Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Stori: little girl lost

When Marc and I were in the planning stages of building our cabin, we went to go look at a logging and milling operation at a place called Drycreek. It's a small faith based community about 40 miles south of Delta Junction which is about 70 miles south of us. Talk about self sufficient! It's a group of around 84 people that made the choice to live off the grid, they farm and log their land, raise livestock, gardens, hay, and horses. The use all draft horse teams for chores and are a wonderful group of people. While being faith based, they are NOT pushy about religion at all. In fact you wouldn't even know what the community was about unless you directly asked them. So we take our first trip down to meet with them so Marc could work up plans for house logs, I was barely pregnant with my son and Paige was around 6 years old. I got out of the truck that day and stepped into Stori heaven. All the animals and horses that I could handle. Paige and were walking down the alley way toward a stallion pen, and passing little pens full of new horsey mommas and their babies when I heard Paige giggling. I turned around to see this 5 month old foal just licking the grump right off of Paige's face. She was scraggly, and knobby, and had all this crazy unruly hair sticking out, but I was totally and completely head over heels in love. Marc knew at that point that he was about to spend some money he wasn't planning on. That little ugly filly ended up being my Heidi. One of the best friends I have ever had. We brought her home when she was two weeks shy of her 1st birthday, I was 6 months pregnant with Colt and had no business messing with an unruly yearling. But there we were. I have always believed you can't choose who you fall in love with and she proved it. That was 4 years ago. Heidi will be turning 5 on May 12th and it the epitome of the ugly duckling story. People will stop and stare as we walk by. She is quite possibly one of the most beautiful horses I have ever laid eyes on, and I would say that even if I didn't love her so.

About 2 years into Heidi's and my relationship, I knew I wanted another one just like her. I spoke to Tony, the horse guy at Drycreek and told him my idea. He was planning on breeding Heidi's mom, Sadie, again to Heidi's sire, Rocky. Before conception I laid my money on the table. I told him I didn't care what it was, girl or boy, ugly or dumb, that baby was MINE. Horses are pregnant anywhere from 9 to 11 months. I waited and waited, but no word from Tony. Finally one day we were in Delta Junction picking up grain when I couldn't stand the suspense anymore. I had Marc drive us the additional 40 miles to Drycreek so I could see for myself if Sadie had foaled. Down the maternity aisle I go just to run smack dab into the next love of my life. There she was at Sadie's side. A tiny Heidi replica. She looked just like Heidi did, same markings, same knobby knees, just a little lighter in color. She was a total brat. I tried to touch her and she gives me a little squeal and a kick. I love her. She had been born on June 2nd and was only 2 weeks old. That was June of 08'. I had another year to wait before I could bring her home. I thought about her, planned for her, showed anybody that would stand still the little picture of her I had snapped with my cell phone.

March comes this year and I call Tony again, is she ready yet?? He tells me she has been ready and weaned for several weeks. We were in the middle of a cold snap though and it would be unsafe to try to haul her, had to wait some more. Finally the weather breaks, it's in the 20's - 30's during the day. We make our plans to go down on April 4th. We get down there and I pick her out in the yearling pen immediately. I would know her anywhere. 10 months old, gangly, messy hair, crooked blaze across her face. I have referred to her as "Sister" for so long, it ends up being her name. We load her into the trailer and she is a little bit nervous. Has never been in a horse trailer before. We get going but have to stop for a second, she panics, starts wrestling around, slips and falls. We can't get her back up. She's just a baby, she's a little tiny bit sore, but totally scared and confused. Never fights us. Lays her head in my lap at one point for comfort. We decide to haul her laying down. Very unconventional, but our only choice. We get her home and have to drag her out of the trailer, she won't stand up. Have to end up using a come along to hoist her into a standing position. She can stand and walk! It must just hurt to get from the ground to standing. We walk her into the pen we have ready for her, under the canopy shed. She walks around, slips and falls down again. Can't get up on her own. We rig up a sling that will semi-suspend her from the ceiling of the shed. A front sling behind her front legs and a back one in front of her back legs. The sling doesn't hold her up, it's slack, but is there in case she falls. A horse after a certain size cannot lay down for too long or they end up suffocating themselves with their own body weight. Since she is a very big girl for her age, it would be too dangerous to just let her recuperate laying on the ground. We set her feed, water, and grain up in front of her. She's happy. She's eating, which with a horse, if they are eating, they are fine. She's a totally trusting friendly little fart. Never fights us, or struggles againest the ropes. Let's us do what we need to help her. This is about 7 in the evening. We figure she has just pulled a muscle somewhere and the Vet confirms this diagnosis later. Nobody dies of a pulled muscle. We go out at least every 2 hours and check on her. She whinnies at us when she sees us walk towards her, she whinnies again when we leave. She loves people. Hard to work around her because she forces her head into your arms and lays it there for you to cradle. A snugly little regular baby that just happens to be 500 pounds. The calmness in her is the draft part of her heritage. Her momma, Sadie was Quarter Horse/ Thoroughbred cross. Her daddy, Rocky was Clydesdale/Percheron cross which is all draft horse breed. They Clydesdale is the breed of horse that Budweiser beer uses to pull their wagons in the commercials. Drafts are very calm and kind. We check on her the last time at about 3 am, my Mom checks on her again at 5 am and finds her laying on the ground. The hooks holding her slings slipped and she's on the ground. Not fighting, but very cold. The temperature is only -5 below zero. Dad doesn't think she's going to make it, we cover her in layers of blankets and pillow her head on some rugs to try to bring her body temp up. I sit on the ground beside her and she scrunches over to lay her head in my lap. We stay that way for a couple hours, I stroke her face and talk to her, saying my goodbyes. Dad comes in and tells me to go relieve Marc with the kids so Marc could come help him winch her back. We gotta to see if she past the point of saving in case we have to put her out of her misery. Several hours later, Marc comes in to tell me she's fine! They have her back up on her feet in the sling, she's eating, drinking, pooping....all the things a horse needs to do. We can't believe it! I spend the day with her mostly, making sure she is comfortable, keeping her calm. If I'm not there, she starts shaking. I go in that evening and check with the Vet on his ideas. Yes, a pulled muscle he says. Let's get her on some steroidal anti-inflammatory and some pain meds. Get the swelling down and she'll be just fine. He sees no reason at all she won't pull through this in just a couple days with no lasting effects. Marc races into town to the Vet's office on the other side of Fairbanks, about 50 miles away. We get the meds into her. She seems stronger immediately. Finally starts showing some signs of fight in her. She's walks side to side, strains againest the slings, this is a great sign. She's not weak at all! My dad checks her at about 2 am, my Mom checks her again at around 5 am. I go out at 5:30 to give her her pain meds before Marc has to go to work and I have no one to watch the kids. I find her fighting, covered in frost from sweating. She had fallen asleep at some point and her feet went out from under her. She couldn't get herself to a standing position, her little hooves are turned under. She is stressed and scared and hurting. Has a bloody nose from smacking her face into the hay manger trying to stand up. She's shaking like a leaf. I holler for Marc to come help and luckily he was standing on the porch so he hears me. I go to her head and try to start winching her up higher to lift her up so she can get her feet under her. She's knocking me around trying to put her head in my arms. I grab her face and hug it to my chest to comfort her. She stops fighting the ropes, takes a deep breath and dies in my arms. She was gone by the time Marc gets there.

Horses are very delicate when it comes to stress and pain. They can die from non life threatening injuries because they give in to the stress. She had a pulled muscle and it killed her. I'm so sad, I can't stop crying. How did this happen? What could I have done differently? Such a waste of a beautiful life. So many could have beens gone. My hands are blistered and stiff from straining againest ropes holding her up, my muscles ache from the strain of maneuvering a 500 pound filly around, my feet are sore from the hundred trips back and forth to the barn, my heart is broke from losing this amazing creature. I grieve for this little lost girl in a way that I can't even understand.


  1. Stori, I am so sorry this happened. I can feel how painful this is, how much you loved Sister, even before she came to you. It doesn’t help in any way, but just know I am feeling for you all the way in Chicago!

  2. =( I don't have the words to express how sorry I am that this happened. It breaks my heart just thinking about it. love you!