I recognized an undefinably long time ago that I was ‘strange’ when it came to my empathy and connection with animals - especially with horses. And even now, when people come into the yard here, and see how many horses there are, they often ask, “Do they all have names?” And I reply in the affirmative - and then they wonder how on earth I remember all of them. Well, to me, that’s not remotely difficult. I can also tell you the first moment that I either saw them or heard about them, or started my fight to save their lives. So many of them, including Adorado, were not easy to save. And once they are here, their stories do not end - but their life journey continues - if only for a little while.
Such was the case with Ju Jubes - a kind gelding who was sent to auction in his early 20’s, having apparently once been a beloved 4H, and a saddle horse - one who his breeder said ‘took care of his rider.’ Ju Jubes would have sold for meat in the fall of 2016 - but instead, he escaped that undeserved and horrible fate. And he ended up on my trailer, along with several mares - one with her baby at side (Candy Cane), and 4 other foals - one with severe congenital problems (little Opal).
Ju Jubes quickly formed close bonds with some members of his little group from auction; especially with (then) 1 month old Candy Cane, and the tiny, crooked legged Opal, who literally had to learn how to drink water while part of Jube’s group. Ju Jubes was like a grand father to them, strong in presence and life experience, and yet exuding a gentleness that made it clear that he had once known a caring hand.
And Jubes was there when we lost Candy Cane to a sudden meningitis not long after that auction. I had put Jubes in her stall the night before the emergency vet came and tried to help her, as she could not tolerate being separated from him. But Candy Cane’s little body just not built to withstand this world. And that little sweet heart of a foal, departed, while I sat beside her in her stall, leaving me reeling. But Ju Jubes; well, he seemed to understand all of it. And his strong spirit helped me to get on.
Actually, Ju Jubes had a strange and profound timing in my life, as in Candy Cane’s. Like her, I delved into his strength, and held on to his patience and calmness. You see, the day after I saved Ju Jubes at auction, and gained a potential new friend, I lost my very best one - the horse who had litrrally gotten me into horses, and completely altered the course of my life. My most special horse of 17 years - Blaze - passed away suddenly, and without drama or explanation, in his 20’s. And so my life was forever altered once more. And telling of that immense loss brings that hard-to-describe longing back to me thar I tend to keep put away in a place that keeps continuing on possible, until it emerges In telling a story like this. And the same feeling that is doubly hard to endure because even though I initially thought that Ju Jubes was a gift to help me adjust to Blaaze’s loss, it turned out that he was not to be here long.
I did ride Ju Jubes one time. He and my Blaze were both mature, penny coloured sorrels, with white markings. Both had that specialness about them - that little extra touch that reminded a person that there is something bigger, more magical, than this world. But unlike my Blaze, Ju Jubes, lovely to ride as he was, didn’t seem to enjoy being ridden. True to what his breeder had told me, he would run when approached with tack. He had given his all and worked hard most of his life. And having bern tossed away at auction, and faced slaughter, he told me he just didn’t want to work any more; which I respected. But Jubes was soon facing something else that was not welcome here.
In the summer of 2017, gentle Ju Jubes was diagnosed with cancer. And his then vet said that it was untreatable. The prospect of losing him was just soberingly sad; he literally brought a light and a hopefulness to every day that was completely incongruent with any terminal disease. And as with everything I had seen him face, including his last trot through any auction ring, Ju Jubes took it in with grace; ‘in stride,’ as they say.
I had already given him the run of the farm by then, as I let him go through any pasture gate he pleased. He joined a group now and then, but preferred to be the yard horse, charming people who drove up, and grazing dandelions in the small field close to to house. He would literally stand in front of my truck at times, when I would try to leave the property; before going under the garage door and helping himself to alfalfa cubes or feed bags while I was driving away. And he spent the winter of 2017 blanketed and cozily munching on round bales with the barn group. And he enjoyed that following summer - sunning himself amongst hundreds of the yellow bursts of dandy lions he loved to eat. And time floated by - and he became a well loved friend to me - a constant gleaming embodiment of ‘happy’ that would greet me when ever I left my house. And by his third winter here, he seemed to be defying his diagnosis. And on his way to another summer here.
But despite his enthusiasm for eating, Ju Jubes could not maintain his weight. The winter of 2018 to 2019, I let him sleep and eat where he pleased. And it was not unusual to find him dozing in his blanket in a mountain of alfalfa mixed small bales, when he wasn’t tucked into his straw bed in the barn. And although his greetings to me never changed or faded - whether it be his deep, distinct whinney from a distance, or that soft nicker he reserved only for me when I approached his stall in the barn, Ju Jube’s nee vet said tests revealed abnormalities, that his body couldn’t absorb nutrients. And sadly, his earthly frame started to become a betrayal to his strength, and sheen of spirt.
It was March 27, 2019, when I looked out the window, and was startled to see him stretched in the snow In what had been Blaze’s blanket, almost his full length; I had let him out of the barn for a bit of afternoon sunlight and a walk, and the way I spotted him suggested to me that he had slipped. He was lying close to the front if a shelter, and his back legs were pressed up too close to to nearby mesh fence for him to have chosen to lay down that way. And I was already in my boots, pulling on my jacket, and running for the porch door as I was putting this together. And the panic that I’d proved grounded. As when I got to him, he was able to lie sternal briefly - with his head up Instead of flat out on the snow - but even with my pushing and rocking him, he could not rise. And he couldn’t keep his head up - so I tucked a piece of blanket under his snowy cheek.
I Immediately called a friend-volunteer, and put up a post on Adorado’s page, asking for urgent help. I called my vet. I had already run to the barn for more blankets and covered Jubes in them; I had gone to the house with his pink pail and clenched a bucket of warm water in one hand, and ran it out to him - and he could drink it. And based on a suggestion of someone on the page, I even called the fire department. And I was astounded and relieved when I received a phone call from someone I had never met, who had seen the post - she and her husband were on highway 2, already on their way, and needing my exact address.
And it wasn’t the fire department that ultimately helped me to get Jubes up - although 2 fire engines did appear out of the darkness, emergency lights flashing and all - but 3 volunteers. The fire Chief explained that the crews, willing as they were, could not try to lift Jubes for liability reasons. And we were a bit discouraged at that, but as their trucks departed, 4 of us, aligned ourselves at Ju Jube’s back. By then, Jubes was visibly dejected; his ‘down side’ had to be numb with cold. But we pushed hard, to rock him, and were able to help him onto his belly. so that he was lying sternal. And Jubes quickly revived, his eyes opening, and comprehending again as he rejected what had to be an ice induced sleepiness - and he got his feet under him, and stood up. And I was so overcome with happiness just then. But I know that I hugged Jubes - and someone else too. And I know that we outright cheered. And just then, his vet arrived, and I recall how her face lit up at my news that Jubes was on his feet again. And so, the peace of night was saved, and all was upright in my world again, as Jubes returned to the warmth of his stall, and ate his alfalfa cubes from his bright pink bucket, as if it were just another typical evening.
A little more than a week later, while I was waiting for our then farrier to arrive to do some trims, I opened the barn door, expecting to hear that bellow of a whinney that was Jubes; expecting to see his loving eye face me In the window of his stall door. But his window was vacant, and my stomach clenched at the quiet as I walked quickly to his stall. There, I found Jubes, down, his back to me, his feet set evenly apart, close to the opposing concrete wall. Yet the instant he knew me, he nickered - as if to say, ‘oh there you are; finally! You will get me out of this.’ And I did - but not in the way that I had expected - or remotely wanted.
I had called the farrier, and even though time dragged on like a movie slowed close to pausing, it wasn’t long before he was entering the barn and helping me to loosely attach lead ropes to Jubes’s ankles, do that we could flip Jubes on to his opposite side. Jubes’s vet was on speaker phone, and had reminded me that sometimes that was enough to get these older guys up again. But once turned, Ju Jubes remained flat out. And although I had a winch in the barn, knew how to use it to lift a down horse, it was attached to the ceiling in the other stall. But the farrier, who was quite adept at using ropes in strategic ties because of his training experience, started working out a way to hook Jubes on to it - and gave me real hope that we could getJubes standing. And we did; we used the winch to pull him up and with time, had him standing in the alley way; but that little victory did not last. Ju Jubes went down again after the winch line was relalxed, the rigidity in his knees softening shortly after we let the winch down, and let slack into the ropes holding the two padded cinches under Ju Jubes torso. And I will fight for a horse as long as they want to fight. But as Jubes banged his muzzle on the concrete in frustration, and looked to me to help him, I tried to be strong when he could not. So, I called his vet, and asked her to come -fast. And I was there stroking Jubes head, my tears falling softly onto his beautiful face while I told him he was okay, as the vet administered the only type of help i could then give him. I had to let him go. And I sat, leaning up against his chest on the concrete, disabled by sorrow, alone, for I really don't know how long after the vet and farrier were gone. Just like that, this beautiful soul who presented itself in the form of a horse was gone from my world forever.
And I could not understand why anyone who was blessed with such a gift for over 20 years would give him up for sale to someone else at about 22 - to someone who apparently wanted him for the grandkids to ride. But apparently they had said they would “never” sell him. “Never“ often comes on fast in the ‘horse world,’ where many see a horse as a tool, a vehicle, something to use until circumstances change. And ‘never sell’ turned into a quick auction sale - a little money in the hand. I had actually spoken to the consignor at one point - the person who had sent Jubes to auction; and he told me that the grand kids had ridden Jubes, but that he didn't want to ‘winter’ him. His only regret was that he'd not gotten the $1500 back that he'd paid for him.
But I am glad that I found his breeder - the person who had owned him most of his life. I found her through his registration certificate, and she was grateful he hadn’t sold for meat, had sent me photos of Jubes in his early days. And I had even given her son - the boy who had grown into a man since Ju Jubes 4H days - to come visit anytime. But he never came. But I am just so grateful that I was able to scoop up this teddy bear, angel of a horse over the meat buyer. And that I was gifted with his friendship, his trust, his pure appreciation that I respected him for all that he was, when he wasn’t under saddle. I loved him to the core, and he had to have known it, in that moment just before he had to go.
I find that the worst part of losing someone you have shared a bond with is the missing them - and I would give up years to come just to go back for a little while - to be in the sun of thar horse, to grasp Jubes around his fury neck, to grab hold of his special energy, in one last hug. The other part of acute loss that is sometimes unbearable is the wanting to know that they are all right. Is there a heaven for horses? Well, people can say what they want, but I did have someone visit me shortly after Ju Jubes passed; and when I told her that he kept looking to me, and that didn’t seem to want to go, she became visibly emotional - and then held up a hand as if to stop me. She said that she could tune into his spirit. And that that it was!n’t that he didn’t want to go - that his main concern was whether I would be all right after he was gone. And, some will say that is craziness; but her saying that made it a bit easier for me to bypass regret that I could not save him one last time. As wouldn’t that just be so true to what I had come to know of the generous and gracious Ju Jubes.
I could not accept that he had gone - but in grief, we have no place to go. We have choice but to ultimately acknowledge that an energy that was once tied to, that has lit us up, is lost; that the world is going to more shadow than light for a while. And grief is isolating; the thing about losing a horse is that family and friends don’t rush over with condolence food, and offerings of consoling phrases. I had been through this before, but in Jubes case, I had to get his body out of the barn on my own. I waited a little, thinking it would be more bearable, but It didnt make wrapping straps around what had once been his exuberant body, and attaching a chain to the tractor bucket, and pulling his empty frame out of the barn much easier. The tractor chain bore his weight, but the heaviness of getting him to the neat rectangular hole that an excavator operator had just then managed to make in the icy earth is something that no loved one should have to bear.
Yet almost one year and a half later, I still sometimes feel the special presence that was - that is Ju Jubes. And there is another thing - a rare moment that has recurred since Adorado’s passing. That is, sometimes, when the world dives into dusk, and even the song of the birds is hushed, and the leaves stilled, and the water near the pasture Is streaked by the steady glow of the moon, I swear that I feel someone brush up against the back of my shin, or touch my arm, and I turn around without thinking, expecting to find one of the horses there, but there is no one - to see.
But if that seems just too hard to reconcile with reality for some, and no matter the mysteries of what we can no longer touch or see, I do have a special little tangible reminder of Ju Jubes here. As 3 months after the day that the beautiful light that was Ju Jubes faded from where I could interpret my world through it, another little life entered my space. Gwendolyn, who I had saved at auction in the fall of 2018, gave birth to a tiny miniature colt. And in honour of the special grandpa of a horse who I still mourned, I named him Ju Jubes Junior.
And although Jubes Junior cannot be said to resemble Jubes Senior in stature, or even colour, shortly after he was born, he uttered a loud little whinney upon seeing me enter the stall. I had watched most of his birth on the barn cam, and had only snuck in to see him stand - and his little voice acknowledging my presence was startling. More than 10 foals have beeb born here and not one has ever whinnied in response to my voice in the foaling stall. And almost every day since, when I have called for Gwen and Junior to come into the barn at night, I will hear that Enthusiastic little sound - and even if he is too far off in the pasture to see, I know that he is connected to me. And it moves me straight from where ever I am to joy, every single time.
And there is a yet more to this ‘little’ story: a person who has put Ju Jubes and the little colt who is known as Triple J or Jubes Junior, together, so as to keep Jubes Senior’s memory and giving nature present in another way. The person who inspired me to write what has turned into Ju Jubes’ story. She felt a connection to him early on, and sponsored Ju Jubes for the 2 and a half years of his life here. And when he passed, I thought that had to end. But it didn’t. As this special person has continued her sponsorship - on behalf of Jubes. As every month, a donation comes “from Ju Jubes Senior to Triple J”. And just recently, an incredibly generous donation was sent in this same beautiful manner, along with a note indicating that it was for this winter’s hay. And so that amount is now in the Adorado account, and gives me great hope, that despite high hay prices, and our facing a winter in the midst of a pandemic, that we will be all right. And that is just how Ju Jube Senior would have made me feel. Thank you.I hope that you don’t cry upon reading this - as I did in writing it. I just somehow started on it as a thank you to you, and could not stop.
Some stories are tough to get right - and I have been meaning to tell the one of the 31 year old gelding who I bought at auction one month ago today. But then I find that I feel a pressing down, an acute emotionally driven ache forming and taking over my senses. And I stop. I mean, this horse has experienced 31 years on this earth without me entering his little world. How can I tell his story? How can I know all over the challenges he has pressed up against, the highs and lows he has traversed at a high clip, or in a lingering, leisurely walk?
Well, I can’t. But what I can tell you is that the appreciation, admiration, and love that I already hold for him makes it so hard for me to communicate what I do know. Only because I believe his reins couldn’t have been last held by someone who wanted him respected - certainly not loved.
I know that I saw this grey gelding standing quietly and dejectedly at the back of his auction pen; that once I had his tag number, I called the office to find out what I could. And I was told that that his consignment sheet, wherein a seller handwrites what ever they want the auctioneer to read out - verbatim- when a horse is in the ring, said only: “meat horse.” The attached EID form, (which has to be filled out by every seller so that a horse can be slaughtered), added that he was a 31 year old gelding. And sound.
And when this horse actually came into the auction ring, there was little to say. Even the auctioneer seemed to find it too abrupt to just read out, “meat horse.” After after a long pause, he added that the horse was ‘likely ridden at some point.’
And once this gelding was off the auction lot, and I had spent a bit of time in his quiet presence, I noticed that his tail had been cut very short, and a good part of his mane cut ofd close to the roots. I wondered why - I wondered a lot of things - including where he had been, and what had prompted someone to label him a “meat horse.” And so, I called his seller.
And I learned that he had been a roping and penning horse; that he was well broke, with a nice temperament. And that he was indeed sound with no known health problems; that they had had him for 12 years. He was sent for meat because they didn’t want him ridden because they said it would be like riding a 90 year old man.’ And they didn’t want him being ‘pushed around by the younger horses on pasture.’
And I did not comment. I have spoken to more than one serious rancher who has been clear that once a horse is ‘done’ and of no more ‘use’, they send them for meat (no stopping at auction either); there is no changing their mind by asking how they don’t consider that a betrayal of all that their horse has done for them - has given them. I add that when your vet puts a beloved friend to rest when it’s time, it may cost a hundred dollars. But selling a horse for meat puts much more than that in the seller’s hand.
I did get one more detail about this horse in the end - I asked the horse’s name. “Silver,” they had called him. And given that he has likely been so named for more than 3 decades, It shall stick.
And Silver he is - his spirit already shines here. When I take him out on the lead for walks, and to munch a bit of the incoming grass, he is so gracious and anticipatory - it’s like he floats. And I can tell you that his story has not ended with him being labelled a “meat horse.” And that knowing cloud of bleakness that I felt cloaked over him at the auction has dissipated. I see you, Silver. I feel that gleam that is again emanating from your heart - and what could have been a tragic storm of an end has so fittingly given way to its Silver lining.
"Opal": $10 baby
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Dummy Foal' Django: Our Madigan Sqeeze Miracle!
A story that was shared over 10,000 times on Facebook before being featured in Horse & Rider Magazine!
May 7, 2016
Kitty foaled at 2 a.m. on Thursday morning - I was there to witness the labour and delivery and her baby was born very fast; the sac did not break over the foal's nose, however, so I had to break it. After he was born, he was not quick to stand, and once I helped him to get up, he didn't engage in the typical udder searching - he walked around a bit, and then lay down to go back to sleep; I rubbed him with a clean piece of clothing and scratched his back, and got him up again, but despite all of my efforts, he just was not interested in nursing - even when i guided him to the teats and milked kitty to try to entice him with the milk, he just stood there. Instead of engaging in the typical pattern of nursing, and then lying down, sleeping, and then getting up to nurse again, he just walked around, licked the stall walls - - and he slept standing up! I called the vet to come out so that he could have the colostrum he needed within the first 6 hours - she came out with an intern, and the foal seemed to be interested in udder searching briefly, but the vet could not get him to latch on either - so we tubed him. She didn't think he had dummy foal syndrome because he was so active and fiesty - and he certainly was. Getting the tube in was a bit of a fight, and it took two of them, with one holding the foal down, and me holding Kitty, to accomplish it.
After the vets left, I tried for more hours without success to get the foal interested in nursing - i knew then that he just was not 'normal', and I was getting a bit panicked as even if presented with the milk, he would not suckle on anything. So, I decided to try the madigan squeeze technique - after i spoke to the repro specialist at the clinic and she thought he might have a mild case of dummy foal syndrome. It was hopeless for me to do it on my own, although I did try. So Jonathan came home a few hours later, and I got him to watch the three part video on the madigan squeeze that friends had posted on this page. I just had to share the result of the squeeze with adorado's friends, as if I had not seen it in action I don't know that I would have completely believed it. As soon as the ropes were on and we put a bit of pressure on them, the foal's knees weakened, and we helped him down to the stall floor - he was literally in a deep sleep instantly, as if someone had waved a wand over him, or hypnotized him - just as in the video. After just over ten minutes, Jonathan released the pressure on the ropes, and the foal awakened instantly, sat up sternal, and then stood - he immediately went over and latched on, and started nursing. It was literally unbelievable to me! He then lay down, and went to sleep, and then got up and nursed again. Amazing!
Today - three days after he was born, he is still in that pattern - this is just so critical to his healthy future. What a transformation. The madigan squeeze event was literally one of the most amazing things that I have ever been a part of. If you look at the photos I hope that you can see the change in him.
For those who have never head of 'dummy foal syndrome', from what I understand, there are neurotransmitters that keep the foal asleep in utero, and when the foal passes through the birth canal, the levels are supposed to drop. In some cases, where there is oxygen deprivation, or a fast birth, the levels do not drop - so this technique mimics the squeeze of the birth canal, and resets the levels. Amazing! We actually tried it a second time a few hours later, as he seemed to be a bit off the pattern, and it can't hurt a foal if done properly - AND we initially thought that ten minutes and not twenty was the correct time - so we were a bit short at ten minutes. But the affect was not nearly as profound. He did lie down and go to sleep, but it wasn't instantaneous. Thank you to the amazing person - Dr. Madigan - who discovered this most incredible 'thing' and shared it with the world. And thank you to the friends who posted the videos on it - i was just exhausted for lack of sleep, and time was of the essence. I had read about this before, but never thought we'd put it to use here. I'm still in awe. :) Tracy