The Impossible - The Story of Choc - Part 4
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   10th Mar 2014   •   5,076 views   •   0 comments
The Story of Choc

The next few weeks of her recovery were full of ups and downs. The wound would begin to heal, and then infection would set in again, and once more I’d have to wait, scared to death, while they tested to see if it was in the joint. And so it went on, for months on end, with Choc waiting in the hospital, lonely without her friends, and the bills piling up quickly. It was touch and go all the while, and I learned to keep my expectations low.

She was in the hospital for seven months. Seven months of waiting, hoping, and praying. Seven months of worrying and despair, of good news lifting my hopes, only to be knocked back to rock bottom by the onslaught of bad. When she finally came home, I could not have been more delighted.

Upon arriving back at the farm – even on a number of sedatives – Choc immediately started calling and pawing in the box. She flew down the ramp like a bat out of hell, and then stopped, head flung high, and took in all the sights and sounds that she had so obviously missed. Her eyes were wider than I’ve ever seen them, ears pricked right forward, and she looked so happy, so utterly delighted, that my heart could have broken. She just stood there, frozen, watching her friends cavorting around their paddocks in their excitement. Then she exploded.

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Prancing, tugging and shaking her head, Choc neighed at the top of her lungs, and practically dragged me to her paddock. I put her inside, closed the gate, and then clung onto the lead rein for dear life as she tugged me from one end of the paddock to the other; squealing at Finola like a jealous little filly, then darting over to Bronze and greeting him like a lost lover. The two of them had always been close friends; inseparable in any situation, and Choc had missed him so much that even when I visited her in hospital, she used to snuffle at my boots and chaps just to try catch a whiff of him. Now, seeing the two together again at last, it was about the most heartwarming thing I’d seen in my life.

They touched noses, snuffled and squeaked, bounced around excitedly, and talked in that quiet, emotional way that only horses can.

Choc was sound upon arriving back home, but a few days of cavorting around her paddock like a maniac (with two doses of ACP sedation paste daily) left her looking slightly stiff and sore again. For the next few months, this was how it continued. Choc would be sound for a few days, but with her constant energetic antics and throwing herself around, she remained lame on and off for the next three months. This was, of course, to be expected. Although the bone in her leg had healed, the muscles surrounding it had been severed during the operation, and would take quite some time to recover completely, if they ever did. And so it became a waiting game, and there was nothing to do but leave Choc to her own devices, trying not to think about her future, and accept that – if and when she began to maintain her soundness – it might be time to gradually reintroduce work.

The Story of Choc
Choc's wound five months after surgery

Honestly, the prospect seemed bleak. During that time I eventually gave up hope on ever riding Choc again. It was a harsh and terrible reality to face, but the blow was lessened somewhat by the fact that Choc was at least alive, and happy to scamper around her paddock, bucking and rearing and generally behaving like the world’s worst patient. It was clear that she missed riding, perhaps even more than I missed riding her, but we each learned to accept it, and in our own ways, we got by.

I threw myself into my riding career, busying myself with my other horses, and gave little thought to Choc’s soundness each day. It was just easier that way; not considering what would happen if she never improved. Then, after months of waiting, I finally began to notice a change. She was sound walking around her paddock. For days, weeks on end, she had not taken a single lame step. Even when she was racing madly around her paddock, she seemed happy on her leg. At long last, I began to feel a spark of hope again. I had her taken out of her paddock and trotted up, and would you believe it, she was sound! There was no doubt about it; she was striding out, and using herself beautifully. The time had come then, at last, to see how she would handle weight on her back.

The next day, I walked up with a bridle, and when I took it into Choc’s paddock, the look on her face was something I can’t even begin to describe. She walked straight up to me, ears pricked as far forward as they can go, and eyes so wide they seemed about to pop out of her head. She looked at me as if to say, “Is it my turn now? Please, please, please!”

The moment I put the reins over her head, she was so excited that I could hardly hold her still to get the bridle on. She grabbed the bit, and started pivoting around, pawing and shoving me. Never in my life have a seen a horse that eager to be ridden.

The Story of Choc
First ride nine months after injury

When at last I managed to get the bridle on her, I grabbed a handful of mane, and climbed on bareback. It was one of the most amazing feelings of my life. After convincing myself I’d never get to feel that horse under me ever again, to be sitting on her back once more was something akin to a miracle. I couldn’t stop smiling as I walked her out of the paddock, and with her snatching at the bit and shaking her head around, I knew that she was as ecstatic about it as I was. Every other stride she would shake her neck, utter an excited little grunt, and get a big bounce in her step. She never quite bucked, but I could feel it building in every step. She was like a stick of dynamite, ready to explode any minute. For me, feeling that energy, that eagerness, and that sheer joy of living in the little animal beneath me made everything we’d been through seem obsolete. From day one, Choc was something special. To have her on the road to recovery again at last was worth more to me than I could ever express. At long, long last, after months of despondent waiting, stressing, and ripping out my hair, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, life is no fairy tale. The prince doesn’t always save the princess, and sometimes the heroine with the plate in her leg doesn’t get to live happily ever after. This time, the light at the end of the tunnel marked the approach of the train.

Twenty four hours was all it took for my newly inflated hope to be crushed all over again. The next day I arrived, all excited for my next ride on Choc, only to find her hopping around the paddock on three legs. It made no sense. Nothing had happened; she had walked for a few minutes with a little extra weight on her back, and that was all. I ran into her paddock, terrified that somehow I had done too much too soon (even though I knew this wasn’t true) and managed to ruin everything.

But then I looked at her leg, and saw that her elbow was swollen around the site of the scar. A visit from the vet proved what I already knew. Somehow, eight months after the injury – with the wound closed and healed – infection had set in. Further testing showed that the infection was already in the joint, and an X-ray proved that it was beginning to eat away at the newly healed bone around the screws holding the plate in place. Her body was rejecting the plate.

Just when we thought that the worst was over, that Choc was on her way back, it was suddenly as if we were back to square one.

The Story of Choc
Infection sets in nine months after surgery
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