Saturday, September 4, 2010

My Paula

I get so many wonderful compliments on this truly fabulous girl, that I thought I'd share a little bit about Paula's story.

Of course, most everyone knows that Eddie, Paula's sire, was a rescue. One day I'll detail his story, but for now, I'll just say, he lived through hell and yet went on and lived his life like everyday was his last. My friend Vicki said it best when she said that Ed was a person trapped in a horse's body. Paula has a lot of him in her. She seems to have a lot deeper understanding of things than any other horse does.

I got Paula's momma, Larry, from a sale in Arizona. It was the kind of sale that's heartbreaking to go to--horses terribly thin but still ridden through the ring, yearlings only bringing $50 each, the lame, sick, and injured whose fates are fairly clear considering the double-deckers parked out on the roadside. I went to the sale not knowing it was that kind of sale. I sat and watched, I suppose out of morbid curiousity, not believing that what I saw in front of me was all the horror stories I had read, coming to life.

I was getting ready to leave when the last horse came through the ring. She was a large gray mare, so sore on her front end she could barely walk, but she had a very large man riding her and she didn't fight him at all. Her eyes were sad. Her haircoat was so long and her body condition, while not thin, was poor in the way that you could immediately tell she had a severe parasite infestation.

I felt bad for her but continued to walk out until I heard the words "Dirty Larry." I knew that name. A son of the Hall of Famer Sonny Dee Bar, Dirty Larry himself was an AQHA World Champion and sire of a limited but highly regarded crop of foals. This sad mare here was a daughter of his.

I walked up to the ring and caught her eye. I bid. I won.

I brought her home and spent months rehabilitating her. She was diagnosed as navicular but she had simply had very bad hoof care her whole life, so after a lot of natural trimming, proper feed, and careful handwalking she became sound again. She was never what anyone would call a pretty horse, but she was very beautiful in her own way.

We moved to Kansas and I pastured her with Eddie, hoping that she'd get in foal, although she hadn't had a registered foal in over a decade.

After seeing her come back into heat several times and her dropping weight out on pasture, I took her to the vet who floated her teeth and preg-checked her. Her teeth were awful, so that explained her weight loss. Unfortunately, though, he said she wasn't in foal.

But she was....

Paula was born ten months later.

Her birth itself was quite a chaotic event. Larry had dripped milk for two weeks but refused to let go of her baby, so I was soon rivaling the world record for extreme sleep-deprivation (or at least felt like it). We came up to June 18th, which was my husband's (at the time) birthday, and after talking Dad into keeping an eye on Larry, we left to go out for a birthday supper in Wichita.

As we were literally driving out of the driveway, I stopped to check on Larry. Her bag (where the milk is) looked almost empty! Surely she wouldn't foal tonight, so I left her in with a thoroughbred mare that I was taking care of for a client.

When we got home that evening, we found out all hell had broken loose.

Larry had laid down in that hay outside and popped out this pretty little filly. Bad news was, the thoroughbred mare decided it was her pretty little filly. Larrry wasn't sure what to do--she tried to fight for her baby but couldn't win over the other mare. The thoroughbred mare stepped all over Paula was a mess until my dad saved the day.

He was barely able to pull that big thoroughbred mare into the foaling stall and get the door closed. He checked on the filly, hoping she had not been injured.

When I got home he explained this all to me. Of course, about halfway through his story I was pulling my shoes back on and running out the door. I managed to move the crazy thoroughbred mare to a different pen and brought Larry and her new baby into the foaling stall where I could attend to her.

I was absolutely thrilled--not only was she unharmed, but she was born a speckled gray! Most grays are born solid, with maybe a few white hairs around their eyes. She was lovely and quite tall.

Then we talked about what to name her. My ex suggested "Paula," since June 18th is also Paul McCartney's birthday. So, Paula is named after one of the Beatles.

Which is why her full brother, born a year later, was named "Ringo" originally. His new owner now calls him Colten.

Paula's early years were on the farm where we now live. She played with her "Aunt Lilly" (half-sister to Eddie):

And played with Bunny....

And life was good for a while. She grew fast and got to be very good sized, especially considering how late in the year she was born. I even had her sold once--a lady out in Washington wanted her really badly, but it fell through, so Paula stayed with me.

After my divorce I moved to Texas and Paula came out, too. She loved to run and play with "Bro," a large halter gelding with an equally playful streak. I began doing some roundpen work with Paula and she really excelled. I'd get compliments on her--people seemed surprised when they saw just how pretty she moved.

Then I lost my job and had to move to Kansas City. I made a terrible mistake in leasing out Paula and her mother to Cecilia "Sandy" Jarvis. Larry and her foal (a full reportedly gray overo full brother to Paula and Colten) didn't make it out with their lives. When I picked up Paula, I was horrified at the shell of a horse she had become in this person's "care."

I still feel all the same emotions to this day: guilt, sadness, anger. I picked her up, I went through that terrible nighttime drive to go save my horse's life, I brought her to safety and a very dear and trusted friend nursed her back to health, and I still have a hard time grasping the reality of what Paula went through.

Three months later, to the day, this is how Paula looked.

Paula won't ever be as tall as she would have been if she had not been starved, but at least my girl is alive, safe, and in good health. Losing her mother was a tragedy, but I am so thankful to have Paula in my life. We all know that we can't count on anything in life, but I can't imagine letting this girl out of my sight again. I truly hope that I'll get to spend the rest of her days with her and hopefully the future holds many days for us both!

After that terrible episode, I let Paula sit back and recover. She had been emotionally scarred as well--at first I couldn't feed her around any of the other horses at all. She was downright violent toward them in her competition for food.
Thankfully she got much better after a while :) Now she's just like the rest--she thinks her feed pan should never be empty!

Paula gained back her muscle mass (which takes a full year to recover from in an emaciated horse as bad off as she was) and I decided it was time for her to get back to work.

She excelled, and even seems to enjoy her training. She just soaks up everything--wanting to learn new things.

She enjoys playing, too!

Although Sophie was banished from joining in when another horse knocked her out cold one day (that was a scary ordeal, but she's ok...or as good as she can be, in any case).

There's nothing quite as serene as seeing my lovely gray mare outside.

Even in the winter, she's beautiful.

Paula can be quite a card, too.

She really loves to run--sometimes you've got to watch out!

But honestly, she'd never hurt a fly. Even the other horses will chase the dogs, but Paula will run right around them. She is so sweet and kind. She demands kisses on a daily basis.

And she's so very talented.

This is the end of this post, but certainly not the end of our story. I hope that the future holds so much more fun and good times for both Paula and me.

And in case you missed it: I really love this horse.



Kate said...

She's beautiful and smart and you're very fortunate to have her - keep her close, always.

CCC said...

She's so lucky to have you. That's quite a story, kind of made my eyes sweat.