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 This is February, the month of love so to speak, and what greater love is there than the love of a youngster for his/her horse.  

All horse owners and lovers know this to be true……..that there is nothing that besotted children would not do for the love of a four-legged friend, companion, riding partner, and just plain joy of their lives……..their horses.  Which leads me to the topic, or actually the multifaceted topic, of this month’s article, the love of a child for a horse.  A wonderful youngster named Cheyenne, who is twelve years old, brought this to my attention again when she emailed in to find out answers to some perplexing questions concerning colic (every horse owner’s nightmare).

Also Cheyenne, with great eagerness I might add, asked for information about Little Boots and Little Spurs rodeos (rodeos with only children as the contestants) in the grand state of Alabama.  All these questions caught my attention because, at the tender age of twelve, Cheyenne is in love……..in love with the equine variety of creature known as the horse (one of God’s most beautiful creatures, by the way).  It is easy to understand about the attraction of a child to the horse, but the bond that grows between the two as a relationship is built over time……..well that is something mysterious and wonderful that just has to be experienced.

I understand the heart of a child in love with a horse very well, because I was also a child once in love.  The most amazing thing is that the love never dies; instead it grows with time.  Not only am I still a horsewoman as an adult, but also I still remember and love the animals that held my heart while I was growing up.  

Even though most have gone onto the great beyond, these beautiful creatures that held my heart so captive then still live on in my heart and mind now.  I can still smell and feel their warm, soft, shiny coats. (The smell of a horse’s coat when you are hugging and rubbing on them, well, it is one the most wonderful smells in the world, and there again it just has to be experienced).  I can still see their big brown or blue eyes looking at me questioningly (Do you have an apple for me today?), or happily (You’re turning me out into the pasture! Yeah!), or gratefully (Thank you for scratching behind my ears because that is a place I can’t reach very easily).  I can see the beautiful color of their coats, whether grey, bay, sorrel, or chestnut, and the unique markings on each one that made them special, whether a star, stripe, snip, blaze, or sock.  They were all beautiful, and each beautiful in their own way, with their own unique character and personality.  Whether quiet and practical, or flighty and adventurous, each horse that I remember had its own special qualities that were its alone.

As an adult today, I realize that there are many children in the world experiencing the same kind of love, this indescribable joy, of loving a horse of your own.  It is for these children that I am writing, and particularly for Cheyenne today because of her questions.

Cheyenne’s first questions have to do with the dreadful "colic." Every horse owner on the planet has had some experience with horse colic if they have owned the animal for any amount of time. She said that people say that walking a horse when they are colicing eases the pain for the horse.  She asked me if this is true, or if walking them simply keeps them from lying down, rolling, and twisting a gut. Honestly, I have walked many a horse (mine and other peoples) while they were colicing for many hours on end, and the walking never did seem to ease the pain in any of the cases I saw.  The main reason I was walking these animals was to keep them from lying down, rolling, and possibly twisting a bowel.  Horses with colic have a tendency to want to roll, thinking it will make their tummy ache better, but what rolling actually does is endanger the horse even more. If the horse has some type of impaction colic (where the bowel is partially or completely blocked), they are already in enough danger without rolling and twisting a bowel. Twisting a bowel would almost certainly mean the horse would have to have surgery to untwist the gut.  This is expensive and the odds of the horse coming back from the surgery one hundred percent are not very high.  That is why veterinarians will do everything they can to help a horse through colic, by oiling them, walking them, and not letting them roll.

Dr. Jason Coe is a large animal veterinarian in Oneonta, where I live, and when I asked him about this subject, he agreed that walking the horse is mostly to keep them from rolling and possibly twisting a bowel.  Dr. Coe said that of course, there are many different reasons for colic and many different types of colic.  They range from just a simple tummy ache or upset stomach that is easily cured by walking the horse until they pass gas to a very extreme form of colic such as an impaction colic where the horse may require surgery even if they do not twist a gut.  Then there is the really dreadful colic that no one ever wants to see, colic from a bowel that is already twisted.  If your horse is colicing, it is wise to call your veterinarian and follow his instructions, and it is very important that you call your veterinarian if your horse is in great distress and refuses to walk at all.

Cheyenne’s next question had to do with Little Boots and Little Spurs rodeos.  Cheyenne is eager to learn much more about these children’s rodeos being held in Alabama.  These are fantastic family fun events, and well worth the effort to go to one.  Unfortunately I do not know a great deal about these events, but my investigation into the matter has yielded three possible leads.  Dr. Jean Laliberte of Troy University has a website that may be very, very helpful in getting the information needed. The website address is: [email protected]. The second lead is Lee Smith of Smith Rodeo Production, and the Rodeo Production office number is 256-532-0679. The third lead is Ed Allen, producer of the Alabama Team Roping Championship, who works with all ages of participants. You can contact him at 256-749-0541.

It is a marvelous thing that Cheyenne is so interested about the care of horses and so excited about the children’s rodeos within this state.  I hope my answers are helpful to you.  I know that you love your horse, and I wish you and all the youngsters like you many, many more years of love and laughter and happiness with your horses.

There is a saying, ‘God bless the beasts and the children.’  And I now say: Yes!  Here, Here!  God Bless the Beasts and the Children…..…for they are the best that this earth could possibly produce, and they will continue to be lights in all our lives.  Amen.

Once again I would really like to know what horse people want and need to know about their animals. Please feel free to send suggestions, questions, and comments to the mailing address: Cooperative Farming News, P. O. Box 2227, Decatur, AL 35609-2227, or fax 256-560-2605, or email: [email protected].

Janet Bryant is a freelance writer from Oneonta.

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Date Last Updated January, 2006