Living With A Fox - continued

PART 2 -The story of Lauralee Foxy Man
Foxy came home to a life style change. Ideally, he should never have seen the inside of a barn again, but of course that was totally impractical. A small paddock had been added to the outside door of his corner stall. It would remain open year round to provide him with fresh air at all times. This stall/paddock arrangement would later be reconstructed for him when he was moved to Trillium and his final home in Orono.

During that first winter following his return from Guelph, he was put on medications to clear his airways. Coupled with this medication was a regiment of light, but regular exercise. Every morning before leaving for work in the big city, I would drive out to the farm. Since the best path to take Foxy on meant riding the shoulder of a busy service road, bicycle flashlights were strapped to my stirrup irons and a workman’s safety vest was pulled over my riding jacket. Off we would go in the darkness of early morning heading west, then south towards the lake. At times the wind would rudely slap my face and sting my hands that gripped the reins. Still on we would go at a steady walk. By spring, his breathing had improved considerably. Despite the occasional cough, Foxy returned to his usual activities. It wasn’t until years later when we met the vet who had diagnosed Foxy’s condition at Guelph, did we learn that they had only given Foxy a couple of years. That couple of years had been extended to 18..

Foxy’s tolerance for pain has always been high. Like some of the great racehorses that tried to finish the race on three legs in the face of mortal injury, Foxy too would give his all. At one stage in his life he battled with another stallion whose door had been carelessly left unlocked by accident and not design. It was a large Thoroughbred who decided to rid the barn of this little pesky Morgan stud. When we were urgently summoned to the barn, the stable looked like a war zone with debris and blood splattered everywhere. Foxy stood exhausted and bleeding, but he had won the fight and didn’t appear any worse for wear. Down the aisle, a veterinarian was attending to the wounds of the 16 hand Thoroughbred stud. The stallion was so traumatized that he was also being treated for shock. It wasn’t until a few days later when riding Foxy for the first time since the incident that a problem was noticed. Once and awhile Foxy would stumble slightly then continue on at the trot or canter. Figuring it was just the roughness of the field that caused the break in gait, not much thought was given. After a few more stumbles, I decided that it would be prudent to investigate a little further. When I pulled Foxy up and looked down his front leg, I was horrified to see blood gushing from a crack in his hoof wall. Apparently, while doing battle with the Thoroughbred, he had kicked so hard (probably catching the stone wall) that he had cracked his hoof. Special shoeing was required to stabilize the hoof for the next twelve months. In the end, the hoof grew out normal and no further intervention was required.

Foxy had been my first training project of consequence and I had been so pleased with our progress. By his fourth year, Foxy had been trained to harness and shown, he’d been worked under saddle and competed as well. We wanted to enhance Foxy’s driving abilities so we sent him to a well-known trainer at the time. It was not to be and although Foxy can home with an extended trot albeit, he wasn’t Foxy. The once mild mannered and friendly stallion had turned into a crazed animal, literally climbing the walls of his stall. He fretted constantly and we feared it was the equivalent to a mental breakdown, much like the horse in the fictional best seller and movie, "The Horse Whisperer". He had lost considerable weight and had no appetite. What had we done! Was there any hope now? A friend of mine who had worked at the racetrack suggested we get him a goat. We were desperate to try anything and so we found a breeder and purchased a young goat and introduced him to Foxy. Within a week, Foxy started to respond. I dare say that Tinker the goat was Foxy’s Tom Booker and ultimate salvation.

Foxy and Tinker lived together all that summer. Foxy found great delight in carrying poor Tinker around his stall by the scruff of his neck. The wailing Tinker would call us to his rescue. Foxy just thought it was neat and released him when we scolded him with a sharp tongue lashing.

Later that year, we decided to try another trainer to improve Foxy’s western discipline skills. Although somewhat nervous over our decision, this time Foxy had company and off he went to school. Again tragedy happened. A gelding had got loose and both Foxy and the gelding fought. During the disagreement, Foxy’s sharp toe clip had twisted sideways and punctured the sole of his hoof. This meant lay-up again, but at least this time, his injury was less severe. During the end of his stay for western training, Foxy would lose his constant friend and companion.

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