It was summer 2005 and I was surfing the internet from my warship while stationed just off the coast of Iraq. Ten minutes on the computer after my midnight watch was all I could really hope for. I was looking for my next horse. I wanted a mare, like my first horse, and I wanted her to be built to last in conformation. Scrolling through the ads with photos, I saw her. She was called 'Bailey' and described as a black Arabian. I wasn't necessarily looking for an Arabian but she was put together so well. Endurance type mare with good leg angles and a nice short-coupled body. I yawned and logged off the computer. I thought about her for the next several days before responding to the ad. I would be home in a few weeks and I would like to come see her, if she was still available.
Within a few days of arriving home, I was on my way south to North Carolina (my farm was in Virginia back then) to check out this intriguing mare. I tried to interest myself in other horses, Paints, QHs, etc. but something about this one stuck with me.
She nuzzled me over her stall door when I first met her. She really was a sweet mare with intelligence and grace. The current owner had trouble with her on the trail but her arena and ground manners were quite good. Bailey had bolted home a few times and scared the owner. I was told that Bailey could not even be led through the woods behind the pasture. I asked if I could test her out there, just leading her. The owner reluctantly agreed. I walked the mare down the trail speaking to her with a happy, confident voice. She balked and trembled. I asked her to take a step and rewarded her bravery when she responded. Soon, we were walking all through the scary woods and I knew I could train this mare.
When I hauled Bailey home late that summer, I was happy to have another horse to train now that I was on shore duty and had too much time on my hands. Two months later, I met Mike and we were married the following spring. He helped me pick a new name for her (I never liked Bailey). Alexandria seemed to fit her much better (Allie for short). Phoenix and Donkey adored her immediately. She was even in our wedding.
When we moved down south to Florida, Allie adjusted well. The pastures were bigger and, in no time, we had an even better barn built for the three horses. She learned to work the cattle and I continued to accustom her to the local trails. However, a baby can change everything. I did not ride while I was pregnant nor did I know how soon I would be able to ride once our son was born. Meanwhile, Allie paced and quarreled with the other horses without regular work. I watched her impatience sadly and decided that, if I found the right person, I would sell her.
A mother and daughter came and rode her very well. They seemed conscientious and knowledgeable. They seemed perfect. Allie left us in December of 2008 for her new home.
Two weeks before Christmas 2010, I had a rare moment with nothing pressing and our son was napping. I was also waiting for my husband to finish his computer game. I browsed the internet and ended up on our local Craigslist, I avoid CL because of the sad horse ads. So many free or cheap horses that you just know get snatched up by a kill buyer that shows up with a trailer and says all the right things. One such gentleman lives not too far from us. His pastures fill with the condemned for about 30 days and then *POOF*, one day, they are nearly all gone. One "free horse" ad caught my eye. I still don't know why I opened it up. I knew it would be another sad horse destined for a slaughterhouse in Mexico, but thank God I did click on it. It was a black Arabian mare. It was Allie. I held my breath for a moment staring at the picture. She was the right age and had all the right markings and she was lame?! I responded to the ad and waited, terrified that I was too late.
It was those same 'perfect' people I sold her to. She was lame in her hind end, apparently 'slipping' so severely while being ridden that the owner was afraid she would fall. The owner said she had EPM as well. I was so angry that the owner did not call me before placing this ad and putting Allie in danger. I had told her time and time again that I would take her back or even board her for free, if need be (the daughter was in the military). I knew if I hadn't seen that ad, Allie would be on her way in a crowded double-decker cattle truck. I also knew that a lame horse had little chance of making such a trip without further injury or even death. I kept my cool and researched EPM treatments while awaiting anxiously for the owner to deliver Allie. The owner called and canceled the delivery. I was so frustrated at this point that I arranged to pick her up.
When I arrived, Allie was already haltered and ready to go. According to the 'perfect' owner, Allie had shown signs of lameness for a year, but, from what I gathered, she had never been seen by a vet! The EPM theory came from the owner and her barn owner at the fancy little stable (why board at a fancy stable if you can't afford basic care?). I handed them a checklist for EPM symptoms and asked them to check all that apply so I had something for my vet to go by when he saw her the next day (I had already made the appointment). They talked about her being lame in her left hind end, possibly in the hip, and always on the same side (not typical with EPM but right on for a lameness issue). I asked if there were any facial symptoms and the answer was 'no'. Hmm, sounded like a lameness, not EPM to me but I kept my mouth shut and didn't get my hopes up. I loaded her up as quickly as possible, even signing the ridiculous 'adoption form' the owner had found on the internet stating something about giving her back should I not be able to care for her properly (isn't this exactly what I was doing!?).
On my way out of town (I had picked Allie up in Gainesville) I reviewed what I knew about my beloved mare. Then, I called up my vet and since he was mobile and hip x-rays are not possible, I canceled the next day's appointment. I also called University of Florida Large Animal Hospital and asked if they had an appointment that same day. I quickly told the receptionist the story about my lame/EPM re-claimed horse. They agreed to work us in, so I made a U-turn when I was almost out of Gainesville. Allie would be seen now and x-rays would be done, if necessary. She would get a spinal tap to test for EPM, if necessary. I mentally decided how many of the cows I would have to sell to pay her vet bills. I was scared about the report of her slipping and what it could possibly mean. She seemed okay walking up into the trailer, but that told me nothing. What if she was so advanced in EPM that there was no treatment? What if I was just saving her to be euthanized? I wiped away tears as I drove on to the vet school.
When I arrived, the vet school placed Allie in a stall and John and I watched as her exam was done. She flinched when they touched her left stifle. I told them all I knew and showed them her old records from when I owned her and the new ones (nothing had been done except one set of vaccines two years prior and a couple of chiropractic visits). An extensive lameness exam was done in front of several specialists. When it was over, they were smiling. They all had heard the story about the "re-claimed Craigslist horse" (the receptionist had told them). They also knew that I was happy to take back my mare despite a possibly severe neurological condition and lameness. They told me that Allie didn't have EPM and her lameness was very mild and quite manageable. She has upward patellar fixation in her left stifle. That's it! I was given the all clear to begin slowly returning her to condition, after she lost some weight. The best thing for her is proper conditioning and regular work. I was so happy to hear that my poor Allie was going to be fine, after all! It was truly an early Christmas present to have my sweet mare back home safe and (mostly) sound.