“I’ve got the perfect horse for you”, the caller
explained. “She is only 21 inches tall, very smart, and I’d like you
to have her. She has a few problems with her hooves but you can get
them straightened-out very easily.”
I thanked the woman for her generosity and arranged for “Bluebell”
to be transported to the Guide Horse Foundation. When she arrived, I
was shocked. Bluebell was an adorable blue-gray filly with bright
blue eyes and a friendly personality, but I had never seen a horse
with such horrible conformation.
||Her back was roached, I could count her
ribs at 30 paces and her backbone protruded more than an
Her bite was way off and her vocal cords were misplaced,
such that she can never knicker or whinny. But the real
horror was her deformed legs.
Bluebell hooves could have been more properly been described as
“horns”. They were over 6 inches long and curved under her body like
giant Elf shoes.
|She could still run but it
was clear that she had some serious health issues and would
never become a Guide Horse.
Dr. Chris O’Malley and my Farrier Danny Harmon did not
have a good prognosis. They had never seen such a deformed
horse before and O’Malley’s initial reaction was to
euthanize the sad little pony.
I was always taught to take people at face value and I was
known for trusting a person until proven otherwise.
Now I was cursing myself for my
gullibility, having been taken advantage of. The woman knew
that I was an animal lover and that I would provide the
health care that she would not.
Of course, I could not allow Bluebell to be killed. Danny
and Chris gave the prognosis.
“If I work with Chris we can tear-down the
horns and attempt to rebuild a set of new feet. He will need special
trimming and custom hoof attachments every week for at least four
years, and possibly for life.
The total cost will be about $1,500 per year,
and I can’t guarantee that she will ever walk normally. To start,
we're going to cast her legs down to her hooves and make the cast
into splints because her joints are so weak.”
Because of this huge expense, I withdrew Bluebell from the Guide
Horse list and made her my personal project.
Bluebell was a very smart and personable pony and took the painful
treatments without complaint. She was placed on painkillers and
arthritis medicine, but she makes me cry every time her feet were
She would lie-down bravely for the new hoof attachments and then
hobbles in great pain, taking tiny tentative steps until she grew
comfortable with her new attachments.
Because of her off-bite she could not eat grass
normally and Dr. O’Malley recommended a special feed to allow her to
I’ve never been an emotionally indifferent person and I’m not the
kind of person who can witness suffering without feeling empathy.
Every two week I watched Bluebell suffer as she adjusted to her
treatments and my empathy began to turn to anger. I was angry that
Bluebell hooves had been neglected for such a long time, and I was
outraged that people might breed these ponies into a life of
As the years passed we were able to control
Bluebells pain and gradually straighten her front legs. Bluebell was
examined by four orthopedic surgeons who said that corrective
surgery was not an option, and that her deformed spine made it
impossible for Dr. O’Malley to straighten her back legs.
Gradually Bluebell became the head mare of our dwarf colony and
during her pain-free times she started to act like a normal horse.
It was both heartwarming and hilarious to see Bluebell flirting with
the stallions, and occasionally bucking and playing with her
Sometimes when Danny came by for a treatment he wondered-aloud why
we spent so much money on her. Don was concerned that he might give
up and offered Danny a $100 bill for the first time Bluebell
cantered. Don thought it was a safe bet because she spent much of
her day lying down, grazing on her side, and only moving a few feet
at a time. One day in 2004, we were all gathering for Bluebells
scheduled treatment when we al witnessed a remarkable event. Almost
as if on-cue, Bluebell galloped across her pasture! Don, always true
to his word, began peeling twenty dollar bills from his wallet!
Today Bluebell is a relatively comfortable 5 year-old. She will
never run and play with the other ponies, but she loves her
dwarf-chow and enjoys being groomed and spoiled wit attention. For
now she is leading a quality life, but someday the arthritis and
deformities will cause her unimaginable pain and I will be forced to
have Bluebell destroyed.
As I have already noted, Bluebell has
adopted a baby horse named Beebe, who I received because the
owner could not afford to pay for his life-saving medical
treatment for Strangles.
Bluebell is a special dwarf because of
her wonderful nature. She recently adopted a dwarf foal
named BeeBee and they have become inseparable.
It is not unknown for
horses who adopt babies to produce milk for them, and this
serves to demonstrate Bluebell’s huge affection for her tiny
Upon his return from the hospital, BeeBee was weaned from
his mother and joined the dwarf herd.
They are always side-by-side and most amazingly, Bluebell
has developed milk for her new baby!
BeeBee was adopted by the Guide Horse
Foundation because she had contracted strangles and her owner could
not afford to save his life. BeeBee spent several weeks in the
horse hospital, receiving a tracheotomy and getting treatment for
the huge blisters caused by this potentially fatal horse disease.