Fingers crossed for Cat

Beau’s youngest ranch horse prospect is in the long-term care unit awaiting healing that we can only hope will happen.

Cat is a 6-year-old registered Quarter Horse gelding with about 60 rides on him.  One of those 6-year-old “colts” concerning whom you one day jerk to realization and say, “How did that horse get to be six?  Last I knew he was a two-year-old and we had plenty of time!”

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Beau started Cat a couple years back, then sent him to our buddy Stacey Ogren for 30 more days of training.  As far as we’re concerned, Stacey is one of the best horse trainers around.  Last I knew he figured he’d started over a thousand colts, and he has always done quality work with our horses.

We’ve known Stacey and his wife, Tiff, a long time.  Here’s a picture of Beau with his groomsmen on our wedding day — Stacey is the skinny blond.  My oh my, how we’ve all… matured in the last 14 years…

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(Our anniversary is coming up August 2.  So I just couldn’t resist pulling out a wedding photo!)

Anyhow, this spring Beau sent Cat back to Stacey for another 30 rides.  In trade, Beau put a few weeks of hard rides on Stacey and Tiff’s mature gelding, Pistol, a team roping prospect:

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It was a good trade.  Both horses got the types of rides they needed, spring turned into summer, and just last week the men decided it was time to trade horses back.

But then… before we got over there to pick Cat up and bring him home, Stacey called one morning to say Cat had turned up lame.  He had sustained a kick to his left front while overnighting in a pen with other horses.

So Beau went over to get Cat and took him straight to Treasure Vet Service here in town.  We are very lucky that one of the best horse vets in the business, Dick Cunningham, is just 10 miles and never more than a phone call away.

Cat’s diagnosis:  a fractured elbow on his left side.  That’s the pointy bone under his belly right behind his shoulder.  You can see that he’s hurting in this photo:

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The prescription:  Keep him alone in a small pen where he can’t do a lot of moving, on flat ground so he can lie down if he wants, near enough to other horses so that he won’t get excited and injure himself worse.  Basically, Cat should move no more than necessary for the next six weeks.  Even then, his chances of recovery are 50/50.  The horse is a big animal with a long, heavy leg dangling from the shoulder/elbow area.  There’s no way to cast the bone, of course, and no way to keep him sedated for six weeks — Dr. Cunningham says we want the patient to feel every bit of the pain so that he’s not tempted to jump, run, and make quick moves.

All we can do now is wait.  In six weeks, Dr. Cunningham says, we’ll know.

Though he’s only got 60 rides on him, Cat’s potential for the future is great.  With his good looks — those tiger stripes!  that blaze!  that eye! — combined with a couple more years of wet saddle blankets under Beau’s gentle hand, he’d be worth at least $10,000 as a finished ranch horse before long.  But his value to our own family is even greater, as our growing brood of kiddos develops into the cowboy crew we hope them to be 10 years down the road.  We are seriously in need of kid horses, and we are blessed to live the life through which we get to make kid horses.  There is a younger brother to Cat awaiting his turn in the string, and we have plans to procure another couple colts this fall with future plans in mind… but we would still be mighty discouraged if we didn’t get the chance to capitalize on the progress already made with Cat and watch his potential blossom.

The whole incident with Cat brings to mind memories of my first “real” horse (meaning he was more than just a kid horse), Rowdy.  Here I am on Rowdy, the bay, in a parade with other 4-H members:

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When I was about 14, Rowdy sustained a broken shoulder — same deal, just a well-placed kick from a pasture-mate.  It’s not that our horses are mean or unnecessarily rough; it’s just that horses are animals.  Their existence, when they’re left to function in their natural way (in a herd, competing for feed), is very base, and revolves around daily re-evaluating their pecking order, and they communicate with each other through bites and kicks.

Long story short, we kept Rowdy in a tiny pen for weeks that winter, covered with a magnetized blanket.  Healing through magnets must’ve been in at that time, because I remember massaging his shoulder daily with a magnetized roller.  Still, it was for naught — that shoulder bone just wouldn’t heal, and we had to put him down before he suffered further.

Many, many horses have come and gone through this outfit in my years, but we do recall at least one other that suffered a broken shoulder.  His name was Trapper, he was a cousin to Cat, and we were able to get the horse trailer right up to him where he stood, trembling and hardly able to move, in the horse pasture.  We loaded him and took him straight to the vet — and he never came back home.

Hopes are higher for Cat, because, again, it’s his elbow rather than his shoulder that’s broken.  In six weeks I hope to post a report of his full recovery!  Until then, I’ll keep my fingers crossed… and probably send up a few prayers too… remembering that, in this ol’ world of ours, a deal like this could go either way.

© Tam Blake

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