Charlie, The Scary-Thin Horse

Continued from “Charlie, My New Project Horse”

Gramps, a rescued horse.

Charlie was anorexic thin – even after having already been under good care and proper feeding for almost two weeks now he still seemed ready to keep over with the next gust of wind.  I could not imagine how any horse so starved could even stand up but even more horrific were the unhealed saddles sores and scars.  It was obvious that Charlie had been ridden in a state probably even worse than what I now could see, before coming to our barn.  His sores were at least a few weeks old and scabbed over, but one was still bothersome and bloody.  No one involved in his rescue would have ever put a saddle on him and ridden him, but the sores were still quite large and fresh.  I showed our groom, who point ointment on his withers and back.  Charlie put his head down submissively.

Instead of brushing him, I gently began running my hands down his neck, along his back, his rump, legs, hooves, touching every part of him.  Charlie just stood like a statute, frozen with fear.  His watched me, darting his eyes about, following my every move as best he could, but would not even move his head so much as an inch.

I had seen this frozen fear before.  In fact, I had lived it.  It comes from being convinced through brutal experience that if you do the wrong thing you will be beaten, and so, you freeze.  Fear sends some people running and screaming; others, when they are cornered become paralyzed hoping to avoid a blow.

I sent my daughter to get her camera.  That day we photographed dozens of sores, cuts, scrapes, and bite marks.  His right rear hoof was completely cracked from the bottom all the way to the coronet.  I understood his hesitance at being haltered – his nose was tender, and had indentations from a time when perhaps a halter too small had been left on him, leaving a permanent imprinted scar.  Aside from the saddle sores, I discovered one more sickening tell-tale sign than that day; it was hidden under his long, shaggy mane.

At first I just felt it when I was running my hands down his neck.   An odd, decent sized indentation, below it a massive lump of scar tissue. I gently flipped his long scraggly mane to the other side. His neck had clearly suffered some sort of blunt force trauma.  It looked like he had been beaten with a large stick or bat and for the next several weeks Charlie refused to let me groom him on his left side.

For some reason, Charlie was the only horse I could interact with that did not compete with my broken heart.  He was the only horse that I could talk to and touch and and not think “you are not Merlin.”  Charlie, was Charlie – he was not “not Merlin.”  His needs screamed louder in my head than the thoughts of my own broken heart.

In the coming weeks, Charlie and I would slowly learn to trust each other.  We took daily walks together, usually twice a day and over time, he came to enjoy being groomed and would put himself in the cross ties and then refuse to leave because he wanted more touches, brushing, and, before long, even hugs and kisses.  We were falling in love …