Tales from the old-timerIssue Date: March 12, 2014
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
daughter of the Old-Timer
I grew up a horse-crazy kid. After we moved to Oklahoma, our daughter needed a new hobby. In Wisconsin wed been fortunate enough to live on the banks of the Menominee River, and she was free to swim, canoe, kayak, fish, and ride the pontoon boat. So when we arrived in Oklahoma, she tried Tae-Kwan-Do, Brownies, gymnastics and soccer, but nothing captured her interest until she took a riding lesson. This led to a chain of events which made us horse owners.
We have three horses, our daughters semi-retired blue-blooded Thoroughbred show horse, a free rescue mare we call Ugly Betty, and a needy pony who doesnt belong to us but stays with us, due to some very unfortunate circumstances with her owner. The fact that we own horses puts us in contact with some unique individuals who are necessary to healthy horses.
One is a farrier. Farriers belong to an ancient profession. They are the people who forge horseshoes, and trim horse feet. A century ago, there were millions of working horses in the U.S., pulling plows and carriages, and as they say, as the foot goes, so goes the horse. To enable the horses to stay in working condition, a good farrier is an absolute necessity. We have cycled through a number of farriers, since there are fewer and fewer of them these days. And as my sister, also a horse owner, says, there are just a few types of farriers - good ones, who often dont show up when scheduled but do excellent work on the feet WHEN you can get them to your horse; bad ones, who tend to show up as scheduled but are rough with the horses and/or leave them footsore for days after a visit; and the ones who really like to drink. So every eight weeks I go through the exercise of trying to get a farrier here, which normally involves several missed appointments and numerous frustrating phone calls.
The other important person is a horse vet. Equine vets are specialists, and most of them still make farm calls, meaning they will come to see your horse at your residence. You can choose to haul your horse in to their clinic for minor work, and that costs less, but if your horse is really ill or youd rather have the Doc come to you, they still do that.
Our horse vet here is Dr. Andy. Andy is a native Oklahoman horseman - hes about 6 foot 2 tall, weighs next to nothing, wears cowboy boots and a big Stetson. Hes prone to plain speaking, and tells you bluntly what he thinks. Horse vetting is a high tech game these days but Andy hauls around pretty much the same tools of the trade hes used for 50 years. But while you might be tempted to underestimate him as some country hick, hes acknowledged, especially within the Quarter Horse industry, as one of the best anywhere in foot and leg problems. Hes forgotten more than many young horse vets will ever know. And hes death on fat horses - our national obesity problem extends to our pets and companion animals, and I watch our horses weights carefully lest Andy treat me to his wrath about overweight horses.
My first encounter with him was not too promising. After we talked for a minute he asked where I was from. When I told him I was a Wisconsin native, he thought for a minute and then told me he didnt like anyone from Wisconsin. But I won him over gradually through the years, and now he always tells me when he dies he wants to come back as one of my horses.
A few years ago my daughters old horse Magic got a case of colic on New Years Eve. I went out to feed late in the afternoon and recognized his distress. I called Dr. Andys cell phone, and he gruffly said hed be over shortly. A man of his word, 20 minutes later I heard the diesel truck turn in to the driveway. He shoved a rubber hose down Magics nose, pumped him full of mineral oil, gave him a shot to make him more comfortable, and told me hed be fine. I was relieved, of course, and grateful, and told him how much I appreciated his quick response on a holiday. He packed up and told me I wouldnt be so grateful when I got his bill, and was gone.
I had to laugh when I got the bill for this farm call and medication - $75. I cant even take my dog to the vet for that.
These days my biggest worry is that Andy, who is getting up there in age, will retire one of these days. They dont make vets like him anymore. And I am now enjoying the honor of being the only person from Wisconsin that he likes.
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