Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Story of Phoenix

Once upon a time, there was a lovely Thoroughbred mare named Riel Anna. She was a broodmare by trade, but after a few years, her aged owner decided to sell off his herd and Anna was scheduled to be taken to auction. A young couple came along (us) and decided that she was too nice of a horse to end up being hamburger, so they bought her and took her home. She was pretty shy and her feet, teeth and uterus needed serious help, but they fixed her up and very quickly, she became a calm, dependable horse who was delightful to have around and wonderful to ride.

A few years went by and we, her family, decided to breed Anna to a fancy Hanoverian stallion by the name of Paganini.
Anna liked him quite a bit (isn't he handsome?!) and got pregnant right away. She had a perfect pregnancy and seemed to feel better than ever - bucking and running around and even getting chubby in her cheeks. But when the time came to have her baby, she didn't.

Pretty soon she was a week overdue and still hadn't had that baby. When she was 2 weeks overdue and getting quite uncomfortable, we began to be pretty concerned about her. During this time, she was also getting a bit lame in one front foot. Finally, she was discovered one day with 2 rather large feet poking out of her back end - yay, a baby, it was about time! But poor Anna didn't seem to be able to push that monster baby out. After consulting with the vet over the phone (he was about 4 hours away at the time), we reached inside Anna and found that the legs poking out were actually hind legs. Oh no! Not good - a breach presentation! Anna was so miserable that she kept getting up and down and we finally had to lay on her neck to keep her down while two helpers (thanks Jen and Leon!) each grabbed a baby leg and helped to pull that little bugger out.

It was a boy! And he was huge! His mother was pretty happy to see him safe and sound, as were we all. He got up right away and went to nursing. He was so tall that his hip came up to my hip bone (and I'm 5' 10" with very long legs.)

In the Hanoverian breed, it is traditional to name the foal with the first letter of the sire's name. We decided to name our new little boy Phoenix hoping that he would rise from the ashes of his traumatic start in life and go on to become a great horse.

He was a cute, bouncy, friendly little foal and loved to play with the kids and run around like a whirling dervish. We really enjoyed having him around and teaching him new things.

But the sad part of our story didn't end there. As it turned out, our poor Anna had a terrible abcess in her foot that refused to go away or get better. But even though she was sick, she was such an amazing Mama! It really touched me to watch them together.

Phoenix had to learn to nurse while his Mama was lying down and be careful and considerate of her. I think he was a great comfort to her in her pain.

We did everything we knew how to do for her - soaking, injecting antibiotics straight into the vein of her lower leg, consulting with experts from across the country - but she just got sicker and lamer and finally got to the point where she could barely stand at all, and no amount of pain medications were helping. We found that the infection had gone into the internal structures of her foot and leg. When Phoenix was 2 months old, we finally had to put his poor, sweet mama out of her misery.

Phoenix had some big boy teeth by this time and was able to eat milk replacer pellets along with cubes and hay. We put him with our 22 year old gelding, Rocky, who was a perfect mentor and babysitter.

He grew and grew, and ran and ran. He jumped and spun and flew everywhere he went. When he was 10 weeks old, he was trailered for the first time (no sweat) and went to a Natural Balance Hoof Clinic and was trimmed by Gene Ovnicek himself! And he was so good to be trimmed, I thought I'd die of pride.

When he was about 4 months old, he marched in our 4th of July parade with his mentor, Rocky, and carried the sign for our family entry. He was so brave about all the sights, noises, water truck, firecrackers, flags and every other scary thing we encountered that day.

But his story doesn't end there. He got to go to Sink Valley and live on a huge pasture. He grew, and grew and grew and is now a big, tall, gangly young 4 year old, ready to be ridden and move on with the rest of his life. .

Stay tuned for more exciting chapters of Phoenix' story.