Inspirations from the tripod kitten


Inspirations often come from unexpected events in our lives. We have an old pole barn with cedar walls on three sides and the south side is open for the horses to come into the stalls for shelter. The old fashioned farm stalls are really open pens with a five foot high sides made of heavy wood planks spaced about six inches apart. All of the barnyard animals congregate in the stalls with the horses. The chickens and ducks snack on any food the horses may drop and the cats play in the hay fed to the horses. It can be total chaos in those stalls at feeding time and during bad weather when everyone comes into the barn for shelter. The horses and barnyard creatures naturally mingle together.

In early April, our black and gold calico barn cat had her first litter of kittens between the hay stack and the north wall of the barn. She kept the two kittens hidden for about three weeks and then the kittens came out of hiding to play with the other barn animals. One kitten was a soft solid gray and the other one had black and gray tiger stripes. Another barn cat also had a litter of kittens so the whole bunch of them played constantly all over the barn and in the barnyard.

When the kittens were six weeks old, they started venturing further from the barn. After their morning feeding in the barn, the kittens developed the habit of wandering up the hill to the house to check out the dog food bowls and play with the people. On Saturday, May 25, I noticed the little gray kitten was limping around as he played on the back porch with the other kittens. There were so much feeding chaos in the barn that I hadn’t noticed the kitten limping during the morning feeding. Or, his accident may have happened after I left the barn.

I picked up the little gray kitten and was shocked to see that his left rear leg was totally crushed. There wasn’t’ any bleeding and he certainly didn’t seem to be in any pain (later the veterinarian told me that the nerves had been severed so he was not in pain). He was playing with the other kittens, running on three legs, and dragging his crushed leg. He had obviously walked all of the way up the hill from the barn to the house.

We immediately took him to the veterinarian who gave us two basic options: amputation or euthanasia. The leg was too badly crushed for a splint or cast to repair the damage. The kitten’s bones were too small and brittle for pins or any kind of repair.

There was no way that we could euthanize an animal with any chance to live so we opted for amputation. The veterinarian scheduled the surgery for Monday and kept the kitten on antibiotics all weekend in the clinic. The surgery was performed on Monday and we brought him home on Monday afternoon.

By now you may be wondering what a story about the world’s most adorable tripod kitten has to do with natural horsemanship, other than the obvious conclusion that one of the horses or the donkey stepped on and crushed his poor leg. Like I said in the opening line of this story, inspiration often comes from the unexpected events in our lives. That little kitten is amazing! He was scurrying across our kitchen floor the minute we got home from the veterinarian’s office. It was truly inspiring to see that kitten run and climb on three legs.

Not once did the kitten have self-pity, lack of confidence, and stop to think that maybe he couldn’t run or climb anymore. He didn’t even seem to notice that he had lost a leg. That kitten could not play and move around enough. I was shocked to watch him enthusiastically climb up the walls of his wire kennel to the top of the kennel and while hanging there move paw over paw across the top of the kennel with the strength of his front paws. Of course, there was no way that kitten could follow the veterinarian’s advice to rest for two weeks until his stitches were removed. When we let him out of the kennel to play, he would climb up our jeans legs, up our shirts, and sit on our shoulders.

As I watched the tripod kitten play, I realized that I had been using my comparatively minor aches and pains as an excuse to avoid new challenges and slow down my own natural horsemanship growth and journey. There is no way that I could watch that little tripod kitten and not be inspired to tackle some new challenges. I also realized that my excuses were having a big impact on my horse partner. Rocky is now a mature horse who trusts me as his human partner. Rocky is bored with our routine activities. He is ready and begging for some new challenges. I have been holding back because of my own fears that I am not physically able to handle any new challenges. Rocky and I are partners and it is my job in our partnership to plan the next chapter of our horsemanship journey.

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