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Life inspiration for a future veterinarian

Sean Strode
Garfield County Communications Coordinator
Hailey Brown holds a picture of Babe with her on her last day.
Sean Strode / Garfield County |

Seeing the 4-H project displays at the Garfield County Fair & Rodeo and seeing who is winning ribbons, tells only a small part of the story. More times than not, the youth that enter 4-H competitions have a lot of stories to tell about the journey that got them to where they are at the fair. And Haley Brown is no exception.

The Brown family in Silt has always had horses in its life, so it was no surprise that Haley found her interest as a young child. They got a special horse, Babe, from a neighbor, and Haley quickly connected with her new friend. Starting with Cloverbuds, a division of 4-H for young children, at age 8, Haley worked hard with Babe and looked forward to showing her in the fair the following year.

Then, one fall night in 2013, the family dog started barking in an unusual manner. The family quickly realized that Babe had somehow escaped the electric fence area, which has never happened to any of their horses before. Somehow Babe ended up wandering into a distant area of the yard where there were pieces of sheet metal, and cut the flexor tendon on her rear leg. They quickly got the horse medical attention, in hopes that Babe would be on a quick road to recovery. Haley happily notes about the situation, “She got a pink cast too!”

Babe did continue to recover over winter, but not like they had hoped. In the spring she started showing signs of lameness. They contacted Dr. Morgan McCarty, D.V.M., at Colorado River Veterinary Services, to diagnose the issue. After a physical examination, she realized that Babe was tender and sore everywhere. Morgan determined that Babe had Lyme disease, and that her health outlook was not good.

Haley quickly learned she had a major decision to make. She had the choice of letting Babe live with Lyme disease, being in pain and dying from natural causes, or the option of having the veterinarian put her to sleep. Unfortunately, those were the only two options. Haley deliberated on what to do. While this would be a hard decision for anyone, it is especially challenging for a 9-year-old. Haley reached a conclusion. “It’s not fair for her to be sore all of the time” said Haley. She added reflectively, “This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.”

They put Babe to sleep on July 18, 2014, under a tree near her pasture. By this point, the horse could hardly walk on her own. The family had to put Babe on a trailer just to get her to the tree. As a “parting gift” Haley says, Babe accidentally — or maybe not accidentally — stepped right on her foot as she was unloading her down by the tree.

Haley wanted to be there and be part of everything happening. McCarty, knowing that Haley dreams of being a veterinarian one day, explained everything she was doing, and helped make the process as easy as possible. Haley had lots of questions, and was with Babe as she drifted away. Haley said, “I wasn’t scared, I just wanted to know what was going on. I’m thankful that I got to be a part of it.”

It was less than one month before the Garfield County Fair & Rodeo, and Haley didn’t have a horse. She knew that in order to compete in 4-H this year, she had to finish her project. So she completed a Horseless Project. The Horseless Project was an alternative to showing Babe. Her project included creating a poster display, in which she outlined horse tack in detail. She also completed a comprehensive record book on Babe. Her project turned out wonderfully, and she received a purple champion ribbon at the fair.

“It was really hard to complete that project,” said Haley. Her grandmother, Cheri, said, “There were a lot of really hard times around the fair last year for Haley. But I was impressed with her determination and follow-through.”

Everyone learns about the circle of life in one form or another, and this was Haley’s introduction. She understands birth, life and death, but understanding doesn’t always make it easier. And because of this experience, Haley is even more determined to become a veterinarian and help animals.

Haley took a little time off from horses after the fair, but quickly realized that this is an important part of her life. She is back again for this year’s fair, and entered a quarter horse, Dunn, to compete with. She doesn’t have her own horse yet, but her uncle is letting her use one of his trick roping horses to compete. This year, she entered 10 categories in the horse show, and won first place in Ranch Horse Horsemanship — junior, first in Western Trail (pattern) — junior, and fourth place in Western Pleasure (rail) — junior, and Western Horsemanship (pattern, judge may add rail) — novice. Nothing is keeping Morgan, Cheri and the whole community from cheering her on.


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