Life lessons come in the strangest ways. This week, I got two big ones from an X-ray.
When we rescue horses from the auction, they go directly to a quarantine barn in PA, close to the auction house. We have a relationship with a vet in Lancaster County and it's customary for them to do an initial checkup. Last December, within 24 hours of Mr. Scott, Angel, and Noble arriving at the quarantine barn, a vet determined that Mr. Scott needed to get to New Bolton Center as quickly as possible because his starvation level was life threatening. Even though Angel looked skeletal, she was eating and drinking, all good signs. We were all hanging on the edge of our seats as Mr. Scott's life hung in the balance those first couple of weeks.
During that time, as I was taking care of the horses at Nalani, I got a phone call from the vet in Lancaster. I had very little cell service, so I was disconnected more than once, but in the broken conversation, the vet told me that the x-ray he had done on the mare I rescued showed that she had severely foundered in her past (founder is a serious condition of the foot caused by a bone rotating and pointing towards the sole of the foot). It is a dreaded diagnosis as it is extremely painful and, in some cases, it may be necessary to euthanize the horse. I was a little confused. X-ray? I hadn't requested one, but the initial exam must have shown that she needed it. I asked him if she needed to be euthanized, and he said she didn't appear to be in pain now, but it was certainly horrible for her at some point, so we should keep our eye on it. I was upset and worried, but honestly, I was shocked that Angel was alive with the condition she was in at the auction, so I put it in the back of my mind as something we would deal with later and turned my attention back to Mr. Scott.
The vet's office sent me a copy of her x-ray and I forwarded it to our farrier, Victoria. After looking at it, Victoria had a plan in mind to trim her feet in a way to keep her out of pain. Time would tell if Angel would ever be rideable. I spoke to a nutritionist to make sure I put her on the best diet to keep her from any further issues and planned to keep her off of our very grassy paddocks, standard practice for horses who are prone to founder. We would do the best we could for her given a pretty tough diagnosis.
When Angel arrived at Nalani, we watched her sniff the ground and then run around the paddock tasting freedom for the first time. We couldn't help but notice how beautifully she moved with no signs of soreness. When she jumped the 5-foot fence to get to the paddock so she could be with AJ, a handsome Standardbred, we wondered how she could possibly do that in her 'condition'. Her feet were long and she was in desperate need of a trim, but we had to gain trust on her terms, so it was a few months before we could try a farrier visit. When she was finally able to get close to her, Victoria was amazed at how good Angel's feet looked. It didn't seem to add up. Everything we had seen from her showed no indication of pain, so we decided to try her under saddle, knowing that we may not be able to continue. After a few months of training, she wasn't having any issues being ridden and she was otherwise thriving, so we decided she was ready to find her person.
When I posted her adoption ad, I made sure to mention that she had severely foundered in her past, so she shouldn't be out on lush pasture or ridden too vigorously. As I was speaking to a potential adopter, I offered to send her the x-ray so she could have her own farrier and vet take a look. But then I couldn't find the email with the x-ray. Hmm. I know I had it at one point because I had sent it to Victoria. I searched everywhere, but it was gone.
I called the vet in Lancaster to ask them to re-send the x-ray. The office manager searched and couldn't find any record of an x-ray on file. Weird. They had to have sent it to me for me to have sent it to Victoria. I looked back at text messages and narrowed it down to the date the vet did the checkup so she could follow up with him. Two days later, the office manager called me back. It turns out the vet visited two farms that day. The x-ray was done on a different horse at a different farm. He had called the wrong person. Easy mix-up. BUT...here's the thing. Because of that phone call, we treated Angel differently. We limited what she ate, what kind of pasture she was on. We worried about her future and watched for signs that something terrible was on the verge of happening.
Meanwhile, Angel ran happily in the paddocks, jumping over fences on multiple occasions. She developed confidence with a rider on her back. Can you imagine what she would have done differently if we had been able to tell her what "her" x-ray revealed? Maybe she would have been careful and stepped lightly, maybe she would have worried about the sugar in the fresh spring grass or stayed in a paddock where she was lonely and unhappy instead of jumping and running to the place she longed to be. All of the things that we were worried about for her.... she didn't know to worry about them. So she didn't. She just lived. I am a super organized person, so for me to lose an important email isn't normal. But if I hadn't, Angel would have lived out the rest of her life with limitations placed on her by people with false information.
There is another lesson for me here, though. I am a person of faith and God is a big part of my life. I pray daily for a lot of things...guidance, direction, clarity. When hard situations arise, I pray for what I think is needed in the situation. For Angel, my prayers were about her comfort and for us to find a person who would give her a wonderful home knowing she had a serious underlying condition. In short, I pray for the best-case scenario. But do I really? Maybe I actually put limits on God because I can only see a reality that exists in my own head. A limitless God can not only heal or make a situation better, but in this case, the "situation" never even happened. It's gone. Erased.
This could just be a story about a mistaken phone call and a lost email, but for me it raised two big questions. One, what would it be like to live like Angel...like I haven't ever seen the x-ray? Two, what would it be like if I prayed with a more open mind and stopped limiting what I think is possible, and l actually just let God be God and do what He does best? I'm honestly not sure what either one of those things would look like ....but I am going to try to find out.