Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Firefly: Part I

You know, I have been unfair in my blog.  It's all Trilogy all the time, with virtually no mention of our red headed furball, Firefly. Being the parent of siblings and always concerned about fairness and equal time (or at least, less unequal time), I am here today to recognize Firefly.  It's your turn to shine, FireButt.
I'm so cute.  Sooooo cute.  You know you want to feed me something.
Ah, Fly.  Hers is a remarkable story that I have unfairly kept from the blog.  Let's travel back in time, shall we?

2003 was a good year.  I still had my pre-pregnant, pre-back surgery body; the economy was still a few years away from falling into the shitter; Ferrana was sound and happy and showing her newbie owner around the horse world and show ring.  Unencumbered by the time compressing demands of being a working parent, I decided to start an extracurricular, horse-themed club at my school, where 95% of students are on free or reduced lunch and more than half are either the children of immigrants or immigrants themselves.  Several of them literally never leave the city, or next to never leave the city, because of their parents' work or their parents' fears (several mothers don't drive, or don't drive freeways, I would learn).  I wanted to share the gift of horses and the horseworld with them, as it was unknown to many children with such backgrounds.  I love these kids, and I love these horses--why not blend the two?

But, Ferrana, sweet as she was, and small as she was for a riding horse, was still 900lb--intimidatingly to frighteningly large for those never around animals so large.  Enter Firefly, all 36" and 230lbs of her.

I started putting feelers out for a mini and found Firefly via a message board.  Fly needed a new home as she had foundered during her pregnancy, causing her to lose her foal and her coffin bones (the hoof-shaped bone in a horse's foot) to rotate to a severe degree.  I'd read that, in a larger riding horse, a rotation of 2-3 degrees is recoverable, that 5-6 degrees might produce a horse sound for light work, and that 7-8 degrees hopefully produces a horse sound for breeding or pasture retirement. Anything over 10 degrees is considered unrecoverable and terminal. Firefly's coffin bone had rotated 14 degrees.

Thankfully, physics is on Firefly's side.  Her diminished size means decreased pressure on her feet, and her prognosis differed from that of her full-sized cousins.  However, she could no longer live on lush Texas pastures, as the sugars in the spring grasses are triggers for her condition.  (So odd how equine metabolism works.  Sugars in grasses cause the laminae in a horse's foot to separate from the hoof wall? Whuh?)  A home in a Southern California dry lot was much more suitable, if less picturesque.
Firefly in her Texas glory. 
So, for little more than the price of shipping her from Texas to SoCal, she came to live at the little backyard barn our other horse called home.  After restricting her feed to timothy-only, taking some weight off, and frequent farrier visits, her feet healed and she became a part of my family.  

However, I learned quickly--she was very, very much her own, erm, person.   She was a rude awakening to this inexperienced horse owner, who'd only known a sweet, sensitive, eager to please, submissive Arabian mare.  Firefly, however, was dominant, opinionated, obstinate, and outright aggressive to any horse that dared get in her space. Those that did not obey equine etiquette were met with her quick-swinging hind end, and if they still didn't get a clue, double-barrel blasts from both hind legs combined with pissy squeals making it clear that they need to back the FUCK off.

While she was (and still is) not aggressive toward people--she does not kick or bite anything on two legs--she is a pushy broad with her own agenda.  An agenda that, due perhaps to her newly restrictive diet, is about food.  If it's green, she wants it, and she will shove past you to get it, and rub her mane out to reach a few blades of it it through the arena fences when it turnout.
Yeah, you TRY to come take these blades from me Tril.  Try.  I CAN TAKE YOU.
But, I worked with her.  I learned various techniques and introduced her to the round pen and lunging (originally, she would just stand and look at me, like, "And?  So?  What?  And so what!").  She became a favorite with my after-school club, and she did her job well.  Eleven-year-old girls braided her mane and tail and cooed and fawned all over her, completely fooled by her "I'm cute!" appearance.   She was also a good companion for Ana, whose anxiety in turnout over "Don't leeeeave me here alone!" was lessened by the company of someone willing to take command of things.

Over time, we bonded.  It wasn't the affectionate, heart-to-heart bond Ana and I shared, but it was more of a professional understanding and respect.  She submitted and obeyed (sometimes with a curled nose), but still tested boundaries on a frequent basis jusssst to see if they were still there.

Like--when I was 8mos pregnant with my first, she bolted past me when I went to retrieve her from the turnout, heading off in a hurry to any place green.  I waddled after her, angrily cursing under my breath (okay, over my breath as well) before finally corralling her, and giving her a thorough schooling while panting "I...don't care...how pregnant...I am!  ...You...DO NOT...get to do that!"

Ah, but it was her--not Ana--who would tell me I was in labor. Too big and too uncomfortable to do much, I sat in a chair that day, taking turns holding the end of each horse's lead rope while they grazed near me.  Ana did indicate something was off as she wouldn't leave my side; rather than explore the length of the lead rope, as she normally would, she was always right next to me, even moving my feet to graze right under them.

Firefly, however, completely weirded me out as this food-obsessed mare refused to graze and instead stood in front of me, ears pricked, keenly focusing on me.  I'd push her away, she'd come back, sniffing and nuzzling my belly, legs arms.  "What the heck, Firefly?  Did Timmy fall down a well? Am I in labor?" I asked, jokingly. A few hours later, it was quite clear--I was.

I remember that when she's being a shit.  She may act like a punk, but she has a soft side.  She just prefers no one to see it.  I suppose I can understand that.

But, in 2008, my father's declining health combined with the demands of being a full-time working parent running an after-school club made keeping two horses at 100% self-care too much.  Heart broken, I decided I needed to move Ana to a full care facility--and rehome Firefly. I went to the message boards and found a truly, truly ideal home: Canyon Acres. One of the few certified equine psychotherapy programs in the country, they had recently lost their mini, and their level 14 children (the highest level in the foster care system; one step beyond that institutionalization) were in need of a small equine ambassador to help them communicate and empathize and connect to a world that had been unspeakably cruel to them.

After many emails and a site visit, I packed her up in my trailer and took her to her new home.
WTF?  You couldn't put a window at my level?

Bye, Fly.
And then I went home and sobbed over giving up my admittedly now-beloved little red headed brat.

It proved a wise decision, as three months later my father died suddenly and unexpectedly.  It was one of those horrible panicked midnight phone calls, where we had to grab our drowsy toddler in the middle of the night and rush to the hospital, only to find it was too late.  It was a relief in that dark chaos not having to worry about who was feeding the horses, and I remain grateful Ana and Firefly were exactly where they were at that time.

The next year--really, two years--were a blur.  Grief, helping Mom clean out Dad's things, helping Mom move, getting pregnant, getting very sick while pregnant, giving birth to my second son, dealing with a colicky infant, dealing with postpartum depression...

Firefly became a distant memory, shoved to the back while life forced so much more to the front.  Years went by, and she was all but forgotten.

All but forgotten.

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