A Twist of Fate
by Judith Hennessey, April 26,2023
It had been thirty years since I had owned horses when I rescued the spotted Appaloosa, Whiskey Junior, and his half Mustang son, Lucero, last fall in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (previous posts) I felt like an expectant mother, nervous and unprepared, knowing I didn’t know nearly enough about these animals to care for them properly. They had not had a great life and I wanted to offer them something much better.
The 19-hour trailer ride did not make an easy transition from mountainous high desert to Midwest high humidity. Lucero seemed ok but Whiskey started nipping at his sides and kicking and spinning the day after he arrived. The behavior was so odd that it captured the attention of every veterinarian in the area. A plethora of diagnostics ruled out colic, neurological diseases and kidney stones. Despite a clean ultrasound of his belly, we decided to treat him for ulcers. It was less invasive than hauling him into the clinic for an endoscopy. We agreed that if the behavior subsided after a few weeks of Gastro Guard and Misoprostol then we’d know he had ulcers. Or so we hoped.
As fate would have it, a week into treatment, on December 10th, the horrific tornado that tore through Missouri, popped up and over to the Amazon building then traveled on to tear apart Kentucky. My husband and I saw it touch down in our back pasture in Defiance. By the grace of God, all the pasture gates were open and the horses were able to run from danger. We watched them gallop through that last gate into our front pasture, then continue to run in circles, in a fit of terror, as torrents of rain poured from the sky.
They survived. So did we. But our barn was flattened and our fences were for the most part nonexistent. The three-year-old Lucero once again was surprisingly fine but poor Whiskey went into a whirling frenzy, like a spinning top that just wouldn’t stop. I called Mid Rivers Veterinarian Clinic and begged them to find someone to pick both horses up (we didn’t own a horse trailer). Within 2 hours, a stranger with a huge heart loaded them into his trailer and hauled them to the Clinic. Whiskey was scoped the next morning and diagnosed with severe enough ulcers that the doctor hinted at putting the horse down. My answer to that was a question to her, “What would you do if it was your horse?” We decided to continue with the Gastro Guard and Misoprostol and see how he did. I wasn’t about to give up after everything we had been through.
Whiskey responded well to the medication but I did not want to wear out our welcome at the clinic. It was obvious they could not come back home so I began my search for a boarding barn. Everyone within a 60-mile radius was full. It was my farrier who suggested I contact a horse trainer, Dennis Cappel, who lived in Silex, Missouri. He thought Dennis might have room at his place and he could teach them some “manners” while they were there. My vet seemed to think it was a good idea as well. I was dubious, and not sure they needed “training.” I really just wanted to give them a good home, maybe trail ride a little, but I felt desperate.
I called Dennis, who’s low, calm voice made me stop and think. Maybe my horses could use some training and I could certainly use some lessons myself. The little confidence I had when it came to equines had blown away with that tornado. “Could you train me?” I asked, half joking. He paused, then slowly and distinctly said, “I can.” A simple but complicated statement. My brain whirled like Whiskey in a fit of discomfort and I realized I needed Dennis way more than my horses did. I let out a breath I did not know I was holding. The words "I can" opened the door of opportunity and hope. With Dennis as the midwife, this expectant mother felt ready to give birth. More on this to come!