Prince Ali – Chapter 40

By: Victoria Hardesty and Nancy Perez
Writers of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses


The wind finally stopped abruptly about 11:00 that morning. Ali shook himself to throw off some of the sand and dust coating his body and began to walk east again. The shaking hurt the wounds on his back, chest, and legs. His body ached, his thirst was terrible, and his stomach growled from hunger. He began thinking he would never make it after all. Max was right. He was an inexperienced youngster out of his element. Maybe he should just lie down and let nature take its course.

Just about then, Ali remembered watching Becky slam into the building head first and tumble into a heap, not moving. He couldn’t give up now. Ali had to get back to her. He had to protect her. “Becky, I’m coming home! I don’t know how, but I’m not giving up yet. Hold on and wait for me!”

He limped along until after 2:00 p.m. In the distance, he saw a ranch. He saw animals in pens near the back of the property. He wasn’t sure what kind of animals they were, but he kept walking toward them. Where there were animals in pens, there would be food and water!

As he got closer, he noticed a single horse in a pen by himself. The closer Ali got, the more familiar the horse looked. Finally, it dawned on him the horse looked a lot like his older brother. Excitement gripped him. He had no idea how his brother would get here, and he was too tired, sore, thirsty, and hungry to care. He hurried his steps and limped faster.

The other horse noticed Ali and called to him. Ali called back and began to gallop. He came to a slide stop at the fence near the other horse. The horse looked just like his brother, but suddenly Ali knew it wasn’t him. Disappointment crashed in.

Ali saw the rear gate to the ranch was open. He knew there was food and water here, which he desperately needed. Ali hurried to the gate and began searching. He’d gone about halfway to the ranch house on the 70-acre ranch, still not finding a source of food or water outside of the animal pens when a large black dog charged him from behind. The dog barked loud and excitedly, bounding toward him. Ali didn’t have the energy to run but put on a good fast trot. The dog outdistanced him and came around in front of him. Suddenly the dog stopped and whined.

Clyde recognized this horse! He knew his scent. Clyde couldn’t place him, but he definitely wasn’t a stranger. He smelled the blood on him and saw the cholla stuck to his chest and leg. Clyde got into cholla once and knew what that meant. This horse needed help. Clyde approached Ali, who’d stopped when the dog did.

“Hey, I know you! I’ve seen you before. Where did you come from?” Clyde asked him, wagging his tail.

Ali was standing with his head down, too tired to move anymore. Clyde sniffed Ali and Ali sniffed Clyde. Ali recognized Clyde’s scent too. “You seem familiar to me too,” Ali said to the dog. He didn’t remember where he knew him from but knew he was friendly.

“You smell just like a horse my owner lady takes me to see sometimes in the truck. Do you know a young girl with blonde hair?” Clyde remembered going with Ginny to a ranch far away where she worked with this horse and a little girl.

“Yes! Becky! How do you know Becky, and can you help me find her?” Ali asked him eagerly.

“It was a long ride in the truck to the place where I saw you and the girl,” Clyde told him. “You sure don’t look the same. What happened to you?”

Ali was too tired to tell the whole story. He was very thirsty and starving. He barely had the strength left to stand on his four legs. “It’s a long story. Can you help me?” he finally asked the dog. “I need food and water.”

Without another word, Clyde spun around and ran toward the house. He dove through the doggie door on the back porch and disappeared inside. Ali stood there with his head hanging. He had no more energy.

Clyde ran for Brody’s room. Brody was doing his homework and left his bedroom door open. Clyde ran in and put his paw on Brody’s leg, then barked at him. Brody pushed Clyde’s leg off and told him to shush. Clyde whined and then barked again.

Brody looked up from the book he was studying. Clyde was doing circles on the hardwood floor and kept looking at him, whining.

“Okay, Clyde,” Brody said as he stroked the dog. “Show me what’s up.” Brody followed the dog to the back door. Brody opened the door while Clyde jumped through the doggie door. Clyde turned and whined again, then turned back to the ranch leading Brody.

Brody spotted the horse and saw his general condition from a hundred yards away. Passing one of the corrals near the house, he grabbed a halter and lead rope and followed Clyde. Clyde went directly to the horse and sat down in front of Ali, whining.

The closer Brody got, the worse the horse looked. He slowly walked up to the horse, talking to him as he approached.

“Good boy, I’m not going to hurt you. Yes, please be a good boy.” Brody carefully put the halter and lead rope on the horse and gently led him to the barn. He slid open one of the empty stalls and led the horse inside.

He noticed the horse was limping, and he saw the cholla. He also noticed the seeping blood on his back and down his rear legs. Brody stroked the horse’s neck, unbuckled the halter, and backed out of the stall, closing the door. He dropped the halter and lead rope in the barn aisle and sprinted to the west side pens where his Uncle Mike was working horses.

“Uncle Mike!” Brody shouted. “Uncle Mike, you gotta come to the barn. A horse just showed up here, and he’s hurt. We gotta help him!”

Mike rode his horse to the rail and stopped. “Say that again?”

Brody was excited and talked fast.

“Uncle Mike, Clyde came into my bedroom and made me follow him outside. A horse was standing there, and he’s in pretty bad shape. He has cholla stuck all over, he’s skinny, and he has blood all over his back and legs. He’s been hurt and needs our help.”

Mike got off the horse and tossed the reins to Brody. “Put this guy up, will you. I’ll go check the horse out and see what we can do with him. Meet me in the barn.”

Mike strode to the barn and found Ali standing in the stall with his head down, trembling. He cautiously entered the stall and looked him over. Mike saw the cholla Brody mentioned and worked his way back to the horse’s back and flank area, crossed behind the horse, and came up the other side. He stopped at Ali’s shoulder and put his hand on Ali’s neck, sliding down to his withers. He scratched the itchy place. Ali moaned and sighed.

Brody put Mike’s training horse up and ran back to the barn. He stopped at the doorway and walked in like he’d been trained to do. No sense in spooking any of the horses inside by running down the aisle. He walked to the stall with Ali and Mike.

“What do you think, Uncle Mike? Can we help him? What can I do?”

“Well, he’s pretty sucked up in the flank, so he’s probably not had water for a while. Why don’t you get two buckets of fresh water and hang them in here? Then get me a pair of pliers and some iodine. We have to get the cholla out of him first. Then we’ll take a look at wounds on his back and flanks. One more thing you can do is make him a warm bran mash. Put a cup of mineral oil in it. I don’t know when the last time he ate was, but we don’t want him to colic on top of everything else.”

Brody hurried out to get the buckets of water. He brought the first one in and hung it up in the stall. Ali stuck his muzzle in the bucket before Brody could get it on the hook. Brody stepped out to get the other bucket and hang it. Ali didn’t take his muzzle out of the first bucket until it was half empty. He stood there catching his breath and dripping water into the wood shavings they used to bed the stall. He took a few long breaths and dropped his muzzle back into the bucket for more water.

“Jeez, Uncle Mike, he was thirsty!” Brody exclaimed. “Should I get the pliers now and hold him for you, or should I make the mash?”

“Get the pliers. We need to get the cholla spines out of him. He’ll be much more comfortable. Then we may need to ice him down. Do you remember how the cholla spines make the horses’ legs swell? Get me the ice packs from the barn freezer.”

“Okay. Here’s the halter and lead rope I used to catch him. Be right back.” Brody told his uncle.

Brody got several ice packs, and a couple of pairs of leg wraps, then stopped in the tack room for the tool kit. He pulled a pair of pliers out and hurried back to the stall.

He put the wraps and ice packs in the corner feeder in the stall and handed his uncle the pliers. Brody took the lead rope from Mike and talked to the horse as Mike pulled chunks of cholla and spines out of the horse’s skin. Carefully Mike put the cholla and spines in the feeder’s bottom so he could collect them later.

When Mike pulled the first piece of cholla off him, Ali squealed and backed up a step. He knew the two people were helping, and it felt good to get rid of that pokey stuff, so he stood very still as the rest of them came out. Mike washed the area with diluted iodine solution and then wrapped Ali’s leg with ice packs using leg wraps to hold them in place.

As the cholla spines came out, the swelling began and became more pronounced as Mike worked. There wasn’t much he could do with the chest and side of the horse, but the leg wraps would reduce swelling in his leg. Mike found the three spines in Ali’s lip and pulled them out as well. Ali was so relieved.

Mike sent Brody to make the mash. He worked with gentle hands and an antibacterial cleanser to clean the deep scratches and bite marks on Ali’s hips, flanks, and back. They were packed with sand and dirt from the wind storm the night before and had to be cleaned out to prevent infection.

Ali flinched when the pain was terrible, but other than that, he didn’t move a muscle while Mike worked on him. When he had the wounds all cleaned out, Mike found a salve in the medicine area of the tack room. He gently smoothed it into the wounds to draw out any infection that may have already started there. The salve soothed the burning caused by the cleansing. Mike checked his stock of injectable medications in the barn refrigerator and found a tetanus shot. He carefully injected the medicine into Ali.

Brody came back with a warm bran mash and held the bucket under Ali’s nose. Ali immediately dived into it. Brody added maple syrup to the mix to make it taste better.

“We’d better give Doc Martin a call in the morning. This fellow may need stitches in those deeper scratches. He has bite marks too. It looks like he was attacked by something pretty big, a mountain lion or a bear, probably a single one, or he wouldn’t have gotten away. I wonder if he’s been up in the mountains. There aren’t too many mountain lions or bears down here. Too bad he can’t talk. Let’s give him a small flake of hay for tonight. We have to go easy on the feed until he gets used to it again.”

Brody cleaned up the cholla and supplies they’d left in the feeder and brought Ali a small flake of alfalfa hay. He went into the stall and stroked the horse’s neck and talked to him for a while in soothing tones.

Ali laid his head on Brody’s shoulder. Ali was so grateful to feel safe again. Brody threw his two arms around Ali’s neck and hugged him back. “You’ll be okay, boy. Wait and see.” Brody told him.

Brody topped off the water buckets, removed the ice wraps which had done their job, closed the stall door, and left for the night, closing the main barn doors on his way out. The wind was back and howled outside, but Ali was safe and warm inside this time. He slept peacefully for the first time in two weeks.

Mike called Doc Martin first thing in the morning. He had vet calls to make in the area anyway and stopped by Mike’s ranch first. Mike took the horse out of the stall so the vet could have a good look at him.

Ali limped slightly on his left leg from the muscle pull in his knee. He was a little tender on the right rear, where he’d lost a shoe. The swelling from the cholla was gone, and there didn’t appear to be any further tenderness in that area. His ribs showed all down his barrel, and his hip and backbones protruded. He was several hundred pounds underweight. And he was dirty. His former silver coat was the color of the sand that coated him from nose to tail.

The wounds on his back and flanks were another story. They were days old and starting to heal from the bottom. Mike told the vet he’d given the horse a tetanus shot the night before, so that didn’t need to be done again. The vet was worried about infection, so he left Mike and Brody antibiotics to give the horse twice a day for the next five days.

“This boy has missed a few meals,” the vet said when he finished his exam. “I’d feed him small flakes of hay three times a day for the next few days. It would help if you gave him a bucket of soaked hay pellets and beet pulp too. It gives his system a chance to get used to food again. He needs groceries. Other than that, there’s nothing time, and a good farrier won’t fix. I looked at the other shoes he’s got on. Top-notch work there. But your farrier can fix him up. I’d have all four feet done so they match. He’s worn those shoes down. One of the other’s about ready to go as well. Do you have any idea where he came from?”

“Looks like he walked in the back gate. I leave it open until I close the ranch down at the end of the day. He probably came in looking for food and water. Too bad he doesn’t talk. For an “Arabian” stallion, he’s pretty well behaved. He must belong to someone.” Mike said. “I’ll be putting out flyers at the local feed stores around and see if we can find the owner. My guess is he’s pretty high-strung when he’s fit. He probably got away from someone, and they’re looking for him.”

“Uncle Mike, don’t you let Aunt Ginny hear you talk like that,” Brody remarked. “She loves her Arabian horses and would smack you upside the head if she heard you.” He laughed. “Besides, this boy hasn’t given you a lick of trouble. Remember how good he was while you pulled cholla stickers out of his hide? He squealed one time then stood like a statue.”

“I know,” said Uncle Mike. “Now don’t you go tellin’ your Aunt Ginny I said bad things about her “Arabian” horses, or I’ll have to git on you and give you extra chores.” He pulled his hat brim down and grinned at Brody.

“Okay, Uncle Mike,” Brody said with a grin. “I promise not to tell.”

Victoria Hardesty has owned, bred and shown Arabian Horses for more than 30 years. She and her husband operated their own training facility serving many young people that loved and showed their own horses. She is the author of numerous articles in horse magazines, was the editor of two Arabian Horse Club newsletters, one of which was given the Communications Award of the Year by the Arabian Horse Association at their national convention. An avid reader from childhood, she read every horse story she could get her hands on.