I had a busy weekend, and I actually have a couple stories from it. I’ll tell the one about my day on Saturday next week, maybe, but for today, I wanted to talk about Finn.
I mentioned before that last December I did something crazy and bought a few draft horses. I’ve always loved them, but have never been around them much. One of them was pregnant and expected to foal in March. We named her Hope.
Now, the dude we got them from told us Hope was in her mid-teens. The vet has since told us she’s probably more likely in her mid-twenties, which is old age for a draft horse.
Anyway, she had Finn at the end of April, and she hasn’t had enough milk for him. I’ve never been around foals and so I thought his wobbly legs were normal (and to a certain extent, they are), but when he was a week old, he laid down and couldn’t get back up. He has not gotten up on his own since then.
That was a Saturday morning. We scheduled the vet to come Monday morning, and in the meantime, we got foal milk replacer powder and pellets and went out every two hours to get him up and to try to get him to eat.
When the vet came on Monday, she gave Hope some things to try to stimulate milk production and told us to feed Finn as often as we could, just trying to get him all the calories and nutrition we could to get him moving, strengthen his legs and hopefully he’d develop the strength to get up.
We were supposed to watch him pretty hard because there are a bunch of things that can happen that will basically cause him to need to be put down.This past Friday he developed a swelling in the upper joint of his back right leg.
Our regular vet was away, so I ended up talking to her colleague, Dr. Shane, who was covering her calls. Julia and Joy hovered at my elbow while I stood at the opening of the barn and talked to the vet. I knew swollen joints in a newborn is a serious issue (which is why we called immediately), and Dr. Shane said, “I’ll come out, but most likely you all are going to need to make a hard decision tonight.”
I knew what that meant, but listened as he said that if it was what he thought it was (and what it most likely was) treatment would require us to load Hope and Finn up and drive them to Virginia Tech (almost two hours away) and it would cost thousands of dollars, if not more, and there was no guarantee that he would not be lame for the rest of his life.
The other choice, of course, and the one that made the most sense, was to put him down.
So, I gave the vet our address and instructions on how to find us and he said he’d be there in an hour and hung up.
My girls are looking at me, waiting for me to tell them what he said.
So, how do I do that?
So, yeah, we stood in front of the barn while I told them the foal we’d been getting up to feed every two hours for the last week was most likely going to need to be put down. I explained about the expense of treatment and said that was an option, but we all knew people who had spent thousands of dollars on treatments that didn’t work and who ended up putting their horses down anyway. Aside from the work in the extreme heat, cold, rain and snow, the flies and pests, the predators and disease, the long hours and low pay, that’s the hard part of farming – knowing that it has to make financial sense or you can’t keep doing it.
We stood there, discussing it, trying to figure out what to do. We’ve all fallen in love with Finn, who is such a sweetie, so sweet and gentle, with a draft horse’s calm disposition and a slightly protruding lower lip he inherited from his mom that is just the cutest thing, but we finally decided that we weren’t going to put them through the ride (and Watson already told us he wasn’t going to drive the truck and trailer that far anyway, so it would have been a much rougher ride with me at the wheel) and that when the vet came and diagnosed him for sure, we’d say we were going to put him down.
I’m just gonna be real with you here and say that we talked about digging a hole. Finn weighs about a hundred and fifty pounds. When the vet puts an animal down, he uses strong drugs that will kill anything that tries to eat the body. So it has to be buried, and right away.
It was already late and we were all tired (Friday was a long, hard day and Saturday was even worse.) No one wanted to think about that much more work. I guess the way I deal with things is I always try to go to the positive, so I was thinking to myself, yay, I won’t have to get up at night anymore and I could really use the rest. (I was sweeping hay in a dark corner of the barn so no one would notice that I kept having to wipe my eyes.) I was trying to let go of all the plans and ideas and love I’d had for Finn and just let God’s will happen and know that my way wasn’t meant to be.
The vet came, looked at Finn, took his temp, etc, and said…maybe it wasn’t what he thought it was, since Finn had no fever, was eating, moving around and didn’t act sick at all. He got his clippers out, and shaved the hair off the swollen part of his leg (it was my job to hold Finn still, which was hard, Pie’s job to keep Hope from biting us, which was even harder, since Hope did not like the sound of the clippers, and Julia acted as the ultrasound tech, holding the laptop-like machine as the vet proceeded to ultrasound the shaved area.)
Now, I’ve had five children and I’ve seen my share of ultrasounds. I can’t always tell exactly what’s going on, but it really looked to me like there were two pockets of fluid – one in the joint separated from another by a membrane. I could feel myself starting to hope that maybe the worst-case scenario was not the one we were going to have to face that night.
Indeed, that was the vet’s diagnosis. That Finn had most likely bumped it somehow, developed a blood clot and the swelling was the natural swelling that occurs when we bump something. It just happened to be on a joint.
So, yeah, Finn is still not getting up on his own, and in the pic below you can see the (shaved) swelling on his leg, but he seems to get a little better every day and I’m hoping that he’s going to start getting up and taking off any day now. : )
A couple days ago someone in the Chat mentioned it was worldwide nude gardening day, which is…not something I celebrate, and I was not gardening in the nude, but I did end up losing my clothes on Saturday. I’ll tell you about that next week.
Thanks so much for spending time with me today!