Geez Louise

Louise and me

The Rescue Mare

I peeked into the stall, and a pinto face peered back. Her eyes had an impish look, her markings more goofy than attractive – all white with a black head and black Capri pantaloons. Overlarge ears tilted sideways while a bearded chin quivered like my Aunt Myrtle’s.

The paint mare was nearly five years old, and just shy of fourteen hands high. Her legs were splayed, hips jutting in the manner of a horse who’s only recently put weight over her bones.

“Pip” was beautifully groomed, and her stall was clean and bright. But between her legs, remnants of pasty black goo clung to her like tar. “We tried to wash it off,” the woman who’d rescued her told me, “but we gave up. It’ll shed out in the spring, or maybe you could cut it off.” Her expression turned gloomy. “But if you did that, she’d have no coat at all.”

I squeezed the substance between my fingers. “What was she lying in?”

“It was… I don’t know.” Anger and disgust flashed across the woman’s face. “The poor thing was up to her elbows in filth. I can’t afford to keep her, but I couldn’t leave her there.”

“What’s this?” An inch or so below her right eye, there was a little divot in the mare’s face, oozing a crusty discharge.

“They tell me she was kicked in the face two years ago.”

“Two years?” I looked closer. There was likely an infection in there, maybe a damaged tooth or a bit of dead bone. Probably surgical, and I couldn’t afford surgery.

“How long have you had her?”

“She’s been here three months. She looked like death when she got here.”

I’d seen my share of starvation cases, and it never got easier. This time I’d been spared. Someone else had done the hard part. “She doesn’t look bad now.” My eyes traveled down her crooked legs, came to rest on her hooves. “How are her feet?” I could see they were cracked, deeply grooved and much too long.

She followed my gaze. “We’ve trimmed them a twice so far. They were much worse.”

I lifted a front foot. The soles were convex where they should have been concave. That, plus probable surgery, put the mare well beyond my means.

I needed to leave. Now.

“Is she sound on those feet?” It was unlikely.

“Amazingly, yes, she is.” The woman clipped a lead rope to the mare’s halter and led her onto the aisle. “Would you like to see her move?”

“If she can.”

I thought the mare would be sore. Instead she floated down the aisle, her feet barely touching the earth. Amazing.

She came to a stop, and the dark nose pushed at the woman’s jacket. “Sorry. I’ve spoiled her a little bit.” She pulled a treat from her pocket, and it vanished between delighted black lips. I scratched Pip’s withers, and she stretched her neck and twisted her head in appreciation.

“I need to find her a home,” the woman told me. “I won’t take her back to that place, but I can’t keep her. She’s not even mine. The woman who owns her let me take her, temporarily. She expects to be paid.”

The mare’s rescuer had her hands full. My stupid mouth started talking, and I couldn’t make it stop. “Do you think I could take over your free lease? Have my vet look at her face and feet before I try to buy her?” I should have brought duct tape. My mouth never listened to my brain.

The arrangements were made, I returned with my trailer, and Pip came to live at the baby blue barn. She made herself at home, instantly adored by the three rescue geldings.

Dr. Bill arrived a few days later.  He was used to the cast-offs I brought home, and he did his best to guide me toward the more salvageable creatures, and to steer me away from the lost causes.

“I doubt she’ll be sound enough to do any actual work,” he said, looking skeptically at her ruined feet. “Might make a good buddy for someone.”

“Her front legs wobble. Is it just that she’s over at the knee?  Or do you think there’s more to it?”

He regarded Pip thoughtfully. “Hard to say. She’s still pretty weak.” He gave her a little shove, and she quickly rebalanced. He gave an approving grunt.

“What about the face?” My stomach bunched up. “Does it need surgery?”

“Probably not. We’ll give her a round of antibiotics and see if that clears it up.”

“Should I send her back?”

“Definitely.” He knew I wouldn’t, but I suppose he had to try. “She doesn’t look like she’ll be any too useful.”

I was already in love, of course, and Pip wasn’t going anywhere. We could fix her feet. The wobbly knees were a concern, but not a show-stopper. And the face! If surgery wasn’t necessary, I could afford everything else she might need.

So, Pip dined on mountains of hay, sweet and green. Her stall was immaculate and deeply bedded with mounds of pine shavings. A hedonist at heart, she spent hours flat on her side, snoring like a chainsaw, reveling in her newfound status as Queen of the baby blue barn.

Pip made it clear that everything belonged to her, from the run-in shed to the walk-out stalls to the stock tanks to the blankets and brushes and shovels and manure forks and brooms. She learned to open every latch, delighting in flinging my belongings from one end of the barn to the other. She regularly found and ate my broom, seeming to prefer the coarse yellow straw to her luscious hay. And always her eyes were filled with delight, like a little girl running amuck in a toy store.

Pip’s feet were not easily fixed. As we gradually reshaped them with cautious trimming, they grew hot and tender. It was painful for her to bear full weight on them, and she shifted from one foot to the other, almost dancing in place. I stood with her for hours, hosing her hoofs and thoroughly soaking the soft sand on which she stood. The cold, wet sand drew out the heat and pain, and slowly the fire left her feet.

She hated her trimming sessions, and who could blame her? Lifting one foot meant bearing more weight on another. Cooperative, she was not.

Patty, my trimmer, was wonderfully patient with Pip. Kindhearted by nature, she spoke slowly and softly, never giving in to irritation or annoyance. She gave the mare lots of breaks and worked as quickly as she could.

Even so, little Pip gave us lots of trouble. She backed as far as she could and squatted so low, she nearly sat. She yanked her feet away, flung her head in rebellion, and reared. She always tucked her knees against her chest, careful not to hurt us. But she refused to give in. When all else failed, she bulldozed out the door, towing me behind her like a toddler on a wolfhound’s leash.

On one such occasion, we’d been trying to trim Pip’s right hind foot for nearly an hour. She had an old hip injury on that side, and she was determined to keep that foot on the ground. So she squatted, and she reared, and she dragged us out the door.

“Geez Louise!” I wasn’t angry, just frustrated, and I felt guilty that Patty had to deal with Pip’s lack of manners. Patty just laughed like she always did, and we got back to work. It took a while, and I did resort to stuffing cookies into Pip’s mouth. Treats can take a horse’s mind off of pain, at least for a little while.

When she finished, Patty wrote my receipt, still laughing softly to herself. And there, printed neatly at the top of the page, was the paint mare’s name.

“Geez Louise.”

She’s still here, and her name is still Geez Louise. I plan to write her story someday, and I’ll be telling quite a bit of it here. But I don’t know yet how it will end.

15 thoughts on “Geez Louise

  1. I never heard Louise’s story before as I’d met you on the wreck after you’d gotten her. Did she get better about her trimmings or did the early negative associations stick? I’m curious because I’m dealing with Cali is a handful and then some about having her feet handled.

  2. Love this story. Louise looks absolutely beautiful – it’s so hard to put a good gloss in a white or partial white coat (okay, okay. Gray. But I always say white. My mother corrects me hahaha) but your girl positively gleams. The bit about her facial injury made me cringe and hurt for her. A woman I knew had an abusive boyfriend who decided to get back at her by beating her Arab mare’s face in with a PVC pipe. Luckily she already had a dished nose so now it’s just exaggerated. There’s a special place in hell. 🙂

    • I think white on a pinto really is white. She was filthy this morning. I cheated with Showsheen. Her tail is impossible.

      Yup, people who do cruel things – it’s hard for me to understand.

  3. Having lived the highs and lows of the years since you got our special girls that you shared on the Wreck I am looking forward to your stories to give a fuller picture. Some of those years were somewhat traumatic for us, let alone you.. and some of the recent ones have been bereft of news and pics of OUR girl. Looking forward to more of both…

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