Today was the first Winter Schooling Show. Before the world turned upside down it would have been Vince and my daughter's debut in the Jumper Ring. That didn't happen.
We tried to put on happy faces but when I walked in the barn and saw his freckled face, ears back, nibbling at his hay net, it was obvious he didn't feel well. Bravely, M tacked him up and walked into the ring to warm up, our barn manager close at her side in case Vince had a stumble. After only two laps at a trot (with Vince walking the corners) it became apparent to all of us this wasn't going to happen.
I took Vince back to his stall, brushed him down and turned him out while M transferred to our mare Penny. For a long time he just stood at the gate, cribbing on the rail next to the water trough. After retrieving the DARE collar from his stall, I loosely buckled it on and turned to leave the pasture. Suddenly Vince was at my shoulder pushing me, a touch of loneliness on his face.
The only two other horses out at the time were two our of OTTB rescues, Big and Bailey. Usually the OTTB's form their own group and don't really invite the others to share on their round bales. I call them the original discriminators. I walked toward the two, Vince hanging right at my shoulder.
Big is a grey gelding, Bailey a chestnut mare. Both turned to look at Vince and me as we walked up. Vince stopped a little behind the other two, while I walked up to the round bale. "Vince would like to share the bale with you. I promise he won't be any problem." Both returned to munching from the center of the bale. Permission granted.
Slowly Vince joined the circle, the new kid in the cool group on a trial basis. The three of them continued in blissful peace, even when another OTTB, Katie, joined the circle. Only when the fourth TB came to graze did Vince get pushed out. Even then it wasn't mean. He just walked away and back to the gate, ready to come in for the day.
I filled his Nibble Net, great for keeping him occupied and not cribbing in his stall, then brushed him down again and talked about our big trip this coming week. I assured him it would be alright and we would be with him every step of the way. He seemed better than in the morning, more at ease with himself. I loved on him some more and then it was time to go.
After today I am more determined than ever to get this big lovable goof back to normal, whatever normal might be. He deserved nothing more than the most I can give. That's what I intend to give him.