A Day Of Relief



Photo by Betsy Uhl

First I heard his voice. I pointed my huge ears toward the driveway and then I heard his voice again. Chazot!!! My god!!! I was so excited that I forgot how to whinny. I only responded to him when he entered the barn. He walked resolutely toward me and we did what horses do; we pressed our noses against each other for long seconds. We horses, we do not need long phrases to express our feelings. We pressed our noses against each other and we both knew how happy each was to see the other again.

Chazot began to enter his stall but was so overcome to be home that it seemed all at once he tried to roll into the thick layer of shavings, look out of the window, roll again, eat some hay, blow into my nose through the grill, roll again, drink water, stay close to me, munch some hay, look by the stall door for more carrots, stay close to me, etc. Chazot did all of that randomly. He was so happy to be back, he could not decide where to start. Helyn and he were eating a pizza in the barn. Both were quite intense in watching Chazot. Their faces turning more and more worried when he started pounding the ground but quickly relaxed when they realized that he was simply moving the shavings for his next rolling session.

Chazot never does anything half way. He walked and rolled and drank and ate and looked at me through the window for a solid 30 minutes. He then rested into his favorite thinking posture. His butt was touching the left side of the stall door and his head was touching the grill that separates our stalls. I was literally his mirror image in my own stall. We stayed close to each other in a comfortable silence. Tyson Gentry must have watched horses when he wrote, “True friendship comes when silence between two peoples is comfortable.”

Chazot was sleeping but he was showing signs of posttraumatic stress disorders. He was restless. Quick flashes of the ordeal must have been going through his mind. I can only guess but some must have involved the vets and students at the hospital. Then he became peaceful and then restless again. His restlessness overcame me and then I started having flashes of that awful night. He was in convulsions in the same corner of his stall, shaking like a dead leaf and wanting to collapse on the ground. This was when the thought that death might be better crossed my mind. My heartbeat was racing. I remember that scene all too well. But then he woke up, suddenly, looking at me, haggard, some drops of sweat rolling between his eyes. I told him, yes it was hell, but it is over and you are doing great now.

He smiled and thought, Do you know that Winston Churchill said, “If you're going through hell, keep going.” Well, Helyn kept me going, literally. And then, following his unusual capacity to bounce ideas, Chazot asked me, I heard that you have been sick too. I told him yes and that it was all your fault. I was worried. I was depressed. They were watching me very closely, giving me extra time and care. Helyn gave me more baths than I really needed. Their support helped me but worried me also. Maybe they knew that you might not come back. One night I did not feel too great and the new vet was there before I was really sure that I was not well. They put me on ulcer medication like you because, according to scientific studies, ulcers can form as fast as three days after a traumatic event. In fact both the new vet, who came to the farm, and the doctor who took care of you at the hospital were talking about ulcers appearing in as fast as a single day. They did not want that to happen to me.

The night was peaceful. Chazot lay comfortably on his thick bed of shavings. I realized then that I have not lain down for five days. I slept on my legs worrying that I could miss a sound or a sign that would let me know where Chazot was. In fact I was still sleeping when he walked into the barn. He was earlier than usual. It was pitch black outside. Chazot was awake and they spent some time together playing with pieces of carrots. He cooked a special menu for Chazot and fed me. He then sat at the table that they used last night for diner and read one more time, Chazot’s hospital report. He was thinking about unprofessional professionals, making an analogy between the vet who was on call and almost led Chazot to his death and unknowledgeable trainers who are ending horses careers.

This vet that was on call was bugged to be awakened in the middle of the night and arrived with an attitude and a preconceived opinion. Her thought was that Chazot was in colic and totally dismissed Helyn’s suggestion that it could be an allergic reaction or a possible reaction to a sedative or vaccine or a combination of both. She did not listen to him when he told her on the phone the details of a previous experience where all the symptoms aimed toward colic but the cause was poisoning due to the consumption of a bad plant. In contrast, at the UGA hospital, they often referred to reported cases. They were talking about cases that have been reported of these bad reactions, contradicting conventional thinking.

They both knew Chazot for longer than the on-call vet had been graduated from vet school. They both provided factual information but she did not agree because their thoughts were not in agreement with the protocol that she had learned to follow. Sounds very much like trainers who submit a horse to the system that they know, without any more thought that there could be a different approach, and then blame the horse or the rider for their lack of successes.

She resisted putting Chazot on IV fluids, not because she was ignorant, she knew that IV fluids was a good idea, but simply because this was not her idea. Her ego twisted her brain so badly that she would rather see the horse die than change her beliefs. When, as the owner of the horse and the one paying the bill, he gave her instructions to put the horse on IV fluids, she argued that she only had one bag in her truck and could not go to get more at her clinic. Looks very much like the egotistical trainers who would rather cripple the horse than explore the thought that their training system does not fit the horse’s problem.

This is when he realized that the vet was the enemy and they needed to find transportation in the middle of the night. Helyn was at the core of the battle, dealing with Chazot’s pain and consequent violence and the vet hostility. He was thousands miles away trying to wake up a transporter by phone. They succeeded and the rest is history.

Finishing the report, he was shaking his head. The vet school took a conservative approach. They immediately put Chazot on IV fluids and started a series of exams trying to figure out what could have caused the problem. They did not submit the horse to their opinions as do bad trainers. They used their knowledge and others’ experiences, (reported cases), trying to resolve this specific problem, as would good trainers. They did not judge or reject the horse because he did not fit their views. They researched within their knowledge as well as other vets’ knowledge to find what could be the problem. They did not make assumptions as to what was the issue, as do bad trainers, instead, they started with a rational hypothesis, observed the horse’s reaction and adjusted their thoughts, as would good trainers. They did not stick to their initial hypothesis as the only truth, as do bad trainers. Instead they adjusted their approach to the horse’s reaction, as would good trainers. They did not dismiss Helyn’s and he’s observations. They used the information to decide on the approach.

The fluid coming out of Chazot’s mouth remains a mystery; horses cannot vomit. When he arrived the next morning, he looked in the feed bucket where the remains of the fluid was. There was a large amount of fluid. The only experience that he had with something like that was with a horse which died shortly after. A friend of theirs, who is a vet in the northwest, told them that she heard about such cases, adding that the reflex might have saved Chazot’s life.

In both fields, there are obviously the ones who believe that they know all and the ones who always try to know more. I have every right to express my opinion on the matter because I have been submitted to a system that is responsible for the failure of my physique. I went through the hands of several trainers. They all regarded themselves as different but they were using in fact variables of the same old technique. He, at the contrary, analyzed my problem in light of the most advanced scientific discoveries; as would good vets. He literally turned his back to traditional thinking and I am sound.

Helyn is still going through posttraumatic stress. She sits suddenly and drops of tears run from her eyes. Then, she looks at Chazot and smiles. For each horse rejected or failed by a professional’s ego, there is a horse’s owner and rider that are suffering. I hate ego.


Jean Luc Cornille

Editor Susan Hopf