Once upon a time there was a beautiful little horse named Promise. She didn’t start out with that name however. After a long time waiting for her to be born, some friends and I decided to name her “Patience”. Since we had been so patient waiting for her, and she had been so patient waiting for her time to come here on earth, it seemed appropriate. With the many struggles she incurred over her first few weeks of life, though, we found another name that seemed to fit a little better. I was studying 2 Peter at this tough time of decisions concerning the euthanasia of this adorable little filly. As I was moaning over the sin and death in the world, I came across verse 9 in Chapter 3. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” I know this refers to humans perishing, but I saw God’s patience in this verse and remembered His promises that are yet to be fulfilled. It gave me hope. Maybe not a hope that everything was going to turn out the way I wanted it to, but there was a confidence that God had a purpose for this. Sin and death hurts God, too. I named her Promise as a reminder that some day there would be no more disease and death. Some day God will wipe away every tear. I had shed many tears and there were more to come. Her registered name would be “Promise of Heaven”.
Where should I start? She was born around 10 pm on June 12th, 2007. She was LONG awaited, but as soon as the birthing process started she was out before I could get out to her in the pasture. She was tiny, sorrel colored, and already starting her struggle to stand. Her face was adorable with the white tornado like shape stopping mid-nose and then starting again with a crooked snip. As I dried her, I noticed how soft and fine her hair was. Later I would learn this is called “silky” and is not a thing to be admired. She was born out in a pasture, next to her mother Annabelle’s favorite scratching bush. After doing some basic imprint training, we stepped away to let mare and foal bond. Promise tried to stand and fell, over and over. After an hour, I was concerned and tried to help her with some balance, so she could get some of the much needed first milk. She would try to nurse, but just couldn’t seem to latch on. I had been so excited that she was born early in the evening, thinking that I would get some much needed rest. That was not to be the case. Another hour passed, and my concern increased. I paged the vet on call, Dr. Konnie Wendt, after it had been almost 3 hours. We needed to get that colostrum into this foal fairly quickly. While waiting for the vet to arrive, I took the flash light out to inspect Promise more closely.
I had noticed her knees looked a little strange. On closer inspection, her knees were soft and swollen. As I blinded her with the flashlight again, I wondered if I had yet to really look her in the eye. I tried to pry her eye open to no avail. They were still stuck shut like a newborn kitten. Dr. Wendt showed up a little after 1 am. She milked Annabelle and tubed the milk directly to Promise’s stomach. I had her look at the eyes and knees. The veterinarian knew that she needed to go to the clinic immediately, so she decided to take her in her own utility trailer. We arrived a the clinic and got mare and foal tucked into a nice, clean stall with plenty of hay for Annabelle to munch on while we further inspected Promise under better lighting. She was what they call “ dys-mature”. This is similar to a premature foal, except that she was actually born two weeks later than her due date. Her placenta weighed only seven pounds. It should weigh at least twice that amount. This meant she just didn’t get all the necessary nutrients that she needed. Dr. Wendt warned me that it didn’t look good. She may be unable to nurse on her own and be what they call a “dummy” foal. These foals just get worse very quickly. The vet sent me home, prepared that I didn’t need to get too attached. She would take care of her until morning, milking Annabelle and tubing the milk to the filly. All this time, my regular veterinarian, Dr. Lori Fornea, sleeps next door unaware of the patient that awaits her the next morning.
But I don’t know if this is really the place to start in the story, because the tale really starts much earlier. We should probably even go back to when I purchased “Chip from Heaven”, otherwise known as Annabelle in this story, back in 2004. I fell in love with this black beauty from the moment I saw her. Every horse crazy little girl seems to dream of a black horse, whether from watching the Black Stallion run through the ocean waves, or from the famous tale of Black Beauty himself. When I first rode Annabelle, she felt like a dream, too. She had the smoothest trot and a rocking horse canter. I didn’t know how I could afford her, but I would figure something out. She was very expensive, more than I’d ever spent on a horse. I talked the seller into throwing in a free breeding to her beautiful palomino stallion, and I convinced my dad to buy half of Annabelle. The foal would be his, and we would sell it to pay for his part of Annabelle. It was a little late in the season for breeding, so we brought her home with plans on breeding the next year. After 4 times of shipping semen with no successful embryo, we decided to wait until the next year. The next year we shipped again with no success, so I decided to trailer her up to see the stallion. I hoped the timing could be a little more accurate, even if they didn’t offer live cover breeding. She was there for 3 months, with no success. I missed my beautiful mare, so I asked them to try one more time. I went to pick her up after the breeding, before we even knew if she was pregnant. Two weeks later my vet, Dr. Fornea ultra sounded her and found success, finally!
I was concerned about Annabelle having her first foal. I wanted to make sure I was there for the foaling so two weeks before her due date, I tested her milk to predict foaling time. It said she would have the foal within 24 hours! I was shocked. I didn’t think she really looked that close, but we packed up all of our medical kit and other supplies to be prepared. Camping out in the barn would be fun with Kyli and Arien, some young girls that I had been giving riding lessons. We took shifts checking on her. Nothing. So again the next night we camp at the barn, the girls sleeping on the hammock, chasing her around her pasture with the flashlight, and scratching her belly every time she came to them. She was enjoying the special treatment, but we were getting tired of watching her lay down and tired of listening to her groaning. There is only a small percentage of horses that test false positive for foaling, and Annabelle was one of them! So we gave up on the milk test after several days of no sleep and started looking for the physical signs. It would be over 3 weeks later that she started pacing after the evening feeding. I looked and she was starting to wax. Finally, we would have a foal!
We were scared to go out and disturb her when she laid down, because we thought we had stopped her from foaling before. We thought we heard a sound of noise like the water breaking. So I made the girls wait at the barn while I quietly checked on her. I would flash the light at them if she was foaling. So this is where I originally began Promise’s story. She was already on the ground, and I flashed the light vigorously. The girls came running quickly with all of our needed supplies. Kyli was going on and on about how she was the most beautiful foal, and Arien was telling me to lift her tail to figure out if she was a colt or filly!
We were all very sad as we left the vets office 5 hours after Promise was actually born. We hadn’t slept all night so we headed home to try to catch up on some sleep. As soon as we got a few hours of sleep, however I skeptically returned to the clinic to see how my girl was doing. Dr. Lori Fornea was awake by now and came out to see what she had missed overnight. Dr. Wendt had decided to pull Promise’s eyes after her next milking session. Now she was up getting around and nursing on her own! She didn’t get the nutrients necessary from the colostrum, however and needed to have plasma to help with her immune system. We also needed to x-ray her knees to see what was going on there. Upon looking at the x-rays, it was found that the cartilage hadn’t fully formed yet. Not only that, but she had bowed tendons. Despite all that she was still trying to walk and wasn’t even knuckling over. She wasn’t a “dummy” foal after all. She was getting stronger and eating on her own. Stall rest was ordered for the next month, so that her knees would finish developing without too much movement on them. We were so excited that everything was going to be okay after all. So I prepared to pick her up the next morning.
Upon arriving the next morning, we found that Annabelle had just stepped on Promises left front fetlock. It was a small cut, but it really needed to be stitched. After suturing the cut, Dr. Fornea taught me how to clean and wrap it. She also gave me a list of all the other medicines that I would be giving her. I was to continue dipping her navel cord and continue her on “Ulcerguard” as she had shown some signs of stomach problems. She was also receiving probiotics. I was also to check her temperature daily. Promise was behaving nicely for the bandaging of her leg. She just accepted it as a normal part of her life already. It only took one person to hold her head and one person to wrap the leg. Meanwhile, Annabelle was getting frustrated with being in a stall. I would let her out while we changed the bandage, and she was happy to leave us in charge of her filly. Things looked good for the first 5 days. Then when checking her temperature, there was a fever of 102.5. Dr. Fornea was out of town, so I gave her some medicine to bring down her temperature. It worked, but then it would come back up again. When I checked the leg the next day, it had gotten wet from the water trough, and the stitches were torn. Dr. Fornea was still out of town but came the next day to check on her. When she got there we noticed her other knee was swollen, and her fever was back up. She said this didn’t look good at all. Again I was warned that I should be prepared for the worst. Upon doing blood work, it was confirmed that she was very sick and septic in that joint. She was still fighting to live, getting up to nurse, neighing at us when we visited her. I just couldn’t give up on her when she was trying so hard to stay with us. She would have to go live with “auntie Lori”, as Dr. Fornea came to be fondly named, for awhile and was started on various antibiotics. The knee would have to be drained and injected also. This is where the struggles really begin and probably where it should have all ended. Looking back, this is the place where I would tell others to end things. None of us could have survived this without having lots of support from each other. Promise has a long, hard struggle ahead of her as well as all of those who have come to love her.
Lori had to administer the different antibiotics every 6 hours. That meant a large amount of lost sleep. She really saw Promise’s heart and was determined to help her as much as she could. The knee had to be drained every other day and then rewrapped. The pain increased and so did Promise’s desire to stand on that knee. She would stand up, but then couldn’t figure out how to get to the milk. She would just lay back down. So we helped her walk to Mama, by walking that front leg for her. As soon as she drank, she would plop down where ever she was. All this time we’re doctoring the other fetlock that has proceeded to rot away. We worried the hoof was going to slough off as it was hard to control the moisture from the wound. It was wrapped daily, washing it with Thieves foaming hand soap for several minutes. Promise was getting where she wouldn’t even try to get up for her feeding times. We worried about her dehydrating, so someone checked on her every few hours to make sure she got up and nursed. Candace Hoke, a certified herbalist and a distributor for Young Living Essential Oils, came by to take a look at her. She believed she still had fight in her, but that Promise needed to decide what she wanted to do – live or die. We did all we could to encourage her to live. We started the day with her dose of Ningxia Red, a juice supplement full of antioxidants to support her immune system and colloidal silver which is known for its antibacterial properties. Her morning essential oils consisted of Valor to hopefully give her the boost of energy to get up another day. We also did a “mini” Rain Drop Technique along her back using Oregano, Thyme, and Peppermint oils. Later in the day, we rubbed Egyptian Gold, Immupower, and Thieves along different areas of her body. She smelled like a royal “princess” and so got her nickname. Her rotting fetlock area continued to get worse and horrified me as we were able to see the bone. We put a few drops of Palo Santo in that area after cleaning it for a few days, hoping to cause the area to heal and close over the bone. The hoof area was drying up, though. We weren’t going to lose the hoof to infection at least! After 2 weeks the blood work showed her white blood cell count was finally improving. The antibiotics were working, but it is a slow process building the immune system back to normal. Once we quit draining and wrapping the infected knee, she was better about trying to use the leg. However, she started knuckling over on that pastern. It seems the tendons were very tight so physical therapy was needed. Not only did we do stretching and range of motion on both legs, but I used a TENS unit to stimulate the muscles in her shoulder and forearm twice a day. The TENS unit shocks the muscle causing it to contract. Her muscles were so atrophied from her lack of movement that we were going to help her work them. To do this we coated her with “Formula 11”, an herbal mixture from Candace Hoke mixed with Apple Cider Vinegar to help support her immune system, along with providing the moisture needed for the TENS unit to penetrate through her hair to her skin.
We supplemented her with Mare Match pellets as often as we could get her to sit up and eat them. It was followed several times a day with a diluted dose of Ningxia Red. I do believe that she would have been dehydrated and had no energy without the Ningxia Red supplementation, which we continued using for 3 months. She was such a good patient taking all of her syringes full of medicine. Her mother on the other had, was sick of living in a stall. She was glad to be turned out during the times we wrapped the leg. Annabelle hates stalls and really wanted nothing to do with this foal anymore. Lori found that “Peace and Calming” essential oil was a must for her. We seriously worried she would step on Promise again and end it for all this time. Promise didn’t even care when we turned Mama out. She was pretty confident and independent from the beginning.
Finally, Promise’s blood work was good enough for her to go home. She had stayed at the vet for 3 weeks. Her septic knee was better, however we would have to continue wrapping the other fetlock wound until the skin had time to heal over the rather large area of open flesh that had developed. We could still see part of the bone showing, but it was beginning to improve. I would also have to doctor her eyes daily as the lower eyelids were rolling in causing ulcers on her eyes. We used Frankincense oil around her eyes, hoping it would correct itself with a little support. Surgery would later correct this problem, after many hours were spent doctoring and putting on a fly mask to protect them. I still continued the other daily essential oils. Lori had to make me a list of when to do which ones, because there were so many different ones that we were using for all the various problems. We still started the day with Valor and the Rain drop technique. As long as she had an open wound, we decided to continue using the Immupower, Thieves, and Egyptian Gold oils. I used Panaway oil on her healing right knee, as it still seemed to be painful to her. After I burned her with the Thyme oil by obviously not diluting it enough (oops), I used lavender and rosemary oils to support the skin and hair. Her skin was very thin and sensitive. I started using the Rain drop technique oils on her coronet band for awhile, until the skin on her back healed. Egyptian Gold was massaged into her ears. Thieves we would rub on her belly. Valor was usually rubbed on her hairless neck, where the catheter had been taped for so long. The tape to hold the catheter securely in place went all the way around her neck. It had to be pulled off every other day to be checked and cleaned. After many weeks of this, she had no hair left. I worried that she was going to look like a mallard duck with white hair coming back in at that area as a white ring. I used lots of Rosemary and Lavender oils there praying she would get her beautiful hair back. She did with no white hairs!
Now that she was home, she would not have as much help with nursing. I couldn’t continue to make sure she got up to nurse all day and then again during the night all by myself. She was going to have to choose to do this on her own. I was comforted knowing that I had given her a big dose of Ningxia Red before I went in for the evening at 11 pm. I would be out there at 6 am to give her another dose. She had obviously moved during the night, so I hoped she had actually nursed. She was still really knuckling over with the little bit of walking that she did, so I decided to make a splint for her right leg to see if it might help stretch it. It helped! It gave her some support, and encouraged her to stand for longer periods of time. The splint was made of PVC pipe cut in half long ways. I would polo wrap the leg and then duct tape the pipe around both sides of her leg over the fetlock joint. I worried about leaving it on too long and a sore developing, so I only left it on for short periods at first. Finally, I would leave it on overnight. It seemed to get better and more stretched out from doing this. The wound was still healing very slowly, though. We wrapped it every day for 2 weeks and then tried every other day, thinking that we were irritating it too much. I finally decided to try a wound powder that I had heard about helping to heal these type of wounds. It seemed to be working, but then the flesh that had just closed around the exposed bone reopened. The bone was jagged looking and my heart saddened as Dr. Fornea came and picked out the broken pieces of dead bone. The piece was huge, and I wondered how she could even carry weight on the little piece of bone that was left. I actually decided to quit wrapping the right leg and try the splint on the left fetlock. I wanted to help support her weight and keep the leg straight while the bone was growing back. Now she was really getting around much better. She didn’t really seem to notice that Lori had taken a big chunk of bone out of her leg. It had probably been dead for awhile, and it just took some time for the body to kick it out. Once the bone was taken out, the wound started healing a little faster. We made a pact that when the flesh actually came together on the back of her fetlock that we would go out and celebrate. We would wash with Thieves soap and then tried lavender essential oil on the actual open wound. Celebrate we did after 2 months of wrapping it.
Wrapping continued for 5 months, every other day. It was tiring, and the progress was slow. Then, one day, Annabelle stepped on Promise’s hind leg, and I decided I was done with her being in the stall. I had been letting Annabelle out for extended periods of time already to graze, so Promise was really quit fine without her. She was still eating her Mare Match pellets along with Purina Junior feed. She could drink water fine out of the trough, so I decided it was time to make Annabelle’s turnout permanent. I kept Promise (and myself) on her Ningxia Red just through this weaning time, in case there was any stress. A little “Peace and Calming” oils for both of them, and we sailed through weaning like it was nothing at 3 months of age. One of my fondest memories is during this time. My husband was gone to a meeting one night, so I decided to take my movie watching to the barn to keep Promise company during her weaning. I propped myself up with a few flakes of hay. I had her head in my lap, so my laptop had to be placed on another stack of hay. I had headphones on so I didn’t even hear my husband sneaking up on us after 10 pm. He really thought I had lost my mind this time, seeing me drag my laptop to the barn just to keep a lonely foal company. I really did a lot crazier things then that for her!
Thanksgiving 2007 I unwrapped her leg for the last time. All of my family came to my house this year to celebrate. My uncle, Buddy, is a veterinarian. He wanted to have a look at this filly he had heard so much about. He strongly suggested I quit wrapping it. He believed the bandage was irritating the wound and keeping it from healing. Her immune system was fine by this point. I can’t tell you how ready I was for someone to tell me to quit wrapping it. I washed the leg for the last time with Thieves and then coated it with wound powder. Everyday I would not irritate the wound again, but wet it with a spray bottle of water and put more powder on the wound. After a few days when the wound started to peel, I would clean it with Thieves again and start over with layering the wound powder. Scar tissue started to form on the outside edges and began to cover the wound. It wasn’t pretty, but I was already convinced that the fetlock area would fuse and look fairly ugly. We took x-rays and found the bone wasn’t growing as fast as we had hoped. We used Balsam Idaho Fir oil to help support the body systems for bone growth and Panaway oil to support the anti-inflammatory systems, for the pain we knew she had to be enduring. After a few months, we x-rayed again to find that the bone had grown a lot, but not at the correct angle. It didn’t keep her from walking on it. Pain is nothing to this girl! The joint was fusing.
Her hooves were very tiny at this time. We believed that was mainly because she didn’t walk enough on them to encourage lots of blood flow and therefore more growth. I had a barefoot hoof trimming expert, Rachael Coggins, come out to help me determine the best way to help her, as my skills were very limited in this area. The trimmer took out more around the heel to open it up and give her more flexion in the foot. She encouraged me to have her walking more, and it really did help her feet to improve. Promise loved finally being able to be turned out with the old mares. It did my heart good to see her out grazing in front of the pond with other horses. It is the kind of a life, she never had. It was the kind of life I always wanted for her. However with all of the walking that she did, the angle of her fetlock/pastern started going sideways. Looking back, maybe I should have continued the Balsam Idaho Fir oil longer, as it seems the joint hadn’t quite fused yet
Everyone that has seen Promise thinks she is a pretty special little girl. Many people have been praying for her and for my decisions along this journey. As they come to see Promise in person, they are somewhat in awe of her gentle yet strong spirit. Now, though, she has truly become more like a spoiled princess. Promise was allowed free reign in the pasture area around the barn during the day. When we are down there trying to work with another horse, she was right in the middle of things trying to figure out what you are doing. If you’re trying to sit and watch someone else riding, she figured you can scratch on her while you’re not too busy. She has a great nose and can smell any trace of horse cookies you might have on you. She will push through you to get into the barn to snack on the hay, and she’ll stand at her stall door asking to go in to lay in the soft shavings. It is impossible to get mad at her. Maybe we spoil her too much, but she’s been through a lot, so we think she deserves a little pampering.
Promise’s story has finally come to an end. A happily ever after is now found as I pray she is running in heaven without the slightest stumble. As she almost reached the age of 2 years, her weight gain caused the joint in her other front leg to just give way. The pain had to be horrendous but she still gave me that low nicker as I came out to feed. She could barely walk, but slowly came over to get her meal. I gave her a big hug and kiss and called Lori to tell her it was time to let her go. The decision was easy this time. Several people came out to say goodbye to this wonderful spirit that they had prayed for so much. She seemed to relish in the attention again. When it came time for Lori to arrive, I let Promise out so she could lay in the soft grass. She walked a long way up to the barn and started getting into buckets, just like old times, making me laugh! She layed down on her own, and I sat and kissed her nose as she picked her head up to look back at me. Lori and I bawled our eyes out together. We should have known that it would take more than a regular amount of drugs to get that strong, stubborn heart to stop beating. She never did give up easy. I am glad I never gave up on her. I told her a have no regrets about all of the decisions I had made in her life, as I rubbed that soft, silky hair for the last time.
We all suffer a little pain every day in this world. Some of us hurt a little more than others. I try to remember God’s promises as I told myself I would at the beginning of this journey. My reminder limped by me for the last time still never complaining of her lot in life. I feel truly blessed to have been a part of her life.
Remember: it is written in Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”