Many of you may remember our sweet boy, Austin, who we rescued last year. When we took him in, Austin had been abandoned by his owner because he was blind in one eye. He was underweight and his hooves were infected with a debilitating hoof bacteria. He still has scars on both hind legs from fungal infections that were not treated. We were able to put weight on him and after several farrier visits, we were able to eventually cut away the diseased hoof. In fact, he was doing so well, that we were able to take him up to Topanga Canyon to see if he would like to be a companion to one of our other rescued horses, Delilah.
Austin and Delilah did not quite hit it off, but after a few weeks, they began to get along and were doing OK with one another. Unfortunately, both horses wanted to be the alpha, and neither would submit to the other. After several months, however, it became pretty apparent that it was just not a good fit, and last week I went up to Topanga Canyon to pick up Austin and take him back to Hanaeleh.
I do want to state right now that Delilah’s owner did everything she could to try to make the situation work for both Delilah and Austin. She is a wonderful woman with a huge heart and she was heartbroken when it was glaringly obvious that Austin and Delilah were not going to work things out. She took excellent care of Austin, and we are very thankful for her time and love she gave him while he was there, and of course, the love she continues to give to Delilah.
Going out to Topanga Canyon was relatively easy, although there was an accident on the 101 just as I got on the freeway, so I was about a half an hour late. If you have ever driven in Topanga Canyon, you know that the “two-lane roads” sometimes appear to merely be a one-lane road with a yellow stripe painted down the middle. That was the road I took up the mountain with my truck and trailer to get to Austin. That was not the difficult part, however; there was a dirt path I was supposed to turn down in order to get to the house. I finally found a road that seemed to turn the correct way, and I prided myself on being able to remember the turnoff. I felt less confident, however, when I realized that the road was NOT the correct road. Luckily, it did turn into the correct road, so I pretended to myself that “I meant to do that,” when I did get to the right dirt path.
Michaela, her trainer and a friend came up the road with both Delilah and Austin after I got there so I wouldn’t have to walk down to get him. She was very upset, and felt terrible that things didn’t work out, but really sometimes there is nothing we can do- sometimes horses just don’t get along or the situation just isn’t right for that particular horse. I have had to move horses sometimes multiple times because the horse doesn’t get along well with a neighboring horse. Horses are similar to humans in that they often either like another horse or don’t, just like sometimes we like our college roommates, and sometimes we would rather sleep on our friend’s couch as opposed to dealing with that slob who never does the dishes and leaves the bathroom a mess.
After giving Michaela and Delilah a hug (Delilah’s trainer brought her horse down to live with Delilah for the time being- and thankfully they do get along), Austin and I were on our way. The dirt road going back to the main road was a bit rutted from the rain, but while it was a bit bumpy, we were able to get through it without an issue. At the end of the road, right before we got onto the main path, I got out to check on Austin to make sure he was OK with all of the bumping. He was fine, so I got back into the truck to leave.
Except we didn’t. Leave, that is. I had apparently stopped on the only patch of loose gravel and dirt, and all I succeeded in doing was spin my tires, leaving a bit of a rut.
I didn’t say darn.
I said something a bit more forceful.
I was on a dirt hill and could not get up. If I hadn’t stopped, I would have been fine, as the momentum would have carried us forward. But now I was stuck.
I backed up a bit, in case I could get back to the dirt part that was packed down harder, but while I could go forward a bit, I still got stuck at the same spot.
Think, I told myself. I backed up again, and still the same result. I couldn’t get enough momentum to get us over the gravel and dirt that was loose because of the rain the week before. After a few minutes (or what seemed like a few minutes), I had the wherewithall to remember that I have a four-wheel drive truck, and got out to lock the tires. I noticed with a bit of disgust that my hands were shaking a bit.
Stop it, I demanded my hands. Everything is fine. We will be able to get out.
But if this didn’t work, I didn’t know what would.
Of course, looking back, I could have taken Austin out and tied him to a tree, and with a lighter load, might have easily gotten through the gravel. I could have called AAA and had them pull me up the six feet to the pavement. But I didn’t think of those things- I just knew that we were stuck and there was no one around and I didn’t know what I was going to do if this didn’t work.
At that moment a couple came by and gawked at me as I got back into the truck. Spinning wheels again- no luck. The couple just stared at me as I backed up the trailer again to get to harder ground again and hopefully a running start. We did go forward a bit, and I thought we were OK, only to get stuck about three feet from the pavement again. I was still shaking a bit and was overly frustrated, and Austin was not thrilled, although he was a good sport about the entire thing- he just gave me a questioning look. Having an annoying audience in the couple who stood staring at me at the top of the hill did not help. Seriously- were they just going to stand there all afternoon?
I backed up again, and thankfully this time I was able to get up onto the pavement before we got stuck- I backed up a few feet and this time we were able to get up and over the gravel and onto the pavement. I pulled over to the right (as over as I could), put on the hazard lights, and got back out to unlock the wheels and check on Austin. The couple was still staring at me. I just smiled at them and got back into my truck, trying not to wince as I saw the ruts I had made in the gravel.
“I hope your horse is OK,” the lady yelled as I got back into the truck.
“He’s fine,” I assured her.
He was fine.
The trip back was a bit of a trek, as there were no fewer than five accidents, and it took us about three hours to get back, but other than that it was a bit boring after the excitement on the gravel hill. I put Austin into the round pen and gave him some grain, which he ate with gusto. He also took a big drink of water, then said hi to the neighboring horses. He seems to have settled in without an issue, and had his feet trimmed this past weekend as well.
We are sorry that things did not work out between Austin and Delilah, but we are very thankful to Michaela for all of the care she gave Austin while she had him.
Hanaeleh has a first right-of-refusal on all of our horses, which means that will always take back our horses who are adopted out, no matter what the issue. We will never allow our horses to be sold or given to a third party, as the horse can be in danger of being sold to slaughter, or suffer neglect or abuse. We are able to make this promise to all of our horses because of our wonderful donors who help support us. We are committed to providing sanctuary for Austin, and will continue to do so, even if he is never adopted out. Thank you to all of those people who help us provide these deserving horses a safe home at Hanaeleh.