Living

Carol Reiter: Born trying to kill themselves

Carol Reiter

It seems as though our little ranch has been hit hard lately by accidents and illnesses.

I personally have fallen off of a stepstool trying to put a bridle on a horse, got my hand slammed by Willy and got kicked by a foal stuck on a gate.

Fortunately, I'm fine and so is the foal who thought she could jump a gate. She ended up with her front feet on one side and her back feet on the other, and three women standing there wondering how in the world she would get out of this predicament.

My answer was to pick her up by her back feet and push her over. Wrong. Two of us ended up bruised and battered, and the foal was still stuck in the middle of the fence. When we backed off and thought about what we were going to do, the baby horse got herself out of the mess.

Then there was Shasta, who almost died from colic. Another broodmare, Darla, got a huge laceration that had to be stitched, twice. As one little girl said, it looked like Darla had "cracked open."

Willy wasn't about to be left out either. He sliced open his mouth on a decorative part of a gate and walked around in a bad mood for a few days. I'm sure it hurt every time he ate, but he shouldn't have put his head where it didn't belong.

After 30 years of owning and breeding horses, I have realized that almost every horse is born trying to kill itself. It's amazing what horses can do to themselves.

Over the years, we have fought off an equine flu epidemic that hit almost every horse on our place, dozens of accidents that ended in lacerated or bruised horses, and even strange diseases like pigeon fever.

Then there are the once-in-a-lifetime happenings that leave us scratching our heads and wondering how in the world the horse, or horses, got out of that mess.

Willy alone has done some things that I wouldn't believe were possible. He seems to have no pain endings, or at least they are buried far beneath his skin surface, because this boy doesn't seem to feel anything. He has knocked fences down, closed his eyes and pushed through pretty solid things like 2x10 boards and even squeezed through closed barn doors.

But the most impressive mess that Willy got into was a few months ago. He was spending his days in our pen, where two sets of fences kept him from the broodmares.

No problem for Willy. He just bulled his way through. But he only made it part way, and then disaster struck.

When my friend got at the ranch to feed, she found Willy upside down, with his head stuck between two rails and his feet trapped.

My friend actually thought that Willy was dead. No normal horse could be stuck like that and make it out alive. So she went and fed the rest of the horses first, and then made her way to where Willy was, to see if she could get his dead body out of there.

But this was Willy, after all. He wasn't only alive, he was fine. He just couldn't get up. My friend stood there watching the big horse for a few seconds, and then whacked him. Willy tried to get up, and quit again.

My friend stood there for another few seconds, and decided that either Willy had to get up or stay there until he died. So she whacked him harder. This time, he got up. He wasn't hurt, he only had a couple of scraped places that healed within days.

My friend couldn't believe it. She thought that Willy would at least be cut up, or have major injuries. Nope. Not our big lug of a stud. And not only did he not get hurt, but Willy was out there the next day, trying to get through the same place in the fence.

But Willy isn't the only one that tries to kill himself. His babies have inherited more than their dad's good disposition and pretty looks. They have also inherited the drive to do something, anything, to hurt themselves.

Mia, our yearling, has a big bump on her back leg that came from an injury. We have no idea how she did it, but she's like her old man, scarred for life.

And this year's babies are no different. The older one, Cammy, got a cut on her back leg and went through a spell when her mouth swelled up and then went down for no reason. And the other baby, Lena, walked around for a couple of weeks with her leg bandaged because she got caught in something.

I have learned not to ask what else can happen, because if I do, I find out. So each time we make it through another disaster, I try to smile and say, it was just a fluke. That will never happen again.

But on the other hand, we keep a bunch of bandage material and antibiotics handy for the horses, and Band-Aids for me. Just in case.

Reporter Carol Reiter is out of the office. This is one of her favorite columns.

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