His Special Gifts
During the summer of 1998, my eleven-year-old daughter Liz moved up from a pony to her first horse, and she named him Koda. As is the case with many little girls and their first horses, Liz and Koda immediately bonded and became inseparable.
That fall, after a ride with a friend, Liz did not get the gate latched all the way and the following morning she found that Koda had gotten into the grain. He didn't show any signs of developing founder - an internal deformity of the hoof that is the end result of a complex series of events triggered by overeating. But he had eaten a great deal, so we thought it best to call the veterinarian and take him in to be checked over. Koda was sent home with instructions to keep him moving. If he didn't founder by the weekend, he would be all right.
The weekend came and we thought we were home free. Think again. Sunday morning, Koda was stiff and sore and could not get around. He had foundered. The veterinarian was called, and this time we had medicine to administer, and orders to walk him every two hours and give him shots every four hours.
Liz was devastated. Her horse was dangerously ill and it was because of something careless she had done. She slept with Koda while we took turns on the couch, getting up every two hours. When it rained, she walked him inside the barn. She did everything in her little-girl powers to encourage him to eat. But he steadily got worse.
Neither Liz nor this little horse would give up. He responded only to her. Only she could get him to lift his head or stand. He would nicker for her when she was not there. I would look out the window to see him lying in the yard with his head in her lap and her tears falling on his face. I prayed to God to please not separate these two.
After two weeks and no sign of improvement, our veterinarian suggested that we put Koda down. My daughter was hysterical and I asked him if there was anything else we could do. He told us about a Mennonite horseshoer by the name of Mr. Martin, who lived three hours away and who was known to have had some success saving foundered horses.
After talking it over with Liz's grandpa, we called Mr. Martin and described the devotion of this little girl to her horse, and how hard both were trying. We explained that he was our last hope for pulling Koda through. Without hesitating, Mr. Martin simply said, "Bring him down and let me take a look at him."
The next day, my daughter met her hero. When we arrived at Mr. Martin's, Koda wasn't able to stand in the trailer. The kind horseshoer looked Koda over carefully and in words that were music to our ears, said that he thought he could save this horse. He explained to Liz that she had to be willing to work hard because things were going to get worse before they got better. Liz told him that she would do whatever it would take and, given the sacrifices she already had made, I had no doubt that she would.
With Liz's commitment made, Mr. Martin and his sons welded metal plates onto the bottom of the horseshoes. They applied a homemade concoction to Koda's hooves, then packed them with cotton and nailed on the shoes. Koda was hauled to Mr. Martin's every two weeks for his hooves to be trimmed and the procedure to be repeated. This biweekly regimen went on for three months, then it became every four weeks, then every six weeks for an entire year.
Liz followed every instruction that Mr. Martin gave her, and Koda did everything that Liz wanted him to. With time and lots of love, Koda healed completely and you would never know that he had foundered. Mr. Martin now admits that he wasn't sure Koda was going to make it. What he did know without a doubt, was that Koda would give it his best to stay with his girl.
I think God has a special place in his heart for a mother's prayers and little girls and their horses. He's given men like Mr. Martin extraordinary knowledge and empathy to do good work, and he's blessed us with the power of love. Because of his special gifts, Liz and Koda are inseparable to this day.
Chickensoup For The Soul -Changing Lives One Story At A Time
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