Stall Rest Blues
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a young horse with a leg injury, stuck inside for over a month because the veterinarian said so? No? Well, you may not have day-dreamed about this but unfortunately these days we are all living like Pepper, stuck inside waiting for the GO AHEAD so he can go back to normalcy. For Pepper, this trend started just before ours did in February and he is just now getting his first taste of the spring grass and getting some quality sunbathing in the last couple weeks.
When I first saw Pepper, he was standing tied to a fence along with several other horses. He stood completely still and acted docile while my coworkers and myself rubbed our hands all over him to feel for any abnormalities. I had recognized #139 from a photo posted on the Auction’s facebook page of upcoming featured equine that would be at the auction. His dappled grey coat was striking to me, and I was certain that because of his coloring that he would be bid on quickly.
His name was Tommy, and he was labeled merely as “6 yr Grey Large Pony Gelding: Has had all the ground work done. Cute prospect to ride or drive!” I marked him in my notebook as having potential (after all- how much work/fun would it really be to train our own pony?!).
When bidding time came around, we had so far only bid/won on our future beloved donkey, Spicy. We had anticipated getting 2 more equines that day, and my sights were set.
Surprisingly enough, no one was bidding on “Tommy”. My boss promptly offered a bid, and before I could understand what the spokesperson was saying, he was ours!
Tommy quickly became Pepper, and once his initial quarantine was through, we were quickly shocked at the lack of basic training Pepper had learned thus far as a 6yr old. Because of this, we knew immediately that we had a relatively clean slate to begin building the framework of a future well-trained pony.
His personality began coming out, and he quite literally acted like a 6 year old human would. Pepper was all about being in your space! He constantly nudged us, as if to ask ”what are we doing now?! Is it my turn??”. His playfulness and eagerness to be around humans was very delightful and refreshing, because as a rescue I fully anticipated that all animals coming to us without background information could be very adverse to humans because of prior abuse.
Fortunately, Pepper learned to trust us very quickly, and once we figured out how to communicate with him efficiently, through body language, we were able to keep his willful and spunky personality, while also retaining the training we were consistently applying.
Unfortunately for everyone, Pepper began walking with a limp- and has since been on stall rest. As we are seeing across the board with humans of all ages, it is extremely hard to stay home and stay positive. For Pepper, the added variable of not understanding why he has to stay inside can be very confusing and upsetting.
Fortunately for everyone, there is a silver lining. First and foremost, this is not permanent. Pepper will eventually be able to go back to his normal life of following around his best friend, Nevada and playing with the others.
In the meantime, Pepper now gets to hang out with our 3 goats during the daytime, where they quite literally socialize with him, play with him and keep him entertained until his friends come back inside for the night.
The goats have truly been a saving grace for Pepper. They have quickly become his own personal therapy animals, keeping him calm while he is anxiously watching his friends get to go outside and run around. Not only can he watch the goats, but they nuzzle one another, and the goats seem to love him as much as he loves them.
His other saving grace depends on him as much as he depends on her. Nevada is our senior resident at WRAS, and has an unfortunate trend of being emotional and going on hunger strikes. In the 6+ months that Pepper and Nevada have known one another, Nevada has gone from being underweight to finally being and maintaining a healthy weight! Pepper’s playful and persistent personality matched perfectly with our equally sassy, but sensitive mare Nevada, who had yet to click with another horse since her other companion Orion had been adopted. The two of them have stalls right next to each other, and like clockwork at feeding time everyday, they bicker back and forth about Nevada having more food than Pepper and he begs her to share.
While Pepper is still on stall rest to allow his body to continue healing, he has amazingly remained full of life, pep, and enthusiasm! Pepper’s curiosity has stayed the same, which allows us as caretakers to come up with games and toys for him to stimulate his mind and keep his focus away from being bored! In the beginning stages of Pepper’s stall rest, some of our caretakers designed toys from basic things that they found around our barn like an old coffee container. They poked holes in the can and put treats in it so Pepper could spend some time distracted yet entertained as he pushed the container around and eventually figured out how to get the treats!
One of our favorite tricks that Pepper is learning is how to use his busy mouth to smile on cue! Since Pepper already expresses his happiness and affection with his mouth, our caretakers realized it was a great idea to utilize this to get him to show off his beautiful smile when asked!
While Pepper’s stall rest isn’t permanent and the end is in sight, he has made us all incredibly proud and has exceeded all our expectations in staying high spirited and patient during this time. He’s remained the class clown, and has even picked up a new game of itching every horse’s rear end as they stand in the aisle to be groomed!
Thankfully, at his last vet check, he was cleared to start handwalking, so the end of his stall rest is in sight for Pepper! As long as he continues to heal, he should hopefully be back to full work in another 5 months or so!
At WRAS, we understand that being on stall rest isn’t ideal for any human or animal and quarantine has helped us sympathize with Pepper more than we could have imagined! Hopefully, we will all be back outside with our friends soon!