Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Amazing Cody Horse

While I have been finishing up Love & Hate (Book Two: Love) I have had a chance to reflect on how blessed I am to own three amazing horses and especially my oldest horse Cody Joe. In the second book I explain more about the deep relationship Paige and her horse The Biz share. Much of that is based off of the things the Codster and I have been through.

The story of Cody and I starts with when my parents bought him for my sister, Jamie, twenty-one years ago. We didn't know it at the time but Codes was about to be traded for a miniature donkey and another horse. J had spotted him in the field and told my parents he was the one and she had to have him. Now, if you know my sister, you know there is no talking her out of anything so I knew he was coming home with us. Jamie, however outgrew Cody's 15 hands very quickly and he then became my horse. Cody and I have won some great titles together over the years. It hasn't always been easy, heck it has never been easy. Cody is the type of horse that made me work my butt off for every ride. He is total joker and I think I had more rides that ended with me on the ground than on his back. But at some point we clicked and became a dang tough team to beat. And maybe even more important we became best friends. Codes has watched me grow up. He was there for me during my awkward years as a preteen and teen, always taking my mind of the dramas of teenage life. He then begrudgingly noticed my absence while I was away at college and law school, always attempting to buck me off at least once while I was home on break. And then when I moved home from Oklahoma he seemed to welcome me home with his signature naughty tricks, like running away from me in the field or pulling me over while lunging him. But as mad as he could make me I was secretly happy to see my now 27 year old horse acting spry. I guess that's why I was totally shocked when he was seriously injured.

On August 23, 2013 Cody sustained a traumatic injury to his left hind leg. More specifically he suffered a complete rupture of his extensor tendon at the fetlock joint. It was a Wednesday morning and it was incredibly hot for an August day in the Pacific Northwest. I had headed to the barn before work. When I came into the barn that day it was quiet and the horses were calmly eating their breakfast. I opened Cody's stall and noticed he wasn't eating. I was worried he was too hot so I put on his halter to take him out to run cold water over him. As I lead him out of his stall Cody fell over in the aisle way. To say it was scary is a complete understatement, it was gut wrenching. I tried my best not to panic but no one was around in the barn. I thought Cody would stay down after he fell but he didn't, he hopped right up. I didn't move him right away, worried he would fall, but he was sideways in the aisle way and I needed to get to my phone to call someone. I made the tough choice to try to get him back to his stall. Cody almost made it but stumbled and fell going into his stall. But the crazy part is he again hopped right back up after his fall. Once he was on his feet again I ran like hell to get my phone from my truck. I tried to get service but of course I couldn't get any at first. When I finally did I called my vet, my Sister, my parents, and my trainer. Once the Calvary had been notified I had to wait. The vet had informed me it was gong to be over an hour before they got to me. I grabbed a folding chair and I went back to sit with my best friend of twenty years.

As I sat in that chair I of course went over the worst case scenarios. I immediately thought he had broke or fractured the leg. It was clear it was serious because he would drag it every so many steps. It was pretty clear to me I was going to be saying goodbye to my best friend, teacher and teammate of twenty years. I wasn't prepared for that. The initial shock and adrenaline was wearing off, the emotions were now setting in. I remember sitting in that beat-up folding chair and just crying in the corner of his stall. Cody quietly watched me bending his nose down to my lap letting me pet him softly. I could tell he was upset, but in typical Cody style he was more concerned about me. As I petted my dear friend I was torn, part of me wanted the vet to hurry up and yet the other part of me didn't because I knew I was going to have to say goodbye.

My Sister got there first. She found me in his stall crying. She immediately told me to pull-it together. Jamie has always been the stronger sister. She went over every inch of Cody examining the leg closely and was convinced it wasn't broken. How she came up with that I have no idea, but she was right. The vet confirmed it wasn't broken by X-Ray once she arrived. But Cody wasn't out of the woods yet. Our vet was just as perplexed as we were at how sporadic his foot drag was and at his falling over. She told us our best bet was to haul him to a equine vet clinic in Seattle. We immediately began preparing to transport him when we realized we would be in serious trouble if he fell over in the horse trailer. This meant we needed to have a video monitor in the trailer so we could make sure he was stable.

Jamie and I made a couple of calls to friends and in a matter of minutes everything came together. Our friends rallied together and by the time Jamie and I got to the farm we had a trailer, truck and a live video monitor hooked up so we could watch Cody in the trailer. Even today words can't describe how thankful and touched we are at their efforts.

One of those friends I have known most of my life.  We grew up riding and showing horses together. I was there the day she won the Quarter Horse World Championships and she was there the day my sister and I brought Cody home twenty years before. We have shared almost two decades of friendship and horses together. I couldn't think of anyone else I would want with me as I prepared to get the worst news a horse owner could possibly get. I also knew that if we had to put Cody down and we couldn't be in there she would step-in for us.

When we got Cody to the clinic it was dark out. As we pulled the trailer into the back of the clinic we were met by several vets and vet techs. I immediately felt relief. I knew that even if Cody couldn't be saved he was going to get the best care possible. As Cody came off the trailer I was surprised he didn't fall. We had wrapped his leg tightly with a support bandage before we left and it seemed to help him. The vets had my sister walk Cody around for several minutes and he walked fine. We were all baffled. Then the vets had us unwrap him and walk him around. Cody took three good steps then stumbled and started dragging the back leg again. The vets begin quickly examining Cody's leg and talking amongst themselves. My nervousness returned. I waited for them to tell us it is time to put him down, that he can't be saved. I had already made up my mind in the truck that I couldn't be there for that. I wasn't sure if my Sister could be in there either.

The head vet came over to my sister and I. I tried to not freak out too much. She looked at us and said "I think it's his extensor tendon. It's probably a rupture." I looked at her and said "Can we save him?" She looked at me a bit stunned and said "Of course. We will wrap it up in a soft cast for a month then a tight bandage for several months but he should completely heal." My mind was blown. I couldn't believe what she was saying. I was totally convinced I was going to be returning home without my beloved Cody horse. To me this was nothing short of a miracle.

We had to leave Cody at the vet clinic for a few days while the monitored him and fitted him for a soft cast. When we went to pick him up the vets and staff couldn't wait to tell us how great he had done. They were in awe at his instinct to lay down several times during the day and night to rest his leg. They also were amazed at his skill when he would get up. Cody would hold his injured back leg way behind him and pop up on three legs. It was pretty impressive for any horse but for a old horse it was down-right crazy. The vets sent us home with a complicated and strict instructions for the Codster.

Once we got him home he was on stall rest indefinitely. We had to change the cast every three or four days for a month. On the 31st day of having his cast on Cody broke the thick PVC pipe backing clean off. Apparently he was ready to graduate to the bandage. Wrapping the bandage was hard. It would take Jamie and I almost an hour to change it and many times Cody was unstable on his own legs. It would take three people or more to get it done. But over the months we slowly saw improvements. I'm sure some people think it was crazy to do a yearl long rehab with a 27 year old horse. I have had some even say that to my face but my response is always the same... "this horse has given me two decades of his life, if I can't give him twelve months what kind of asshole am I?" That usually shuts them up.

In the end Jamie and I changed a total of 85 bandages. Cody was on stall rest a grand total of 6 months. He suffered two leg infections and had to have two rounds of antibiotics. But in February we turned a corner and we were able to begin hand walking. In March he was able to go out on his own in a small flat pen. In May he was finally able to have the bandage completely removed and graduate to half of a paddock. And just this week, for the first time in a year, he got to have his entire paddock. He also has been able to be ponied from my other horses while I ride them. Cody loves trotting beside Tucker or Lad, but hates his new routine of being tied in the corner first. You would think the horse is not even broke he whinny's and calls to his best bud Lad the entire time. But probably the most incredible thing to all of us has been that he is completely sound on his hind leg. Seeing him trot around with Tucker and Lad has now made all those months of struggle worth it. It makes my heart full to see him being playful and silly again.

Cody is now another year older and I know that one day I will have to say goodbye to my best friend, companion, teacher and teammate but I'm just glad that day was not last year. I'm thankful that I have had another year to spend with him. He has enriched my life more than I probably even know. I am truly blessed to own him.

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