw his body forward, and just about passed out. Luckily the cross ties held, and he commenced to shaking like a waif in an icy rain storm. This sequenced played out again and again each time the dreaded trimmers approached his hoof. Like any good parent, I knew when to throw in the towel. “Let’s abort this mission before someone gets hurt,” I dejectedly informed my farrier. The brave man has never moved so fast. Tools got put away in an impressive blur and clink of metal. “Sure,” he gamely replied, “we’ll reschedule. And maybe, you know, try some sedative? You know, drug him?”
Several days later we did just that. Armed with an equine sedative (“Do NOT get that on your own skin!”, admonished my vet. “You’ll probably pass out. After you hallucinate; like a horse on LSD.”) “Hmm, that wouldn’t be good,” I thought to myself. As I proudly presented my successfully drugged horse, who was tripping his eyes out and grinning at us like a stoned cartoon character, my farrier again lined up the tools of his trade. No reaction from Harley. Bob and I grinned at each other. Bob placed the trimmers against Harley’s grossly overgrown front right hoof. No reaction. We grinned like fools. “We’ve got this”, my laconic farrier declared. Bobbing my head as I held the lead rope, I nodded my enthusiastic agreement as Bob’s tools rasped across hoof wall. Then…unexpected pressure on the lead rope in my hand. Harley was listing like a freighter in a nor’easter! “He’s goin’ down!” Harley listed left. Holding up 1200 pounds of limp horse flesh, we unclipped his ropes and down he went. “He’s not dead, is he?” my friend weighed in, leaning over to peer at Harley’s half closed eyes. Silence as we absorbed the shocking turn of events. “Nooo…”, I replied as Harley let out a snore that broke the sound barrier. “Is he…asleep?!” Yes, my dear youngster had passed out and was snoring away with a somewhat idiotic smile on his long-nosed face and half masted eyes. That day we learned that Harley was VERY sensitive to certain medications. And that it is possible to trim the hooves on a napping horse.
It took several months of dosing experiments, to hit Harley’s perfect cocktail that allowed him to be trimmed with safety to both human and beast. And many more months before Harley became nonchalant about his friend Bob picking up his huge feet to give him his manicure every six weeks. But he got there. And it took a year for Harley’s hooves to become healthy. But he grew to like the little red truck that brought the foot man, and would trot from his pasture to greet his patient friend who always gently held his feet and made them all better.