Scribbles came to us in February. She was seriously underweight and was covered from head to toe in rain rot. Rain rot is an anaerobic bacterial infection that is often caused by the horse being in a wet environment without being allowed to dry for long periods of time. Horses that are immune compromised by malnutrition and illness are prime targets for rain rot. When Scribbles was brought to the barn where we were boarding our horses, she was draped in a filthy horse blanket and placed in a stall where she stood without signs of care for a few days.
One evening I noticed that she had gotten the blanket twisted so I went to straighten it out before it got any worse. When I approached her I noticed a foul odor, and when I pulled the blanket off to reset it I saw the rot (and how skinny she was). I called the barn owner to inform her that another sick horse had been brought to the barn and was told that she was the actual owner of this animal.
Her story was that she had bought the horse sixty days earlier as a rescue and that her barn manager was supposed to be caring for the animal. She said that Scribbles had had pigeon fever (an infection that presents itself in the form of massive abscesses and is highly contagious) and had been in quarantine since she purchased her. I arranged to buy the mare and take over her care.
The very first thing I did for this mare was to remove that nasty blanket. Because rain rot is anaerobic the blanket was only promoting its growth; creating the perfect, warm, moist, oxygen free environment that rain rot loves. This is how the “very knowledgeable” barn manager was caring for this sick horse (I really got tired of hearing how much these people “knew” about horses; while seeing firsthand how stupid they really were/are). Scribbles was then fed real food, given fresh drinking water and a clean stall. The vet was called to check her out and told me that in all her years she had never seen such a horrible case of rain rot. The farrier I called informed me that her hooves had suffered from the malnutrition but with care should recover well.
When I gave the mare her first warm water bath to remove the rot, we found that she had a secondary infection underneath the crusty scabs. We could not remove all of the rot in one bath because we were worried about causing too much trauma; so she had several baths over the course of a couple of weeks. After each bath she was treated with iodine, and allowed to dry in a warm area (thankfully we had several warm sunny days that helped with this process). Other than these baths she was not allowed to get wet at all. During these weeks Scribbles was fed a good diet and given lots of love and attention.
One nice warm day, after her bath we were sitting in the pasture with her waiting for her to dry. When my nephew started to open a packaged cupcake, Scribbles looked up from her grazing and came trotting to him for a bite. She begged for a bite so he gave her a tiny piece; then she wouldn’t leave him be so we had to put the box away so that she would go back to eating grass.
Finally Scribbles had gained enough weight and her health had improved enough that I felt it was time to start working her a bit. I took her to the arena to lunge and soon found out that she had some interesting training. She has had something called the Parelli method of training; this is new to me and I have to say I don’t like it at all. What is the use in training the horse with cues that no other rider (except a parelli student) would know? Scribbles started out on the line ok, but I soon found that I could not control her. I asked for a trot, and a canter, I got nothing. Finally she became so annoyed that she took off at a run in a tight circle at the end of my lunge line; and I could not get her to stop. I tried whoa, ho, stop, goddammit, @!$%#… I got nothing. Then quite by accident I bent at the waist just a bit and to my surprise she immediately stopped and turned to face me; waiting for my next command.
The weeks since this first experience we have been working through trial and error to find the cues/commands that this mare understands. I have written to the Parelli people to try and find out what the commands are so that I can communicate with my horse, but so far have only gotten a questionnaire from them about my horse experience. Pat Parelli if you are reading this I think you’re a nut. Scribbles does not understand simple commands like whoa, trot, side, back…. Etc. But she does respond to a waggled finger to back up, a light touch to the shoulder to turn on her haunches, a bend at the waist to stop, pointing to change direction. This is worthless to a trail horse; it will take months to de-program this poor horse.
She is a very loving mare who is eager to please; she now recognizes the sound of my truck and comes to the gate when we drive into the stable. She knickers to me and follows me around when I am in the pasture with her. The rain rot is gone and new hair is growing in with her spring coat (thank goodness she didn’t scar too terribly). She has gained good weight and is now on a maintenance diet. And soon my cousin (who is an excellent trainer) is coming to do her first ride and help me to re-train her.
Now there are people who will say how lucky this mare is to have found a good home; and I agree and am happy that she found her way to me. But I want to say to those people who breed and sell horses to think about what they are doing. How many horses have to go through what Scribbles has gone through? She is a well bred registered paint mare, she was probably originally sold for a very pretty penny. She also received very expensive training (parelli is not cheap); but she still was neglected and abused and could easily have died before she reached her sixth birthday (which is this May). Please stop and think about the foals’ future before you breed your mare for the umpteenth time. Please stop and think about who you are selling that foal to. And to those who want to buy a horse; stop and think about what that means. Are you going to be able to keep that animal for the 30 years that they live? Are you going to be able to afford to feed and care for the animal properly? What are you going to do when it gets old, or unsound? Are you going to send it to slaughter? Is that what horses deserve; to give all they have to you and then be slaughtered for pet food and cosmetics? Do they deserve to be put in a pasture and forgotten? We are responsible for the care of our animals, please remember that when you go out to buy a horse (or any pet).