Anniversary of Injustice

On May 13, 2019, I was flooded with tears of happiness as my husband’s namesake, Kent’s Bet, a beautiful bay thoroughbred, crossed the finish line first at Will Rogers Downs in Claremore, Oklahoma. That moment was the first time in several years that I had genuine happiness in my heart and felt as though it was okay to finally celebrate an anniversary that usually causes tremendous sadness and incomprehensible feelings of loss – our wedding anniversary. I couldn’t help but feel that this victory was a gift from Kent, and I knew for the first time in a very long time that he was sending me a clear message of love from the great beyond.

Kent’s Bet

This year, my heartbreak and grief are at an all-time high. I am flooded with emotions I cannot even begin to describe and the tears flow freely at any given moment. As much as I am trying to focus on my husband’s smile, his infectious laugh, and the many good times we shared, there is a giant cloud casting a dark, ominous shadow over everything and I cannot help but feel incredible devastation and depression because of it. If you read my previous blog post entitled “Poor Decisions,” you know what I am referring to. The dark cloud raining on everything is the injustice happening with Kent’s case.

It’s unfathomable to me that the Board of Corrections in Adams County, Colorado, would release Kent’s killer to a half-way house when he has not even served 2 and a half years of the 10-year sentence he was given.  What I find truly puzzling is the fact that in February, a hearing on this same matter was heard by the Community Corrections Board in Denver and the vote was unanimous to keep the killer of Kent Swanson in prison. Why was the perpetrator allowed to have a second hearing in a different venue? Why Adams County? And why was their vote so dramatically different? 

It’s a sad state of affairs when a Community Corrections Board cares more about a budget, overcrowding, or Covid-19 concerns. Whatever happened to justice and holding a criminal accountable for their actions?

This ruling has minimized a horrendous crime. The first responders on the scene, the accident investigators, the District Attorney’s office, and the judge that presided over the case have had their hard work, time, and dedication to the case thrown in their faces and devalued, and it’s an absolute shame considering how hard these people work to serve the community and provide justice.

It’s incomprehensible to have a Board of Corrections send the message – and set a dangerous precedent for future cases – that driving impaired and killing someone is a crime to be minimalized and perpetrators will not serve their full prison sentences because of leniency in Adams County. Do the crime and you won’t serve the time.

If it was your loved one killed in this horrendous, egregious manner and other people were trying to sell you that this is justice, would you buy it? I’m not, and neither is our family or friends.

I learned that the Community Corrections Board of Adams County is appointed by the County Commissioners, so I have written to all of the Adams County Commissioners. I also reached out to local news media outlets to express my thoughts on this matter. I have yet to receive a single response. Not one. Actions and silence truly speak louder than words sometimes; this message is deafening.

It’s hard to accept that there are things in this world I cannot control or change. It’s hard to accept that some people find this matter to be trivial and truly don’t care, not even elected officials that are supposed to represent people like you and I. It’s even harder to accept that I will never hear my husband’s voice again and that I am sentenced to life without him. And now it’s our wedding anniversary, and I am forced to accept that we have been robbed of the gift of justice.

I am trying to focus on the positive things in my life – my family, my friends, my dogs, my cats, and my beautiful horses. I am truly blessed and grateful to be surrounded by such loving, beautiful beings. It is my hope that I will find a way to accept and live peacefully with the injustice of this situation since it is something I cannot control or change.  So far, it’s not proving to be an easy endeavor. It’s frustrating to cry out in anguish and have no one hear it.

I am doing my best to hold on to the many wonderful memories of my marriage and the beautiful person that Kent was. Every time Kent’s Bet steps onto the racetrack, I am reminded that Kent and his legacy lives on. I see Kent’s amazing spirit and determination in every stride that his namesake takes. He may not be perfect or win every race, but he truly tries and he has tremendous heart. Kent’s Bet has given me a sense of hope that there is still some good in the world and there are some beings that hear us.

Kent’s Bet heading to the track to run in the Route 66 Stakes in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I am also pleased to announce that Kent has a second namesake – a yearling colt affectionately named “Chaotic Kent,” also known as CK. I find it fitting considering the crazy state of our world right now and the unbelievable events surrounding Kent’s case. And, quite frankly, the little guy reminds me of Kent. He is handsome, smart, and likes to cause a little trouble in the name of fun! I cannot help but smile and feel joy in my heart when he is bucking and playing in his paddock or when he drops his head in my hands and insists that I scratch the top of his head and behind his ears. CK may well be the one thing that has kept me from drowning in a sea of anger and despair over the injustice of Kent’s case.

Chaotic Kent “CK” with his girlfriend, Take Note.

In my mind, Kent’s passing and the circumstances surrounding it have been trivialized and dismissed by Adams County officials – people we elect and pay to care – something I find completely unacceptable. May the injustice of Kent’s case and how poorly it has been handled never be forgotten. It’s an injustice that deserves to be remembered and acknowledged.

I have been told that special dates without your loved one get easier with time. Sadly, this is not one of them. This is by far the hardest Wedding Anniversary yet.

Happy Anniversary, Kent. Your legacy lives on. I will love you always.

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Poor Decisions

What do you do when you are forced to live with the poor decisions of other people?

I have been contemplating this question since Monday and cannot come up with an acceptable answer. It is especially difficult because I have no recourse for these decisions, and I literally do have to live with them. I am forced to, regardless of the injustice of it all. However, it doesn’t mean I have to like them, and it certainly doesn’t mean I am going to take them lying down.

Every day I live with the poor decisions made on June 8, 2016, by a twenty four year old that chose to drink all day, get high, shoot guns out near Denver International Airport, then drive his car at 111 mph on a two lane road because he wanted to “see what his car could do.” He lost control of his car and hit my husband head on, ending my husband’s life. The impact was so severe that the engine from the perpetrator’s car was thrown into an adjacent field. He showed little remorse at the scene and cried about his car. The fact that he killed Kent Swanson didn’t seem to be as important as his car.

On Monday, April 20, 2020, I received word that my husband’s killer is going to be released to a halfway house. To say that I was shocked to receive this news is a colossal understatement. Considering the fact that the offender has not even served 3 years of a ten-year sentence, I find the actions of the Community Corrections Board in Adams County, Colorado, absolutely deplorable.

As the victim of this crime, I have been told I have no recourse. There is no “Victims Right to an Appeal” for a decision coming from Community Corrections. Basically, once an offender goes into the prison system, the justice you were told you would have in court no longer applies because the criminal now has all of the rights. It’s as though your voice as a victim is completely taken away and your deceased loved one is merely a number in a file that someone is anxious to close.

My husband’s killer received a 10-year sentence that he agreed to serve. I want him to do his time, and this is NOT too much to ask. He should be held accountable for the poor decisions he made that I am forced to live with every day. Instead of the criminal serving time, it is the loved ones of Kent Swanson that are doing time because we have been sentenced to life without him.

Instead of holding my husband’s killer accountable for his deplorable actions, the Community Corrections Board of Adams County, CO, decided to add insult to injury and made another poor decision that I am now forced to live with. My husband’s killer gets to go to a halfway house after barely serving 2 and a half years in prison. How is this justice? How is this holding the killer of Kent Swanson accountable for the egregious crime he committed?  This is not, in any way, shape, or form, the 10-year sentence that was granted in court. This is letting a killer off easy because a Community Corrections Board cares more about a budget, overcrowding, or Covid-19 concerns.

The decision made by Community Corrections in Adams County, Colorado, about my husband’s case is an absolute travesty that has completely minimalized the horrendous crime that took the life of Kent Swanson. It has also made a complete mockery of the justice system in Colorado.

Although I realize it is not my personal responsibility to keep my husband’s killer locked up, I cannot help but feel that I have failed Kent in this because the justice we were granted in court has been wrongfully taken away and I can do nothing to stop it. It’s heartbreaking to know that I cannot change this.

Sadly, it’s yet another poor decision I am forced to live with.

Kent Swanson enjoying the aftermath of a Colorado snow storm.

The Stare Down

“What’s so special about those? I see them all the time.”

Yes, we see them. And if you live in Colorado, you definitely see them all the time. They are in parks, fields, the county courthouse parking lot, on the side of the road, often in the road, and sometimes, even in our back yards. They are, as my mom would eloquently say of my ranch, “like horse crap. They’re everywhere.” But have we ever slowed down to actually look at these creatures and appreciate the true beauty that can be found in them?

These are scary times. With the COVID – 19 outbreak interrupting the usual hustle and bustle of daily life, I find myself reevaluating the world around me and noticing simple things that I often take for granted and don’t typically think so much about.  Take, for example, Canadian Geese.

I feel as though I just heard a collective groan from a bored audience. There was a time I would have felt the same way – believe me, I felt the twinge of a groan forming as I wrote the words “Canadian Geese” – but I have had a change of heart.

Like many of you, I have been under house arrest due to COVID – 19, isolating myself from the world as much as possible. However, the restlessness of being confined finally got the best of me and a change of scenery was calling. I grabbed my camera and decided to take a short drive and participate in an activity I refer to as being “a bird nerd.” This is where I go out with my camera and attempt to photograph birds of prey. Today, the forces of nature were against me, as my usual locations for bird sightings came up empty. Eventually, I found myself at a small, local lake, hoping to see anything with wings.

As I started up the path to the lake, I noticed movement on the path ahead but couldn’t make out what was there. Moments later, I found myself in a stare down with a Canadian Goose that was also using the same path. It was heading straight towards me, and it didn’t seem thrilled that I was there. It immediately started making noise, squawking and flapping its large, dark wings as it continued straight for me. I was caught off guard and froze for a moment. This wasn’t the greeting I was expecting from the usually quiet lake with its serene atmosphere. The black and white bird courageously charged down the path towards me. I was about to turn and run when it abruptly stopped several feet in front of me and just stared at me. This bird was looking me in the eye as if to say, “what the hell are you looking at?” I was thinking I should probably leave and get out of its space, but I decided to snap a few pictures with my camera instead. I wanted to have evidence of what was about to kill me since I was certain it could run faster than me on the muddy path.

The Stare Down

I have heard that geese can be territorial and downright mean when they feel their space is being invaded or they feel threatened. When you stop and think about it, people often have these same instincts, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that this bird wasn’t happy to be sharing its path with me. It stood still and gave me the stare down. I felt like I was in a staring contest and it was daring me to blink first.

In a sense, I did blink first. I slowly raised my camera and snapped a few pictures. The dark eyes of the bird didn’t waiver for several minutes as it refused to take its eyes off of me. With the exception of a little camera noise, I remained still, admiring the bird as it stood before me. I couldn’t help but notice the smooth curves of its neck and head and the strong lines of its wings.  And the colors were spectacular – the shiniest of black on its head and neck and white on its body that gleamed with golden brown highlights on some of its lower body feathers.

After a few minutes, the goose lost interest in me and seemed to be surveying the path, deciding which direction to go. It eventually left the path and took to the air, landing gracefully several yards away in the cold lake water. As it swam away, it was joined by several others, and the atmosphere became rather noisy with their dialogue and flapping wings. They reminded me of a large family cajoling and teasing one another. Some were happy, some seemed annoyed. But they definitely had each other.

The Canadian Goose from my encounter flying to the water’s edge.

Canadian Geese are known for their courage, loyalty, devotion, fellowship, and fearlessness. Unlike people, they will not leave one of their own kind behind. I witnessed all of this in one day. Mother nature has an amazing classroom.

I not only ended up leaving the lake with some insight into these rather stately birds, but I also left with a sense of peace and an understanding that even if we see something all the time, it still has a place in the universe and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I also couldn’t help but feel positive change will soon be on the horizon if we exercise some patience and understanding to get to that point. Like the Canadian Geese we see in our midst, we need to incorporate courage and fearlessness in our lives while maintaining a spirit of loyalty, devotion, and fellowship.

There is something to be said about the stately beauty of Canadian Geese and the quiet message of hope they bring to our world, even if we “see them all the time.”

~ Sandy Shiner-Swanson

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The Steadfast Bald Eagle

As I was looking out at the vast countryside of dull brown wheat fields and dead sunflowers covered in snow and fog, I thought of my late husband and contemplated what would have been his 52nd birthday the day before. The dreary landscape fit my mood perfectly. Only one thing changed when he died – EVERYTHING. I wondered what we would have done to celebrate his birthday if he was still alive, and I thought about how different my life is now and found myself wondering if I am going the direction that I should be or if I have veered off course and should be doing something else. I am often plagued by uncertainty and life seems to be an endless search for answers.

Life seemed so much more certain when Kent was by my side and we were working towards our plans. It seemed to be that life was more about living and less about survival then. I am told that I tend to overthink things, and perhaps I do. I like the comfort of certainty. Unfortunately, as I have been told many times, there are only two certainties in life – taxes and death.

My thoughts were interrupted by movement in the air and the realization that a Bald Eagle had quietly entered my space and was flying low overhead. It was magnificent! Its dark brown wings filled the sky around me, spread out wide as it smoothly glided over the ground below, sharply watching for its prey. This particular Bald Eagle was larger than others I have seen in the area. I watched it maneuver over the fields, flying high then swooping low, always prepared to dive for its meal.

As I watched the Bald Eagle go about its business, one word came to mind. Steadfast. The Bald Eagle is always steadfast in its quest for existence. It knows what it has to do and goes about its business for daily life. I sincerely doubt the Bald Eagle overthinks what it has to do and questions every aspect of its life. It knows, instinctively, what to do and why and remains steadfast in the task of doing so.

Why do I struggle to do this in my own life? I often question my instincts and it leads to disastrous results. It is often said that a person should listen to their gut and trust their own intuition. When you stop and think about it, self-trust is a must. I know that part of this is not having my husband here to help guide me and be the voice of reason when it is needed. But the biggest factor is that I tend to get in my own way, not trusting my own ability to be steadfast.

I found myself thinking about the Bald Eagle long after it had flown away and was no longer in sight. The Bald Eagle was going about its life, knowing what it had to do, trusting the instincts given to it by nature.

It’s time to listen to the steadfast Bald Eagle.

~ Sandy

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Home at Last

Greetings from Colorado!

It is with a happy and grateful heart that I am pleased to provide an update on a horse that several readers have inquired about. I am delighted to report the arrival of Storm to Pass in Colorado!

After having a rather in depth surgery that involved the placement of three screws in her knee and enduring one setback that had everyone involved with her case nervous for the outcome of her situation, Storm to Pass cleared those hurdles and made the journey from Oklahoma to her new home in Colorado to continue her recovery. She stepped off the trailer yesterday in regal fashion and pranced into the barn as she eyed her new surroundings and entered the stall that will serve as her home for the next two to three months.

Considering everything Storm to Pass has been through, she looks amazing. Best of all, her sweet, gentle nature is still intact, and she has been more than patient with my insistence on hugging her every time I see her or even pass by her stall. She is, however, impossible to take a decent selfie with, always moving her head, almost as though she is issuing a challenge. She looks at me as if to say, “I dare you to try to capture both of our faces in this picture.” I am starting to think she is the friend that just flat out refuses to pose – and is determined she won’t.

It is so wonderful to have Storm to Pass home, although her recovery is far from over. Her discharge instructions involve several months of stall rest and then very gradual turn out in small areas. It is important for the bones in her knee to continue to heal and be well healed before she can be turned out and act like a normal horse. How do you tell a horse not to buck and play, and to definitely not run because any further injury could be life threatening? This is the challenge I face in the months ahead.

The journey to heal continues.

Storm to Pass upon her arrival in Colorado

An Eagle Flies Alone

It used to be that there was a beautiful pair of bald eagles nearby that I would often observe. I loved watching them together, soaring in the breeze, playfully crossing paths with one another, swooping down on their prey with mighty force. The pair was truly something to behold – a force to be reckoned with.

Sadly, as of late, I have seen only one eagle where there used to be two, flying high in the sky above, issuing a loud, piercing cry as it soars the skies alone.

The fact that it flies alone is not lost on me. Its partner is no-where to be seen, and its loud, screeching cry reminds me of the sound my heart made in the days and weeks after my husband first passed away. My heart still cries out, but time has taught me acceptance, which has changed the tone and volume of the piercing cry.

Like the Eagle, I am very much alone. Every time I think I have found someone great to share my time with, it’s as though a vulture swoops down from the sky and snatches my prize away, flying off with my love and hope in the process. There is nothing as deflating as snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the war of loneliness and self-existence.

Eagles mate for life. When one eagle passes on, the other continues to survive on its own. Point taken, universe. I will continue to chart out my own path and work towards my goals and dreams, regardless of how crazy other people find them to be. My time and attention will no longer be wasted on people that fail to see my value or offer respect.

Like the eagle, I will be flying alone for a long time.

Out of Place

Greetings from Beautiful Colorado!

You have probably noticed a tremendous silence on this blog during the summer months. I like to think that summer is a crazy, busy time for everyone. It always is for me. In addition to the usual activities summer brings, it is also a time of sadness and reflection for me. June 8 marked the three-year anniversary of my husband’s passing. It hit me very hard this year, and although I am blessed to have an amazing family, wonderful friends, and am surrounded by some very therapeutic dogs, horses, and 3 new kittens, I still find myself grieving the loss of my husband and wondering about what might have been.

I started to write a poem about it back in June but could never finish it. Most likely it’s because I have never been accused of being a great poet. In fact, poetry was the one aspect of my writing that my many English teachers used to frown upon over the years. I have no sense of timing, rhyming, or rhythm, which probably explains why I wasn’t great at reading sheet music either.  I am simply hoping for a passing grade with this effort! It feels good to finally finish it.

For my husband, Kent. You are loved and missed every day.

Out of Place

Leaving me wasn’t your choice;

Oh, how I long to hear your voice!

But silence is the only sound,

for you are no longer to be found.

I still wait for you to come home

but each day I am alone.

Tears still stream down my face,

For without you, I feel out of place.

Only your memories are here;

monuments of what will never be abound.

Items we used to share

are all that can be found.

The day you were taken from me,

My heart shattered on the ground.

My love for you is so profound;

I wish to God you were still around.

Life in the Balance

Storm to Pass stood tall and proud in her stall before the race, her chestnut coat shining and her strawberry blonde mane beautifully combed. She stood regal and proud, curiously looking me over with kind, gentle eyes. She carried herself to the paddock and the racetrack with elegance and grace. I was in awe of her beauty and impressed by how she carried herself. I was also a bundle of nerves. Not because Storm to Pass was running, but because my horse, Sizzle Factor, a stablemate of Storm to Pass, was entered to run in the race following hers, and I was starting to get nervous.  

It was pouring rain in Tulsa, Oklahoma that night. Not long before the races began, the skies opened up and the rain started. The track was sealed for safety, but the horses would still be splashing home in the water and mud. The rain continued to get heavier and heavier. It was a steady downpour when the gates opened and Storm to Pass ran her race. She made a valiant effort, finishing fourth in her race. The jockey was slowing her down and easing her up when the unthinkable happened; Storm to Pass slipped a little and took a bad step. Immediately sensing something was amiss, her jockey got her stopped and issued the call for help. Storm to Pass was vanned off the track and taken back to her stall.

A flurry of activity ensued. My trainer was upset because he didn’t know what exactly had happened to Storm to Pass and he wasn’t allowed to go with her when she was being vanned to the barn. He did know that the injury was serious and x-rays would be required to truly assess things. My heart sank. It didn’t sound good.

After a victorious run from Sizzle Factor, who won a photo finish, I found myself back at the barn. I wanted to celebrate and be happy my horse had won, but the only thing I could focus on was Storm to Pass. She was standing in her stall again, still looking regal and proud, although she was not putting weight on one of her front legs and swelling was visible in the knee area and the ankle was showing some swelling as well. An x-ray revealed that a substantial part of the knee bone was out of place. I asked my trainer what was going to happen next. My heart sank when he said her owner had made the decision to put her down.

Before I knew it, I heard myself crying out. “No!!! Please! You can’t just put her down. No!!!” I was looking my trainer in the eyes, trying to hold back tears. I could hear my voice shaking as I told him, “You have to give her a chance. Isn’t there something that can be done? Please. If she can be saved, I’m willing to do it.”

He knew I was serious. I could tell he was thinking things through in his mind, knowing it would take some doing to make arrangements and get her to a surgeon. There was no guarantee she would survive the surgery or even be a good candidate for surgery. She was also high risk for developing founder or laminitis.  It was a few moments before he responded. “Let me talk to her owner and see if he’s agreeable to that.”

A few moments later, I had my answer. And a new horse to love and care for.  My trainer did his best to make Storm to Pass comfortable in terms of pain and then went about the tedious process of getting the wheels in motion to get her to a surgeon. We were very blessed to have one of the best equine surgeons in Oklahoma agree to take her case.

In the meantime, there was no lack of opinions and criticism from many people in the barn area. Several people made it known that they thought Storm to Pass should be put down. My trainer took a lot of criticism for standing by my decision to try to save her. Two women I have never seen before nor since walked down our shed row when my trainer wasn’t around, pointed at Storm to Pass, and said it was a disgrace that she was still standing there and that the right thing had not been done in putting her down. I started to approach them and say something, but stopped myself because I was almost in tears. Instead, I waited for them to leave and entered the stall with Storm to Pass. As I wrapped my arms around her neck and started to pet her, she laid her head on my shoulder and sighed. We stood quietly together for a long time.  I knew in that moment I had made the right decision.

Storm to Pass underwent knee surgery and made it through with flying colors. She came out of the anesthesia very quietly, which is wonderful. Apparently, a horse can do a lot of damage if it thrashes about upon awakening. She now has three screws in her knee and has made it through the first two weeks post-surgery, which is a very critical time.  Her weight distribution is good and the surgical incision has healed. With time and a substantial amount of stall rest, she should be able to get around well enough to enjoy grazing and have a new career as a mother and pasture companion to other horses.   

I am always amazed and touched by the life lessons that can be gained through these beautiful beings. Horses can be intimidating because of their size and strength. And yet, I am reminded by Storm to Pass that like people, they can also be fragile and the slightest accident can have a life hanging in the balance. Storm to Pass is not completely out of the woods yet, but I am assured the worst is over. It is going to take a lot of time, healing, and patience in the months ahead. I am inspired by her strength and her will power. She is a tough, amazing horse with an incredible will to go on. It is my hope that she will enjoy her new life and home in Colorado once she can travel here. I feel very blessed and grateful to be able to welcome her here and be part of her healing process. When you stop and think about it, we are all healing from something.

Mother’s Day

For the last few weeks, I have been keeping a close eye on Miss Music Major and her new colt. They are a constant source of amusement, wonder, and joy for me. Miss Music Major is an amazing first-time mother, doting on her little one and indulging his curiosity by watching his endless antics with a patience I cannot even begin to fathom. Then again, patience has never been my virtue. I have been impressed with her nurturing instincts and how well she takes care of her new colt. She is an amazing mother! They are quite the dynamic duo.

I have also been impressed with Note This and Baby Note. As Baby Note continues to grow, so does their relationship and interaction. Note This has no problem schooling her little one in horse manners and how to interact with others. Baby Note has become quite the athlete, jumping over everything, including her own mother when she is trying to take a nap in their paddock. I find myself wondering if the five-foot fence I have is truly tall enough to contain her. The adage “Though Shalt Fly Without Wings” definitely applies to Baby Note. And Note This is ever the diligent mother.

While horses are powerful, majestic creatures, I am often reminded of how fragile they are and how quickly life can change when you least expect it. I was not only reminded of this last night, but of the importance of a mother and her care.

Last night, I had finally reached the point in the evening where I could do what most people look forward to at the end of a long day – wear sweat pants and attempt to relax and watch tv. I had decided to start watching something my father recorded on my DVR over a year ago – something I have been meaning to watch for years and have simply not taken the time to do. I was finally going to start watching “Lonesome Dove,” the infamous show my father has been after me to watch for years on end. Even one of my horse trainers has been telling me to watch it. I was finally giving in to peer pressure, so to speak, to watch “Lonesome Dove” with my dates for the evening, my Border Collie, Cody, and my Heeler, Max.

It happened. Sort of. The boys and I had just started the second episode of “Lonesome Dove” when I heard a loud crashing noise coming from the monitor in the barn. I looked to the monitor and could see that Miss Music Major had decided to lay down, something that was not uncommon for that time of night, and she had bumped the stall wall as she went down. She then did something unusual – she got right back up and went right back down, this time, thrashing about. My heart was in my throat when she repeated the behavior. It was obvious she was uncomfortable. This was looking like colic. “Lonesome Dove” was going to have to wait.

I leapt up from the couch, making Max growl as I did so. Max doesn’t like being woke up once he is snoring, and to say he was enjoying his nap through “Lonesome Dove” is an understatement. I had to keep turning the TV volume up he was snoring so loudly. Cody, on the other hand, sensed my movement and was running for the back door, anticipating a trip to the barn. He was ready. I grabbed a jacket, a tube of Banamine, and the three of us headed to the barn.

As I opened the gate to leave the yard, Cody and Max sprinted for the barn area. Their sudden rush of activity startled something in the darkness. I was abruptly greeted by a pair of large yellow eyes and a flutter of frantic wings in my face and a screeching sound that about made me jump out of my skin. It flew at my face and then up above my head. I could feel the wind created from its wings and sense its fright. It was a small owl! Although I knew the owl meant no harm, I couldn’t help but think it was trying to convey a sense of urgency. I started running to the barn.

As I opened the barn door, I was greeted with loud whinnying from not only Miss Music Major, but Note This and the two babies. I quickly got a halter on Miss Music Major and gave her a dose of Banamine. She wouldn’t stay on her feet to walk around, something you are supposed to do with a horse that may be experiencing colic, and quickly went to the ground, thrashing about violently and groaning as she did so. She almost landed on her little colt as she went down. He jumped to move out of her way and almost landed on me. My heart was racing; I knew we all needed help. I exited the stall and called my veterinarian. She was on her way. In the mean-time, she told me to monitor the situation but to stay out of the way. Trying to get Miss Music Major up and walking at this point could be dangerous and for me to wait until I had assistance. It was good advice.

Watching Miss Music Major as she was thrashing about, writhing in pain, I was terrified. I have never seen a horse in so much discomfort. Her loud groans were agonizing and every time she got up and went back down, she seemed to be either kicking a wall or hitting her head on it, in spite of the fact that she’s in a very large stall. It broke my heart watching her beat herself up, literally. What if the worst happened and she died from this? What would happen to her baby?! I know it’s possible to bottle feed little ones and have them grow up to be healthy, strong horses. It is, however, quite an undertaking and bottle feeding a baby horse can seem like a never-ending task when it’s required every few hours for months on end. It’s not an insurmountable task, but it certainly doesn’t make up for the care that only a mother can provide.  

After about twenty minutes or so, the Banamine must have started to kick in because the thrashing wasn’t as violent, although it was still happening. She also seemed to be getting fatigued. Miss Music Major finally threw herself down in the far corner of her stall and laid there groaning for well over twenty minutes. There was a lot of gaseous noises and farting, which was actually a good sign. I was worried with all of the thrashing about that her intestine could be twisted. As I watched her, I found myself praying and asking for some divine guidance.

After a few minutes, Miss Music Major stood up and pooped, which I took to be a very good sign. She also permitted her little colt to nurse, something that had not happened in over an hour because she had not been on her feet long enough to allow it. The veterinarian showed up as this was happening.

After administering medications, a thorough exam and palpation, and some careful observation, she determined that she did not think the intestinal tract was twisted and that ultimately, Miss Music Major was going to be okay. Relief flooded through me. The worst of the storm had passed!

I continued to monitor Miss Music Major throughout the night. She started to nibble on her hay again about 3 am, and by 6 she was wanting to know where her breakfast was at. She also resumed her role as a doting mother, letting her colt nurse whenever he wished throughout the night and watching over him whenever he would lay down to sleep. As I watched the two of them throughout the night, I was struck with the importance of a mother’s role, be it equine or human.

Miss Music Major and her colt are outside in their paddock today, and the little guy is up to his usual antics. Life has returned to normal, at least for now. And, ever the patient mother, she watches over him and tries to keep him in line and out of trouble, just as my own mother has always done for me.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you!

Tiny But Mighty

There is an old adage that says “a pony is a childhood dream. A horse is an adulthood treasure.” These words ring true for me as I sit down to write and reflect on this last week and provide a short update.

I am pleased to report that Miss Music Major and her little colt are both doing well. The little guy gets stronger every day and is now bucking and playing on legs that are much steadier and straighter with each passing day. Miss Music Major is a very good first time mother, doting on him and watching over him constantly. The two seem very happy together; watching them run and play in their small paddock is a miraculous joy and fills one with happiness and wonder.

Although he is still tiny, he is mighty! I think the little guy is going to make it…

~ Sandy