Continued from Married with Horses: The Waiting Game
"She's doing well," said Mandy's doctor. "The condition of her eye hasn't changed much, but she's been eating and going to the bathroom normally."
"Mandy has a bathroom?" I asked
"So, I'll hear from you tomorrow unless anything unusual happens?" I revised.
Mandy seemed to be enjoying her stay at North Carolina State University's (NCSU) vet hospital. If a North Carolina horse needs an eye taken care of, NCSU is a great place. Mandy's fungus-infected eye was getting a medicated wash every two hours, and she was receiving regular and effective pain medication. The situation was probably as good as it could have been.
Kimberly had returned home from her grandfather's funeral and, after a full night's sleep, had recovered nicely from three day's worth of driving and visiting family. She had just left to run an errand when she called my phone.
"I'm about a half mile from the house. I think I just drove past Jack and Claudia on the side of the road holding a horse and talking with a couple of sheriff's deputies. It was a bay horse. Could you make sure Vander's in his stall?"
"Sure," I replied.
Vander was asleep in his stall when I entered the barn. He was covered in shavings. Vander raised his head a few inches and squinted at me. Ellie was standing in front of her fan with her eyes closed. I called Kimberly back.
"A-OK on the stall check," I said. "Was it one of their horses?"
"I don't think so," Kimberly responded. "Maybe someone else's horse got loose."
"I'll call them and see if they need any help," I said.
Jack answered Claudia's phone and explained what happened. Claudia was on her way to the store when she saw the bay horse trotting down the middle of the road. When Claudia pulled over, the horse made a bee-line for a nearby field with an open gate. She waited with the horse until Jack arrived with a halter and lead line. Someone else had apparently seen the horse, too, and called the sheriff's office. The deputies arrived shortly after Jack.
"She's a sweet horse," said Jack. "She came right up to us. She's got a pretty good cut on one leg and seems a little thirsty. Claudia stopped at every horse property around here and no one seems to be missing a mare."
Kimberly said horses won't usually stray far from home--especially not if there are other horses and a feed bucket. The mare's cut wasn't fresh, suggesting she had been out at least a few hours. Whatever the mare's story, she wasn't talking. Maybe she didn't want to go back.
Our county has more livestock than you can shake a stick at, but surprisingly, neither animal control, nor the sheriff's office had a place to hold large animals. The deputy who usually takes in the oversized strays was out of town. The city's mounted police patrol lives nearby, but she was at full capacity on her farm. Besides, nobody had a separate pasture where the mare could be held apart from the other horses. Without an immediate vet exam, who knows what cooties the mare might have picked up?
"We could put her in our front pasture over here," I said to Jack.
We had started fencing in our pastures on the west side of our property. We'd enclosed about two acres with no-climb fencing, though we had yet to put up the top rails. I figured Vander and Ellie could go out in the new pasture, and New Horse could have her own acre-and-a-half out front. I hung up with Jack and called Kimberly.
"That horse you saw..." I said, pausing.
"Yeah?" Kimberly responded.
"She's coming for a visit." I said. "The county doesn't have anywhere to hold her, and Jack and Claudia don't have a good option to keep her separated from their gang. I suggested we put her out front at our place."
Kimberly arrived home just before Claudia's car pulled into our driveway and Jack walked up with the mare. We hosed off her cut and put some ointment on it before leading her to the pasture. We had to use some treats to get her over to the freshly-filled water trough. She spooked at it, nearly pulling Jack across the pasture. She acted like she'd never seen a trough before. Jack continued speaking calmly and coaxing her with the treats. (Kimberly does the same thing with me when I spook.) Eventually, Jack got the mare to drink from the trough. Now that she knew where her water was we could let her graze. The gates and fencing were secure, and we had plenty of grass. Hopefully, New Horse might stick around long enough for us to find her owner and get her home.