Unfortunately for Clifford, it is Bath Day. Not that Bath Day is ever good, but today we have some genuinely crap weather — rainy and not quite 60 degrees. Whatever happened to Indian Summer?
The one good thing about the cooler weather is that it has lessened his EPM symptoms and he is walking straighter — even galloping when he feels like it. I won’t say it’s normal galloping. It is more like a sort of bunny hop. It doesn’t slow him down much. The left hind is the one most afflicted. We have served him a dose of stem cell fluid and so far it hasn’t helped. Our next treatment is up and coming soon.
In the meantime, I manage the neurological stuff with plenty of vitamin E. I keep him fit and moving.
I would have not chosen to give him a bath today, because the water from the hose is cold. Oh, for a heated stall rack! Someday, when I’m rich.
He is grazing far out in the field when he sees me coming with the lead rope. His head pops up and he turns and gallops toward me. Normally when he runs, he jacks his tail up over his back and flies, with his front legs churning and his head turning wildly, rolling one eye at me and then the other. But today, he does a light, three-beat canter, ta-da-DUMP ta-da-DUMP ta-da-DUMP. He is facing forward, focused. He is leading off his right hind, compensating.
He runs up to me cheerfully and I clip the lead rope on. He is less cheerful when we round the corner and he sees the hose is already running, and his bath gear — shampoo, mane comb, rubber mitt, are all there waiting for him. Over the fence, watching with interest, is his understudy, Kerry.
Like always, I hit Clifford’s feet with the jet of water first, to warn him of the temperature before we proceed. He braces himself. Then the water sloshes over his back, and he flinches, arching himself into a u-shape, away from the cold stream.
As I wet him all down, over his legs, soaking his tail, spraying his neck and dousing his mane, I start to apologize.
I tell him I am sorry the water is so cold. I am sorry it is not a warmer day, and I have to do this.
“You have to be clean for tomorrow. We are going to see some sick little kids. You will know they are sick. You will smell the medicine.”
I pause, shooting a jet of water deep into his mane and then throwing down the hose and picking up the shampoo bottle. I squirt a long, white line into his mane and scrub it deeply through the coarse hair.
“You will know what is wrong with them. They have cancer. Like Grandpa did. And Uncle Jon.”
At that moment, I surprise myself with a sob. It catches deep in my throat and the tears flow. I stand there crying, apologizing to my dripping horse, as the cold water seeps into my socks.
He turns his head and rests his muzzle, ever so gently, on my shoulder. I feel his warm breath. He stands still, breathing on me, letting the water dribble into pools below us.