SAN FRANCISCO HORSEBACK RIDING LESSONS
MY STORMY RIDE
Not really sure exactly what happened. But here is my best guess. Wait lets go back, let me start with an introduction. Hi, my name is Denise Montoya; I am the owner and operator of lessonswithdenise.com. I have always loved horses since as far back as I can remember.
Then when I started working with them I fell in love even more… I am involved with some
local horse rescues and have donated my time and efforts to help the cause. When I met filmmaker Avi Fogel many years ago we were in college. We became friends and discovered quickly that we were both passionate about animals and animal rescues.
So, enter Avi into this particular story who came in just the nick of time for us to save, Stormy.
This beautiful mare, had an abscess, due to having kicked up at another horse right next to her and having a rusted pipe corral sliver impale itself into her leg. She was placed in the line of pipe corral stalls for horses going back to auction; I saw her kick out at another horse through the pipe corral and get her back legs stuck up in the air between the top two pipes. It took 3 guys just to get her free. They then threw her in a box stall in the dungeon to wait for “D day”. I was told not to touch her. Three days passed before anyone noticed and when they pulled her from her stall her leg was three times the size it should have been. It was full of puss and blood and very hot to the touch.
I started working with her six months prior to this accident. I was asked by her owner if I would take her out of her stall and lunge her in the round pen. I happily accepted the side job as I had felt bad for this horse because she wasn’t getting out of her stall enough. We started connecting in the round pen and I soon started just taking her on walks around the property and down on the trails. It was heartwarming because when she heard me in the barn she would call to me with a soft nicker. She loved the attention and I was falling in love with her grace and beauty. She was a wonderful flea bitten grey Anglo Arabian.
I was devastated when her owner informed me that they were going to trade her to the owner of the barn for money off for board for their other horse. She was meant to be a husband horse but seemed to be too much horse for them to handle and she was left in her stall a lot. She had been deemed an evil horse because she supposedly “threw” her owner more than once. I later found out that he had been drinking and decided to just hop on her with a halter and lead rope after weeks of being in the stall with no turn out and she wasn’t lunged before he rode. If I had arabian and thoroughbred blood running through my veins I would have been crazy too. You can’t lock something away for so long and expect it to “behave” when it seems fit for you...
but unfortunately, horses always get the bad wrap and take the fall for their human counterparts.
I was already in love with her and this trade now meant that I could ride her. So, I did and fell in love with her even more! I tried leading trail rides off of her but soon found out that her tail got in the way when I had to lead someone on a lead line. She was pretty high strung and seemed very nervous being in the lead. Not the right job for her so, I tried riding her "English", with more contact and she "turned on" and really showed me how beautiful and graceful she was in the arena. I knew that she had been ridden English before because she told me through her actions that’s what she knew and she seemed to be in "her element". I had thought she would make a good English lesson horse and made the mistake of sharing my opinion with the barn owner who promptly told me that I didn’t know what I was talking about.
I offered to buy her a week prior to her accident, we came up with a price and when I brought the cash my boss had changed his mind and told me I couldn't have her anymore. After he said no, I couldn’t have her and refused my money I didn't know what to do, I knew he was taking her to auction in less than a week and I couldn't handle it. I was beside myself thinking the worst that she would end up with some kill buyer…
On day three, the day before d-day, one of the worker guys was cleaning her stall in the morning while I was sweeping the barn floor and came and told the owner that something was wrong with the white horse in the back stall. So he went to look at it and came back swearing. I was still sweeping and was hoping it wasn't Stormy although she was supposed to have gone to auction that weekend, I was hoping that it wasn't her but had a terrible feeling that it was. After he settle down and went back into his house I snuck back to her stall and saw just how swollen her leg was, it brought me to tears.
He had told the worker guy to give her a shot of penicillin and so I followed him back to her stall with the penicillin and the dirty needle that he was going to use to give it to her with and asked if he would teach me how to give her the shots. I then went to beg my boss to let me take care of her. He was upset because apparently due to the nature of the injury he wouldn’t be able to take her to auction then told me that I could take care of her provided I do what he said.
After I got off work I ran home to boil some flax seed and went to the store to buy cheese cloth. I was told by a girl and her mom at the barn that a flax seed poultice would draw out the abscess. I did that twice a day for three days, and on the third day after I took the cheese cloth off and was rinsing her leg with the hose she lifted up her leg and it erupted, all of the puss was shooting out of two areas and I’ll have to say it was the nastiest thing I had ever had to deal with in my entire life! The smell made me almost vomit. After the puss started to slow down I asked one of the worker guys what needed to be done and he said we needed to squeeze the rest of the puss out of the bigger hole on the lower part of her leg. I threw up three times while doing this.
I saw the life slowly going from her eyes; I looked at her and promised her that I would take care of her and that it was going to be alright. At first I really had to DRAG her out of the stall and make her hop along and walk, I knew she needed to walk to get the circulation moving, she hated it, I’m sure it was very painful for her but I stuck with her and she tolerated my having to whip her sometimes just to get her up and moving, she slowly got stronger and started to feel better.
I continued with the poultice and found that the skin was starting to rot away and die. I looked on the internet to see if I could find out what to do and was trying anything. I had wanted to wrap it and had gotten into trouble for doing so and as the skin on top slowly died I had to figure out a way to cut off the dead skin. At this point I was still giving her penicillin and bute twice a day and was scrubbing the wound till it bled.
The two holes had gotten bigger and I was not allowed to wrap it so every time I washed and did the poultice I had to scrub with the green side of a yellow dish sponge all of the poop and shavings off of the two open exposed meat areas of her leg. All of the skin that was going to die had died and was hanging off the edges of the wound. At this point I had been told to start putting sugar on it. So, I would bring her up to the front part of the barn my boss would throw sugar on it and I would walk her and put her back in her stall. I later looked it up on the internet because in my head I thought this was nuts!
There was some validity to the sugar idea, when mixed with betadine (an iodine based antiseptic) you can create a honey like substance to pack the wound with before you wrap it. So I was making the “sugar-dine” and packing her wounds but was still unable to wrap it. The whole time I was worried about more infection and was terrified of the idea that he was just going to take her and sell her to the killer buyers for meat.
He then wanted me to start putting ichthammol on the open flesh and the bottle clearly said not to. So, I was stuck, but pretended like I was using it and started using peroxide and wonder dust. The wonder dust was supposed to help some with the proud flesh but at this point when the picture above was taken the proud flesh was growing at an alarming rate, because it hadn’t been dealt with. I had noticed that it looked like it was going to prevent the skin from closing and so I was desperate. I borrowed some ace and late in the evening when no one was around and my boss was gone for the weekend, I had the worker guy give her the sedative while I performed a bit of surgery on her leg with a razor blade that I had sterilized by burning it and keeping it in a jar full of rubbing alcohol. I was able to shave off a lot of the proud flesh growth. It bleed profusely and as the blood hit the ground it coagulated, I was terrified but I just keep the hose running and cut as much as I could see with the amount of blood that was flowing and the amount of time I had before the drug wore off. ,
Two days later, desperate and crying in the dark in her stall with her, Ronda Goldman, one of the boarders at this barn felt my pain and offered to pay for the vet to come out and visit her. At that same time I told my good friend filmmaker Avi Fogel about it and he dedicated his time to help me with her recovery as much as he could. The vet came out, called me a saint and said that this was one of the worse things that he’d ever seen and said because of me this horse was still alive. He gave me the proper medications still had her on the penicillin, gave me new clean needles and syringes and told me to start wrapping it.
Between me and Avi we were able to coordinate her full recovery. I would call him to order supplies and medication; nothing was ever too big of a request! During her recovery it was hard for me to pay board for her on my own and Avi covered it until I was able to get her well enough to lease out. He donated his time, money and loving nature to help me help this horse recover. I was very thankful to him and all the others who helped with this effort.
When she was fully recovered we turned her into a lesson horse and she gracefully served us until her retirement in August of 2015. She's living her senior years in pasture to date.