At 10:30 Thursday night, just as I was tucking into bed, my phone rang. It was the nighttime stable watch, and they thought Cleo was looking a little under the weather. Could I please come back to the barn? Throw on some jeans and out the door I go.
When I arrive barely 25 minutes later, Cleo is in full colic mode, a very unhappy camper. The vet arrives, makes her comfortable, and upon palpation discovers that her left ovary is, to be specific, the size of Texas. She’s ovulating something the size of a Mack truck, and clearly her body was none-too-thrilled about it.
By the grace of some higher authority, she recuperated quickly and was dozing quietly just after midnight, and stayed quiet until I finally gave up on Poop Watch at 3:30 am. But I think we discovered the source of my weird canter bobbles—Cleo was giving birth to the Egg of Epic Proportions!
She did a whole lot of nothing today—show management was very gracious and let me participate in the awards ceremony sans horse, so she could sleep in—except to periodically drag me around the grazing field, proving that she at least felt good without me sitting on her. She’s bright eyed and bushy tailed, ate great all day, and has thoroughly enjoyed all the poor-baby-cuddles and extra attention. I’m not making any decisions until tomorrow, but I’m cautiously optimistic that I’m going to give tomorrow’s final class a go. Whew!
So for the third year, I’m participating in a Gladstone awards ceremony without my horse. Billy had a flair for the dramatic at awards ceremonies, preferring to spend them on his hind legs waving to the audience. Cleo is usually fairly good, so perhaps if the weather holds out she’ll go in tomorrow’s ceremony.
All this is a reminder of a few great truths. One, no matter how many things you do for them—great feeding programs, regular veterinary care, preventative ulcer maintenance—horses find ways to give you trouble when you least expect it.
Two, when you choose this as a career, it’s not a question of if, but when. You’re going to have a horse colic at a show, you’re going to have one that goes lame right before the Big Event, and you’re going to have one that you put all your hopes and dreams into only to have them dashed; you’re also going to have the Ride of Your Life, a horse that makes the comeback that no one expects, and the horse that doesn’t just exceed expectations, it obliterates them. It’s a roller coaster ride, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
Three: You can never have too many good, kind people around you. The night watch staff, whom I’d barely met, saved my horse’s life last night. If they hadn’t been there and been attentive, it would have been hours before I returned to the barn.
Last and far from least: This experience is a great testament to the character of horses, especially my Cleo—I never would have guessed she was in pain from her warm-up and show ring behavior, because she put on her game face and did her job solely out of desire to please me. How humbling! If I can live up to the respect my horse has for me, I’ll be a heckofa person indeed!