Chanel is getting old. She is close to 30 now, and that is the equivalent of being in your 90's if you are human. Her rich coat is flecked with gray, and she is having trouble with her feet. When horses have foot trouble, it's a big deal. I first noticed she was lying down a lot. For a few days I attributed it to old age, then I called my vet. She said, "Old, smart horses lie down when their feet hurt." She came out and did a lot of tests.
Then she came again, with the farrier (the talented man who trims horses feet and fits them with shoes if they need them.) They took many x ray's of Chanel's feet, and the farrier trimmed them a special way to make her more comfortable. The basic diagnosis is that due to her age she is not growing hoof like a normal horse, and that is causing her pain.
So, we put her on pain pills, and medication to hopefully help her hooves grow better, and waited to see what would happen. I kept deep bedding in her cozy, and made sure she had soft places to rest. I hid the 21 pills she had to take every day in Fig Newton's, and it was soon apparent that she was feeling better. Of course, none of the things we did will stop time, or make her a young horse again, but my goal is for her to have a pleasant summer and then, perhaps, help her to have a peaceful passage before facing another long, cold, Maine winter.
I keep a sharp eye on her to assess how things are going, and really, she is acting quite normal. As I think about her life perhaps coming to a close I wish we could take another ride on Popham Beach or the lovely carriage roads at Acadia National Park, or even just up the road and back. And I remember some of the fun we've had, right here.
If you have never lived with a horse, you might not know that they have a good sense of humor. Here is an example. I have a little chicken coop tucked close to the pasture fence. A few weeks ago I was cleaning it. Chanel came over to investigate, leaning over the wire to see what I was up to. I petted her pretty face and went about my job. I leaned into the coop, pulling the soiled bedding into a muck bucket with a small rake. Chanel rubbed her big head up and down along my back and hip. "How sweet," I thought. I stood up to give her another pat, then bent back into the coop. She rubbed me again, a little more firmly. There were some shavings far in the back, and I had to lean way in to get them. With exquisite timing, Chanel gave a huge nudge with her head on my backside, nearly face planting me into a pile of old chicken poop. I scrambled backwards, sputtering in indignation. She gave me a look, all innocence. I was mad for about a nano second, then I had a good laugh. She nodded her head up and down rapidly, clearly enjoying the moment with me.
A few years back she also taught me how to play lively games of what I came to call, "Pony Chicken." Feeling perky, she would race around the pasture, bucking and snorting. Then she would run, full tilt, RIGHT TOWARDS ME. 900 pounds of horse barreling towards you is a bit terrifying, and the first time it happened I thought I was a goner. But there was something about the look on her face that made me realize I had nothing to fear. (That being said, I did let out an embarrassing girly squeal as she got close.) Sure enough, she veered past me at the last second, brushing my face with her long, flying mane. I could feel heat rushing off of her, and the ground shook beneath my feet as she thundered past.
She made a wide arc and did it again, running right at me. I squealed again, this time with the gleeful anticipation of a roller coaster ride,and she ducked to the other side and passed me, leaving just a breath of hot air between us.
This morning as I was doing chores, I remembered those games and felt the sort of regret one feels when they know they will never experience a particular joy again. I walked across the small pasture and opened the gate to the larger one. The goats danced out to enjoy breakfast. Chanel was up by the pony shed. She turned to walk down to the newly opened gate and as if she read my mind began to trot. Slowly at first, then picking up speed. Right at me. I froze in disbelief, but on she came, a gleam in her eye, faster. She tossed her head and I could smell the sweet scent of horse and grass and summer in the early sun. A grin split my face as she came closer and closer and just at the moment when a little squeak escaped my lips, she brushed by me. Out the gate with the goats, into the morning meadow, she slowed to a walk. With typical equine grace she turned her elegant neck and gave me a knowing look with one dark eye, then dropped her head to dine.
Sense of humor intact, feet feeling ok for now, my pony is, indeed, enjoying summer.