He was advertised in the paper as a quarter horse gelding for sale because the owner had no time for him. I called the owner and it sounded promising. His name was Jazz, and he was a racehorse from off the track, brought to Alaska about a year earlier. The price was right and we needed a second horse. A time was set to see him that afternoon.
When I arrived at the horse's home, I was taken around back to a small, well chewed corral where the horse was kept. What assailed my eyes and nose was a filthy, mud and manure soaked mess with a dirty, blanketed bay horse standing in the middle of it. He pricked his ears at our approach and hobbled forward. One front leg was bandaged to above the knee with a pus like material oozing between the layers. One hind leg was grotesquely swollen and dragged behind him. The corral smelled as if something had crawled in and died a long time ago.
I took him out of the corral, hosed down the hind leg to get a good look at the massive injuries it had sustained. The young woman told me he had been staked out to a tree while she had gone into town. When she got back, hours later, he was tangled severely and pinned to the ground. There were rope burns all over his legs and the halter had cut into his nose. A veterinarian had applied a bandage on the front leg to protect a full skin thickness rope burn, but the bandage had been left on for a week without changing, thereby promoting infection. The swollen hind leg had a bad rope burn across the tendon just below the hock with double rope burns around the pastern joint. His feet were covered with stress rings and deformed from injuries and malnutrition. As I surveyed this sorry sight I heard the comment that "the stupid horse keeps tangling himself up." My blood was at a slow boil as I reluctantly put the horse up. I informed the woman that the horse was in dire need of veterinary assistance and I would like to have my own vet see the gelding; also, with the condition he was in, he was not worth the $800 she was asking for him.
The next morning I arrived at her home before my vet, and pulled the horse out of the corral again. I asked for a bucket of hot water and a rag to clean the hind leg off. When I pulled off his filthy canvas blanket, I saw even more than I feared. I could see just about every bone on his body, and his skin was crusted with mud, urine and manure. Using a body brush I had brought from home, I started grooming away the worst of areas and, found dead, crusty skin and hair coming off in clumps. The owner produced a toilet brush and added her assistance. She started rationalizing his condition by saying they didn't use him, so he received no grain, he "didn't need it". The hay I saw was marginal local, so I knew he hadn't been meeting his basic caloric or nutritional needs.
I was overjoyed to see my vet pull down the drive and get out of his car. He came over to us shaking his head and giving me the "what have you gotten yourself into?" look. We got right down to business by taking off the front bandage. A foul, odorous, full thickness rope burn on the inside of his knee was hiding under it, but we were able to clean it up, medicate and rebandage it.
He shaved the hind leg and checked it for infection, and luck was with us. The huge swelling of the limb appeared to be edema from the injuries, not infection. After medicating the hind leg, he checked the geldings teeth and had me walk him to the end of the driveway and back. The horse gamely gave it his all, but it was obvious that even such a small exertion exhausted him. Now came the bad news as my vet summed up his opinion. He gave the horse a 50% chance of coming back sound, but only with some intensive nursing. He informed the owner that the horse was at least 300 pounds underweight as well. The gelding would need a bandage change at least every third day, soaking the hind leg 2 to 3 times a day, medicating it each time, providing a clean and dry environment, and slowly starting him an a high nutrition diet with antibiotics. He would reevaluate him in 10 days and would be better able to tell his fate then.
This news appeared to upset the owner and she started saying that she could not possibly do all these things, and that she didn't even like horses. They were her husband's project and he was away from home a lot. I wanted to see the horse out of that environment, but I did not have my own barn finished yet. I told her I would find a place for the horse for the next 10 days, but she would have to pay all the bills. After the next vet exam, I would decide whether to take the risk to keep him, but I would not give them any money for a horse that might have to be euthanized.
A friend arrived with her trailer and we went through a slow and painful loading, then headed down the road toward a new beginning.
By popular request, here is Part 2 of Jazz's story.
Jazz eleven months later at a schooling show.
Riding him is Janet, who helped me save him.
Jazz and Roger on in their first
NATRC 40 mile Competitive Pleasure ride.
The year before, Jazz won a 20 mile
Novice Sweepstakes with Jean