An un­fair fight

EQUUS - - Eq Casereport -

Phoenix, our year­ling Minia­ture Horse, stood a mere 18 inches tall and weighed in at maybe 40 pounds---small, even for a Mini. Our lit­tle or­ange baby, we called him.

I scanned the pas­ture in the grow­ing dark­ness, my eyes wide and de­ter­mined. Strug­gling to calm my nerves, I spot­ted a shad­owy lump in the dis­tance. It was Phoenix, laid flat out and still as death, half­way be­tween Mer­cury and me.

Mer­cury snorted---a loud, chal­leng­ing, stal­lion snort. He looked right at me, shak­ing his head fiercely, his long mane swirling like a tem­pest. Out of the cor­ner of my eye, I saw Phoenix lift his head. He flopped back down, and then with a mighty strug­gle he heaved him­self to his feet only to top­ple over yet again.

I knew what had hap­pened. Tiny as he was, Phoenix was a colt. At 1 year old, he hadn’t started act­ing “studdy” ---ag­gres­sive and full of him­self---so we hadn’t gelded him yet. But Mer­cury knew an­other male when he smelled one, no mat­ter the size, and Mer­cury meant to be king of this herd. So he had at­tacked.

Mer­cury snorted again. This time he fixed his gaze on Phoenix and stepped for­ward, his hooves mak­ing their way straight to­ward the tiny heap that was our lit­tle or­ange baby.

“Hey!!” I yelled. And then, louder, “NO!” I forced my voice to be strong, loud in my best “Bad Horse, Bad Dog” tone. Phoenix strug­gled to get up, but he stum­bled and fell af­ter just one or two steps. It looked like there was some­thing wrong with his head. It looked … big­ger than usual, and heavy.

My trem­bling fin­gers pushed the speed dial num­ber for our lo­cal

S i i ibl d or ob­vi­ously bro­ken bones, the vet­eri­nar­ian said it

looked as if Phoenix may have been kicked

in the head.

vet­eri­nary clinic. It was af­ter hours, but some­one al­ways an­swered. I spoke briefly to the vet­eri­nar­ian on call, who headed out to­ward us im­me­di­ately. But I couldn’t wait un­til then to get Phoenix safely away from Mer­cury.

I’d need help. With my daugh­ter Me­gan away at col­lege and Brett hud­dled up and mis­er­able in my flower gar­den, my next calls were to my two near­est horse-savvy friends, Dale first, and then Kath­leen. No an­swers. Dark­ness set­tled around me, and a Jan­uary wind froze my fin­gers as I left hur­ried mes­sages, ask­ing them to come if they could to help me get Mer­cury and the rest of the horses out of the pas­ture, away from our badly in­jured Phoenix.

Then, shiv­er­ing in the cold field, I did what I al­ways do when I’m in ter­ri­ble trou­ble. I called Brett. Dis­lo­cated knee or not, I needed his help.

Min­utes later I heard a muf­fled foot­step from the dim­ness of the barn. And there was Brett. Limp­ing but still strong, he was the cow­boy in those old Westerns who just wouldn’t stay down no mat­ter how many times he’d been shot. He grabbed a hand­ful of hal­ters,

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