Over the past 40+ years, I have owned and worked with many horses. One of my most beloved rescues was an old Appaloosa gelding named General. (Actually, the horse dealer had dubbed him "Bernard," but he was so sad-looking, with Basset Hound eyes, that I felt the name "Bernard" added insult to injury . . . and opted to help him claim some fragment of dignity by naming him "General.")
General came to me as one of a string of camp horses . . . he was thin and aged . . . but such a gem for the kids to ride. At the end of the season, I told the dealer that I wanted General back the next year. He was one of the favorite horses in the program and wonderfully dependable and safe.
The next Spring, when I went to pick out horses for the summer horsemanship program, I cried when I saw General. He was skeletal . . . couldn't raise his nose above his knees, and his skin was hanging from his bones . . . I could literally pick up the wrinkled skin that hung from the point of his buttocks. Even his muscle was eaten up. . . . It had been a very snowy winter, and the dealer said that she hadn't been able to get hay up the mountain to the horses for the last couple of months of winter . . . and they had to dig through the snow for feed . . . Obviously, General hadn't done well.
I told her I wanted him, anyway, and I harbored the hope I'd be able to rehab him during the summer . . .
We were able to get some weight on him but it wasn't until I purchased General and his best friend, Oscar, at the end of the summer (just couldn't let either of them spend another winter on the mountain) and took him home that I was able to give him the 3x a day feedings he needed. Two separate vets checked him out and both said, "Gee, Holly, this horse is AT LEAST 30 years old . . . He has smooth mouth and has lost some teeth." Even if the dealer had been able to get hay to the horses that winter, General would not have been able to eat it. His teeth just wouldn't grind. He quidded grass and hay . . . but we had never noticed the previous summer at camp because we only saw him eat grain, and when he was in the pasture, the other horses, surely, picked up the quids he so humbly left for them. At home, we opted to feed him soaked senior pellets, soaked alfalfa cubes, and oil. General was fed 4 lbs of Senior pellets, 1 lb of alfalfa cubes, and 1 c of corn oil 3x a day (we introduced the oil gradually, starting with less than 1/4 cup just 2x a day), until he got in condition, and then, we were able to cut out the mid day feeding and cut out the corn oil. He maintained on two feedings a day for years after that, becoming quite famous at camp and in the community, and even had his photo on the front page of THE TIMES ARGUS in Barre, VT. During the school year, he gave lessons, was a 4-H mount, and was leased for two years by a teen riding student who loved him to pieces. General died at the age of 40 on a bitter cold winter night on a hill side in VT. He was surrounded by friends and piled with blankets as he lay in the snow, and as he breathed his last breath, a shooting star arched across the midnight sky.
General was worth his weight in gold. He's the rare, exceptional horse that parents dream of having for their children. Here is my favorite photo of him . . . I liked to say that after we got him healthy, the only pointy thing on him was his ears. I love Appy geldings . . . To me, they are horses with incredible heart . . . and General is my favorite of all.