Saturday, August 29, 2009
Happy Argus, who now ambles through life, and his pasture, without a care in the world. It's a far cry from the long days stuck in a pen, where weaving and staring at things in the distance whiled away an endless sentence.
Sure, shadows of the Old Life are not far away. Argus, who has the mind of a four-year-old and the body of a 30-year-old (even though he's only 17) stands on knees so arthritic he cannot straighten them fully. Regular joint injections and 24/7 movement keep the pain at bay, but it's still hard to watch Argus lay down. He bends his knees as far as they will go (which isn't far enough!), and kind of shakes all over as he flops down, hard, on his side.
Occasionally, Argus experiences being "out" in his upper neck, where some upper cervical vertebrae form a logjam, an event so profoundly painful that he cannot lower his head, eat or drink or be touched, even to be haltered. It lasts for a day or two, me plying him with raised buckets and feed bags to no avail. The vet comes out and stands, worried. His best drugs seem no match for the ghost of Argus' past.
So occasionally, Argus sees the chiropractor. In this case, it's Dr. Suzanne Guyton, who cheerfully comes to the farm every 8 weeks or so to work on the horses (and one dog). I met Dr. Guyton six years ago, and have been amazed by her work ever since.
When she first met Argus, her face was troubled as she examined him. I was not disillusioned about her ability to help him. After all, he'd lived in a pen since he was a weanling, living on stale french bread and passing the years of his growth and development without enough movement to accomplish these things normally.
His entire pelvis and sacrum were a mess, so badly fixated and jammed that not one joint in the structure functioned normally. Dr. Guyton was amazed he could walk at all. His back nearly as bad, and his neck....she let out a gasp, and looked at me sadly. "Well," she said quietly, looking at me as if she were telling me I had only weeks to live, "we'll do whatever we can."
A few days ago, Dr. Guyton worked on Argus. As usual, his neck was a mess, the first three vertebrae, including the giant C-1 (aka, "the Atlas") all rotated and jammed against each other, functioning not as several distinct joints but one. Dr. Guyton freed them up, then asked me to do daily "carrot stretches" with Argus. He nodded his head in agreement!
When Dr. Guyton worked on Argus' hind end, she beamed at me with joy! After a few quick adjustments, she proudly pronounced his sacrum to be in fully-functioning condition, the joints moving nicely and in a healthy way. This horse, whom we never thought could be normal behind, was now normal behind! Hooray for Argus!
Argus loves seeing the chiropractor or the farrier, because he knows he will be plied with a soothing bucket of alfalfa-molasses. Afterward, he strolled calmly back out to pasture, where Ridge, Half Pint, and Odie waited eagerly for him.
At the water tub, Ridge and Argus compared their reports cards from the chiropractor, Ridge characteristically boasting to Argus about his A+ verus Argus' B. Ridge is like Argus' big brother, bossy at times but very protective of him. During Ridge's entire 9 month period of confinement for his pelvic fracture, he saw the chiropractor and bodyworker on a monthly basis. It paid off, keeping the rest of his body functioning as well as possible while his bone healed. Now Ridge and I are embarking on a 30 day groundwork period; by October, I hope to sit on him for the first time in more than a year. He is doing well --- and 23 years old! (That's Argus on the left).
Just a day or so ago, I was up early. Argus stood alone out in the front pasture, and as happens so often these days, I was thinking about how beautiful he is as he stopped to stare at something in the vineyard
It lasted only a moment, as Argus rarely finds the need to stare off into the distance for very long these days. Soon, his head drifted back to earth as Argus marched off in search of another tasty blade of grass.
Posted by Katie at 9:41 AM
Saturday, August 15, 2009
"No pressure," starts one e-mail, "but it's been a long time, and we'd really like to know what is happening with Argus."
So begins one of the many e-mails that have started coming in of late, making me feel sheepish and guilty. Busy with family, work and life, with little energy for creativity, I have been hiding from myself, bled dry by a strange run of bad luck at Watermark Farm.
The gray cloud that began with the death of our sweet old horse, Deema, and continued with Argus' illness and a string of troublesome events at Watermark Farm, ended one day in July, as strangely and suddenly as it began. I stepped on a board long lurking in some tall weeds, its principal thorn a three inch nail that plunged through my shoe, shock and foot. Screaming in pain and sobbing for my mother (in the end, only the bashful but sweet house painters working nearby would do), I thought, with an odd kind of relief: "It's over! My run of bad luck is over!"
And it was. It is.
What I've realized lately is that not only does the world need good news in the form of stories about Argus and his friends, but I need that good news, too. I've missed reading about Argus, too.
It's ironic that, in the midst of all my troubles, Argus, who has needed so much for so long, remained steadfast, a brave little white knight living quietly out in pasture, when everything else around me seemed to be coming unglued.
The whole gang is back together again --- Argus, Half Pint the Percheron, Odie the Mule and (Yes!) Ridge of the Broken Pelvis. The book-ends are together once again, Ridge having healed enough to be transitioned back into turnout (You can insert Ridge's emphatic "Hallelujah!" here) over the course of the summer. Argus was thrilled to be back with his soul-mate. It's harder than ever to tell the two apart when they are grazing far away out in pasture. This year, however, Argus' tail is LONGER than Ridge's. In fact, he's got the most amazing, thick, wavy, wonderful tail of any horse on the ranch.
Last night my daughter, Demi, came in from feeding. "Mom," she said proudly, "Argus has become a real love bug. He actually wanted to come in to a paddock tonight, and he wanted me to pet him!" She gave me a big, wide grin while we discussed plans for a weekend "Beauty Treatment" for Argus (a fancy way of saying we will groom him, bang his tail, and trim his mane and whiskers).
Sometimes it's hard for me to believe that, after all this time (It's been nearly 21 months since Argus escaped from prison), this sweet old soul is still making progress. They are little things, new things, that no one would think twice about, like Argus 'asking' to come into a paddock for a few hours in the evening, or trotting across an entire pasture just to greet me at the fence. He's not a demonstrative horse, or a "pocket pony" in any way. He's just Argus, quiet, somewhat aloof, but tender and deep.
Argus loves our horse trailer, and associates it with excitement: the arrival or departure of a horse, mostly Odie, as he travels to and from Pony Club meetings, lessons and horse shows. Our driveway runs along one side of the pasture, and every time I come home, horse trailer in tow, Argus is there, head raised, body quivering with a nervous pleasure, leading the procession of equine greeters that stand along the pasture fence. He gives a shrill call, "Helloooo!" and then is the first to gallop back to the barn, where he will greet his long-lost (or so he thinks) pasture-mate with glee.
Odie has been coming and going a lot this summer, his horse show schedule keeping him busier than ever. He and Demi did well at the county fair this year, coming home with reserve high point and a ticket to the State Fair "Best of Show" horse show at Cal Expo in Sacramento. (They will compete in the English Equitation division there on September 3rd) They also competed in the "Fun in the Sun" Pony Club rally in Elk Grove, near Sacramento, braving 110-degree heat and coming away with Demi's highest Training Level, Test 1 score ever, 66% (pretty good for a mule who doesn't really go on the bit).
If you've stayed awake long enough to make it through the photos of my kid and her mule, then I've got a wonderful surprise for you! I am pleased to introduce the NEW Sonoma CHANGE Program blog. The CHANGE Program is the organization that helped Animal Control take Argus and Bobby out of their lifelong prison. It was a fledgling non-profit in 2007, and Argus was their first official foster horse. Since then, I've become a volunteer and supporter of their efforts.
I hope you'll enjoy this new weekly blog, edited by yours truly! (And check back here for more updates on Argus and friends. We're back on a weekly basis)
~Katie, Argus and the entire gang at Watermark Farm
Posted by Katie at 10:33 AM