Our wonderful Midnight Dancer has had quite an adventure this last several weeks: One Friday morning at the end of October, Midnight broke his left elbow in a freak accident with another horse.
“They shoot horses, don’t they?”
Every vet in three states told us the same thing: Put him down, and do it quickly. There’s no way he could possibly survive this.
They didn’t know Midnight.
One of the local vets, the one who brought the portable x-ray machine that confirmed the break, got pretty angry with us when we wouldn’t make a decision immediately. “I’ve got another appointment in half an hour — we need to get this done.” (It took me a while, but I’ve forgiven him for his anger. He’s still in his thirties, and he still believes he and medical science have all the answers. Medicine has lots of answers…but not all of them.)
Midnight himself had a different idea. His energy was still bright, and though he was clearly in some pain those first couple of days, he wasn’t distressed by it, if that makes any sense. He continued to hobble around his stall, eating everything we put in front of him and keeping an eye on what was going on around him. He very clearly let us know that he was NOT ready to go to his Long Sleep.
But those Voices of Authority: It’s always so very difficult to argue with them, to make any sort of case for something different. I went through the struggle a couple of years ago when Galahad had abscesses in both front hooves and “They” insisted I needed to put shoes on him. This time was even worse, because the question was really, literally, about life and death. I was pretty well stuck, unable to speak up for Midders as his owners and I struggled with the decision.
Two friends of mine (and Midnight’s!) helped move me from my stuck place.
First was “Elwood,” the head caretaker and ranch hand out at the barn. He’s been there for thirty years, and I swear he’s half horse by now. A gentle soul with a huge heart and strong intuition, he urged me to let Midnight have a chance, to just wait and see how he progressed.
The second friend is someone who had cared for Midnight at the place we were a year ago. She and the Old Man had a very special relationship, and she had experienced his magical form of Black Horse Wisdom. In the darkest hours of those first days, this friend told me, “Keep up your spirit and continue listening to Midnight. You are his voice.”
“You are his voice.”
That brought me back to my senses and gave me the courage to speak up strongly: “We need to give him a chance. He will tell us when and if he’s ready to give up the fight.” His owners, thank goodness, agreed.
Fortunately, our regular vet Dr. H. was willing to work with us, though he was pretty certain what the outcome would be. So in the short run, we bandaged and splinted Midnight’s leg, and put a boot on the good foot to support the hoof and keep him from foundering on that leg because of the extra pressure.
The first several weeks were rough. Midnight was able to hobble around, and shortly, to walk around on his splinted leg. He never seemed distressed — his temperature and respiration remained normal the entire time. The problem was mechanical: He kept shifting the aluminum splint, probably by lying down (!), and every time it shifted, Dr. H. had to come out and reposition it. The bandage was way too complicated for us to do ourselves.
Midnight required a lot of daily care, too. Because he was stall-bound and not able to move around, there was a danger that he’d become bored. He’s a smart little guy, very active and interested, who thrives on attention. He also needed extra feedings — he can’t eat hay, and needs soaked forage cubes in order to keep things “moving” and to stay warm in the winter. So we were kept busy tending to him every day.
Eventually, Midders actually broke his aluminum splint. Needing a sturdy but lightweight alternative, we replaced it with one cut from PVC pipe. Success! He couldn’t break that one — but he continued to shift it every couple of days.
Vet calls get expensive fast! We were pretty frustrated, but then we decided to try Gorilla Tape instead of the vet tape that we had been using. That did the trick. Finally, we could go four or five or even seven days without needing Dr. H. to come by.
A month into the journey, Midnight began to develop pressure sores — an almost unavoidable consequence of the splint and bandage. Dr. H. was inventive and creative about the type of padding and the position of the splint, and that bought us just enough time: By Week Seven, it was clear that we had to remove the splint, whether the elbow was “ready” or not.
We shouldn’t have doubted Midders. He quickly adjusted to the lack of support, and was able to put at least some weight on the injured leg from the very beginning. As long as he stood square, we were able to lift his good front foot to clean it and replace the boot when we needed to.
It’s been almost twelve weeks now. Last week Dr. H. cleared Midnight for walking along the roads, and to begin to move around in a limited part of his paddock. And just in time, too: The day before that vet visit, Midnight had escaped his stall (he was READY to move!) and trotted off down the lane. It took a while to catch him!
So our little miracle horse is getting back to normal. He’s going for a walk once or twice every day, assisted by the intrepid members of Team Midnight. All of his pressure sores have healed and he’s doing amazingly well.
Midders has friends and supporters literally all over the world — through the wonders of Facebook and Carolyn Resnick’s network of students and trainers. We marshalled their healing energy and prayers, and I truly believe that they all share the credit for his wonderful recovery.
In the next post, I want to talk about the conscious and careful way we asked for that healing energy: There’s a specific technique that I believe was instrumental in the healing process. Stay tuned — and visualize the Mean Little Black Horse trotting around, tail in the air, happy and whole!