Friday, July 11, 2008

The Challenge...

It has become painfully clear that bringing home Sammy was only the first part of the challenge of rescuing Sam from the life she had been thrown into. The honeymoon is apparently over and she is settled and finally starting to deal with some of the issues that developed from her long bought of hunger and isolation.

I naively believed this was going to have a fairy tale ending, she was home and we would live happily ever after. However, that is not going to be the case or at least not that easily. She has some serious issues coming to light. Food aggression, claustrophobia, general lack of coping skills when faced with boundaries and frustration. Alone each of these are not a big deal but when they all crash together the results can be very dangerous.

The other horses that were at the farm where Sam lived for 5 years suffered the same fate and some suffered worse. Some of them were confined to stalls, and in much worse condition than she was. I am beginning to think that Sam at some point may have been locked in one of those stalls.

On Sunday Sam got her wish to go out into the big pasture with the other horses on my farm. With this promotion came another part of the routine at Southern Oaks. Daytime, stall/fan/feed. Where we are in Kentucky, the horse flies, green head flies, and deer flies are vicious. The horses break up their feet stomping, and some of the horses are apparently more at attractive to the flies than others as you will see whelps and bloody bites on some and none of the others. So I have made a practice of bringing the horses in during the day especially on the really hot days. This apparently is a big cause for panic with Sam.

I noticed that she would get excited when I would come out to check on everyone, and it never occurred to me that she was staying agitated like that all the time. I also noticed she hasn't been eating all of her grain, and she has become more and more easily agitated during other activities. All of this has been brought to my attention by a horrible misunderstanding Sam and I had earlier in the week. As it has been my habit to pet, and give friendly scratches while Sam finishes her supper I took my normal place beside her in the stall. Only this time I had closed the stall door. Up until now I hadn't closed the door as you never know what a horse that you don't know well will do in a confined space; but for as long as she has been here and not shown any aggression, I really didn't believe it would be a problem. I was steadily scratching her withers when she became nervous and walked away from her bucket. Thinking that a fly was bothering her I stepped to he wall to give her room. Suddenly the last thing I ever expected happen. Sam lashed out with no obvious warning with both back feet. She connected not once but three times on my way to the door. As I opened the stall door and swung out she ran past me and found the first dusty place she could to drop and roll.

After nursing my wounds, and putting serious thought into the events of the day, I decided an experiment was in order. The next afternoon I again approached Sam in her stall. This time with help of course, and stood in her open door while she was eating. This did not seem to bother her at all if any, but the moment I slid the door shut she was clearly upset. She left her bucket and circled. It was almost like I had her cornered. I slid the door open again and she began to relax just enough for me to realize that she was afraid.

What has she endured? Why do people make horses suffer? Why when they trust us, forgive us, and do what we ask do people still mistreat, starve, and break their minds? It is beyond me. I can say this without reservation. I am so blessed to have Sam, and I will stand by her until she heals from the wounds that I can not see, until she has grown into the horse she was destined to be. And that is a promise. She may never know how deep the devotion goes, but she will never be hungry, she will never be mistreated again. Now she just has to believe.

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