Vandy -- a story about her when she was 31 years old.
Quite a horse. A jazzy horse: spirited, friendly, and only a little cantankerous. Vandy loves to trot. In addition, her trot is quite unique. Her hind legs seem to fly every which way. Her mad trotting dash to her stall and Equine Senior Feed each evening always puts a smile on our faces. It even prompted one customer to remark "Look, Vandy is so excited she's dancing."
Vandy is a top notch schooling horse. At 31 years of age, Vandy is still an important part of our schooling string at the WRR. She is still an exciting ride for some our youngest and smallest riders. Vandy has always been an eager performer. Her only problem as a schooling horse is that riders who master her still have to learn how to make the average horse go, since Vandy is so highly self-motivated that little leg pressure or seat cue is ever needed to get her going. But no one has ever complained about that.
Mark bought Vandy when she was 14 years old. She had been used strictly as a brood mare. One of her offspring was the region's most famous champion Appaloosa stallion, Mighty Leo, (owned, interestingly, by Mable Bunge -- who is herself quite a survivor, still running a breeding stables at age 82). Mark admired Mighty Leo and thought that Vandy could be a great horse too. She had never been trained to ride, but was very eager to keep moving under the saddle and learned to be a good mount very quickly. She began her new career as a schooling horse in 1983. Vandy has been busy teaching people to ride ever since, except for one year, which she spent recovering from an accidental injury.
Vandy's excellence as a brood mare is demonstrated in our two youngest herd members: Willow and Sage. As we mentioned above Vandy is the dam of Mighty Leo, who is the sire of I'm a Cool Cat, who is the sire of Sage and Willow. That makes Vandy Sage and Willow's great-great-granddam.
In 1989, at age 20, Vandy reared up in her stall at the Washington County Fairgrounds and caught her left front hoof on the top edge of the stall door. It was a sharp steel edge and it cut deeply into Vandy's sensitive tissues, completely severing one of the major arteries serving the hoof and removing nearly an entire bulb (about half of her heel). My boy, Emmerson, was at the scene and called me at home on the phone to exclaim that Vandy was badly cut and blood was spurting out so hard and fast that it was shooting up in the air over his head! I told him to take off his T-shirt and use it as a tunicate while he waited for me and for the vet to arrive. When I got there I found Vandy standing in a pool of blood. Her bleeding was stemmed to just seeping out under the T-shirt tunicate. Janis Hollenbeck had arrived on the scene and applied her nursing skills by cooling the wound site with ice water. When the vet arrived, she applied a pressure bandage and gave a pessimistic prognosis. She thought both of Vandy's main arteries were probably severed, in which case she would certainly loose her hoof and have to be put down. An examination a week later showed that one of Vandy's arteries had survived the slashing intact. But much of her heel was already sloughing off and needed to be debrided. The vet gave one slight ray of hope. If the surviving artery sent out new branches and laid down new capillary beds, (a growth process known as "anastimosis"), then much of Vandy's hoof might be saved. But the prospect of her ever returning to soundness and serviceability was not given much real hope. I described her wound to an old farrier, Ringer Bell, who said not to give up hope. He'd seen terrible wounds to the hoof heal if given enough time. Of course, since Vandy was already 20, it wasn't clear whether or not she would have enough time for so much needed healing.
Janis Hollenbeck and I replaced Vandy's bandages two or three times a week and watched with fascination how her hoof gradually grew back. After 3 months of constant bandaging, enough "proud tissue" had grown over the wounds site to expose it to the open air. A tough, fibrous tissue, much like frog material, grew in where her heel had been lost. Her hoof wall developed a dish shape along the front. And her hoof was only about 2/3rds its original size. Vandy had a pronounced limp for several months, over which time her proud tissue was replaced with more normal hoof tissue.
And then, just 11 months after her injury, Vandy became sound again. She adapted her gait to a slightly shorter left fore hoof, and got back into the swing of things as a WRR schooling horse. And she's been completely sound ever since. Vandy has given lessons to hundreds of riders of all ages over the last 17 years.
In 1998 Vandy started to loose weight, becoming thin and looking angular. She had lost many of her teeth and started quidding (spitting out mouthfuls of hay she could not sufficiently chew in order to swallow). She also suffered several bouts of "choke" from grain mix containing lots of large pellets. With increased grain rations (without pellets) she gained some weight but still remained thin. In addition, she began having sinking spells (where she would suddenly drop down and lie for up to a couple of hours). These spells usually happened while she eat or immediately after. We were worried that she would not make it to age 30. However, Marcia researched nutrition for older horses and decided that Purina Equine Senior might be just what Vandy needed. Twice a day she serves it to Vandy in the form of a wetted mash. (The Equine Senior ration contains pellets that Vandy needs softened. ) After the water has been absorbed, Vandy's mash weighs about 14 pounds for each serving. And she gobbles it up with great enthusiasm. Vandy lives outside with all the rest of the herd during the day; but each and evening she's called into the barn to her stall to eat her mash. She runs in from wherever she is in the lot, dashes straight into her open stall, and dives right into her ration. And putting Vandy on Equine Senior, Marcia is proud to point out that Vandy is in good flesh and no longer suffers from "sinking spells." As I'm writing this, it's only twelve degrees (Fahrenheit) outside, with a wind chill factor of minus two degrees, and Vandy's outside, keeping warm in her thick fur coat. Surviving.