On January 3, 2011, Horse Rescue United founder Anouk Busch attended New Holland Auction. Although her rescue specializes in rehabilitating and training Standardbreds, one of the horses she loaded onto her trailer at the end of the auction was a Belgian workhorse named Tristan. Covered in dry mud, he was tall and thin, with a sore tendon and a cancerous eye, and he cost $35.
After Tristan was out of quarantine, he was examined by veterinarians. X-rays revealed that the cancer had spread from his eye into the bones in his head. The prognosis was grim, and Tristan was given only a few months to live. Devastated by the news, Anouk did what she could to keep him comfortable. Through all the examinations and treatments, Tristan was a good patient. He charmed the veterinarians and all the volunteers at the rescue. He hammed it up during all of my photo sessions.
Tristan blossomed in Anouk's care. Although the vets prepared Anouk for the eventuality that Tristan would lose weight, he gained weight all summer. His bad eye bothered him, though, and Anouk kept it as clean and protected as possible. When it became apparent that Tristan was not planning to leave this world any time soon, Anouk and the veterinarians at New Bolton revisited the option of surgically enucleating his bad eye. In October 2011, Tristan's right eye was removed, which immensely increased his comfort level.
A year after his surgery, Tristan continues to live in the moment, in true horsey fashion. He has a girlfriend named Hailey (pictured above). His topline and hips are rounded with good nutrition. His coat is slick and healthy. His mane gets longer every time I see him. His missing eye does not bother him in the least.
Last month, in celebration of living in the moment, I climbed up on a bucket, leaned against Tristan's almost 18-hand frame, and braided daisies into his mane for a photo shoot. As always, Tristan hammed it up and showed off for the camera.
When asked about Tristan's popularity with visitors and Facebook fans, Anouk explained: “I had no clue what I had gotten myself into, but it’s the best buy we ever made. He has shown so much love, resilience and pleasure in life; he touches everybody with his presence. Particularly cancer and depression patients bond with him and see him as an example of how to take each day as it comes.”
Tristan is one of the many horses featured in my 2013 Horses and Hope calendar. With the help of Gina Keesling of HoofPrints, my 2012 debut calendar contained over 100 photos of auction horses. Thanks to the support of horse lovers all over, it raised over $40,000 for One Horse At A Time, helping hundreds of horses in need directly, and untold others indirectly through increased public awareness. Now that we have one calendar's worth of experience to draw upon, the 2013 version promises to be even more exciting, even more creative, and as always, inspirational and positive.
- Sarah Andrew