8-Foot Dream

The Majestic Willow

Meet Willow. She is a towering 8 foot tall Belgian Sorrel Draft Horse (think Clydesdale, but this young lady is bigger than most). She was dropped off at an auction, emaciated, with a gash on the leg and a raging infection. Extensive injuries that were never cared for had her back left leg 4-5 times the size of her others. She swung it like a pendulum to walk. And she was so fresh off pulling a tractor in a field, you could still see the strap marks. Just a heartbreaking way to thoughtlessly neglect and then dispose of this incredible girl.

It is hard not stare. You instantly think "this is the most magnificent creature I have ever seen." And you would be right. She towers over everything. She weighs over 2,000 pounds, and she is only 5 years old. When she lays her head against your body, her face covers most of you! She's THAT BIG.

But what makes her extraordinary is her gentle soul. She drops her head so we can put a halter on, otherwise we would need a ladder! She lets our goats share out of her bowl when they sneak in. And she lets Mr. Huckleberry pick on her (our Sheltand Pony who is barely taller than her knees).

She endured hard labor in her 5 years, much of it forced to work through extensive injuries. The suspensory tendons in both back legs are so damaged that her fetlock bones that would normally stand upright, are nearly horizontal. There is so much scar tissue, we cannot see anything through the mass on her ultrasound. The Xray of the bone is devastating to see.

We immediately went to work on clearing her infection. This marathon began as a sprint -- of medications and daily washings and treatments. Willow came under the care of four of us at the ranch who we call the Pit Crew, who with Dr. Avery's help, surrounded Willow with multiple working hands, treating and cleaning her wounds, washing, and wrapping the entire leg to keep constant pressure. She stands, with unwavering grace. As we work on her like a Nascar vehicle. We are just in awe of her and feel grateful for the responsibility because she deserves this care. No, she will never be feeling "good as new." Her back left leg is filled with fluid, and three veterinarians believe it is chronic and progressive (called CPL). But we are committed to giving her the best life possible at the ranch.

She gives all signs of living a happy life: 

  • Some horses with this kind of injury cannot take 1 step. Willow gallops up the hill to be with her friends.
  • She is awake, on her own before the others get up... greeting early morning walkers along our road. She is eager to say hello! 
  • Her facial cues show no sign of distress (there is a pain chart doctors use, and she meets none of these.)

So we will happily be the Pit Crew for hopefully many, many years to come!