Mayhem returned to Moose River Farm this week. Thanks to the brains, brawn, and commitment of many people it was resolved with a favorable outcome. The victim? My 24 year old Thoroughbred gelding, Zambi who, along with his companion, Easau found themselves stranded on a sheet of ice in the field adjacent to their stalls. At some point Zambi must have fallen and was unable to establish the necessary traction between hoof and ice to push himself back up onto his feet. No telling how long he laid there. What was clear, when I discovered him upon my arrival home, was that he was already exhausted from several futile attempts to rise.
After a few phone calls it wasn't long before people began to arrive in my driveway eager to assist the prone animal. Efforts to raise Zambi failed over and over. Each time his 1200 pound physique collided sickeningly with the ice. Just how much punishment could his body take before he simply broke apart? The thought choked me as my mind scrambled for the solution to end the drama.
Despite spreading sand around Zambi and hoisting him with the strength of several men, the gelding was unable to support his own weight once his hind feet made contact with the slippery surface. I began to wonder if an injury was preventing this. Immediately, my neighbor, Pam, alerted our veterinarian, who in turn made preparations to come to the farm. Rex, our school superintendent, an EMT, and experienced horseman from youth, never left the horse's side, providing me with calm support and advice through the whole ordeal. Shivering in the cold under layers of wet blankets, Zambi appeared to be giving up from time to time. A solution needed to come swiftly.
The next plan included dragging the horse on a tarp with the backhoe to an area where the footing was more snow than ice. Preparations sprang into action. In the flurry of activity I tried to reassure Zambi by caressing his head, talking softly, and blowing gently into his muzzle. From my location I became aware of all the individuals who had left other obligations to tend to my horse in need. I saw three rowdy young boys from my sixth grade class long ago, now grown up into kind and compassionate men, (two with children of their own), wanting nothing more than a happy ending to this scene they had stepped into. I saw my neighbors, John, Dave and Tim, who have helped many times when Mayhem comes knocking. I saw local citizens who volunteer as emergency first responders, rigging up the apparatus that might free Zambi from his icy trap.
After 2 and a half hours of crashing failures, Zambi was successfully dragged closer to the barn. Positioned on a pair of rubber mats and affixed with a pair of 'Old Mac' sport boots strapped to his hind feet, Zambi prepared to heave himself up one more time. In the sitting position he coiled his hocks under his haunches and then mustered the energy to launch his bulk. A roaring cheer from the crowd affirmed that Zambi had indeed found his footing. Rex triumphantly led Zambi into the barn where damage from his ordeal could be assessed under fluorescent lights.
Although Zambi was free from the treacherous ice, his buddy, Easau, still needed to be coaxed across the frozen monster to the safety of the barn. Pam and I had returned to him several times during the afternoon crisis hoping we could persuade him to follow us. But as soon as Easau suspected ice was underfoot, he flat-out refused to take another step. Once Zambi had disappeared into the barn, Easau became agitated, screaming desperately for his herd-mate. Eventually, the fear of being left in the field alone did persuade Easau to follow me along a path that had been generously sanded by one of the loyal volunteers. Once both horses were safe and secure in the barn, I breathed a sigh of appreciative relief.
When Dr. Nightingale arrived 30 minutes later, Zambi, bundled in dry warm blankets, was eating hay in his stall. Miraculously, his injuries were limited to minor bruises and stiffness. There wasn't a single abrasion on his legs. A protocol of IV fluids and pain-killers was administered before Zambi was left to rest and recuperate.
The gate between the stalls and the field has been latched and chained until conditions create more friction under hoof. I on the other hand, have been curious about how to use the greasy conditions to my advantage. Today, I dug out my ice-skates and demonstrated for the boys how the correct equipment and a little bit of balance can actually make icy conditions a pleasurable pastime while waiting for riding conditions to return to the Adirondacks. Not so sure I have convinced them. However, I do believe they got a kick out of watching from the safety of the sidelines.
|Easau, (right), talks Zambi into coming out to see what is going on in their field.|
|Easau, (right), is fascinated by any activity on the farm.|
|Finally, Zambi's attention is captured too.|
|Although ice and horses are not a good mix...I am taking full advantage of the conditions that almost cost Zambi his life...|
|...and can only imagine what he must be thinking.|