Stacey: Wowie’s Owies (Living With an Injury-Prone Horse)

Whoever said, “From the moment horses are born, they spend their entire lives trying to kill themselves,” must have met my horse. Wowie is proof positive that no truer words have been spoken. If you’ve picked up Practical Horseman sometime in the last four years, you’ve seen my now-8-year-old racetrack reject, though you probably didn’t realize it. That he has made an appearance in a high percentage of health-related articles is telling. Badly scratched cornea? Got that photo! Draining hoof abscess? Check. Knee swollen like a water balloon? Uh huh. Gnarly looking sutures? Got that, too. He’s pictured so often that I’ve been tempted to run a “Where’s Wowie?” contest in the magazine. Thankfully (knocking vigorously on wood, throwing salt over my shoulder and performing every other superstitious ritual I can think of), nothing he’s done to himself SO FAR has been really horrible. About the worst was a very slight high tendon strain and two attempted decapitations six months apart that served as anatomy lessons. (I’ll spare you THOSE photos.) That doesn’t include the comparatively less-serious nail in his foot, punctured lower gum and a bout with Lyme disease. When I first moved him to his current barn, I warned the barn manager that Wowie is a walking disaster. I explained my general rule that unless he’s bleeding profusely or he’s missing a limb, he’ll most likely survive. I think she finally embraced my wisdom after receiving nonplussed responses to the first hundred or so calls, texts and emails to report every minor bump, lump and bite. It’s not that I didn’t REALLY appreciate the close attention she gave him; I just would have gone broke filling up my gas tank to run back and forth to the barn every five minutes for something minor. It’s no surprise, then, that my vet’s number is on speed dial, and he knows that when I call, it’s not social. Usually his phone rings or he gets my text message with attached photo of something gruesome when he’s literally just arrived home after a long day. Once he makes sure I’m not panicking over something that looks worse than it actually is and can wait until tomorrow, he’ll sigh, get in his truck and zip over to the farm to glue my horse back together. The truth is that I got Wowie four years ago as a resale project. Injuries aside, he’s been amazingly easy to train. Ever since the day I brought him home, he’s taken everything in stride?from being ridden in an arena with polo players stick-and-balling around him to not putting a foot wrong when someone came to try him while several hundred screaming, running, throwing teenagers took part in an ultimate Frisbee tournament the next field over. He’ll happily pop around hunter, jumper and equitation classes at the same show and is game for just about anything, whether it’s a quiet trail ride or dressage work. Every time he has a “Wowie owie,” as my mother dubbed his episodes, he eventually jumps back into work, whether a few days or several months later, like nothing happened. I only wish he would be more courteous about his timing: He has an uncanny ability to slice his heel or instigate a bite right under where his saddle sits just before I have an event planned?or I’m getting ready to post his sale ad. I’ve begun to wonder if he’s got my number. I mean, we’ve come to know each other pretty well in the four years I’ve owned him. He’s perfectly happy when I let him get away with the minimum but is willing to give me everything he has when I ask for it. He tolerates when my dog Barney taunts him as we canter around the arena, and in return I let him sneak a bite or two of grass while walking back to the barn after a ride. I guess I don’t really mind if he sticks around for awhile. It just ensures plenty of photos for future health articles in the magazine. In the meantime, I’m scheduled to lead a group trail ride this weekend, have my first jumping lesson in more than a year next week and compete in a show the following weekend. It’s no surprise, then, that Wowie’s been a little ouchy since his farrier appointment last Friday, so I’m off to call the vet. Wowie’s sale listing will have to wait just a little longer.

One of Wowie’s more recent “owies”?a swollen knee. | ? Stacey Nedrow-Wigmore
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