It's been a long winter. I've seen horses both thrive and fight for health, with some losing the battle. We had lots of snow here in Southcentral Alaska, that while beautiful, was exhausting amid all else that was happening. My own horse I just purchased in October started her barefoot journey with a somewhat rough start going into winter. Making too big of steps when beginning this transition is something I'm sure many of you horse owners may have endured and learned greatly from. I'm happy to say that with the trickle of Spring approaching, her healing is well underway and her health is better than it has been in years. Not only her physical health, but her mental and emotional health as well. Seeing her blossom in mind, body and spirit before my eyes has been Springs greatest gift to me thus far.
One horse I worked with this winter was not so lucky, and this post is dedicated to her. Dakota came up sick with a mystery affliction in about September. I was asked to do a self selection session with her in October, to see if her selections could give us some insight into what was happening in her body that she couldn't tell us how to fix. She wasn't eating, had a runny nose and swelling in some of her legs and joints, and could barely walk. We considered a vaccine reaction, ingestion of a toxic substance, or some kind of unknown virus. My initial sense was to offer her antibacterial garlic and thyme/clove waters for possible infection, but she wasn't interested. Her selections were even more puzzling.....she was crazy about Dandelion: leaf, root- whatever kind of dandelion she could get she ate literally pounds of it. Her owner went above and beyond, ordering pounds of dandelion, driving many miles to herb stores to find whatever dandelion was available in the middle of winter. And, most importantly, honoring her horses request for more and more. Dakota was even put on steroids to help give her some relief and help her appetite, which it did. But it also was causing her to be very painful on her feet, inducing laminitis. She had 2 veterinarians consulting, running a battery of tests and trying to figure out what in the world was happening to this sweet, young mare. In the end, almost 6 months later, Dakota could no longer fight, and the decision was made to give her relief, and she was euthanized. It was the most painful experience I have been a part of with an equine...watching the owner so in love with and dedicated to a sweet mare she would do anything to help. In the end, she knew there was no flight left in Dakota and it was her time. The autopsy indicated she had, among other things, an infection in her jaw which had literally begun eating away part of her jaw bone, with a few rotted teeth. Whether it started in the teeth or jaw is unknown. Living in Alaska, we aren't fortunate enough to have facilities or vets with hospitals where this surgery could have been performed, even had we known the cause of her suffering.
It made a long winter even harder to endure. Experiencing some difficulties with my own new horse and then seeing such a loving, dedicated owner lose her own sweet mare was such a heartbreak. But it was an experience that I learned greatly from. Having difficulties or loss with our animals is, for many of us, like losing a part of our family, we love them so much. But if we indeed are to make these hard times count for something, it is that we must use them to learn all we can to prevent the same from happening to others. Some situations can't be avoided, and we sometimes have no control over outcomes. But the example my friend taught me by going above and beyond for her horse, considering all possibilities and being open to any and all ideas was inspirational. It reminded me to never, never, ever give up. Stay open, and keep trying new things, be the best advocate you can be and never stop doing all you can. Because, around some corner, there may be a possibility you hadn't considered. It's always worth the effort to go beyond what you think your limits are and keep trying.
I hope I can be that kind of inspiration to others. I hope I can always stay open to possibilities. I hope I can, like the fresh breath of Spring, be that light of hope for people and their animals. For you, Dakota.