From Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul II

Angels in Winter

We are each of us angels with only one wing and we can only fly by embracing one another.

Luciano de Crescenzo

It was a beautiful winter morning. Several feet of fresh snow had fallen the night before and the crisp air cooled my lungs when I drew in a breath. As I drove to the barn where I stabled my sister’s horse, the tree branches strained beneath the heavy snow, creating a glistening tunnel across the road. The sun was just coming up over the hills . . . it was going to be a perfect winter day in Ohio.

I greeted my trainer, Kathy, and walked out to the field where Jordan had been turned out with her pasture friend, Tinkerbelle. Kathy and I have been trainer and student, mentor and friends for the past eleven years. Today we had planned an early lesson so that I could get home to my four-yearold before my husband left for work.

Having just been turned out, the horses were not eager to come inside. The field they were in was mostly wooded and surrounded by fencing on three sides with a lake on the fourth. Being January, the lake had long been frozen and it created a scenic natural barrier to the pasture. Kathy and I walked together with grain, calling the girls, laughing at their naughtiness.

At the sound of our voices and lured by the promise of grain, Jordan stopped trotting around, but Tink continued goofing off. As we watched helplessly, Tinkerbelle ventured out onto the icy lake. Jordan, no longer distracted by our calls, began to walk gingerly behind her. We stared in horror at Tinkerbelle, nearly fifty feet from the bank, and Jordan not far behind her. Kathy and I stood motionless desperately calling for them to come back. To our relief, Tinkerbelle began to turn when suddenly the ice gave way beneath her, plunging her entire body into the lake, only her head above the ice. Almost simultaneously, the ice broke beneath Jordan and she too was submerged in the frigid water.

Without speaking, Kathy ran to the barn to call for help, while I ran to the horses. Both horses struggled to get out, their hooves breaking the three-inch thick ice in front of them as it gave way time and time again. Tinkerbelle kept trying to rear, to get above the ice, to no avail. Kathy arrived with halters and I very carefully made my way out to each horse, haltering them. Together, we started with Tinkerbelle, pulling as hard as we could to get her to move forward toward the bank. Jordan began neighing, trying to come toward us and away from the bank.

Leaving Tink to Kathy, I turned my attention to Jordan to get her turned in the right direction and began trying to coax her out. Both mares had heavy winter blankets on that quickly filled with icy water, making their efforts even more difficult from the excessive weight. Tink and Jordan were tiring and starting to give up. It had been ten minutes since they fell through and the freezing temperature was taking its toll.

We turned at the sound of a truck to see our blacksmith, Jason, running towards us. He and Kathy spoke quickly and he ran for the tractor. Seconds later, the fire department arrived and began to assess the situation. Jason backed the tractor to the lake, looked at me and asked, “Which one?” I never felt so helpless in all my life. Tinkerbelle was still fighting to get out, but Jordan had gone into shock and was slipping beneath the water. With tears in my eyes, I pointed at Tinkerbelle, hoping that we could keep Jordan’s head above water until they got Tink out. It took almost ten minutes for Tinkerbelle to be drug out by the tractor. She had been in the lake for over half an hour.

One of Kathy’s resourceful neighbors had a friend with an ice saw. Tom arrived and began cutting the ice in front of Jordan. In shock, she had stopped struggling and lay floating on her side in the frigid water. Every time the tractor would pull, her legs would get caught underneath the thick ice. Without a thought, Tom waded into the freezing water and cut a path in the ice all the way to the bank allowing us to drag Jordan, on her side, out of the lake.

Once on the bank, we cut Jordan’s blankets off and tried to get her up. She wouldn’t move. Everyone pushed and pulled until we were able to get her to her feet. With me leading her and someone holding her tail we made it into the miniature horse barn. We grabbed every blanket, wool cooler and anti-sweat sheet we could find and piled them onto each horse. We massaged their legs, tried to keep them moving and waited for the vet.

When Tinkerbelle emerged from the lake, her temperature was only 96 degrees and Jordan’s was a dangerous 92 degrees, nearly ten degrees below normal. Larry, our farm vet, arrived with his technician, Deb, and they quickly went to work. Jordan was in bad shape. She was still in shock and Larry wasn’t sure she would make it. He began working on her while Deb worked with Tink. They set up IVs and started warm fluids. Deb and Larry pumped their stomachs with warm mineral oil and water, administered antibiotics and several other medicines.

Tinkerbelle’s temperature began to rise quickly and she showed marked improvement within an hour. Jordan was slower to respond, but her temp began to climb ever so slowly. Once they were stablized, we moved Jordan and Tink to the larger barn to their own stalls, gingerly making our way down the drive. We watched both of them closely for any signs of distress over the next two weeks and miraculously both horses recovered with no complications, not even a cold.

Without the generosity, bravery and quick thinking of everyone who responded to Kathy’s call, we surely would have two less horses today. I have never been able to adequately express my gratitude and appreciation to the angels that came to our rescue that morning. Every nuzzle and whinny from Tinkerbelle and Jordan remind me I must live each day trying to make a difference in someone else’s life. That is the best thank you I can offer.

Therese Evans

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