By Anna Erickson
Miniature horses are somewhat of a rarity in southern Minnesota, but their delicate appearance and charm is sure to win over any heart, which is how I ended up with seven of them.
The morning of September 7 started the same as any other day. I was up by sunrise carrying out my daily chores of tending to my horses, when I noticed that one mare was absent. I knew something was awry when she didn’t come when I called her name. Upon searching for her I discovered her lying in the pasture in obvious distress. We called our veterinarian immediately and she soon arrived. After thoroughly examining Belle she delivered her diagnosis.
I acquired Belle five years ago when she was only four months old. Since that time I’d loved her everyday and spent my summers training her. She excelled in jumping, pulling a cart, dressage, and any obstacle courses. She could easily clear jumps double her height. But her athleticism was overshadowed by her sweet disposition. She was petite, even for being a miniature horse, a mere 250 lbs and only stood 32 inches tall at the shoulder. Her tiny appearance and sweet demeanor drew people to her. I brought her to Mabel’s Community Night Out where she reveled in the attention. She loved being petted by people young and old. Some people who had never been around horses in their life were not intimidated by Belle at all. She eagerly accepted hugs, and even kisses, from anyone willing to bow down to her level. People were amazed at how young she was but always remained so calm, even around the most rowdy children.
Now you might understand my disbelief of the cruel irony, that such a sweet horse was being put through such an awful experience. Wiping away tears, I listened carefully as the vet delivered the dreaded news. My little horse was suffering from Encephalomyelitis, which is inflammation in the brain and spinal cord that causes 50% of her body to become completely paralyzed. She had somehow contracted the West Nile Virus. For those of you not familiar with West Nile, it is a very rare virus that originates in birds and is passed to humans and equines through mosquitoes. Many of you may have noticed the unusual amount of mosquitoes this year. It’s a very delicate sickness and she had shown no symptoms the previous days. She was given a high dose of steroids in the hopes that she would pull through. The chance of one of our horses contracting this disease was so rare it was as if we had won a lottery nobody wants to win.
For weeks I came home during school to water and feed her since she was completely immobile. For fear of large predators taking advantage of her handicap, we had to move her from the pasture into the barn. She was frightened of loud machinery so I am very thankful that a few of our close friends and family members were able to lend a helping hand. We all came together to lift and carry her into the barn. After 12 days of her paralysis she began having a minor rectal prolapse. I felt that her end was near. I always gave her a heartfelt goodbye every night, not knowing if I would see her in the morning.
During this time I was told by many people to have her put down. Vet bills were adding up quickly and we were struggling to keep up her endless medications and vet check-ups. But after five years I couldn’t imagine giving up on her. I knew she was fighting and I refused to lose hope when she had such a strong will to live. Her herd mates, which she had lived with her entire life, where also under a great deal of stress brought on by her sudden unexplained absence.
However, this story, unlike countless others, has a happy ending. On the fifteenth day I came to the barn at sunrise only to discover her standing on her own. She was slightly unsteady and shaky but managed to stay on her feet throughout the entire day. Her paralysis had completly receded. Word of her miraculous recovery spread and she was dubbed the nickname “miracle horse.” She was somewhat of a superstar at the vet clinic and had truly put her doctors in awe.
Belle currently resides at our farm, where she spends her days galloping with the other horses through the fields. You would never know there was ever anything wrong with the little filly. Belle beat the odds, even though everything was stacked against her. So no matter how small you are, how sick you are, or even what others are saying to you, don’t ever lose hope.