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Age: unknown    Arrived: July 15, 2002    Crossed: April 12, 2003
Hannah Without even seeing the animal, I liked the name. Hannah. Spell it forward or backward and it’s the same. Interesting and a bit crafty, I thought. So is the animal, I was soon to learn.

Hannah came to live at REFUGE FARMS in July of 2002. The summer was very hot and we had very little rain. Hannah’s previous home had utilized her as a workhorse and she had been left to die because she had “lost her power” in the fields.

Upon hearing this, I envisioned a sway back, older, rather worn out mare. A horse that had a few years left but was definitely a senior citizen. Wrong again, Sandy!

Hannah is approximately 7 years old. She is rather small for a Percheron but was a power horse! She had lost her power, yes indeed. But not because she was giving up or because she was weak. She had lost her power because her feet were so desperately in need of care that she could no longer walk let alone pull a plow through the earth.

Before Surgery The picture shows you just what condition her feet were in while Hannah was trying to work the fields. I am absolutely amazed that she could walk at all! Obviously this young lady wanted to live. Hannah had been harnessed and had worked fields through the spring planting – all the way through May of that year. By June, she was too sore and so was left to die.

Only through The Master Plan did Hannah come to my attention and to REFUGE FARMS. Upon picking her up, she was able to walk in to the trailer for the ride home, but she was literally walking on her heels with these huge hooves hanging out in front of her.

It looked almost like she had huge duck feet. And even if the length could be corrected, her feet were very, very thick and tremendously deformed. And she had huge open holes in the meat of the back of her lower legs. From what? I just shook my head and told her that I would do our very best to help her.

Other than her feet, Hannah was in an overall weakened state, very wormy, and in general, just as crabby as she could be. And it was no wonder. Upon her arrival at THE FARM, she was given all the latitude in the world with nothing, absolutely nothing, asked of her. She began a diet of all the grass and hay she could eat with a small introduction to grain. She had open water and it seemed that she consumed a stock tank full every other day. Within hours, it seemed, her body seemed to respond to food. Her feet however, would take much longer.

The farrier was unable to even attempt to correct Hannah’s feet until she could be strong enough to lift one leg. That meant she had to be able to stand on the other 3 feet. That was going to take way, way too long and she needed relief. Plus, I could smell the abscesses in her feet and so I needed to accelerate the process of getting her feet trimmed and cleaned.

Off to Eastern Wisconsin to visit Isaac Hershberger, a very special farrier, we go. Hannah was a bit more stable, but moving with even more difficulty. Since coming to THE FARM and receiving a somewhat balanced diet, her hooves had begun to grow!!!! Just what Hannah did not need!

Hannah’s first experience with a trimming rack is one neither this farrier nor I will ever forget. She went in to the rack very well and allowed her right rear foot to be raised. Once the foot was up, however, the conversation began! Hannah stated very loudly and clearly that she did not, repeat, did not enjoy this position! She wanted out and she wanted out now!

We worked as quickly as we could and took only the first 5” (yes, 5”) off of the hoof. We cleaned and treated the abscesses and then released the foot. And what happened next was magic – absolute magic.

Hannah put her right rear foot down and her entire hip and body placement changed. She literally swung her head around and looked back at that foot, looked at us, and then raised her left rear foot, asking us to please continue!

And continue we did. Hannah backed out of the trimming rack on new feet with treated abscesses and her entire body stature much closer to what it should be. She paused before returning to the trailer to rub her head against the farrier’s shoulder. I am convinced she was saying “Thank You” to Isaac.

It’s been six months now. Hannah is walking much, much better but still not standing right. She cannot move any faster than a walk. We have many more trimmings to go before her feet will truly be the proper length. Their condition, though, may never recover. She has tremendously thick hoof walls with too soft tissue underneath.

And the abscesses continue to come. Perhaps there will be an end to the soakings in Epsom Salts some day, but for now, we soak her feet to try to dry up the infections. Some of the infections have created tunnels, or holes, in her feet that I can stick my thumbs in. My hope is that the infections have not destroyed critical blood and nutrient delivering tissues.

After Surgery [After surgery]

Until her feet tell us Hannah’s future, she continues to eat – man does she eat! - and talk to me. This horse is settling down, somewhat, but is very impatient and becomes head strong when it’s time for feed. To me, this is understandable until she finally learns that feed will come every day, twice a day, forever.

But talking to me is the best part. When she comes in to the barn for feeding, she walks around in the barn a bit just to prove to me that she is, in fact, still her own boss and nothing I have is so important to her to make her come straight to me. Okay. I have the time to let you come to me, Hannah, at your own pace.

She is tied to her feeder and then asked to stand until everyone else is tied. Okay so far. Then the feedings begin and she gets a bit noisy. Nothing too bad, but she shows her lack of patience very clearly.

Then the real talking begins. I go to Hannah and give her feed of which she immediately begins to “hoover”. Two or three mouthfuls in to the feed, she takes her front left foot – probably her least painful one – and paws the ground 4 times. Just 4 times. And every time. Hannah says “Thank You, Thank You”.

* * * * * *

Note: Hannah has left us and crossed over the Rainbow Bridge in April of 2003. Her feet had moved forward in their recovery and her coat gleamed like she had been oiled! She was beautiful and developing quite a playful personality! Still impatient during feedings, but beginning to relax and trust that feed would, in fact, appear again as promised.

The overall damage to Hannah’s body due to excessive work and insufficient nutrition would cause her to suffer a broken neck. In a freak accident while playing with the Beglian gelding Joseph, her chosen mate here at THE FARM, Hannah tossed her head and connected with the board fence. It was only a slight connection, but just at the right angle and her weakened bones gave way.

Hannah is buried under the poplar tree next to RedMan and has since had Joseph, her chosen mate, placed at her side. I often pause to wonder just how shiny she would have been by now…and thoroughly miss her conversations during feedings. Bless you, Hannah, for gracing us with your example of strength.
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