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The Foot Treatment

by Arnold Hollander

Manny washed his hands twice, making sure there wasn’t even a trace of residual blood on them. The foal had birthed at 4 a.m. following a short one-hour labor. He’d been called to the Double C ranch about when he was ready to turn in and was beginning to feel his eyelids lowering.

Being a veterinarian, especially the only one in the county with the skills to handle larger animals, kept him busy. There was nothing memorable concerning the birth and his examination of mother and foal, and he’d detected no anomalies.

He’d begun the process of imprinting the foal, after first drying him off and then allowing Molly, his mother to nuzzle him. Imprinting was a way to acclimate the foal to the world of man. This type of training was necessary for the foal to learn to accept handling for working with the head, inserting a nasogastric tube, inserting a rectal thermometer, brushing his hair, or trimming his feet.

The owner, Chuck Carruthers, held Molly nearby, while Manny performed this, the first of three or four more imprinting sessions. This session began with his almost whispered assurance to Molly that everything was going to be all right and her foal was in no danger; her initial snorting, whinnying and jerking of her head ceased.

He turned to the foal, now standing a bit steadier than before, and began talking in a calm monotone. “Okay, young ’un, it’s time for your first lesson.” He reached for the foal’s right foreleg and the foal jerked his head from side to side, began to whimper and pulled away. “Steady, boy.”

He tried again with the same result. After a few tries, he managed to grasp the foreleg, in spite of the foal’s attempts to break free, and held it, while still speaking in the same calm monotone, getting the foal accustomed to human touch.

Still holding the foot, Manny slowly massaged the area located above the hoof, and continued speaking in that calm manner in which the session began. The foal stopped trying to pull his leg away and seemed to calm down.

Gently, Manny returned the leg to its standing position then released it. He spoke softly, once more to the foal, grabbing hold of the other leg and pulling it up. The foal at first whimpered, then tried to pull the leg away, but Manny’s persistence won the day and the foal calmed down.

Then he repeated the work he had performed on the other leg. Placing the leg down, Manny turned to Carruthers, “He is doing well. I’ll return tomorrow night for our next session.”

Manny was tired and expected to return to his warm bed for a well deserved, albeit short, rest; his office opened at 9 a.m. He showered before settling in, finding Marion was awake when he slid into bed.

“It’s time,” she said as she rose. Lifting his left leg, she hummed a soft song while she slowly massaged the area above his foot.

Copyright © 2009 by Arnold Hollander

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