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Abaco Barbary Horse Update

Dear Friends of the Abaco Barbary Horse,

We just finished spending four days 'in the field' with KC LaPierre, <http://www.the> a specialist in barefoot hoof care. KC was assisted by Robyn Lord. Frank Bell, a Horse Whisperer, <> who has helped us with the wild horses for the last two years, was also in the thick of things along with his wife and assistant Alexandra. Anthony Bostwick, President of the Friends of the Abaco Barbary Horse also spent time in the field, provided accommodations for KC and Robyn (and van parking space for Frank and Alex) and hosted some truly memorable meals for the team.

It was three days of almost non stop adventure with the fourth day a 'bed check' and some time for exploring Abaco.

Our first problem was finding the horses. For whatever reason (and I haven't found one yet) both the two main bands and the others decided, about two months ago, to pretty much disregard the pattern of movements they have followed for nearly two years although Altair's band still stayed quite close to pattern. They are roaming to all corners of the farm, have been found back in the forest on both sides of the farm (including marching up and down what will be the main road of the preserve) and in general have made themselves scarce. So we spent many hours just roaming the farm looking for the horses, with 'spotters' in the backs of pick ups looking up and down endless rows of trees. It's amazing just how often waving banana leaves look like waving manes.

Once we found a band, we had to use the usual astonishing quantities of tranquilizer, and even that only worked on the horses with whom I've had the most contact, with one exception. According to KC, this is very characteristic of Paso Fino horses. Since ours predate Pasos and are the type of horse from which the Pasos were bred, we finally have a reason for why they are so resistant to normal drug dosages. In the breed, this natural dash, verve and zest is called 'Brio' and I can state that our horses have it, each and every one. Quantities of drug that would have rendered much larger thoroughbreds comatose were actually almost ignored by two of the mares.

On the first day out we were able to dart five mares and treat four. All had varying degrees of founder (severe hoof pathology brought on by over rich diet and soft terrain). While Frank, Alex and I concentrated on keeping the horses calm and soothed KC went to work with speed and skill that looked like dance at times. Robyn captured much of the action on video tape, and Anthony Bostwick watched closely to update his skills.

Imagine a wild horse, barely ever touched by humans, marginally sedated, no halter, no restraints, and KC working with incredible speed, assessing, clipping, filing, shaping. Those poor overgrown and miss shaped hooves took on new clean lines. Immediately one could see that instead of standing slightly aback because of the long toes, the horses were standing solidly over their forelegs. Once the horses are back in the forest, eating a less carbohydrate rich diet and walking greater distances over the rough ground of the forest, the pathologies should begin to heal. The work during this clinic has temporarily stopped further deterioration. The horses will be able to move farther, more comfortably. Unfortunately, no permanent changes will take place until their diet changes when they go back to the forest.

On the next days we tried the more difficult horses. Two mares, Adhara and Deneb, practically ignored the tranquilizer. Oh, they became groggy, lowered their heads, allowed us to approach, but that was it. Adhara led us a merry though sedate chase through a distant corner of the farm and into the forest. She would let us approach, I retrieved the darts, but she just wouldn't allow any work on her feet. A third mare, Alnitak, stayed right on the edge. Three of her feet were done and KC got about 90% of what he wanted to do on the last foot. Which is amazing since he was dodging in and under the orange trees, working some, letting Alnitak edge away, working some more. Hoof work is hard enough as it is, often the trimmer has an awful lot of horse leaning on him. In the case of Alnitak, when she wasn't
leaning she was pulling. Approach, lift, set up all had to be done over and over again, and each session was shorter as the tranquilizer wore off.

About two months ago the stallion Altair injured his left eye. Alone I could do nothing. With this team, and possibly because his condition slowed him down, the tranquilizer worked enough that KC got Altair's two back feet done, sluiced out the eye with saline (he will most likely lose the eye) and got penicillin into him. The next day we saw him, head up and looking more like himself than he had in weeks. The weeping from the eye had stopped. The penicillin had probably cleared up a massive sinus infection brought on by the eye injury. And the day after that, after following the same pattern for two years, he and his entire band had changed tactics, disappeared and we never did find them. While Altair was out his 'assistant' stallion did his very best to seduce all the fillies but none were in heat and the girls
showed some very impressive fighting tactics.

I suspect we've set precedent again. The wild mustangs of the US Southwest have had hoof work done, but the horses are driven into corrals, roped, thrown, trussed up and trimmed. We refuse to use those methods with our horses. I think we've proved that with gentleness, help from tranquilizers and a caring attitude our horses can be done without any trauma at all. For the horses with whom I've not had contact we may need to do full knock out, we'll wait for a vet to work with us. But even then we'll take every care to be gentle with them. According to KC, it's entirely possible that after doing each horse a few times it will become accustomed to the procedure. Frank and I are going to work toward acclimating the horses between now and the next clinic. And of course what we are really hoping for is a dramatic
improvement once the horses are back in their normal habitat. We hope that they will once again be literally care free.

The Abaco Barbary horses have lucked out once again. Some wonderfully skilled, caring people have given generously of their time and talent to help the horses back on the road to normal health. (KC and Robyn drove all the way down from upstate New York). Add that good measure of Brio and we've taken firm steps toward a solid future.

And on that grateful and optimistic note, I wish you all the very best Holidays and a Happy, healthy, horsy New year.





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