A look from a kind horse
A kind horse gets a certain look on its face when it needs your help. It’s this look that makes my job amazing. I’ve known the look for as long as I can remember, but not until recently did I realize the effect it has on me.
The horse’s name was Quick. I had known her for years and kept her going through some rough times. A few years back she’d nearly died during a colic surgery and experienced some painful complications during the recovery period. But she pulled through. At this point in her life, with arthritis in several major joints, Quick was definitely slowing down—even for a 25-year-old.
Laminitis had taken her now—the bad kind. The bone had sunk in the hoof capsule and the prognosis was grave at best. The owner wanted to do whatever was necessary, but some things just can’t be fixed.
This disease is painful. Imagine if all of your fingernails were slammed in a door and turning red, then black—now imagine if you had to stand with those fingers holding your weight all day long. It is agonizing, and watching a horse go through it sickens me.
It was a cool evening, the day nearly over. We had prepared a special stall for Quick and made her as comfortable as possible with such a terrible condition. I was about to go home and decided I would make one last trip by her stall before I left.
As I stood looking through the open gate I was blessed to see the look. It’s a soft, accepting glance, followed by a neck stretch that welcomes my hand and yearns for relief and security. It’s an innocent creature’s humble request for help when no other avenue is possible. It is trust. It is a look that says she knows I will be kind to her and fix the things she can’t change.
This look smooths the tired wrinkles in the corners of the eyes and reflects a little hope that the doctor has arrived and now things are gonna get better. The ears fall a little away from the midline and perhaps even sag toward the cheeks a bit. The top lip tightens slightly and softly moves from side to side like a soft welcome is being whispered.
This look on a kind horse’s face makes what I do remarkable. If you have horses yourself, I’m sure you know the expressions they reflect and the moods they go through. I’m sure even the gruffest old cowboy holds a tender place in his heart for those looks from his horses.
Sometimes the best sentiments in life are reflected simply in an expression. Horses and people share a bond that is filled with conversation yet never a spoken word.
There are many wonderful things about being an animal doctor. Success is often measured by good surgical outcomes or medical manipulations that lead to recovery, but to me, getting a “thank you” spoken ever so softly in horse language is perhaps the most rewarding outcome of all.