As fall gets into full swing, fields full of bright orange pumpkins and corn mazes are replacing the late summer county fairs. Appointments full of travel papers and checks for contagious disease are slowing down and instead I’m working a lot on fall vaccines for horses, dental care, and some late season lambing and kidding, for the small number of small ruminants bred in the spring for autumn markets.
Although the busy season is certainly not over yet (the sleepiest period is between November and January), the fall season gives me enough time to pause and reflect on some cool stuff I’ve seen over the summer. Working behind the scenes at the local county fair, I’ve been privy to the inevitable stress and drama evoked whenever children are competing with animals, although the past few years have been fairly quiet. I would be remiss, however, to deprive you of one story that will forever stick out in my mind that occurred about four years ago.
It all started on a cloudy, dull day when I was called to write an impromptu interstate health certificate for a horse traveling to Georgia by way of the county fair.
Arriving near the horse stables on the fairgrounds, I waited. The person who called was not a regular client and I was told the horse was coming in on a trailer. Seeing lots of trailers in the vicinity, I continued to wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, a truck pulling a strange looking contraption showed up: brightly colored and as tall as it was long, this trailer looked like it belonged to a sideshow. Further leading me to this conclusion was a large banner partially hidden behind planks of wood that read: “World’s Smallest.”
World’s smallest what?
I hopped out of my truck, interstate certificate in my hand and stethoscope around my neck. Shaking the owner’s hand, I asked, “Where’s the horse?”
“He’s in there,” the owner replied, pointing to the trailer. I saw no signs of anything resembling a horse. In fact, the trailer looked empty.
“Where?” I asked.
“He’s down below,” he replied, implying I needed to climb up into the trailer and then down into it. I climbed along the side of trailer and peered down. The floor of the trailer was cut low and in the dark shadows standing in a deep bed of straw was something black and white.
“That’s PeeWee,” the owner said. “The World’s Smallest Horse.”
I nodded like, sure, I climb into mysterious traveling trailers all the time. Hoisting myself up and over, I commenced the exam required before I could sign health papers. I found PeeWee to be an agreeable little chap, appearing to my eyes to be a black and white pinto Miniature Horse, munching contently on some hay as I listened to his lungs, took his temperature, and checked his body for lumps, bumps, rashes, or warts. Finding PeeWee to be as healthy as a, well, horse, I completed the paperwork, collected payment for my services, and the owner drove off, taking PeeWee to Georgia, where he was no doubt going to mix and mingle with a bearded lady, a tattooed man, a sword-swallower, and perhaps, I can only hope, a two-headed goat.
Reflecting on this now, I can’t confirm that PeeWee was the smallest horse I’ve ever seen, much less the World’s Smallest Horse. I guess it’s really the thought that counts. Every year that I go to the fair, I’m reminded of PeeWee and wonder where he is, what he’s up to, and how many people have peered into his private trailer to get a glimpse of traveling show-biz, something that’s a bit of a rarity now.
I, for one, hope there are hordes of PeeWee groupies that follow him from town to town, offering him carrots and scratches behind the ears. I got the vibe that PeeWee would take it all in stride.
Dr. Anna O’Brien
Image: Not PeeWee the World's Smallest Horse; Thinkstock