The Impossible - The Story of Choc - Part 5
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   12th Mar 2014   •   5,559 views   •   1 comments
The Story of Choc

There were just two options - A second surgery to remove the plate that had been put in just eight months earlier, or... Putting Choc down. All at once, I was thrown back into a nightmare from which I had barely awoken. Had we really come all this way for nothing? The answer, when I really thought about it, was the easiest in the world. No. After all she had been through, that just wasn’t an option at all. Choc had proved her mettle. She had earned the right to go on fighting.

So Choc was booked into surgery yet again, only this time, we all looked on it with a certain optimism. Without the plate causing infection in her leg, the possibility of Choc coming sound suddenly seemed all the more likely. But before that, she had to make it through yet another operation. The surgeon decided to do the operation with Choc standing up, not just to reduce the cost, but also to reduce the risk to her – and so the grueling operation began. For five hours, Choc stood under anaesthetic while her loyal surgeon slaved tirelessly away, painstakingly removing each of the eleven screws holding the plate in place. At last, the plate came out. Right now, it’s sitting in a zip-lock bag in my room, a reminder of all the hardship that little horse of mine has had to face in her short life.

The Story of Choc
Plate and 11 screws removed nine months after surgery

She stayed in the hospital a while longer after that, recovering quickly, and giving the hospital staff hell as usual, with her incessant calling and pawing at the door. From day one, Choc has never been a particularly ‘patient’ horse. When it came time for her to come home, she proved this yet again, prancing down the ramp of the box under the influence of three doses of ACP paste (as usual). The moment I turned her loose in the paddock, she exploded, bouncing like a crazed Jack-in-the-box from one end of her paddock to the other. Squealing, bucking and farting, she greeted Bronze like a long lost lover (again), had a good roll in the sand, then buried her head in her hay as if nothing had ever happened. No matter how much trauma she went through, Choc’s appetite always seemed to remain untouched. Watching her settle in again was like Déjà vu.

The Story of Choc
Reunited with Bronze

Once she was back home and she’d been given some time to rest, I started planning to bring Choc gradually into work again. She started walking in hand daily – looking as sound as ever, and eager to be ridden. Ever since the surgery, Choc had been moving brilliantly, and I was finally starting to feel truly optimistic about her future. When the time came to start riding her, I had a feeling that this time, it would be the start of a long, grueling journey back to full work. Little did I know that on the very day I thought I’d start riding her, Choc would decide that she was homesick for her friends in the hospital. I arrived to find her in her paddock, dead lame. Did I perhaps dream the end of this nightmare?

Related: Choc Showjumping Competition
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At first I thought it was her elbow – a truly desolating prospect - but a closer look showed that she had, in fact, torn through a large chunk of flesh on her left fore fetlock. I must have checked her paddock from top to bottom nearly twenty times, but no matter how hard I searched, I couldn’t find any potential dangers on which Choc might have hurt herself. Then again, she always was a resourceful one. Whether she’d caught her leg on a fence, or simply stood right on top of herself with all of her fooling around, Choc had managed to earn herself a trip back into hospital. She couldn’t very well let them go a week without their permanent mascot, could she now? No string of crazed racehorses could bash down doors like one little Choc could; it was too quiet without her there.

The Story of Choc
Fetlock injury - One year after accident

As it turned out, the wound couldn’t be sutured, so the flap of skin had to be removed, and for a month to follow, my girl stood bandaged in the hospital, waiting for the wound to heal. After trying so hard to get back, Choc certainly didn’t seem happy to have returned to her ‘second home’. Far from enjoying her visits like she had at first, she took to sulking whenever I arrived, clearly annoyed that she had to be away from her friends yet again. If there was ever such a thing as the equine equivalent of a moody teenager, then Choc was it.

The Story of Choc
Fetlock injury - One year after accident

When she was finally fully healed and allowed to return home again, the time for doubting and second-guessing was as close to over as it was ever going to be. If she could have, that little horse would have put her bridle on herself, and done up the girth with her teeth! We started work immediately, and so began the long and grueling process of rehabilitating a horse that, one year before, had just about broken her leg. I think perhaps at some point I had abandoned the last of my hope, believing that perhaps it was not even possible. How often does the horse with the broken leg live to return to its full glory once more? Sure, it happens in the movies; along with frogs turning into princes, and vampires that sparkle and father children with human girls.

But as we spent our days walking (if you can call jogging, prancing and fly-leaping ‘walking’) for hours up and down a quiet gravel road, with my little horse growing keener and sounder by the day, the fairytale slowly began to morph into something more real. It was a dream, a possibility. Then, when Choc was still sound months into her daily walking, it suddenly became a goal, and this was one goal that I knew I would slave for years to accomplish if I had to.

After all of Choc’s tenacity, with that unbreakable spirit and fiery determination of hers not once dulling, I owed her that much. I owed her the chance to show that she could once again be what she had been!

So we trotted. And there were days when she floated, and days when she hobbled. Days when I got off grinning from ear-to-ear, and days when I slid from the saddle to clutch my head in my hands, wondering if it was all for nothing, and if perhaps we had come this far only for Choc to be – as the vet had so often warned she might be – only paddock sound, never to cope with hard work again. Still we trotted, and as the weeks went by, Choc began to grow stronger and stronger. She built muscle, settled into her work, and began stepping out, swinging her back, and actually using herself for the first time in over a year. By the time we started our canter work I was brimming with confidence, yet in that ever-cruel way that life has, it insisted on grabbing the pair of us, and pulling us back down to earth with another warning of lameness. Forward one step, and back ten – that was how it felt. But we did not let it get us down.

Choc rested, and once she was strong and ready again, we resumed our trotwork – more and more, just trotting up and down that road every single day; sweating away the hours in the blazing heat. When I felt that Choc was once again strong enough, we re-introduced canter work. This time, it proved a success. And as she strengthened further, we slowly began heading toward that point where we could leave our doubts and fears behind. I started schooling her – really schooling her – for the first time since the accident, and on some days I’d sneak her over a tiny cross, throwing myself into fits of paranoia in fear that I’d find her lame the next day; but she never was.

The Story of Choc
One year and six months after accident

The Story of Choc
One year and eight months after accident

At last, as the year 2013 began drawing to its close, we began jumping in earnest. No more semi-accidental encounters with hunt jumps on the trail, or sneaking over tiny uprights during schooling. No, come November, Choc was truly and honestly jumping, and loving every minute of it! The way she dashed and tugged, dancing and grunting and flinging herself over the jumps was, I admit, as teeth-rattling as it was endearing. But no matter how many flimsy poles she ploughed through or how many strides she dropped, she was doing what she loved once more, and I had never seen my little horse happier. There aren’t words to express the pride I felt when I finally set up a substantial course for her, and just hung on while she launched herself over the jumps with maniacal excitement. The love, the ecstasy, the sheer jubilation of it all in Choc’s pricked ears and happy little grunts made every cent, every tear and every drop of sweat hat had gone into her recovery seem like the most worthwhile thing in the world. We had striven for the impossible, and against all odds, we had achieved it.

The Story of Choc
One year and 10 months after accident

The Story of Choc
One year and 10 months after accident

I suppose it’s funny, in a way, the way life is. If you’d asked me at the end of 2011 what my goal was for that talented little horse, I would have told you that we’d start FEI eventing the following year; perhaps strive to represent our province, then our country. Big dreams, frightening dreams, but each still a possibility in their own right.

Directly after the accident, asked the same question, I’d have told you, ‘Honestly, I just hope she lives, even if I never ride her again’. I taught myself, in the way that people do, to dream smaller as the risk grew bigger, so afraid of disappointment that I was afraid even to hope. It was a horse that taught me not to abandon those dreams so easily. A horse with a spirit that could look adversity right in the face, and swear that if it ever took away her legs, then she would grow a pair of wings instead.

A brave little horse who, even when the odds seemed utterly insurmountable, hopped right up life’s steepest slope on her three good legs and said, ‘I am ready. Take me to my destiny.’
no longer need barn
Omg so touching good luck to the future!
  Oct 25, 2016  •  2,659 views
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