For November, I am featuring another BLM mustang as my Naturally Healthy Horse of the Month–this one, a bay gelding named Tucker. Tucker has faced several challenges during his seven years–and perhaps the biggest challenge of all was just finding a loving home. Here is is story. . .
Tucker’s journey in captivity began when he was about four months old. His herd, which had made its home in the Jackson Mountains of Nevada, was rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management. They were all on the thin side after enduring drought conditions that summer.
Tucker was taken to Palomino Valley National Adoption Center, the largest processing and short-term holding facility operated by the BLM. Then when he was a yearling, Tucker was sent to a Wild Horse and Burro Adoption event in Reno. Unfortunately, he was not adopted there–not all mustangs are.
Tucker was then chosen to participate in the Trainer Incentive Program which would hopefully give him a second chance at adoption.
But sadly and for unknown reasons, Tucker’s trainer returned him to the center when he was 2 years old. It was beginning to look like the young mustang would never find a home.
But Tucker’s luck was about to change–a lady named Bobby Marley worked at the center as a volunteer and even though she’d been hoping to adopt an older mustang herself, her mind was changed once she met Tucker.
“When I was walking past Tucker’s pen one morning, something told me to look at him. He was standing there staring at me with a look of longing. When I went into his pen to see what he was about, he immediately walked up to me and put his big ‘ol jug head against my hands. I got the feeling that he was tired of being passed around. Every time he got comfortable some place, it was time to go elsewhere. He just wanted to belong and stop feeling abandoned. I had always wanted a mustang and here was a sad baby that just wanted someone to want him,” said Bobby.
So in October of 2009, Bobby took Tucker home.
Tucker was happy and healthy for the first few years with Bobby, but when they moved to Florida in the fall of 2012, some health problems soon arose. He developed skin issues which led him to rub out much of the hair on his face, tail, chest, and belly. He was also losing weight.
A vet quickly diagnosed Tucker with sweet itch (culicoides hypersensitivity) and prescribed a standard treatment– a steroid called dexamethasone.
Bobby was unsure of the treatment though.
“Something didn’t seem right,” she said.
After doing some research, Bobby decided to treat Tucker for neck threadworm because the signs and symptoms seemed to match, but this didn’t seem to make a difference either.
“Everything I tried either made it worse or did not help at all. And he soon developed two growths, one on his neck and one near his sheath.”
A veterinarian named Dr. Shiver came out one day to pull Coggins on some rescue horses that Bobby was fostering and she asked him if he would also take a look at Tucker. Dr. Shiver said the growths on Tucker’s neck and sheath were sarcoids. He prescribed a holistic topical treatment made from blood root. He also recommended drawing blood for allergy testing to get more information about why Tucker was having skin issues and weight loss.
The sarcoids responded almost immediately to the blood root treatment and soon went away, but the allergy test results concluded that Tucker was reacting to several food and environmental triggers.
Bobby made quite a few changes in Tucker’s diet and management, and he improved, but then they flared up again in the summer of this year.
“I decided to start giving him honey from a local farm where the hive is near his allergens,” said Bobby. “It had worked for me.”
Within a week, she noticed a difference in Tucker. He was rubbing less and less.
With Tucker’s skin allergies finally under control, Bobby began riding Tucker more. But then, a new problem developed.
“I noticed something wasn’t right with Tucker’s movement. Tucker wasn’t acting like himself and it felt like he was weak in his back end.”
Bobby had Eileen Coe, an acupressure practitioner in her area, come do a session on him. Eileen noticed that Tucker’s right hip was ‘out’ and that his left shoulder was stiff. She did Reiki, acupressure, and some massage on Tucker and also showed Bobby some acupressure points and stretches to do between sessions.
Bobby also told her farrier, Simon Musler, what was going on when he came out to trim Tucker.
“He could see in Tucker’s feet what I was describing in his hip and shoulder,” said Bobby. “We were all stumped as to what was causing the problems. We discussed saddle fit, muscle tone (and lack thereof), past accidents, and falls. Nothing seemed to fit.”
Simon asked Bobby if she had any back pain. She confirmed that she did due to her right leg being shorter than her left.
“It was then that everything clicked,” said Bobby.
She had been riding in her English saddle and Tucker could likely feel her imbalance more and was trying to compensate.
“With the help of Eileen and Simon, we have been able to bring Tucker back to proper balance. I have started doing yoga to get myself back into alignment. And Tucker and I have been using a new Western saddle that fits both of us better.”
Tucker and Bobby are back doing what they love to do again–riding trails. Bobby has hopes to begin training Tucker for endurance riding soon as well.
“Tucker is here on a mission. He has helped me to overcome fears, guilt and self-doubt. He helps me connect with animals that are so lost they do not even realize I am trying to connect with them and help them heal,” said Bobby, who works as an Animal Communicator.
“He has taught me a lot about myself in the 5 years that we have been together. My biggest lessons from Tucker have been to keep it simple, follow your gut and don’t give up. If something doesn’t work try another way.”
I’m so happy to be able to feature Tucker as my November Horse of the Month. I enjoy writing these stories hopefully as much as you enjoy reading them. Best of luck to both Tucker and Bobby!