I left the barn feeling deflated and frustrated on Saturday. It was the first time I could remember actually being angry at my new(ish) horse. So much so that I just gave up, got in my car, and drove away.

I felt guilty the entire ride home.

Mikey has been suffering this week. The vet prescribed him a high-dose remedy for his respiratory issues, and warned me that his condition would likely get way worse before it would get better. But this should be a good sign – it means his treatment is working. Well, the vet wasn’t kidding. Mikey’s been struggling to breathe pretty much all summer. We at least got him to sweat again about five weeks ago, so at least he’s getting some relief there. But this last week, his condition has gotten so much worse.

I’ve struggled with trusting this vet and letting the treatment play out. More than once I’ve called other vets for their opinions, but always faltered before making an appointment with one of them. Mikey needs to get through this. Hopefully he’ll come out better on the other side.

In an effort to help him through the worst of it, I decided to clip him this weekend. The big gelding is already soft and fuzzy with a full red winter coat, even though the temperatures are still topping 90 degrees here in Florida. But Mikey, who despite his exhausted demeanor is still just as goofy and cuddly as ever, was not cool with standing still for the clippers.

Thinking about it now, I should have known better. Mikey is six. I picked him up out of a field just this spring. I don’t know him very well yet and it’s clear he still is quite green and hasn’t had a lot of handling. But Mikey’s unruly behavior while being clipped upset me.

It wasn’t just that he was ticklish. It was that he was mean. He kicked out at me more than once, and even pinned me against the barn aisle once. It was dangerous behavior. All the while, the big gelding wheezed away, nostrils flaring as he took in sharp, staccato-like, shallow breathes. I was so mad at him. I hosed him off and put him away.

Later in the day my barn owner sent me a video of him lying on the floor of his stall, huffing away even more furiously than when I saw him earlier in the day. His muzzle rested gently in the shavings of his stall. His eyes were glazed over, held half open. He didn’t care at all about his terrible looking, half-done haircut. This made me feel even worse for getting so angry at him.

The next day I decided I would try to finish clipping Mikey. When I arrived at the barn, he looked pretty spry. His eye was bright and he wasn’t huffing nearly as bad as the day prior. He greeted me like he always does, by dropping his nose into my hands and letting me stroke his face. This time I brought back up: my husband Alex came with me to be a second pair of eyes on him while we clipped.

Mikey was apprehensive when he saw and heard the clippers again. But Alex did a great job just being his buddy – feeding him the occasional treat and petting his nose as I cautiously ran the clippers all over his body.

It’s definitely not my best clip job. There are furry patches at his hips and armpits, and I didn’t even dare attempt his legs or face. But I saw Mikey breathe a sigh of relief before he rolled in the dirt later that afternoon in the pasture. Here’s hoping I can provide him just a little relief while we wait for the vets to do what they do best.