In November of 2015 I found myself volunteering in Nepal for a couple of weeks. During that time, I ended up falling in love with the country and extended my stay an extra week to get to know the people I had come to know better and enjoy more of what Pokhara and Nepal had to offer.
One evening a conversation came up about paragliding, which is one of the more popular activities to do while in Pokhara. The Hidden Paradise Hotel and Guest House is a popular spot for these high flying thrill seekers. I, being more of a grounded person, couldn’t quite get excited about the dangerous activity of jumping off of a cliff in hopes that a wing would keep them from plummeting to their death. I was coerced and questioned as to why I wouldn’t want to ever try it, when I finally said “It’s just not my thing.” I added “I ride horses, I have for over 30 years, and I enjoy the connection and the thrill that horseback riding and the horses themselves bring. That is my thing… but being in the air so high up in the sky is scary and dangerous to a point that I just don’t understand.” The Nepali man that owns the Hotel (Laxman) said to me, “Do you want to go horseback riding then?” I perked up and immediately said “Yes!”. A few days later Laxman arranged for another guest (and friend) Missy and myself to ride the horses that were owned by his friend at the Pokhara Pony Farm located at the bottom of the hill.
I personally own 3 horses that are kept at a stable just outside of Seattle, WA in the U.S. My favorite is my Grey Thoroughbred Gelding who was purchased off the track because of his color and his name “Henry” (who coincidentally is named the same as my Grandfather’s middle name). Henry is a bit of trouble to ride as he was abused during his time racing. I call it his PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) when he reacts to a closing of a stall door or when he hears a horse being loaded in a trailer in the distance. I have worked with him considerably to get him over his triggers, and he has become a great horse in the process. He and I have bonded a great deal during our time together and I call him my “Unicorn” since he is the color of what a Unicorn would be and has a magical power to heal me when I have had a bad day.
When we arrived at the Pokhara Pony Farm I immediately spotted a grey gelding that matched the color of my Henry the Unicorn. I watched for a bit as the Nepali man that cared for the horses tacked them up, getting them ready for us to ride. Each time he passed by the grey gelding the horse flinched his head and put his ears back. I could see in his eyes that there had been a trauma that was similar to what my Henry had been through. Laxman asked which horse I would like to ride, and I immediately pointed to the grey gelding. The owner of the pony farm said something in Nepali to Laxman who then turned to me and said “No, that one isn’t good.” I asked why and after some talking to each other he said “He isn’t good with people.” I said “He’ll be fine with me.” and walked towards him. Laxman spoke with the owner for a bit and he seemed to be alright with me riding the trouble pony.
The man working with the ponies brought the gelding out. The pony had his ears back and wasn’t happy. The man handed me the reins and I went to touch his head where horses like to be touched just between the eyes. He flinched away from me with his ears back. I slowed down and talked to him quietly with a soft voice. I then stepped up to him behind his head slowly and touched the base of his neck in a non-threatening position. I continued to talk with him telling him that it was okay and that I was going to try to ride him today. I continued to stroke his neck, which felt like a solid rock full of muscle. He was tense and nervous all at the same time. I continued softly talking with him and stroking his neck, at times applying pressure to help him relax his muscles. The other horses were brought out for Missy, Laxman, Razu (the owner of the pony farm) and the man helping. They fussed getting Missy on the right horse since she had never ridden before, and Laxman got on riding around on the brown Mustang gelding. I eventually worked my hands up to the pony’s head, around his ears and down the front of his nose without him flinching away from me all while talking to him softly as he got to know my voice. His neck eventually softened up and he was receptive to me touching his head and ears so I felt it was alright for me to get on his back. His ears were half way back, but not pinned and he was accepting of my getting on him without any issues. Once I was on, we rode around the grounds and then all of us were off out through the gates walking in a single line, one pony after another.
Our ride was amazing. We enjoyed a walk down to Phewa Lake and along the road. Motorcycles, buses, jeeps, trucks bicycles and people walking by and the ponies all were calm as can be. My gelding would stare at plastic bags or brightly colored objects with a slight movement of his hind end to the side, but a tap on the reins and a slight touch of my leg to his lower rib and he was back in line in an instant. Laxman was off and running up ahead with his pony, while Missy held on for dear life walking her pony carefully. I toggled between running with Laxman and hanging back with Missy so as not to leave her alone. We stopped by the lake and took some photos, and all of the ponies were very cooperative as we lined up. Missy seemed to be more comfortable and relaxed on her pony as we headed back, though I still stuck with her for the most part. We laughed and took more photos and eventually made our way back to the farm.
When we got back, Razu asked me if I had any advice for him and his ponies. I told him to make sure they are always well fed and cared for. I also added “There are no problem horses, only problem riders.” I asked him the history on the pony I had ridden and he told me how he had bought him just a few months prior to me being there from a place in Tibet. He was his most expensive pony as he had spent less on the others, but Zuma wasn’t the easiest to handle. Bucking, kicking and biting was all brought on when people tried to get on and ride. He was good when one of them would walk alongside and lead him, but otherwise he was a lot of trouble. He wanted to know what I did to make him okay for me to ride, and I simply said “We had a conversation.” to which they all laughed. I told Razu to just spend time developing a relationship with his ponies and to gain their trust. Brush them up while they are in their stalls and pet them gently when working with them. A few days later I walked by peeking in over the wall of the farm and saw the men in with the ponies brushing them just as I had mentioned.
My extended time in Nepal didn’t feel at all like it was enough to get the full experience of the country and people, and with my career as a marketing consultant I could work anywhere as long as I have internet, so I ended up booking a flight back for 2.5 months from March through mid-May. During my time home in the winter I spoke with Laxman a few times about the ponies and the possibility of me working with them some more so that people could ride Zuma without any issues. We also talked about what the ponies might need that I could get donated to help out. I put a request in the Vashon Island Equestrian group in hopes that some of the riders on the island might have extra gear they could spare to help out. I received a huge response with bridles, bits, saddle pads a helmet and more.
In March I hopped on my flight with bits and bridles and more in my bag and arrived safely in Nepal to spend my 2.5 months. After some time volunteering in the community of Arnakot for Karmaflights, helping out with computer issues and teaching Excel, designing websites and still getting in work for clients I managed to finally find some time to get back with the ponies. The plan on the first day was to get photos of tourists riding the horses to help the Pokhara Pony Farm with their marketing. You see, Razu had done an excellent job of caring for his ponies but he hadn’t gotten much business, and the farms that weren’t taking as good care of their ponies were seeming to get tourists riding. I like to support the people that are doing things the right way, and decided to help not only with the ponies, as we discussed, but to help with their marketing as well. So our first day was focused on helping with marketing, and enjoying a nice ride while we were at it. I coerced a couple of the guests staying at the hotel to join Laxman and I this time just as Missy had in November. Kim was a French Canadian who had ridden a few times as a child. Anna was from Poland and never had ever been on a horse.
Getting to Know Zuma Again
When we arrived, the ponies were all in their stalls one by one getting their saddles put on them. Each pony had a brightly colored blanket and padding with a black small piece of a saddle complete with stirrups, as well as a colored woven breast collar and crupper to hold the saddle in place. There was a new Nepali man helping with the ponies that was being quite rough with them. He jumped around from one stall to the next climbing over the railings and walls pushing the ponies around amd popping them in the face when they wouldn’t move for him. I walked over to my grey gelding “Zuma” who I remembered well. He was just as flinchy as he was before and put his ears back at me when I walked up. I stood and talked with him a bit, but knew he didn’t recognize me and certainly wouldn’t warm up to me in his stall with me on the other side of the railing. The Nepali man stood with the pony next to Zuma and held up the bridle with the rusty bit in his hand and clanged it on the pony’s teeth until he opened his mouth to take the bit. As he put the bridle on the rest of the way and tied up the throatlatch to the bridle I walked over to the pony next to him and asked if I could put the bridle on. He nodded and watched as I climbed over the rails into the stall with the pony. I placed my right arm over the top of the pony’s head with the top of the bridle in my hand and then took hold of the bit in my left hand with my thumb sticking just below the whole set. I then placed my thumb in the corner of the pony’s mouth encouraging him gently to open up his mouth and then slid the bit in without touching the teeth. I then slid the rest of the bridle with my right hand onto the pony’s head. I looked over at Kim and Anna who both had wide eyes with Anna saying “Wow”. The Nepali man watched me with wide eyes, so I took the bridle off of the pony then showed him how to hold the bridle with the right hand and bit in the left holding out my thumb then showed him how to place the thumb in the pony’s mouth to encourage him to open it, then slide the bit in. He went to put the bridle on the pony just next to me, and did it just as I showed him.
I walked up to Zuma in his stall who was very tense, and climbed in with him. I grabbed his bridle that was laying over the railing and then proceeded to walk up to him to put my right arm over his head. He pulled away with his ears back, and I immediately knew we were going to have a problem. So, I waited for him to relax a bit before trying to bridle him. I put the bridle down and rubbed his neck up by his ears and the base by his shoulder. He turned his head away from me with his ears back so I proceeded to just rub him down as I had in November. I looked at Kim and Anna and said “Patience is the Key.” and followed with “You see how tense and nervous he is?” They replied with “Yeah.” I then followed with, “I’m going to wait until I feel his energy calming down before approaching his head again.” I stroked his neck and talked to him softly for a few minutes and when I saw him lick his lips and chew a bit with a slight turn of his head towards me, I quietly picked up his bridle again, put my right arm over him, my left hand with the bit then slowly slid my thumb in his mouth and the bit went in with ease.
We then began pulling the ponies out of their stalls and onto the grassy area just a few steps below. Zuma was just as tense as he was when I worked with him in November, so I wanted to give him some time to relax as I had done last time. I stroked his neck and talked to him softly telling him that everything was okay and that we were going to go for a ride. After some time, he licked his lips and chewed a little, but his neck wasn’t relaxing and his head was still turned away from me. I didn’t want Kim and Anna to have to wait too long, so I skipped the patience part of gaining trust no matter how long it took and started in on some circles to gain some respect from him. Since he had never ever been asked to walk out from the ground before I started him off with a few steps and a reward. Only, the reward was difficult since he didn’t like being petted on his face. I used his neck and a calm praise to let him know that meant he had done what I wanted. After a few steps with him understanding what a reward was and what I was asking, I asked for more steps with reward and continued until I had him walking out. I picked up a long stick that was laying next to the railing that helped with my reach and to encourage him moving forward. It was my form of a natural horsemanship stick to guide the horse.
I worked with Zuma for a while gaining respect and earning his trust. He had a couple of moments of pushing back on me with a rear up in the air and a strike out at me with his front hoof. I simply just yelled at him with a short stern “Ah” and then moved him out some more with more force. Once I felt he was settled into what I was asking with respect and was turning his head toward me, bending around me, I decided he was ready to ride. I got onto his back and asked him to move forward. His rusty snaffle bit wasn’t doing anything for him as he grabbed onto it with his mouth and continued forward, not stopping. I then walked him into the wall, which forced him to stop. I looked at Razu and said “He doesn’t want to stop does he?” He nodded and smiled. So I walked him forward away from the wall, and when I asked for a stop he grabbed the bit again and kept walking. I then pulled the right rein to my leg and made him walk in a circle until he decided he was going to stop on his own. It took a minute or so before he finally stopped, and I was getting quite dizzy, but it was his decision to do what I asked or keep walking in a tight, uncomfortable circle. When he stopped I rewarded him with a rub on the neck and shoulder and then asked him to move forward again. With another ask of the stop, he repeated with grabbing the bit and continuing forward, so I repeated the circle technique again. I continued this step over and over with the circles getting to be less and less until he finally stopped when I pulled back on the reins. Eventually I would walk a few steps and ask for a stop, getting it immediately.
At this point I decided that he was going to be good to take out on a ride with the others, so I turned to them all and said “Are we ready to ride?”. Kim and Anna both stood up and the horses were brought in to where I was working with Zuma. After some fussing with getting riders matched with horses and Anna becoming nervous on the horse and deciding to walk, we started out. It was a great ride, and we managed to get some amazing pictures of us all on horseback. Zuma felt very comfortable, and almost seemed to smile as we rode along. Laxman had my camera in hand and was riding along on his motorcycle with Anna on the back. He stopped ahead and took pictures as we rode past.
Cars, motorcycles, buses, trucks bicycles and people of all shapes and sizes went past us and the ponies didn’t once ever have any issues. Zuma occasionally would look cautiously as plastic bags or brightly colored objects on the side of the road with his ears perked forward and his hind end coming out of line, but a tap on the rein and a push with my outside leg and he was back in line and focusing on the ride. At one point I looked at a road leading up a hill and felt like Zuma would want to run up and have some fun as the mountain pony he was. I could feel his energy get more and more excited and enjoying the ride as the rest of the group followed me up. The Nepali man with Razu rode up on the brown horse and I said “Race?” With a nod from him I asked Laxman to hold Kim’s horse back so that he wouldn’t follow us and we took off running. We both were laughing hard as we came around a bend to a home with people waving their arms and shouting at us in hopes we would stop and not run right into their home. We then turned around and went back to the rest of the group to take some more photos. When we stopped to get some group shots with the lake in the background Zuma would paw at the ground as if he wanted to run some more. He truly enjoyed being out and riding around the hills and along the lake.
The ride came to a close and we headed back to the stable where the horses were kept. Razu handed me a coca cola and I shared it with the rest of the group. I handed him the items that were donated, including some newer shiny bits and English and Western bridles. I told him that next time I want to fit the bridle and bit for Zuma to see if that helps him with his stopping, rather than having to run circles all of the time since guests that would be riding him and not having experience wouldn’t be able to know how to run circles, or when to let up on him when he was stopping. We finished up our day, and I told Razu that I would come back another day. Not tomorrow, but perhaps the day after. He was happy, and we agreed to a morning time before the ponies went out to graze in the afternoon.
Two days after that fun filled day of riding and taking pictures I had Laxman tell Razu that I would be down in the morning. I woke up at 7:30am to head down at 8am to work with Zuma and the brown pony and perhaps take them into town for a short ride. When I began walking down Tim (another guest and close friend) was on his way off to his usual breakfast at Sun-Welcome as he does every morning. I asked him if he wanted to join me with the ponies as I worked with them, and debated on it up until the very last minute then decided to walk with me and stick around. I walked up to the gate with Tim and his bike with me waving at Razu as we opened up the gate and walked in. I shook Razu’s hand and looked over at Zuma and the brown Mustang pony both tied up and eating grass. I walked up to Zuma as he put his ears back and walked away only to get stuck by the tie unable to escape me. I looked at Tim and said “Yeah, he needs some work still.”
That morning I spent time with Zuma in just a halter having him do circles around me and then working up to half circles. Zuma only kicked at me once this time and I got after him with pushing the half circles on him harder to gain that respect from him. He settled in with me and I felt the relationship with him building. I laid my arms over his back and pushed him around a bit while laying across him (he’s short). I would work my way up his neck petting him, into his ears, and then down his face. He was much more comfortable with me at this point even allowing me to wrap my arms around his head and resting himself into me. I looked over to Razu who had the Mustang pony with him and working on circles just as he saw me doing it. I asked Tim to hold Zuma for a bit as I walked over and showed him where to stand at the shoulder sending him out on the line and encouraging forward movement with the stick lightly. He picked up on it pretty quickly and was back at the circles as he and his helper traded off from time to time.
I went back to Zuma, and saw another man walk in from the front gate talking in Nepali with Razu. He walked up to me and introduced himself then told me he has a horse that won’t back up when he asks him to. I remembered a moment when training my young mare that my daughter was trying to get her to back up using the whip to tap her and say “back”. The mare didn’t understand then getting frustrated would just run my daughter over as she quickly jumped out of the way. I asked the man to bring the horse in so I could see if this was the same case. The young horse was brought in as he looked around at all of the sights and sounds around him as youngsters do. I asked him to show me what he does, and he took his stick poking the horse in the chest asking for him to back. The horse then took a few steps forward into the man, just as my mare was doing to my daughter but in a gentler way. So, I took the lead in my right hand, then stepped into the horse and applied pressure using the word “Back”. When he resisted, I then put pressure side to side to get him off balance as I stepped into him again saying “Back”. The young horse then took one step and I rewarded him with a rub on his head, which he enjoyed as he leaned into my hand. I repeated the movement with a reward when I had gotten a step back. Then again with less back and forth and straight pressure s I stepped back and said “Back” followed by a reward with the step. The again with two steps, and into a few steps back with just the ask and stepping into him. I looked at the man and said, “Now you do it.” I showed him where to stand, the stepping into the horse and saying for “Back” followed by the reward. He tried once and got a step, then rewarded. Then tried again but this time was saying “Back Please” as he rewarded and applied pressure all at the same time. I laughed at the “Back Please” as the Nepali man was learning a new gentler way of handling a horse so much so he was being very polite and very rewarding.
After working with the young horse and the man, the Mustang pony with Razu and my work with Zuma I tried one of the new bits with the English bridle that was donated on Zuma and rode him around with it. He seemed so happy to have a nice smooth bit and was very responsive to just the slightest touch. He stopped when asked, and turned on a dime with just a tap of my finger. He was responding to my legs really well and I could keep a loose rein on him. So I asked Razu if he wanted to go into town for a bit and maybe drum up some business as the Westerner girl and the Nepali talked to the tourists about going for a ride. So he saddled up the Mustang pony, Tim gathered his things and his bike, and we were off through the main gate to go on a quick ride into town and back.
A Quick Ride Into Town
As we walked down the rest of the hill just outside of the Pony Farm and onto the main road along the lake we turned left to head into town instead of our usual right turn to ride along the lake. Tim was on his bicycle across the road and Razu followed just behind on the Mustang pony. I showed Tim how Zuma can do the natural gait that the mountain ponies have. A sort of cross between a walk and a trot that is quick yet very smooth. Zuma was listening to me just as well as he was inside with moving off my leg cues and responding with just a tap to the rein when asked allowing me to keep the reins loose and off of his mouth. Taxis, Jeeps, Trucks, Buses and many motorcycles all drove by, some giving us room and some getting up close as they do to those walking slowly along on the side of the road. As we turned around the lest bend just before town, Tim was in front of us a bit on his bike and I looked back to Razu and said “I really like how these ponies aren’t bothered by any of the vehicles.” He smiled and nodded and I added “My Thoroughbred would be dancing all over the place.”
I walked up a bit ahead as Zuma picked up his gait again and Tim was now quite a bit ahead of us when a blue truck began approaching me on my right heading towards me. I moved over to the left side of the road slowing down to a walk to get out of the way, but he was coming over closer not giving me much room. As his front wheel passed there was barely a few inches between my leg on Zuma and the side of the truck when I felt Zuma look at a pile of plastic bags to the left. Usually when he (and most horses) would see something that they might spook at they turn towards it bringing their hind end out. Anticipating this I tapped the right rein and pulled my right leg back to bring his attention to the truck saying “no no no” and tried to encourage him to stay straight. Unfortunately I didn’t get him corrected enough, or in time, as the back wheel of the truck came so close that the truck clipped Zuma’s back hip. The wheel pulled Zuma’s right hind leg under it forcing both of us to the ground and snapped his pleg in two. I hit the ground with a “Dammit” out of my mouth in frustration that I just didn’t have enough room to be able to avoid the truck and got us both hit. I looked up through Zuma’s legs as he stood in front of me and a second truck was heading straight for us. I thought to myself “This is it” as I waited for the impact, but the second truck stopped just short of Zuma.
Zuma walked off with his hind leg hanging by the last piece of skin holding it with the bone sticking out looking like a really good special effects job in a gory movie. I screamed “Oh No!” as Razu walked up on his pony and asked if I was alright. I said “Yes, I’m fine, but Zuma’s leg is broken. He’ll have to be put down.” He needed me to repeat what I said as he didn’t quite understand me and then finally said “Can’t we fix it?” I replied “No.”
Zuma had made his way up the road just a little ways and stopped in front of a hotel on their concrete slab entry. Tim came running up just as I had reached Zuma as well. He asked what happened and I explained that the truck hit us and knocked us both down. Tim had worked at a veterinarian in the past and also knew the second he saw the leg that the horse would need to be put down. I grabbed Zuma’s reins and started petting his neck calming him down, though he was already pretty calm considering what just happened. I leaned into him and said “I’m so sorry.” as Tim talked with Razu and some people on the side of the road to try to get a hold of a veterinarian. Razu jumped on a man’s motorcycle and was off back towards the stable and Tim came up to me to figure out what to do. We ran a few ideas past each other quickly. I knew of a vet clinic in town that Scott who owns the Parahawking program mentioned to Lou (a past guest at the hotel just out of vet school in New Zealand) that she could volunteer at. Tim, knowing Scott well, called him and left a message. Then we went to Prem who is the Director at KarmaFlights that we both volunteer with who also knows Scott well and knows a lot of people in the city. Tim walked away dialing number after number talking to anyone that picked up the other end trying to get a veterinarian to the horse as quickly as possible. I kept stroking Zuma’s neck, head and ears and apologizing for what was about to happen while tears welled up into my eyes.
The Veterinarian Arrived
During what seemed like an hour or so Razu had returned and I had removed Zuma’s saddle and untied the rope we used for the reins to make a halter for him so that I could remove the bridle as well. A nice Chinese couple brought me a bottle of water and helped Tim out as much as possible. The crowd of people wanting to all help brought over a woman’s sweater telling me to tie the leg up cutting off the bleeding. Knowing that Zuma was difficult to handle in a normal situation I wouldn’t allow them to try to touch the broken leg without any tranquilizer. A flailing horse that is in pain is a dangerous situation, and I didn’t want anyone else getting hurt. A friend of the family at Hidden Paradise drove by on his motorcycle and stopped to look along with the rest of the crowd that was forming. I made eye contact with him and said “A truck hit us.” He looked concerned and then after a bit drove off, but then came back and handed me his phone saying “Laxman”. I told him “I can’t” meaning I couldn’t talk at the moment, but he insisted so I grabbed the phone and talked him. He was putting on his shoes and coming down despite me telling him I was fine and he didn’t need to. He showed up shortly after.
A large Nepali man drove up eventually with another man in tow as Razu talked to Tim who then relayed to me that this was the veterinarian. Tim still hadn’t gotten a hold of Scott, but did get a hold of H.A.R.T. the non-profit clinic that spays and neuters and provides care for the dogs and cats in Pokhara, though they weren’t able to get to us for quite a while. The veterinarian rolled up his sleeves and spoke in Nepali for a bit, then Razu looked at me and said that we needed to get the horse to the ground. Tim and I were so insistent on Zuma being put down and out of his misery that I fought what was going to happen. We couldn’t get this horse forced to the ground. What where they going to do?
The veterinarian that I had worked for over 20 years ago had a mare come in one day that had a hairline fracture just coming up through the third metacarpal (The hind leg). Dr. Max Nichols (or “Doc” as I called him) had discussed with the owners of the mare that she would never be able to be ridden again and her quality of life wouldn’t be very good. The hind leg bears most of the weight, and the process of healing would be a long and painful one. Since in the U.S. the laws were set that a veterinarian cannot put the animal down without the consent of the owner, all they can do is advise but then follow the owner’s wishes that the mare was to have the leg repaired and the process of healing would follow. I was present during the surgery as Doc set the bone with two long bars and several pins screwed through the bone to hold it tight. He left the wound with tubes in it so that it could drain whatever infection that was going to develop and placed a light wrap of a cast over it to protect it. From there my job was to take a turkey baster and flush the leg inside the cast with Betadine as well as provide daily shots of Penicillin to help fight infection. The mare had rolled in her stall a few days later smashing the leg against the wall and breaking apart the leg more and in the process bent the pins that were screwed in. Doc again warned them of the horse not having any quality of life, and even more so now that the horse had broken the leg further. They insisted that he set the bone again, and into surgery we went. I was again following up with daily washes and Penicillin shots. Several days had passed and the mare rolled in her stall again breaking the pins and the leg. The owners again insisted on Doc setting the bone and we went into surgery for a third time. This time the leg was a beaten pulp. There was nothing left of any substance that could ever heal up to hold the horse properly allowing her any sort of relief from the pain and stiffness she would endure. Doc spoke to the owners about the condition of the leg and was more insistent that they consider the life that the mare would have at the expense of their fear of grieving her death. They spent a night outside of her stall and in the morning made the decision to put her down and end her suffering. After the horse had been put to sleep permanently I was tasked with removing the pins from the leg. Here’s where this story gets graphic, so feel free to skip to the next paragraph: Despite all efforts to fight infection the horses leg was a mass of puss and stunk of death. The maggots from flies laying their eggs in her leg were crawling around essentially eating away at what was a completely dead limb on a once alive animal. Her leg was rotten literally to death as she was still alive.
Setting the Leg
I remembered that mare as I was explained by Razu and Laxman that the veterinarian was going to set the bone. I looked over towards the lake across the road and a man was splitting bamboo to be used as a cast. These people didn’t even have the strong pins or the ability to cast the leg properly as Doc had, but still they wanted to set a bone that was severed completely in half. I argued it as long as I could, but being that I was not the one making the decision I succumbed to the reality of the situation and did my best to get the horse to lay down. Zuma had lost a lot of blood and was looking like he wanted to lay down. I put my head into his and told him is was okay to lay down. I rocked him back and forth and then pushed him off balance to encourage him to go down on his own. He gave in a few times, but then the pony that had fight came out and stood his ground. The veterinarian brought over a rope and I realized at that point we were going to have to take him down.
There are many ways to drop a horse with tying the leg up, and I asked how he wanted to do this. After I realize the veterinarian had no idea how, other than just tying a leg or two, I helped them tie up one front leg and then a hind leg. I looked at Laxman and told him that when the horse goes down someone needs to sit on his neck and someone else needs to hold his head to keep him from coming up. He nodded and then spoke to a few of the Nepali men that were willing to help. We quickly pulled on the legs as the horse rocked off balance and then I pushed the head and neck down. I yelled “Get on his neck” and “Pull those legs up”. We had the three legs bound up and Laxman and I both were on the neck and head. Zuma was down.
I was wearing a “wife beater” shirt since my ride was only supposed to be an hour at most. With the sun blazing down on us all and the temperature reaching near 85° F, Tim had handed me a light scarf to put on my shoulders to protect me from getting a sunburn. I pulled the scarf off of me and then placed it over Zumba’s eye to keep him as calm as I possibly could. As I realized what we were about to do and that the care following would be more critical than the care I provided for the mare, I turned to Razu and said “We can get iodine?” (since I knew Betadine was most likely not available) and he nodded with the response “Pharmacy.”
The veterinarian placed a needle into Zumba’s neck with what looked like saline and pressed the solution into the pony. I am fairly confident that whatever he gave the pony didn’t relieve any pain as he was thrashing and struggling at every moment he could. With each thrashing the exposed bone ground into the dirt, and the limb that was still attached flailed about.
In all there were roughly 7 or more Nepali men in addition to myself and Tim switching off holding down Zuma, holding the ropes that held the legs back and kneeling on the neck and pushing down on the head. The veterinarian cleaned the dirt off the bone, sprinkled a disinfectant powder on the wound and would then try to pull the bone back into the skin and line it up as best he could. With each cleaning, sprinkling, pulling and setting attempt Zuma would thrash in reaction to the pain. I watched the veterinarian and yelled “Get ready!” with each moment I knew would cause him to fight. Laxman would then repeat my yelling in Nepali to ready the men.
We were at this for hours. Not what seemed like hours, but literally hours when H.A.R.T. arrived. There were two white people that came out of the truck they pulled up in and two Nepali men. I looked at the white man and asked if he was the veterinarian. He didn’t understand me, and so I went to the woman. She pointed to the Nepali man that came out of the truck and said “He is.” My heart sunk again as I feared we would have more pain for this pony I had built up such a trust with.
After some discussion and relief on my worry that this was a veterinarian that could really help, they injected Zuma with a tranquilizer that knocked him out so well he didn’t need anyone holding him down any longer. We discussed putting him down again, and a policeman had me sign a piece of paper with statement on it written in Nepali. Laxman explained to me later that this was the order to put Zuma down that Razu, his cousin and myself signed.
The Nepali people practice both Hindu and Buddhism. They don’t believe in harming other creatures to the point where mosquitoes are safe from a swat during a blood draw. They don’t like animals to suffer from pain, but they also do not take it upon themselves to end an animals life. In order for Zuma to be put down we would need to go through a similar process that Doc had to go through with the mare’s owner, only with a bit more red tape. Tim and I both said that we would be happy to inject the drug that would end Zuma’s suffering since we were from another country and both had experience giving intravenous shots. The debate had gone on between myself and Laxman, Tim and Razu, Tim and Laxman, myself and Razu and us all with the veterinarian before H.A.R.T. arrived.
The Truck Driver
During the time we were dealing with Zuma and the veterinarian a mob had formed that was irate over the truck driver hitting the pony. I was asked repeatedly if I was the rider as Tim and I asked people to step back and give us room. I at one point told Tim, Laxman and Razu that the driver was very lucky that I was the one on Zuma and not some terrified tourist that had never been on a horse before. Not only was I able to correct the horse enough to limit the damage (though at this point I began to wish the damage had been fatal to avoid the long drawn out torture) but I am experienced enough to handle the situation following the event.
I looked up into the hotel we were in front of and saw a few official looking men sitting down at a long table in what appeared to be the restaurant portion. They sat there calmly with Razu, his cousin and Laxman at the table in a very serious discussion. I realized at that point that they had found the driver and perhaps the trucking company and were trying to resolve the compensation for hitting the pony and damaging Razu’s property and livelihood. The men on the other side of Laxman and Razu stood up and walked away.
The angry mob developed around Zuma as he lay there in a deep sleep, hopefully, free from the pain he was experiencing before the tranquilizers. I saw a Nepali man in a blue shirt walking away from a portion of the crowd with an angry look on his face. He would stop and Laxman and Razu would speak to him in a harsh tone, then follow him as he walked away again. The crowd around the man grew and grew and they stopped in parts of the street then on the side in front of the neighboring buildings and then in the street again. The police had arrived long before as we struggled with the first veterinarian to keep the peace and manage the crowd that was developing. As time went on more law enforcement arrived and the crowd grew even larger.
I sat down finally after hours of struggling with Zuma and in a moment felt the pain from the fall I had taken. The adrenaline was at that point wearing off. I spoke with the volunteer woman with H.A.R.T. about the situation while the crowd continued to battle with the driver. She explained to me that Zuma couldn’t be put down until the situation with the driver was resolved. He had insurance, but felt that the horse could live since the damage caused wasn’t fatal. Knowing what I know and Michelle having the experience with being a veterinarian of dogs and cats (she hadn’t worked with horses in 10 years) we both knew that Zuma needed to be put down.
After an hour or so of the crowd moving around the premises and Michelle and I talking, I looked at her and said “Is he about due for another shot of tranqs?” she replied “Yeah, it seems like it’s been a while and he’s handling it well.” She then added “We’re waiting for that moment when he struggles so we know he’s due for another.” Just as she finished her sentence Zuma thrashed around and the Nepali men jumped to him to hold him down again. Michelle said “Looks like that time is now.” as she jumped up with the shot of tranquilizers in her hand and ran over to give him another shot.
I Had to Leave
Michelle talked to me about the next steps with Zuma before she was off with the rest of the H.A.R.T. crew. She mentioned that they could not put Zuma down at that time without someone giving the go ahead. There was still some debate with the truck driver that needed to be resolved. So she was leaving another 2 doses of tranquilizers with the veterinarian that had arrived before they were there for him to administer when Zuma came out of the dose he had then. She also left the euthanasia drugs for when they were ready to make that decision. Tim had her number if we needed anything and then she and the volunteers packed up their things and drive out.
I sat there on the steps in the front of the hotel for another hour with Tim as we watched the crowd continue to argue with the driver. At one point an old Nepali woman walked up to the man and began yelling at him in Nepali. Tim and I laughed at the events that were unfolding before our eyes. A nice woman from the hotel gave us some oranges and apples to share, and Tim decided to go grab something for us to eat since it was then 3:00 pm and we had been there since roughly 9:30 am. He rode his bike back with two small pizzas in his hand, and I walked into the hotel to wash off the feces and blood that covered my hands before attempting to eat.
After some time Zuma began to have moments of waking up and thrashing around. His legs were still tied up, but at this point no one was holding him down so the Nepali men ran over each time to hold him. I knew he wasn’t going anywhere with his legs tied up and still under the influence of the tranquilizers so just sat there and watched. When it had been another couple of hours I realized he was going to start to come out of his sleep and the results of him waking up still tied with not enough men to hold him down was going to be disastrous. I walked over to him and asked anyone that could understand me to get the veterinarian for another dose of tranquilizers. No one seemed to know who I was talking about or where the veterinarian had gone. Tim finally got some answers that the veterinarian had left the scene with the drugs. He called him on the phone and the man refused to get involved and got off the line with him.
I sat there on the edge of the concrete garbage bin that the hotel used just 5 feet away from Zuma as he began to thrash from time to time. Tim walked off and talked to whomever would communicate with him and came back to tell me that they refused to put Zuma down or give him anything as it was then in the trucking company’s hands. They believed the pony could live just fine and still refused to pay Razu for the damages and let the horses suffering end. There was nothing we could do.
My eyes teared up again. I just stared at Zuma laying there as the crowd had gotten so big I had to look through the legs and arms of the people standing around. There was a festival with all of the Nepali women that Laxman’s sister-in-law and my best friend (I call her my “Nepali Sister”) Niishaa had attended with many of the women from the area that the hotel was in. She looked at me through the crowd and I started to cry at that point. She came over, sat next to me, put her right arm around me and gently rubbed my shoulder. She talked to me for a bit about the day, and I voiced my frustration with the situation. She told me that perhaps it was time for me to go back home to the hotel. She asked if I had eaten (Nepali’s show love and heal with food) to which I had told her about the few things I had eaten. She tried to encourage me to leave, but I just didn’t feel right leaving Zuma alone. The thought of him thrashing around and him waking up exhausted and in pain from all that he had been through that day was overwhelming me. I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t feel right leaving him at all. Niishaa spoke to the other Nepali women that were in their nice festival clothes “Jam” which means “Let’s go.” in Nepali, and they walked off.
Tim came up to me and we talked about perhaps suffocating the horse or doing something to end the life quickly, but with the huge crowd there we couldn’t do anything without them knowing and us getting into a heap of trouble. So he convinced me to finally leave, but we headed into town to a close restaurant that I frequent often. I could see Zuma still laying there with the men around him as the sun set and eventually the darkness blanketed the scene so that I could no longer see. I was so exhausted from the day I kept laying my head on the table as Tim and I made small talk seeded by recapping the events of the day.
The next morning I awoke at the hotel and headed out for breakfast as usual. I didn’t see Laxman sitting in front of the kitchen/dining area as usual and asked where he had gone. Shree (his cousin) told me that he had gone down to Razu’s to dig a large hole for the horse. They planned on finally euthanizing Zuma and laying him to rest in a burial on the property. I was relieved that the decision had finally been made to end his suffering, and that Zuma didn’t have to go on with a broken leg and in pain for as long as the mare did all those years back in the U.S.
I will forever remember the fun little pony Zuma that had fight in him who had come to develop a trust and respect relationship with me. Razu and I have spoken since and I apologized for all that had happened. I was told that it is not in the Nepali way to blame me for what happened. An accident is an accident, no matter how badly I feel or how much I wish I had not gone into town that day. I will continue to work with Razu and his other ponies, although they all are in such great shape and do so well with the guests that ride them I don’t think he will need me. Perhaps I can just enjoy a nice ride or help him if/when he buys another pony to replace Zuma.