Saturday, December 8, 2007

48 Hours Later: Argus Takes His First Bite of Grass

It's been a wild 48 hours. It's like having a sick baby.

Small victories. Argus has survived his first 48 hours here. He has overcome, to some degree, his terror of the stall. That's good, because a fierce north wind is not kind today. It's bone-chilling cold, and Argus will have nothing to do with a blanket.

I can touch him, if I move slowly. He remembers something from long ago.

Argus is eating with great enthusiasm now. He likes his clean water, too. Mostly, he likes Half Pint, the big black Percheron who is stabled next to him. We are having to keep Half Pint next to Argus all the time, or else Argus panics. Half Pint is wise, and kind. I pat him, and tell him thanks.

How do you rehabilitate a horse that has not moved in 10 years? The 12 x 36 paddock provides chances to trot, something this horse has not done in so long. His muscles are wasted, his tendons and ligaments ropy lines running down his legs. These structures are fragile under these circumstances: real freedom must wait.

He is at first fearful of touch, but relaxes when I rub him with my hands. He takes his first deep breath. It feels good to be touched again.

I find out that Argus is more halter broke than first thought. He is intelligent and tries hard to follow my lead. We venture outside the barn. It takes 20 minutes to move 50 feet, Argus sniffing and snorting and shaking, shaking, shaking.

He is about to explode, but he resists. Oh! To experience freedom again! To run, to buck, to play! But it must wait for another day, when Argus' body is ready for what his mind wants to do.

In the end, he explores, frightened but exhilerated. I show him green grass by shoving some in his mouth. Tentatively, Argus takes a bite.....remembering.

When it is all over, we head back to the barn. I am calm on the outside, but my adrenaline is flowing. I have just walked a horse who has not walked in a decade.

And once back in the paddock, Argus decides that maybe, after all, he will try out his new stall. The gray horse in several of the photos is our beloved Arabian, Deema. He stayed with Argus to keep him calm.

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