Thursday, March 7, 2013

Second Chapter of The Horse Who Haunts Dreams

See Chapter 1

Hobo spent his first few months with us in the quarantine pen. In those days it was well known that any horse that went through the auction was going to get sick. Strangles was common place and the vaccine hadn’t been created yet. The best thing to do was to put them in quarantine and let things run their course. As Hobo became ill and then recovered from the strangles I was there, feeding him, brushing him and bonding with him. Technically he was still not my horse. He was still Bill’s $60.00 sale barn colt and he could still be snatched away from me for a price.
After a couple months in quarantine, Hobo had sufficiently recovered from strangles. He was no longer contagious and was halter broke well enough to go out with the “big” horses. I loved it when Hobo was out in the front acre with the big horses because I could see him from the bus when going to and from school. I also had a special whistle that Hobo would answer to and come over to me. I loved to get off the bus and whistle just to hear him reply. One day after school I didn’t see him as the bus pulled to a stop. When I got off and whistled that special tune, he didn’t answer. My Hobo was gone! I thought he could have been stolen or worse Bill sold him and took him away from me. I went to check the pasture and worse fears began to develop. Blood! So much blood! Blood in the feed tub, blood on the ground blood in the water tank, blood everywhere. Oh my God this is much worse that being stolen or sold! My mind raced, I think now that he’s dead and they hauled him off without letting me say goodbye!
Just then my mom drives in the yard. She sees me there staring at the blood. She comes out to the pasture and tells me what happened. Hobo got his halter caught on a part of the feed tub and got spooked or something according to the neighbor. He pulled and thrashed and slammed his head against a steel bar on the feed tub. Mom said he wasn’t dead yet but we had to go to the vet and see what they say. The vet’s office isn’t far, but to me it seems to take forever. We don’t know how bad it is. We don’t know if he will live or die. I think, “He can’t die! I can’t lose him yet.”
Yea I know what some people are thinking by now, NEVER EVER leave a halter on a horse without supervision. I know that now and I learned my lesson the hard way. Then I was still a beginner horse owner, a naïve teenager, and I was told by my mom that it was safe to leave the halter on. Now it’s a lesson for everyone else. If you must leave a halter on a horse for any reason, make sure there is nothing for that horse to catch the halter on.
The news at the vet is better than I had hoped. He’s crushed his cheek bone, but it can be repaired with surgery. His jaw is fine and he can still eat. He doesn’t have to die, but the surgery is going to cost a lot of money. Mom tells the vet that we have to go home and discuss this and she’ll call later to tell them what we decide. Hobo’s short life is in our hands. We have basically had to decide to keep him or kill him. Worse he’s still not my horse so I don’t the final say in what happens so we have to wait and see what Bill wants to do.
At home again in the “family meeting” that will decide Hobo’s fate, mom again points out how much the surgery will cost. Bill thinks we should put him to sleep because it will cost less than the surgery. I argue for Hobo’s life. I tell them that I can treat the wound, I can take care of him and that I want to keep him. Bill finally tells me “He’s not even worth a dollar to me now that he’s all messed up, he should be put to sleep.” That makes me so mad I could scream but it also gives me an idea. I run from the kitchen into my room and finally find enough coins to make up a dollar. I rush back to the kitchen and slam that dollar’s worth of change onto the table in front of Bill and yell “Here is your Damned dollar! He’s mine now and I say he lives!” Stunned for a minute, Bill finally agrees that Hobo is now mine, but my mom brings back up the cost of the vet bill. We agreed I would have to help pay for it. I would have to get a job after school or on weekends to earn the money to pay back the Vet bill.
Just like that, Hobo became my horse! Mom took me back to the vet the next day when we went to pick him up so the vet could instruct me on how to care for his wound. He had is face bandaged with vet wrap just below his eyes. The vet instructed me how to flush his wound out every day a solution of iodine and saline that the vet mixed especially for this treatment. Every day I had to unwrap his face, squirt 60-120 ml of the Iodine solution into the wound to flush it and then rewrap his face.
Back home again Hobo had to go back into the quarantine pen behind the house so he would be away from the big horses and so I could tend to his wound. Because of all the wrapping and unwrapping of his wound, most of the time I worked around Hobo without the halter on his head. The halter kept getting in the way of the wraps and so I would just talk to Hobo to help keep him calm. That is when I came up with his first nickname. I started calling him Boo-Boo as I worked with him. My mom on the other hand started calling him “ALPO”. Yep just like the dog food, because according to her he wasn’t good enough for anything but dog food.
Our quarantine pen was really the yard area of our old chicken coop. It was bigger than a normal horse stall, but really not big enough for a young horse to stretch his legs. Once his wound was re-bandaged, most days I would then take my little Boo-Boo for a walk around the house. Our house sat on the back acre of a 2-acre parcel. Behind the house were the chicken coop/quarantine pen and our well house and the back portion of the circle driveway. The acre in front of the house was the portion where my dad and I had built the horse barn and fenced in to keep the horses. The circle driveway was like a mini racetrack around the house.
Most days, I would take my Boo-Boo for his walks around and around the house. I really did not know then that I was training him. I did not know anything about training a horse other than what I’d read about in books and most of that was fiction. I got my horse training advice from great works of fiction such as Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion Series, or any one of Marguerite Henry’s books. My mom and Bill taught me a few things, but mainly it was just the books and me working with Hobo.
It didn’t take long before I was laying the lead rope over Hobo’s neck and walking with him by my side. Sometimes I’d have to grab a hunk of mane or put my hand under his chin to lead him forward, but often he’d follow me with nothing physically connecting us. When I wasn’t leading him around the house, I’d sit in his pen and read or talk to him. He got comfortable with me being around and eventually would let me walk up to him while he was lying down. I could pet him all over while he was down on the ground. He even let me lie down beside him and use his neck as a pillow.
That was pretty much how we spent our first two years together. I’d walk around on cloud nine with my little Boo-Boo at my side and then listen to my mom make jokes about Alpo and dog food. Well one of these days he’d show her up and make her eat her words.


  1. Ok...I'm hooked! I got goosebumps when you gathered up your one dollar in change and slammed it on the table and claimed your Hobo. Awesome!


  2. What a way to get your horse! Yay for you for gathering up that dollar and letting Bill have it ! Gave me chills!