Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Harv in the hospital, Part III

So recall that Harv, in 1998, had sinus surgery and that I was a new horse owner, acting a little crazy and worried sick. I was visiting him as often as I could and probably driving the staff at the NCSU vet school a bit bonkers.

 One day when I was hand-grazing Harv a member of the veterinary field staff was was driving by in his truck. He stopped his car, watched us a minute, and called me over.  Dammit. They're on to my twice daily visits and they've had enough. I walked over to the car, Harv by my side, braced myself for a visitation restriction.

I was wrong. He was very kind.  He said: "Not many of our owners visit their horses. We've noticed how your horse looks for you, and he perks up when you're around." He told me that on average horses lose ten lbs a day while they are hospitalized, and it is common for them to get depressed. Owner visits often give the horses a real psychological lift.

While he stopped short of saying he wished more owners visited their horses, he seemed approving of my visits.

It's true that when I visited, I always found Harv with his head down facing the back of the stall, and he did  perk up when he saw me. I'd only owned him a few months back then, but I was the only familiar thing in this new environment. What's more I was the hand grazer, so it didn't surprise me. 

Some illnesses are so life-threatening that the horses aren't very aware of their surroundings -- maybe then it doesn't matter.  But if your horse is at a facility, there are good reasons to visit. I do think Harv and I bonded over the experience.


  1. When I got my horse, he had been off the track a few weeks, purchased by someone who suddenly found himself without a job. He needed to sell the horse, fast. He was slightly thinner than "track fit" when the horse trader I had contacted about finding me a horse gave me a call.

    He stayed at the "horse trader's stable" while I was building my barn, but every day I drove the 10 miles to the stable and did ground work, grooming, a bit of riding (bareback because I had no tack of any kind) and, after he was back in the pen, I went to my car and got his goody bucket.

    At first he would just move moving away from the gate because I was a stranger. Then he would watching my car as I drove passed his pen to the parking area. On Day Eight I got a nicker when I went to the pen with the goody bucket. On Day 10, I got a nicker when I got out of my car.

    He knew I wasn't just "that lady," I was HIS lady.

    Bonding? You bet.

  2. Lovely to have Harvey react to you that way even after such a short term of ownership. Glad the vet tech seemed to encourage you. After all, horses are people too!

  3. While my horse never had to visit a hospital, he was blind and acted differently for me than the barn staff. He was careful and cautious with them when being handled as if he didn't trust them to put him in the safest or best places. With me he would step out confidently and never refused movement when I was riding him. Harvey probably feels the same about you. :-)

  4. Hello! I wonder if I could source the collective opinion of your readership on this issue of separation stress. "My" horse will be going back to his owner across the country towards the end of the summer. Right now, we are definitely a 2 part herd. I get a nicker upon the car pulling up to the barn and a fair share of coddling from yours truly. Does anyone have any ideas about aiding a horse in this transition? Thanks!


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