Thursday, March 28, 2013

Burn history and progression

When I look at the photos of Suki a week after the fire and compare them to now, I feel like I watched a miracle happen.  The quality of care that she recieved in New Bolton Center's ICU ensured her survival, but there has always been so much more to Suki's recovery than the phenomenal medical care.  With her diva confidence and courage she displayed a will to survive from the start.  For the most part I never doubted that Suki would survive, but I also think that I was in shock for the first several weeks. 

The right side of Suki's body was burned worse than the left, so I will focus on that side in this post.  As of now, the manuscript has more detail, but this gives a bit of perspective regarding the healing process.  I will focus on the graft in a separate post next week.

The burns looked worse before they started to get better, because the charred skin needed to fall off.  Doctors at New Bolton, after much consultation had decided not to aggressively debride the skin so that it would remain protected.  Because there was such a large surface area that was burned, it was important to minimize the risk of infection.  Allowing the skin to fall away with minimal assistance was the best way to go.
Day 6 post-fire.  All of that charred skin would eventually come off.

Two weeks later more of the skin had sloughed away, and the diligent work of doctors, nurses, vet students and residents  was evident.  The "charred areas are still evident, and Suki still smelled like fire at this point.  I think the crinkiling of the skin annoyed her, because Suki has always been very flexible and likes to bend herself in half to scratch.  On several occasions I watched her attempt this and lose her balance.  I would then take over the scratching (gently of course).  She very obviously appreciated the assistance!

One month post fire.

Healthy, new skin emerges after much care, topical SSD and prophylactic antibiotics.  The skin looks very sensitive, but impeccable pain management kept Suki comfortable.  This area was also slathered with SSD to aid in healing, prevent infection and keep the skin moist.

Near the end of August Suki left New Bolton and the safety net of ICU to go to a rehabilitation farm.  Kelly immersed herself in Suki's care, which initially was rather comprehensive.  In addition to tending to the burns, Suki was still receiving a number of systemic meds which required diligence and a variety of disguises of the meds to get Suki to eat them.  Kelly more than got the job done, and I will be forever grateful! 

Two months post fire

Look at all of that hair growth!  The top of Suki's back still had a stubborn bit of eschar that had not come off, but overall she was looking great.  By this point of recovery Suki was able to turn around and scratch her sides again, a sure sign that the skin was healing well. 

Left side two months post fire

Suki's left side was not burned as badly.  At two months post fire she exhibited good health....and dapples!  The white ointment across her topline is SSD: silver sulfadiazine, also used in people.  It was during this time period that I suddenly realized that Suki no longer smelled like fire.  I hugged her every time I saw her, so it was monumental to no longer smell charred skin!  Even her melted mane had begun to look normal again. 

Three months post fire

Close up, three months post fire

Looking great, but that stubborn spot right where the saddle sits continued to be a problem.  The area was not infected at all, but that dead skin was holding fast!  Kelly gently debrided it daily.  Now that it was October Suki was wearing light clothing again, complicating things.  We did not bandage at this point which probably would have helped.  It is a difficult area to bandage (as I would find out later) and no one advised us to bandage at this point.  I realize I am not giving a lot of detail here, but the book will have much more.  The goal of this post is just to demonstrate the healing process in outline, which is amazing on its own!!

The hair growth continued while Suki's topline continued to struggle with healing.  Rolling complicated matters, even with clothing.  In August 2010 Suki had a big roll that really ripped open that spot on Suki's back.  A visit from the veterinarian led to bandaging, antibiotics and an antihistamine.  Suki is notoriously difficult when it comes to oral meds, with the ability of a cat to eat her food around medication leaving a pile of powder in her feed tub!  By October 2010 we had three steps forward two steps back going on, and Dr. Fugaro began to mention the possibility of a skin graft.  Suki had been in a regular boarding situation for six months at this point and even with the difficulties the progress was astounding!

October 2010

Other than the daily wound maintenance Suki was living a normal life which included weekly lunging.  She was spending a lot of time outside which made her thrive.  Sharing a pasture with her new sister Nikki, I felt like she was finally a "normal" horse.  Suki's personality never faltered and her spirit inspired everyone who met her. 

As we continued through the winter, the battle continued with the bandaging of that stubborn wound.  There was never any infection and I remained confident that it would heal....well, some days I was confident!

Since I will be doing a separate post about the skin graft, these photos will focus on the rest of Suki's body.  The hair growth began to slow a bit and by August 2011 but Suki glowed with good health.  The focus at that point was the graft area.

August 2011
August 2011

December 2011

Other than the graft area Suki experienced hair growth and complete recovery.

In August 2012, a visit from one of Suki's FB fans, Julie, shows her in good weight, good health and a testament to what quality care and love can do....

Now if we can just stop haiving snow and mud! 

The recovery process has been long, but Suki has not had any pain or discomfort.  Every need has been met and precautions taken.  The graft area took a bit longer, but that will be for another post....

Monday, March 25, 2013

Preparing for training and spring!

Saturday, March 23, 2013
I made my bi-weekly trip to Oley Valley Feed today.  They have a great wild bird seed blend which I add to two other specialty mixes.  Our wild birds (and squirrels, chipmunks, groundhog and deer) seem to love it.  In fact, as I am writing this, the yard is filled with birds, squirrels and chipmunks!  The drive over is one of my favorite routes and today I was rewarded with many opportunities to smile.  The first was my drive past the former Pink Star Equestrian, site of the barn fire that injured Suki.  For a very long time it was difficult for me to pass it and I often went out of my way to avoid it.  After the fire it was sold and turned into a standardbred breeding farm.  The barn where Suki once lived had burned to the ground, and the indoor arena was converted into a large barn.  Today, for the first time I was able to see the new babies out with their moms.  So cute!  The yearlings are in their field and so are the two-year-olds.  I marvel at the size of the the picture that I have of Nikki at 12 hours old she appears to be close to the size of these yearlings!  I couldn't help but smile.  Does this mean I have recovered??

Next I passed one of the dairy farms, and the girls were walking in a line from their pasture to the barn for milking.  Calmly, in a line, no pushing or shoving.  There is a place for each of them and I suspect the order in which they make their march has a certain hierarchy to it.

The quilt store parking lot was full, and as usual I imagine a large group chatting happily as they work inside.  A trip through the covered bridge ALWAYS makes me smile!  (I LOVE that I live wher covered bridges are a part of the landscape!) then on to Oley Valley Feed.  As I pass Reppart's chocolate I imagine how busy they will be in the coming days approaching easter.  It is a local, family-owned home made chocolate shop. 

The parking lot at OVF was packed, not unusual for a Saturday afternoon, but a vaccine clinic added to the traffic.  I waved to the guys on the loading dock and went into the store.  A bag of flax seed treats for the girls, bird seed and a homemade peanut butter/chocoalte buckeye later and I am on my way to the girls.  Driving past old stone farmhouses and bank barns more than 200 years old, I look at the fields and mountains that will turn from brown to green in the coming weeks.  Sometimes I think that I am the luckiest person in the world....

Suki and Nikki were in their pasture when I arrived, near the fenceline parallel to the driveway.  I stopped my car when I was about half way down the lane and opened my window.  Nikki came right over ears forward, followed by Suki, who of course made a face at her!  By the time I parked and gathered my supplies the girls had moved further from the gate.  I called to them once again, but of course the rare sunshine made them not want to come in.  It was late afternoon with probably 2 more hours until they would be brought in to eat.  As I walked across the field the girls turned and started to follow me so I turned back toward the gate.  Occasionally I would look over my shoulder and noticed Suki pick up her pace a little.  Then she moved into the trot followed by Nikki.  Nikki kicked up her heels and galloped toward me.  Suki, not to be outdone did the same.  Finally they slowed and circled me, ready to come in at last.

Starting with Nikki, I removed her heavy blanket, two much for a day that suddenly became sunny driving temperatures into the upper 40's.  She wasn't sweaty, but her thick coat was beginning to pick up its shedding pace.  Using the shedding comb I removed thick clumps of hair with each pass resulting in a huge pile on the floor.  A thick rubber mitt helped to remove more and Nikki practically turned herself inside out as I relieved the itchies!  While I was in beautifying mode I decided to pull Nikki's mane.  Digging around in the grooming boxes failed to produce a pulling comb....I have about 10 of them.  Why do they always seem to disappear when I need to use one?  Then when I buy another they reappear as if they had been having a party somewhere out of sight!  I knew that there was one in the junk drawer in my kitchen.  Little good it does there!  There are two hoof picks in that drawer also!  Drives my husband batty!

The beauty treatment took a little longer than anticipated so I lunged Nikki for only 10 minutes.  It was a good session though.  She seems quite ready to go back to work.  She listened well and had nice swing and spring in her stride.  I had emailed that local trainer inquiring about some assistance with getting Nikki started back under saddle.  He did not respond.  I included my phone number in the email.  I can never understand why people include a method of contact that they do not respond to.  If he is not interested then just shoot a short email back.  How do people run businesses this way??

Suki was not as muddy as usual so her grooming and spa treatment was shorter.  She does not grow a thick winter coat like Nikki so the shedding out period isn't nearly as impressive. Suki's work on saturday consisted of some brief in hand exercises to sharpen her responses.  That went well too.  She enjoyed the extra attention and will love having a job again.  I definitely see the spark in her eye! The spring-like temperatures and my beautiful mares kept me smiling!
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Isaiah had his riding lesson today.  He then accompanied me to Suki and Nikki's barn to change blankets, etc.  I was surprised to hear Isaiah say that Suki and Nikki make him a little nervous because they are so big.  He used to say that he wanted to ride them!  But now that he is riding regularly, I think that he can really see the difference, and is quite comfortable with the ponies.  I told him that he should not be nervous, but should respect their size and be sure to let them know that he is boss.

Standing nicely.....

Searching for treats
 Notice that the aisle is somewhat clean except for hoof pickings.  Annoying boarder who leaves blanket thrown in aisle and poop by gate, couldn't be bothered to clean up after picking her horse's feet.  My 7 year old, however walked in and said "Who left a mess in the aisle?" He cleaned it up when we were finished with Suki and Nikki.

Monday, March 25, 2013
Snow, again.  The great thing about March snow is that it doesn't stay around for very long.  I worked from home today and watched the wildlife in my yard while sitting at my desk.  They were very busy eating seeds, fruits and nuts!  Suki and Nikki had to stay in, but by the weekend it will be 50 and we will be working again!  Yay!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Creating a horse lover for life (Part 2)

So I ended part 1 of this two-part post outside of the ingate of the Dixon Oval at The Devon Horse Show, waiting with my two year old son, Isaiah, our borrowed pony, Daisy Mae, a friend who came to help and my husband.  Wearing a carefully selected Audrey Hepburnish dress, hat, white gloves and Mary Janes with kitten heels I tried to keep Isaiah entertained.  The wait seemed forever and to this day I would love to know whose brilliant idea it was to have very young children wait outside the arena for 20 minutes before being called in for the class.  I did not have high expectations for this class.  There were more than 40 entries and Isaiah was the only 2 year old.  Combined with the politics associated with this class (often there are children of celebrity riders participating) I thought of it as an extended pony ride, but all dressed up.  Okay, that is not entirely true.  I had visions of walking out with my adorable child on the adorable pony with a blue ribbon in hand.  The same thing happens when I take a young horse to a show for the first time.  Aloud I say: "This is just a learning experience.  I want the horse to have a good experience.  The score does not matter."  Inwardly I am saying: "WIN! WIN! WIN!"  I can't help it.  It's just who I am. 

So child on the pony and in we go!

on the pony!  That's me in the polka dot dress

Off the pony....
The dixon oval seems REALLY BIG when you are carrying a toddler, leading a pony and walking through sand footing while wearing a dress and heels, trying to maintain that Town and Country Magazine look....

Back on the pony....
We continued this pattern for 15 minutes.  Seriously, they kept us in there for that long.  Come on, does it really take that long to judge children at a walk??  But oh yeah, I held out for the entire time.  "Mommy, off pony!"  "Mommy, on pony!" 
I never took into consideration that whenever Isaiah rode there was never a time factor.  Live and learn.  While the experience was not quite what I had anticipated I am glad that we did it.  We have our participation ribbon which came with a horse head lollipop. 

The happy child, back in the truck.  Don't worry, the emergency break was on!

I continued to bring Isaiah to see Jenny (who was QUITE fascinated by him!) and ride Daisy whenever possible.  My goal was to make him comfortable around horses, even if he never became a rider.  With horses and riding such a huge part of my life I felt that he at least needed a certain comfort level and respect while in barns and at shows.  

Shortly before Isaiah's 5th birthday I decided to see if he was ready for riding lessons.  Without a suitable horse of my own (a 17.3h horse recovering from burns and a 16.3h 4 year old) I sought outside expertise.  The first barn that I took him to seemed okay safety wise, but it seemed to be more of a glorified pony ride than enything else.  Isaiah was comfortable with the exercises, but the instructor didn't seem to really know how to teach very young children....

So we stopped for awhile.  When I moved Nikki to a hunter barn I decided to try again, even though I would have preferred basic dressage at first.  The lessons were okay but there did not seem to be a real focus on developing the seat.  When they started doing a group lesson instead of private I decided to stop.  Two children on ponies who have not developed a seat, can only sort of stear at the walk does not work well.  I really did not feel like we were getting anywhere.

I continued to bring Isaiah to the barn where Suki was so that he would still spend time with the horses.  He was really not ready to accompany me to the barn when I would be riding because I don't think that I would have been very focused.  And there are WAY too many things for a 5 year old to get into!  I have seen plenty of people bring very young children with them while they ride, but it always seems unsafe and the kids manage to disrupt everyone else who is trying to ride.

I felt like I hit the jackpot when I found L.  We shared the same teaching and riding principles and she is totally no nonsense.  As a dressage and event rider from the UK she also teaches along the British Horse Society principles.  Isaiah would also be expected to learn how to care for the horses and tack, another important part of the responsibility associated with riding horses. 

Isaiah and Prissy, summer 2013
They do a lot of work on the lunge to develop an independent seat, then work off the lunge to work on stearing and control. 

Isaiah and Blackie January 2013
So I think we are really on the right track.  Isaiah seems to be improving, and can post to the trot fairly proficiently (not consistently, though).  He seems to enjoy it and has learned that a certain amount of work and care is an essential part of being around horses.  From birth, Isaiah has associated me with horses and riding, and I am sure he realizes that there is a huge commitment.  If that hasn't turned him off, nothing will!

Of course, for the past 3 1/2 years he has also been dealing with the aftermath of the fire, and he understands that Suki requires more care than most horses.  But he likes to see the graft and how much better it is.  He also refers to "the bad man who set the barn on fire". 

There are days when I prefer to go to the barn by myself, but when Isaiah asks to accompany me I bring him along unless I will be riding. 

Nikki looking for treats

Isaiah and Suki

So hopefully through all of this I am creating a horse lover for life.  One that respects horses and cares for them, whether he continues to ride or not.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Last week spring, this week...not so much!

Last weekend the weather teased us with the promise of spring.  I was able to lunge Suki and Nikki and be hopeful that winter was on its way out and training could resume.  Boy, was I wrong!  By Friday temperatures had dipped back below freezing with a biting wind.  Saturday brought a clipper system through adding big fluffy snow flakes to coat the ground with a couple of inches. Not a major storm, of course, but just enough to remind us that Old Man Winter was going to hang on for as long as possible!  The coming week is expected to be cold with occasional wintery mix, destroying all expectations of resuming training.  I should have tried to find a clinic to audit this weekend.  The girls were in on saturday but had a couple of hours out that morning so they were not so cranky.

This is a typical spring for us but last year I had Nikki at a barn with an indoor so I didn't lose any training time.  Having the girls together still works out better for me but I admit that it was difficult not to ride for all of those months.  Once we get going again I don't mind riding in the rain (not torrrential or stormy) as long as the footing is safe, which it usually is.  Last weekend the footing was beautiful but now it is slick on top of slightly frozen.  maybe this is the last week of that though. 

Currently I am struggling with the decision to have someone else come over and get on Nikki the first few times.  I will get her prepared with ground work, then maybe have R (a local trainer who is excellent and specializes in young horses) ride her 5 or 6 times before I start.  While I am pretty confident that Nikki will be fine, I want to make sure that we start off well.  My plan is to lunge her for a week then put the saddle on and lunge her for a couple of more days.  There's a good chance I will just hop on at that point, but I want to have options. 

I have to order a special saddle pad for Suki. Late last fall a company was going to send me one to try, but never did.  I'm sure that they just forgot, and with winter coming I knew that I wouldn't need it for awhile anyway.  If it worked the company was going to use Suki in testimonials.  It is the one that I want to try, so if it works well I will certainly let them know.  After all, if it works on Suki's back with its lack of hair it should work for any horse!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cold and damp with footing unsuitable for work..... The horses were out in the paddocks when I arrived on Sunday afternoon.  Suki and Nikk are usually out just behind the barn, accessed by opening the back barn door.  They of course had heard me drive up, so when I opened the back door Nikki's face immediately pressed against mine.  Such a love bug!  I was just about to hook the lead rope to her halter when Her Majesty, Suki started to walk over from the other side.  Nikki immediately turned and walked away.  Suki did not make a face or do anything threatening (that I could see) but Nikki just knows that Big Sister is boss.  In spite of that (or because of it) they do get on quite well turned out together.

Suki, of course had rolled and managed to have her usual amount of mud caked to her neck, face and legs.  I groomed her first which of course made her happy!  When I look at Suki's back I am struck by how far we have come since those early days.  And now that the graft area has healed there are fewer day-to-day worries.  The daily task to keep the bandage intact so as not to interrupt healing or cause more damage were time consuming, but also kept me worrying.  I just kept thinking if I could just get it to heal we would be home free.  The efforts and assistance of others in monitoring and changing the bandage paid off.

Nikki was not as muddy, but she had definately rolled.  She HATES to have herbelly brushed so I always have to use the softest brush and not over do!  All of the blankets arereally disgusting at this point.  I have sent out the sheets for cleaning and repair in preparation for the spring weather that had appeared imminent!

March 18, 2013
Snow.  Again.  It reminds me of one of my favorite children's books: Snow, by Uri Shulevitz a Caldecott Honor Book.  Great story, beautifully illustrated. 
Partial view from my back window. 
When I opened the barn door today Suki's voice was the loudest.  Usually Nikki speaks first.  Then Nikki, also loud nicker.  My heart melts.  My girls.  I love them.  They were out earlier today before the weather turned, so they werehappy, but each wanted to nuzzle with me.  It was one of those days when I realize how fortunate I am to have them.....

Friday, March 15, 2013

Creating a horse lover for life (Part 1)

As my son Isaiah approaches his 7th birthday (well, he was when I started writing he IS 7!) I admit to myself how much I envy him for being introduced to horses so early in life. In May 2006 when he was less than 3 months old, Isaiah attended his first horse show. Yes, it was the hunter/jumper Devon and not its dressage counterpart, but I felt that is was time to get him out. At one point he started to cry, and as I lifted him from his pram I heard a passer by say, "that sounds like a very young cry." I looked up and her companion smiled at me. "Baby's first Devon", she said. I returned her knowing smile.  A few weeks later we drove to Gladstone for baby's first Festival of Champions, to watch the dressage. At age 5 months I sat him on my mare, Jenny's back, so that I could say "Isaiah was riding before he could walk!"

Silly milestones maybe, but I was so excited when he was sitting up and actually went on his first pony ride. I walked next to the pony holding onto Isaiah for dear life while he giggled with delight. My goal has never been to force him to ride, but to offer the opportunity to develop a love and respect for horses (and all animals) from the beginning of his life.

I think it is also extremely important for children to understand from the start that there is more to riding horses than just riding.  Whenever I see children taking for granted the priviledge of riding and spending time with horses I want to scream.  That's probably because I didn't start riding until I was 15, but had begged to ride since birth!  It's not just about understanding the responsibility that accompanies the pleasure of riding, but getting to know your horse from the ground up.  Even if someone does not actually own a horse, they have a responsibility to the horse they are groom it thoroughly, find its favorite itchy spots and know when that horse is not feeling 100% on any given day.

Once Isaiah was standing I would take him with me to visit the retired Jenny at Laurels Forge Farm in Unionville.  Owned by my good friend Babette, my beautiful mare recived the highest quality of care.  Surrounded by acres of woods with a branch of the Brandywine River running through it, the farm gave Isaiah the opportunity to see many horses and wander around the tranquil setting. 
 Another pet peeve of mine (which also extends to older children and adults) is when people do not pick up after themselves.  Is it really so difficult to pick up a broom and sweep up the bits of dirt, manure, etc that have come from your horses hoof??  My 15 month old mastered that skill....his immediate reaction was to pick up a broom...

Or walk past an empty water tub/bucket, when the horse clearly needs water?  Would you want someone to do that to your horse?

Even now at age 7 Isaiah walks into the barn and picks up a broom to clean the aisle.  He was horrified a few months ago when one of the farriers (not the one that I use) left a mess in the aisle which included bits of nails.  The child lectured ME on how bad this is and we promptly cleaned it up.  Yes, I felt a moment of pride knowing that we are indeed on the right track.  We talk about the importance of grooming horses, picking out their feet and checking them for wounds.  I have explained to Isaiah that just like our pets at home the horses rely on us to feed and water them as well as keep them safe by providing a clean, dry stall and fencing in good repair.  Surely he does not understand all of it but I see evidence of it in his behavior.

Some of my ideas were not quite so smart.  Like the leadline class at the Devon Horse Show when Isaiah was just two years old.  We had been going to Babette's regularly and Isaiah was riding Daisy Mae, an adorable pony who had taught Babette's daughter to ride many years prior.     
I thought how much fun it would be for Isaiah to ride in the Devon leadline class.  There are many things that should have been taken into consideration but I was far too busy romanticizing the Mother-Son Dixon Oval experience to waste my thoughts on practical matters!  So Daisy Mae was pressed into service.  She had been there/done that and was the perfect candidate for our outing.  Off to Malvern Saddlery I went in search of the necessary accessories.  The first pair of jods presented to me were $195 Tailored Sportsman.  I did not think it was necessary for a 2 year old to wear $200 jods, Devon or not.  The helmet was almost that much, but I was fine with that.  Safety is very important.  The paddock boots were also pricey, but I knew they would be used as well.  There weren't any jackets in his size (thank goodness!).  Next came gloves.  "Really? I asked the clerk.  "He's only two."  "This is DEVON!" she shrieked at me.  Fine.  I bought the gloves, with visions of trying to pull leather gloves onto sweaty toddler hands.  Maryland Saddlery was very helpful over the phone, pulling out a variety of jods and jackets and describing them.  I was very pleased with my purchase when it arrived.  We were set: shirt, tie, jacket, jods, jod straps, paddock boots, gloves, helmet, pony.

My outfit was another issue.  For those of you who have not witnessed Devon leadline, the trainers or mothers also dressed to the nines.  I am all for tradition and was actually looking forward to the whole thing....ignorance is bliss, for certain! 

The day of the show I braided the pony who had been bathed and clipped for me the night before.  I was really excited about packing the trailer and getting everything prepared for my son's first show.  Showing is something I have always loved.  The announcer at Devon told us to bring the leadline children dow to the arena 30 minutes prior to the class.  Seriously?? Children ages 4 and under needed to sit and wait with their ponies for that long??  I was a fairly new parent and this sounded like it would not end well......

A bomb could have gone off and Daisy Mae would have just done her job!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Beautiful Gifts

Since the barn fire in 2009, I have received so much support and experienced many acts of kindness from long time friends and loved ones, but also from strangers.  I consider those strangers "friends" now, because such an outpouring of love and kindness should not be considered anything less.  It has restored my faith in humankind, because we hear about the ugly side of humanity so much more frequently.

Two artists offered to create complimentary portraits of Suki.  I was so touched by their generosity.  It is time consuming to create such a personalized piece of art, and I am honored that these two people were so inspired by Suki's story that they wanted to do this.  Another person (who I have not forgotten, but Suki needs to have her tail washed!) offered to make a bracelet out of hair from Suki's tail.  How do I ever express my gratitude??  Thank you seems so inadequate when someone takes time out of their life to create simply for the joy of giving!  I love that Suki can inspire people.  It has always been the silver lining of an otherwise tragic event. 

As I have said many times before, there is life after a catastrophic event although it may not be the way you had planned or hoped it would be.  In many ways my life has been enriched since the fire.  While the early days of recovery were filled with stress.... conflicting emotions about what Suki's quality of life would be.  Would she have constant pain or discomfort?  Was I being selfish when I decided to treat her?  When I made the decision to go forward....from that first nicker in response to my voice, behind swollen sightless eyes, it felt right.  But of course there were times I questioned the choices that I was making for Suki.  Yet day after day in ICU I witnessed a miracle before my eyes.  The dedicated medical staff saw Suki through it, but also acknowledged that she had such courage and will to live, and that without that, the finest medicine in the world could not have saved her.  Or that physically some survive but their spirit and happiness is but a shadow of what it had been.  Not our Suki.  The strength of the diva that she has always been shines through as does her happiness.  She dares you to say that it was not worth it, or that it was cruel to put her through recovery.  I am not saying that she never experienced any pain, but I never saw her waiver in her march toward full recovery....instead we soldiered on...together. 

These two portraits have captured Suki's courage and soul. 

The first is a water color by Diane Wallace:
I love how Diane captured the tufts of hair sprouting from Suki's shortened ears.  I am embarassed to say that I was incredibly saddened when she lost the tips....they made her look majestic.  It didn't take long before I realized that EVERYTHING about Suki is majestic.  Just look at the confidence exhibited here!  Diane embraced the challenge of creating emotion....and that is what I see my beautiful girl with the heart and soul to conquer the biggest challenge of her life: survival.  Thank you Diane.
Here is the link to her blog and website

The second is a sketch by Agatha Kacprzak.  Agatha captured the soulful, thinking Suki.  I find that in this drawing Agatha brings out the look of quiet self confidence that Suki has.  She looks so peaceful and pensive; as if you can look deep into her soul through her eyes.  Agatha too, was touched by Suki's story of courage and survival and I see the emotion that she drew from within herself to create this piece.  Thank you Agatha.

Here is a link to Agatha's website:

I love how these two talented artists captured Suki's beauty and courage in different ways and in different media. 

Gifts come in many forms.  When I post on Suki's Facebook page each day, I am continually thrilled and surprised by the responses.  The comments, the likes, the support and the number of fans.....these too, are gifts.  All of these things are unexpected but part of that silver lining.  I have had the opportunity to meet some of Suki's fans in person, and they have become friends.  It is so wonderful when these opportunities arise.  Meeting Suki in person enables her friends to really experience her larger-than-life personality and diva-ness.  It also, I think, allows people to see that in spite of everything this horse has been through she is happy and healthy, leading a full life. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013
Gifted with a warm day and good footing I decided to lunge the girls.  Nikki needs to get back to work after the winter break, and Suki needs to embark on her new career.  I was quite pleased with how both girls worked.  Nikki was lazy but then worked well (it was a short session).  She did not call to Suki, and Suki ate hay quietly in her stall.  This was a concern of mine because there were not otherhorses in the barn and Suki does not like to be alone.  Suki was a bit more "lookey" but she has always been more up than Nikki.  She called to Nikki in the barn, but then also worked well.  I feel like we are off to a good start.  My girls are also my gifts.  Just being fortunate enough to have them in my life is special and I try to never take it for granted.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Adventures with the veterinarian

As most of you now know, Suki has always been a diva.  Less so that first year , but as you can see there is a look of confidence just an hour after she stepped off the trailer from her trip across Canada then down to Pennsylvania.  Quite a journey for a 3 year old horse that had never been away from her birth place....

Early on Suki was fairly cooperative with the veterinarian.  Not great, but she didn't have a meltdown when she needed to be her vaccinations.  When I boarded her at Blue Hill, vet students from Penn Vet School accompanied the field service team from New Bolton Center in nearby Kennett Square.  New Bolton Field Service was our regular veterinarian.  So she had quite a bit of experience with people doing physical exams on her and seemed to enjoy the attention.  As Suki grew in size, some of the vet students seemed a little intimidated by her.  Especially those for whom large animal was not their chosen indication with New Bolton being part of their large animal rotation.

When we moved to the area where we live now, Suki had a bit of a bad experience with the vet who came out to perform the vaccinations.  She was clearly afraid of Suki, as her first comment was "Well, she is rather large, isn't she?" My first thought was "aren't you a horse doc?  Horses are large!"  With a shaking hand she approached Suki with the needle to draw blood for the Coggins.  As Suki took all in all of this trembling I could see her brow begin to furrow followed by bulging eyes.  I ended up drawing the blood.  The vet then asked that I walk her to distract her while she injected her.  This was not a great plan, so I gave Suki her shots also.  After that experience Suki's wariness with people baring needles escalated.  Those with more skill managed to examine Suki without issue, but her fear remained.  The fire probably made it a bit worse because she was being poked and prodded constantly for 7 weeks.  With the same people treated her each day there was some improvement, but each time a new veterinarian came to work with her she became nervous again.

I am probably seriously over protective of my girls, but that's my job, isn't it?  Yes I board at a full care barn, but Suki and Nikki are MY children, so to speak and it is my job to worry about them and give them the best possible care.  Nikki is easy when it comes to veterinary stuff but she was seriously bad when she first started having her feet done.  I mean, REALLY bad!  Trying to lie down, you name it.  She is fine now.  It was just a stubborn baby adjusting to something new.  Sure she was dramatic about it, but what would you expect from a diva in the making?

Yesterday Dr. R came out to do spring vaccinations.  He is very good with the horses with a calm and quiet demeanor.  This is not the first time that he has worked with Suki.  She was excellent for him during the summer when he examined her for the mystery lameness that turned out to be Lyme's.  The first rule when several horses are to be seen is that Suki must go first.  If she sees what's going on you cannot catch her in her stall.  She just keeps spinning.  Never threatens to kick or anything, just won't let you get near her head.  Then you have to pull blood for the Coggins first because after you have given the shots you are never getting that close to her again to draw blood.  So I was holding Suki for the blood letting and she raised her head to increase her sixe (because her normal 17.3 is not tall enough!) and tenses her entire body.  But she survived.  For vaccinations we give them in the chest because she seems to tolerate it better.  When Dr. R was on one side she lifted that front foot and kind of wiggled it, repeating it for the other side.  I have not been present the past few times for vaccinations so I was not aware that ususally instead of wiggling her foot she actually tries to stomp on Dr. R's foot!  He said that was the best she had ever been.  What a relief!  Then came the interesting part.....In NJ they use photos on the Coggins, but not in PA, so there are diagrams on the form and it is required to draw all markings including scars.  This takes a bit of doing in Suki's case because of the burn scars. 

Nikki was next.  She didn't even flinch.  Must less stressful.  In fact she was lipping my jacket while she was getting them!  I hope that never changes!

Yesterday was the first time Suki and Nikki went out together, and they did well.  What a relief.  Today when I went out they were quietly grazing, although not side by side.  That may change as time goes on.  Suki is clearly the boss but did allow Nikki to take treats without trying to kill her.  I think it will work.