“As Sue Thompson drives down the freeway one day, she notices an emaciated chestnut in a paddock. She figures if she can see the horse’s ribs, hips and spine from the road at high speed, he has to be in pretty poor shape.”
This is how EW readers were introduced to Freeway (Saving Freeway, May/June ’08) over a year ago. I am pleased to say that Freeway is doing very well these days. The last year has, at least in his eyes, been pretty boring for Freeway. He’s a horse that very much likes to go and see and do, and he was on a “no forced exercise” restriction as long as he was on antibiotics. While that would be the life of Riley to many horses, he’s too interested in life and goings on to be truly content with that.
Finally breathing easy
We have finally been able to resolve Freeway’s longstanding respiratory issue. Freeway was on antibiotics for over a year, to treat the encysted anaerobic abscesses in his lungs. Much as an infected joint is difficult to treat because of the limited blood flow, the abscesses in his lungs had walled themselves off very well, and we had to chip away at them bit by bit, but mission accomplished! His ordeal was not without long term effects though; the initial damage to his respiratory system has left him unable to cope well with dust. So he has a large paddock with a bedded shelter, and that’s okay.
Back to work
Since coming off the antibiotics, Freeway has been allowed a gradual return to work. His days are spent half the time in a large paddock with a bedded shelter, and half the time turned out in pasture as the companion for my very old but hot and nutty Thoroughbred gelding. Several times a week he is lightly ridden by Dave Wilson, a great trainer of trail horses who adores Freeway almost as much as Freeway adores him. Freeway needs no schooling to be a great trail horse – he loves going out, and prefers it to anything else. It is evident that while Freeway was very well started as a young horse, he’s had some experiences in his life that have made him defensive about some things. He really trusts Dave though, and the horse that he was in his youth is starting to shine through.
Freeway’s journey has taught me to never quit, never quit, never quit. Actually, that’s not quite true, sometimes with rescuing a sick or injured horse, “giving up” is the right thing to do. I think it’s important to weigh the quality of life of an animal throughout the journey. It can be easy to get so wrapped up in the saving of an animal that you forget to look at him and see how he is doing now, today, because that is all he knows.
For others who are in a position to rescue a horse, I can offer nothing but encouragement, but there is also reality to be considered. Sometimes horses in a situation like Freeway’s need nothing more than food, shelter, and care. Getting his weight back was the easy part. Rescuing a very sick horse (which I’ll admit, I didn’t know I was doing at the time), is not only a major commitment of time, but also of money. Freeway’s recovery was not only time consuming, but expensive. I was very fortunate to be able to do it, and in the end I have a sound, sane, rideable horse. A very, very cool one. It doesn’t always happen that way; everyone has to make their own decisions about how far they are willing to go.
I never would have guessed that first day we brought him home how many people Freeway would touch. One of Freeway’s biggest fans is in Tasmania, and I hope one day she will be able to meet him. His story has inspired others to take in rescues. I think it helped people realize that maybe they had room for one more, as I did.
Down the road
What does the future hold for Freeway? Well he has to get his book finished, so he can tell his side of the story. I see light riding in his future; he’s quite the cowhorse, so he’s definitely the one to ride when the cattle are shipped down from the mountains in the winter. He’s now happy and sound and healthy – and I plan for him to stay that way for a long time.