Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 9.20.07

Too Young to Die
A horse tale
By Camilla Mortensen

Flash stood in his pasture, trembling with hurt and fear, holding up his injured leg. It’s what any animal lover hates to see — a beautiful creature in pain.

What made it worse for me is what Flash has already been through. From an unplanned cold October birth to an ex-racehorse mother who herself was recently saved from starvation, to being found neglected in his next owner’s pasture with no food or water in the heat of August, Flash has never had it easy. I thought once I rescued him, he’d have a good life.

I didn’t count on an old nail that came up through the dirt of his pasture, piercing his right hind hoof all the way to the bone. Like Barbaro, the famed racehorse, he went from galloping gloriously to fighting for his life, in the blink of an eye.

Flash was rushed to Oregon State Large Animal Hospital for emergency surgery. There, the vets told me I could put him down, rather than risk the painful infections that would happen if I didn’t do the surgery. Or I could put Flash through an operation that could cost up to $10,000 and still not save his life or even leave him able to walk normally.

I don’t have $10,000. Not even close. But as the surgeon was talking, Flash, who is only 3 years old, began to try to dance around, grab my shirt in his teeth, and snort. He was young and happy, despite his pain, and wanted to play.

I said to do the surgery. You can’t look at an animal who trusts you and kill him because of money.

Since the surgery, Flash faces, like Barbaro did, the danger of laminitis, the inflammation in the non-injured feet that finally killed the racehorse. He faces the risk of bone infections and a host of other problems. The vets said his prognosis is “guarded.”

Flash doesn’t know that. He’s been up to his usual tricks: trying to nip his handlers, begging for treats and demanding to be petted and scratched. And healing. Each day he has been beating the odds and healing.

He also doesn’t know his vet bills have already surpassed the $5,000 mark and keep mounting — despite community support of $1,400 after a recent KEZI news story and an email I sent out.

He doesn’t know about the people who have never met him, that have sent funds to help him.

He doesn’t know the vets can’t say when and if he will fully heal. Every day is a new fight against the odds. I think he will beat them, true to his racing bloodlines.

All Flash knows is that he wants to go out in the pasture with his friends instead of being locked in stall at the hospital. He loves to play and buck (see EW 8/16 to see just how high he can kick his legs).

I’m not the only one who has faced this dilemma. I saw other horse owners make trying to make the same decision at OSU. I don’t know if their horses lived or died.

Pet owners spend thousands on their animals each year, trying to save them. The local Bearen Foundation ( donations to people whose pets have medical emergencies and advice on fundraising. Most vets take payments over time from those of us who can’t pay in full right away.

In Flash’s case the Tamarack Wellness Center has offered to donate proceeds from this Sunday’s “Fundraiser in Memory of Barbaro” from 1 to 4 pm at 3575 Donald St. For more information go to:

For more information on Flash, check out his MySpace page: call the Natural Horse at 741-3137.

Camilla Mortensen is a staff reporter for Eugene Weekly covering the environment and politics.