January 27, 2013

Willow Update

Willow comes home in a week!  I've been so busy trying to finish personal and work projects...  I almost feel like I'm nesting. :) 

It has been six days since any of us have witnessed Willow struggle to swallow or choke at all.  It doesn't mean she hasn't, but Martha feels so optimistic that we haven't seen it.  I must admit, so do I.  Maybe the EPM medicine is kicking in, and the choking is getting better because it was EPM related... we just don't know.  We do know that she never had EPM or swallowing issues when Nancy owned her, so somehow the choking developed over the last four years.  Of course now we know she has EPM, ulcers and of course the starvation & muscle wasting (from the EPM) too.

I don't think I've ever mentioned this before... maybe because it's too painful to even think of for me.  But once someone asked the farmhand at that awful dressage trainer's farm what they would do when Willow would choke... how they would handle it.  Their reply:  "We punch her in the throat."   I think part of my heart died when I heard that... and I feel sick thinking about it.  Sick. And so so sad.  It's a miracle Willow even lets us near her now when she is struggling...  amazing that she trusts us and lets us gently massage her throat and hug her and sing to her during these times.  Punch her throat?  That kills me... :(

Another thing we learned was that Willow was found in a tiny paddock far away from the herd that was left to fight and mate freely in the field.  It's probably a good thing that she didn't have to fight for the little food or water that she had.   We are thinking that is why Willow doesn't seem to bond with any of the other horses and seems to want none of them anywhere around her (or me).  For that reason, we have decided that in the interest of keeping her stress level at a minimum, we are going to keep Paloma and Charlie in a separate pasture / barn for now.  Willow will have her stall, dry lot and large pasture and can come and go freely.  And I think I might set up a table and in the stall next to hers which opens to her pasture.  I can bring my laptop and work out there sometimes in between feedings and hug time. And when I'm in the house I will still be able to see her from the windows or the balcony off of my office.  ♥  I just wish it were already spring.

I will be feeding Willow four times a day and administering medicine and/or supplements twice a day for now.  It's going to be a lot of work for me, but hey... I get to spend more time with my girl, and that's a good thing.

I pray that the EPM goes away as it should... and that the choking was somehow caused by it and goes away too.  That I can nourish her back to a weight good enough that I can start doing hill work with her to help build back all the muscle she has lost. And mostly, I pray that she will be happy and feel safe here.  I am scared and excited at the same time...   but I know in my heart that I can do this. ♥

January 20, 2013


I love Abigail.  She is such a sweetie... She loves to play peek-a-boo!

January 19, 2013


I get so happy in the car on the way to see Willow at Martha's farm. It's a beautiful drive through the countryside, and the anticipation always gives me butterflies. ♥

As I drove up, I knew right away that Willow was struggling. I could see her standing there in her pasture... just standing in the middle of the hay pile as her pasture mates grazed. Martha was at church, so I went straight out to Willow. She had thick, green liquid seeping from her mouth and nose. She was choking.

I ran back into the barn to find something to wipe Willow's face, and I ran into Tammy who boards her horse at the farm. Horse people never cease to amaze me... they always know when you need a hug.  I was visibly shaken and upset, and Tammy could see that. She hugged me and tried to reassure me, and then she gave me a clean white towel for Willow. I noticed the towel was new as she took it out of her wooden trunk, and I felt bad knowing it would surely be soiled. But there's this thing about horse lovers... they love horses. And Tammy, along with everyone else at this wonderful place, loves Willow. And she could have cared less about her clean white towel. I love horse people.

Back out in the pasture, I wiped Willow's sweet face and tried to gently massage her throat and guttural pouch the way Martha had taught me. And in between her struggles to swallow, I hugged her as I always do. But today I had a hard time hiding my sadness... and I turned into her mane and cried. I could feel that she was sad too.

When Martha returned from church, she came straight out to the pasture. It was so cold, and my feet were frozen by then. But we stood and talked for a long while. I told her that I had broken down with Tammy and that I was feeling so discouraged... and that I had cried. And I told her of what I was fearing. "Remember when I told you that horses think in pictures?" she asked.  Of course I did, and I admitted that I really didn't understand what that meant.  So she gave me an example.  She told about one of the horses at her farm... a lovely mare that was quiet and easy to ride.  Her owner, though, was very fearful and always anticipating something would spook her horse.  She was always on high alert when she rode... she would anticipate and imagine her horse to spook, and her horse would spook!  When others rode her, she never spooked.  But because this horse could feel what her rider was feeling and "see" what her rider was envisioning, she too rode on high alert and she spooked.

And it finally clicked for me...  I have to find a way not to imagine a sad fate for Willow.  I have to not let these fears creep into my mind... and especially not when I'm with her.  And moreover, I have to start imagining Willow healthy and healed... beautiful and whole.  So I did.  I closed my eyes and I imagined her grazing in a field of yellow flowers in the spring.... playing in the pasture and trotting gracefully with her head up high, like the queen she is.  And I imagined her eating and swallowing easily and effortlessly.   And I imagined riding her... I imagined that I was smiling and crying at the same time for our victory... because I know I will. Now, I know I will.

January 18, 2013

Weeping Willow...

                "Weeping Willow with tears running down, why do you always weep and frown?"     

It seems as though Willow has a choking/swallowing episode almost every time I see her now.  It's so hard not to get sad or be discouraged.  It's hard not to doubt.  And my faith fades.  Not my faith in God... but my faith that Willow will recover.  She is so much more sick than we thought originally.  We really thought by now that she'd be almost well enough for me to start riding her.  As it stands now, we aren't even going to think about that for a full year, and I really wonder if I will ever ride her as I dream to.  And I even start to wonder if she will live...  

Just typing that makes my heart hurt... makes me cry and panic.   And it makes me feel guilty for even thinking it.  Many have warned me that Willow might not make it... that I should cherish every moment with her, because she really might not live much longer.  Well, I do.  I love every moment with her regardless...  But it brings me back to my early twenties when my grandmother was sick.  I remember the last time I had lunch with her just before she died.  I knew she was sick, but had no idea she could actually die.  I was so shocked when my Dad called me crying, and I don't want to be dumbstruck like that ever again.  But will realizing I might lose her make the loss somehow more bearable? I am torn between being a skeptic and a dreamer and can't decide which is more safe. 

And if I decide to be a dreamer, because it's a happier place to be... can I stop those thoughts and fears from creeping in?  

I have witnessed great people in this world remain faithful and seemingly fearless in the face of tragedy and much loss.  And here I am, fearful even on good days... and I am so blessed.   I do realize that fear only causes suffering... more suffering.  And I know that God doesn't want this for us.  I want to be like those amazing, faithful people.  But I still struggle.  I want to be that dreamer...  I just need to find my way. 


January 15, 2013

Willow Video I (first six weeks)

My Friesian rescue horse, Willow. Neglected, abandoned, and struggling with choking issues and EPM... Willow is the most amazing, sweet, beautiful horse in the world. I love her with all my heart. The question remains, though, who will rescue who... ♥

I made this video of some video of Willow during our 1st few weeks together. The song is so perfect for us... I love the lyrics. (credit: Face of a Faith by Nellie McKay). The last couple scenes were from today... she was struggling and choking again. The video footage isn't great, but I wanted to document this special time with my sweet girl. And even though she is thin and lacking muscle... isn't she divine? She is so graceful and so dignified. Truly, she is a queen.

Willow & Me

I love her...

January 14, 2013

A Sad Day at Martha's Farm

I knew something was wrong before I even heard Martha's voice... I just felt it. "Shana, there isn't an easy way to tell you this..." she started... "Oh my gosh, Martha, what's wrong?"... panic and fear that something had happened to Willow. "Alice passed away during the night." Alice? Oh my gosh, poor Ada was my first thought. The big black Percheron sisters had been together since birth and were both in their late thirties. I wrote about them several posts ago because they were Willow's pasture mates at Martha's farm. Oh my gosh, poor Martha! She loves Alice and Ada... and they have been such an imporant part of Martha's farm since she helped rescue them in 1998. They had been plow horses on a large farm for years, but when the farmer passed away, they were pretty much left to fend for themselves and were found starving. There is a framed newspaper article in Martha's tackroom telling their whole story. I am learning that every horse has an incredible story... and sweet Alice's ended today.

Apparently she had fallen during the night. Martha said she found her lying flat in the morning... a hole in the wet ground where her hoof had tried so hard to pull herself up... frost on her wooly black fur. That part still breaks my heart.  The vet said that it was time, and they had to put her down. They buried her right there in the pasture. It only seemed right, Martha explained. Willow spent the entire day in one of the front pastures... She knew that it wouldn't be good for Willow  to be surrounded by such sadness, and we know that she has experienced more than her fair share of loss.

The photo above is Ada, who I know misses her dear sister...  I am thankful Willow has enjoyed these couple months with such kind souls.  Rest in peace, sweet Alice.  And extra hugs and carrots for you from now on, sweet Ada....

January 6, 2013

A sweet visit...

I had the best visit with Willow today.  She was sooo super sweet and even more affectionate than usual.  She is such an expressive horse.  Martha says she is very wise and a great communicator... and that if I am open to it, I will hear what she wants to tell me.

Today willow just wanted to be near me.  Before I could even get to her pasture gate, she looked up and started walking over to me.  When we met, she lowered her head for a scratch and then raised her head so I could hug her. There is nothing quite like a Willow hug.  I love her soft fur and the way she smells.  And she is so quiet and still as she rests her head on my shoulder.  I love that. ♥

It was a bit breezy while I was there, and at one point, Willow lowered her head way down to about my stomach level.  I'm always pushing her forlock out of her eyes, so when she lowered her head that low, I felt like she wanted me to braid it so it wouldn't constantly blow into her eyes.  So I did, and she seemed satisfied... and I think it made her look a little bit like a unicorn...  but beautiful nonetheless... :)

We spent a long while in the pasture together, walking side by side a bit, but mostly just standing close.  It was cold and her fur warmed my hands.  I scratched her neck and withers and just inside her ears (which she really loves).  And every so often, I stopped for a Willow hug.  I trust her more than I've trusted any other horse.  I know she won't do anything to scare me or hurt me...

When it was time for me to leave, I told her I had to go but would be back tomorrow.  But as I walked to the gate, she followed close behind.  "I'll be back, Willow" I kept explaining, but she kept following.  I actually had to move her back so I could open the big gate.  And once I closed it, she just stood there, with her head over the gate.... just looking at me.  She looked so sad, and I didn't want to leave her.  As much as I needed to get home, I just couldn't leave her like that.  So I walked to the gate and pleaded with her to go and graze and to be happy... and that I'd be back soon.  So I walked away again and had decided not to look back...  and then I heard her kicking and pawing at the gate!  She really is so smart. :)  Of course, I had to turn around and go back into her pasture... I guess she needed just a little more love. 

So as we visited out in her pasture again, one of the ponies started heading toward us.  She was probably just going to walk right past us to the water fountain for a drink, but when Willow saw her coming close, she did the same thing she did to the paint last week.... she charged!!!  She pinned her ears way back and charged!  Scared that poor pony half to death!  The pony ran off, and Willow trotted in a complete circle straight back to me.  She stopped just a couple inches from my face, and she looked at me at my eye level.  And there I was, face to face with my great protector... my sweet Willow.  And it was then that I finally realized that she really does love me... and that I am her person.  And I am honored...

January 4, 2013

Down by the stream...

Today when we visited Willow, she ventured off a little bit.... so we followed her down by the stream on Martha's farm.  It was full sun, but I'm glad I took this shot of her reflection because I noticed right away that if you rotate it 90 degrees to the right, it makes a heart shape!  Also, as others have noticed, in her reflection, it looks like she has an angel on her back. ♥

January 3, 2013

Photos from Willow's Past ♥

This week I was so lucky to receive two packages in the mail... one from Nancy (Willow's first owner), and one from her friend Laura who met Nancy when she bought Willow (Leona) at the Black Horse Valley Ranch one magical summer back in 1998.  Both Nancy and Laura had flown all the way to California to choose and purchase their first Friesians.  I've heard about that summer from both of them and imagine it to have been glorious and magical... so imagine my surprise when I opened both packages to find VHS tapes of the Keuring (Friesian show) from that trip!  I've heard that Nancy knew she wanted Willow (Leona) even before the show.  She was told that if she purchased her before the Keuring, she could have her for $25,000 but if she did as well as she was expected to at the Keuring that her price would double.  Nancy bought her, and at the Keuring the very next day, Leona was a star...  She earned her First Premium and was designated a "Ster" Friesian.  One of the handlers from Holland was so taken with her, that he tried to purchase her from Nancy on the spot.  Of course Nancy wouldn't part with her...  Here are some beautiful photos that Nancy was so sweet to send me, and I hope to get all four VHS tapes transfered to DVD so I can see my sweet girl shine... ♥

Isn't she amazing?  This is the first time I've seen Willow under saddle!  And I love her mane braided like this...  (Photo by Susan McAdoo)
Canter... Look at her!

And I can't believe this one!! This is Willow (Leona) with her filly!! This one, in particular, made me cry!! (Photo by Dana Adam)

These photos are so precious to me... I am forever grateful to Nancy, Laura, Dana, and Hayley for sharing photos from Willow's past with me.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart. ♥ 

January 1, 2013

Protect who you love...

Something surprising happened during my visit with Willow today...

When I opened the gate to her pasture, she came right to me and out into the courtyard with me. She loves to eat the grass there and usually stays quite close to me. Sometimes she is more into neck scratches, mane braids,and affection; and other times she is really into grazing. Today she was ravenous... she even wandered a little farther from me than normal.. more toward the geldings' pasture. Well when she comes near, those guys line up at the fence to admire her (she just ignores them of course). So I decided to walk down the fence line while petting each one. After a bit, they all wandered off except for the beautful paint named Jazz. He was so friendly... He was super curious about my camera and just wanted me to keep petting him. So I hung out with him for a bit because Willow was still happily grazing. Then all of a sudden, Willow looked up at me... then at him... then back at me... then she pinned her ears way back and charged over toward him! She had her neck turned, ears totally pinned, and nose pointed right to him as she ran along the fenceline toward him. She totally scared him away! I wondered what would have happened had there not been a fence there. Michael and one of Martha's boarders saw the whole thing... we thought she must have been jealous, but before I could even finish telling Martha the story, she asserted, "Awww!! She was protecting you, Shana!! She loves you!!"

Protecting me? Somehow that seemed like the sweetest thing I'd ever heard.  Just a few days ago I wondered if I needed to protect myself... from loving her too much and setting myself up for heartbreak. And now here she was protecting me. I love this horse. I love her so much. I feel like I've known her my whole life and that she knows my soul.  I couldn't protect my heart if I tried...  and somehow, knowing that I can't is freeing.  Because I can completely love her with all my heart.

There is no room for fear...  ♥