Somewhere between exhaustion and enthusiasm, Ben and I turned into our driveway. Finally back home, at Stable Days Youth Ranch. We were returning from an amazing leadership conference that was located at Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch in central Oregon.
The conference was a great balance of encouragement and education. The 26-hour drive back to Minnesota was, well taxing, and we were both ready to be home.
The relief that comes from reaching the end of a journey was short lived as half way down our drive we saw a horrific scenario unfolding.
To our surprise and disappointment Ruby was up in the front round pen with one of our new volunteers. She was sweaty, obviously exhausted, and yet she continued to run in dizzying circles around the round pen.
Ruby, a bay quarter horse with a dark dorsal stripe, beautiful by all standards, is one of our youngest horses at the ranch. She has a tendency to feel threatened when no threat exists and her training is usually done by our more experienced staff.
Sensing what was unfolding, we parked the car and with no thought of unloading, we raced up to the rounds pen.
Ruby’s intense fear, combined with her natural tendencies as an animal of flight, fueled her next decision. She ran straight for the rail. Convinced she was in danger and with every muscle engaged, she jumped. Not clearing the panel, it collapsed under her weight sending the post ripping through the flesh of her chest and cutting deep into her back right leg.
Despite her injuries she managed to pull herself up to an ominously still stand. She was in shock, and so were we. It took only moments to gather ourselves and our thoughts and move into crisis mode. The blood made it difficult to see the degree of her injuries but we all knew that she would need medical care immediately.
Ben ran to ready the truck and trailer and a quick call was placed to Golden Valley Vet, they were alerted and would be waiting to receive Ruby. With surprising ease, we guided Ruby into the waiting trailer. She stood trembling, with little energy left, and swayed her head from side to side in what looked like an effort to find clarity in the chaos that had developed.
In a whirlwind turnaround, Ben and I were back on the road. It was an hour and a half trip to Park River. Ben drove as I stared out the window, my lips quivering as I fought back the tears and gathered the strength needed to persevere. Over and over the same verse kept running through my head. “Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens and your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains and your justice is like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike; O Lord how precious is your unfailing love.”
Hours later, Ruby was stitched up and under the influence of a strong sedative. We were heading back home and our girl was going to be fine. For the second time that day, Ben and I turned into our driveway. Digging deep we unloaded our precious mare, and tucked the rest of the herd in for the night.
Our car still full of our traveling bags would wait until morning. It was time to call it a day! Healing would take months. Building Ruby’s trust and increasing her confidence would take even longer.