Sam the day I brought him home, hairy and dusty, just off the mountain.
I bought Sam last February. A Welsh Trekking centre closed down and was selling its trail riding horses. Sam is 23 years old, which is pretty senior for a horse, but about the same age as Kitty. He's still fit and sound after his trekking work, but ready for a quieter retirement. I felt Kitty should have a companion and Sam seemed a good choice.
Sam four months later after a little extra TLC
Sam is great under saddle and, being a little shorter than Kitty, it's easier for me to hop on and off on a ride to open gates or move logs blocking a path. I'm also getting a bit senior and my flexibility isn't what it was. He's a hardy native breed - a Fell cross - and his passported name is Black Sam, though the years have turned his face and neck grey. Grey hair is just something else we have in common.
Like all native horses, he can be cheeky. We saddled up for our first ride - Kitty and Mike, Sam and me. I stood on a mounting block and got ready to throw my leg over Sam. He quietly stepped sideways out of reach, looked at me, and just pushed me ever so gently with his nose off the mounting block! All I could do was laugh. It was kind of endearing. The second try I mounted without a problem but I took his comment on board. We had a pleasant walk in the woods suitable for a retiree.
Saddled up for our first ride
As a trekking horse in a commercial situation, Sam had to pull his weight and there wasn't always extra funds for vet visits. He came to me with a bad case of leg mites, and thrush in his hind feet. His teeth are worn where he's had to graze whatever he can find at times. With the vets' and the farrier's help, we are on top of these problems and he's feeling much better. It will take some time to get one of his hind feet back into a proper length and shape, but remedial trimming should have it fixed by summer.
Sam's only issue is that he doesn't like having his feet picked up, which makes it difficult to examine and trim his feet. The vets sedated him in order to carry out a good investigation of his foot.. We now know that Sam needs a lower dose next time
The vets were already visitng to check on Kitty's progress and take another scan of her knee.
Just before Christmas, I went to feed the horses their grain. Kitty was reluctant to move and, when she did, she snorted and bunny-hopped in a panic. Of course this was a Sunday night, in a field with no lights or buildings, and it was getting dark. I called the out-of-hours emergency vet. We needed to get her heart rate down and relieve the pain as a first step.
The emergency vet did as best an assessment as possible under the circumstances. We loaded her with painkillers and sedatives, and covered her in a warm horse blanket to see her though the night.
After a few vet visits, x-rays and MRI scans of her stifle (back leg, knee joint), the vets could find nothing obvious except for some arthritis. The vets feel there was some "trauma", possibly slipping in mud, or taking a corner at a canter wrong. "Nothing catastrophic" in her joint was the final assessment. But poor Kitty was still lame, and guarding her stifle. All we could do was support her own ability to heal with anti-inflammatories, time, and patience.
I'm happy to report that she has come almost totally sound now, and the vets predict she will be rideable again. During her healing, I found her often lying down with Sam grazing nearby. She never laid down when she was on her own, which can be a sign of insecurity. It was one of the reasons I looked for a companion for her. She deserves to nap in her dotage. I think Sam came at just the right time. Of course it may have been the fact that the two of them career around the field and play that caused the initial trauma!
The vets struggled to get a good picture of Kitty's stifle joint because she has "fat knees". Poor Kitty. That is just adding insult to injury.
Kitty weathers her sedatives well, relaxing and sometimes having a little snore while the vets repeat the MRI scan -
She's muddy and hairy from a winter off, and will have the spring to continue recovering, grazing fresh grass and getting fatter knees.
Sam had his sedation and exam after Kitty. It took the two vets and me to keep him from falling over while they examined his feet. He was 900lbs of roofied horse, listing like a small boat in a storm. Kitty stood by Sam while he came out of his sedation, keeping watch and giving him a bit of comfort.
Sam stood like that for nearly an hour!
I think they're good for each other..