We unloaded the gelding at my friend's house, put a clean blanket on him, and put him in a stall with generous amount of grass hay and water. That evening, he received his first small helping of grain and alfalfa, which perked his interest considerably. I'm sure it was ambrosia to his taste buds. The next week went by quickly for us all, as we took care of his various wounds and bandages. Luckily, we were in the midst of a beautiful indian summer, so the gelding was turned out in the arena during the day to exercise and bask in the sun. It was several days, however, before he felt strong enough to lay down and sleep. Although he needed the rest, he was reluctant to go down as he might not be able to get back up, a horse's worst nightmare. It was so heart lifting to see him finally stretch out in the sunshine, and sleep. When he was able to get up and down, we started walking to the end of the short road and back. This was a major effort for him, and usually exhasted him.
Everything was going slowly, but well, when I got a call from the owner, who had talked to her husband that day and informed him of the gelding's condition. I was told that he was threatening to shoot the animal, to be done with the trouble. This got us all worked up, including my vet, who thought Jazz to be too fine a quality animal not to be given a chance. I convinced the owner that the horse's fate should not be decided until his 10 day exam, and to save him some money, I would take the horse to my place for the next 3 days.
The day of the gelding's follow up exam was a tense one for my husband and me. I had called the owner and told him to bring the horse's paperwork with him to the vet. If he passed the exam, I would cut the deal for him right then and there. By this time, the gelding was feeling much better, walking with a barely noticable limp and more energy. His expression had brightened and his very kind eye showed a renewed interest in the world.
After arriving at the vet clinic, my vet noted that the horse had made some positive improvement, but he was still concerned about the hind leg. He decided to x-ray it, and we discovered a dislocated splint bone. After discussing treatment options, we decided it should be left alone to heal as it wasn't severe enough to warrant surgery. The horse was given about a 60% chance of coming back sound enough for riding. At this point the owner stated he had been laid off, and maybe would keep the horse and nurse him back, since he now had the time. I knew I couldn't allow the horse to go back to that home; he had worked his magic on me with his sweet disposition and willing temperament, and I had fallen in love with him. I flat out told the owner that Jazz wasn't worth much and I would be taking a risk buying him. My vet subtly encouraged the deal and a transaction was made right in the vet clinic; one registered Quarter Horse in exchange for $300 and the cost of this vet visit. I had just risked not only my money, but a possible broken heart if things did not go well.
After taking my horse home, I decided to do some detective work on his background. His registration papers showed some very impressive bloodlines, including 4 lines to the legendary Three Bars through Rapid Bar, Rocket Bar, Sugar Bars and Mr Bar None. This accounted for his registered name, Barred Jazz. I contacted the person who had owned him before he came to Alaska, and was told Jazz had spent 2 years on the track and was the first horse trained by his son. He said Jazz had an excellent disposition even then, and was very distraught at the fate Jazz had endured after leaving his hands.
We became more determind than ever to see Jazz through his injuries and make him into a useful riding horse. After 2 weeks, his diet was up to 4 pounds of grain and alfalfa, 2 cups of corn oil, and lots of grass hay. His daily medical regime consisted of hot soaks and DMSO on his hind leg, debriding the massive rope burns and treating all rope burns with Silvadene creme to encourge healthy new tissue. As it was now October, it was becoming a problem to soak his hind leg, but I couldn't give it up as it was vital to help with his healing. Being a creative person, I soon came up with the idea of using a damp towel and heating pad wrapped around the leg, with a surcingle to hold the cords out of the way. Good, even heat, with no more spilled buckets when Jazz got bored.
After 2 months, the change in Jazz was remarkable. He had put on about 150 pounds, and was sound enough for short rides. He was still weak, and tired easily, but he enjoyed his outings so much he would run up to me in the pasture, and shove his head into the halter as if saying *hurry up, let's go!* At this stage in his recovery, he decided to shed out all the old dry malnurished hair and start over on a winter coat. With the onslaught of cold weather, this necessitated the wearing of a good holofil blanket for the rest of the winter. We also decided to put shoes back on him, having let him go barefoot during during his initial convalescent period. His feet were a mess, reflecting the starvation and injuries he had endured. They were covered with stress rings, and the hind feet were both contracted and deformed. Shoeing was stressful, as Jazz had a hard time flexing his hind legs for the farrier.
4 months flew by, and Jazz was up to a full ration of 16 pounds of alfalfa, 8 pounds of grain with 2 cups of oil, along with the grass hay. He was filling out and his beauty beginning to shine through the scraggly haircoat. He would now run around the corral doing sliding stops and roll backs at the fence. It was time for another vet exam. We crossed our fingers as we waited for the verdict from the doc, and witha grin, he pronounced Jazz sound and ready for a training and conditioning program. We started by putting more under saddle trail miles on him to encourage the ligaments in his hind legs to stretch and to build back strength he had lost when his body had eaten up muscle to stay alive. By the time May rolled around, Jazz was well started in his conditioning program and his retraining from race horse to pleasure horse. On memorial day he got his first bath since we saved him. It was hard to believe that the walking scarecrow I had first found had evolved into the gorgeous animal now strutting before me. Jazz is my once in a lifetime horse, I still can't believe how lucky we were to find each other.
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