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Copyright 2008 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

The Horse Shot  

By A. Holmes, Palmer, Alaska

 

March 2008 Issue

 

     An old adage advises, “Fire, water and government know nothing of mercy.”

     Fortunately, mothers do; and I had the chance to bestow grace on one of my many beloved offspring one sultry July afternoon many, many years ago.

     Summer in Oregon ’s Rogue River Valley is a wondrous, balmy time of year. The manzanita trees are loaded with berries, and the scrub oaks provide just enough shade to make windless days bearable. In 1981, we had a little seven-acre farm there that kept me busy with two- and four-legged critters.

     My 100-year-old farmhouse required a never-ending assortment of remodeling projects. But, it also sported lovingly worn pine floors, a rainbow-flecked stained-glass front door, and bats in the attic. I loved every inch of it.

     The barn was only slightly younger than the house, a rambling relic from a bygone era when the farm serviced 50 acres of dryland oat hay production; it still housed five box stalls generous enough for draft horses.

     Probably suffering from heat exhaustion (or lack of chocolate), one July day I purchased a chestnut Arabian mare for my six-year-old daughter. The horse was delivered on a gloriously sunny Thursday morning. By Friday she was stumbling around the field with a raging fever.

     This presented me with the opportunity to learn how to give horse shots. And, to further learn—the hard way, I might add—that the cute little hole in the end of the animal thermometer was NOT used to hang it from a finish nail in the tack room.

     I moved the mare into the most spacious of the box stalls in the old barn. There, I ministered to her, making sure she had fresh water, plenty of feed, and antibiotics; the latter administered by horse shot.

     Giving the shot was the easiest part of the process. (Even though I was an amateur, poor Tam was so sick that she never budged). The barn was a good 1,200 feet from the house. All uphill. I would sterilize the horse-sized needle for the intramuscular shot—which meant that it was a looonnng one—and fill the syringe; hike up to the barn, opening and closing multiple gates along the way; and administer the shot. Twice a day.

 

      I had been serving as Dr. Mom for three days when my 8-year-old son, Nathan, decided to observe the procedure. He carefully watched the preparation process, and kindly opened and latched gates for me as we ambled up to the barn, while I held the syringe like a priceless Fabergč egg.

     At last we were standing beside the mare, her head hanging disconsolately in knee-deep straw. Nate was at my elbow, enthralled by the entire proceedings. With his eyes watching my every move, I aimed the syringe at Tam’s nether regions, and dropped it!

     It’s amazing how many thoughts can go through one’s mind in a nanosecond… including remembering why I’d dropped out of ballet at four years of age (an inability to plię which had obviously translated into an inability in adulthood to deliver a shot from a scant six inches away from the target); to a determination that I was not going to go all the way back to the house, re-sterilize the needle, trek all the way back to the barn while wending my way through that wretched maze of gates, and be an hour late making dinner.

     So, naturally, I stretched out my other hand, palm up, to stop the dropping syringe. The plan worked. Partially. The syringe stopped; the needle proceeded through my hand, coming out the under side. I gasped, Nate stopped breathing. The horse didn’t care.

     I backed the needle out of my hand. A magnificent plume of blood followed, creating a six-inch fountain of Manzanita-berry-red gore. A year later it died down to a random drip.

     Looking up at me with unmitigated adoration, Nate said, “That was so cool, Mom. Do it again.”

     I let him live.

 

     Considering that he and my terrific daughter-in-law have, over the years, presented me with three fabulous grandchildren, I’m glad I did.

     However, I now watch the veterinarian deliver horse shots. One was enough.

Copyright 2008 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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