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Tazz Like Jazz

Tazz Like Jazz, sculpture by Ellen Woodbury

Inspiration

“Tazz Like Jazz” is a stone sculpture horse that represents many layers of meaning for me. It is about a horse rescued from starvation by my friend, his love of life, and his love for her. It is a sculptural celebration of compassion and the power of positive energy told in lines and curves.

Tazz is like jazz because his passion for life came bursting back like free-flowing music that fills one’s mind and heart with joy. Each cascading curve relates to the next to describe the forms, like two musicians trading musical phrases in a dynamically layered composition. Jazz improvisation expresses the frenetic embrace of life I felt in the story of Tazz. He is like jazz.

A Guest Blog

I have an indomitable friend who is both a healer and a horse rescuer. She shared her story of bringing a starving horse back to life with me, and her story inspired me to capture the energy and love this remarkable horse showed to her.

I am grateful to her for allowing me to carve her story in stone, and to share it with you. She tells her story in her own words as follows:

My Friend Tells Her Story

This is a love story.   Defining the scope of this love is a struggle akin to trying to capture the billowing, expanding universe in a tea strainer. I have loved many horses in my life, the majority of whom belonged to someone else. I did have the privilege of owning two magnificent old horses, Frankie and Fox. I could write each their own book based on how much I loved them. Then, in a category all his own, comes Tazz. I did not own him legally on paper, but we belonged to each other as surely as the earth belongs to the sun.

Tazz the Arab
Tazz, the flea-bitten grey Arab.

Introducing Tazz

Tazz was a geriatric flea-bitten grey Arab gelding with a crippled knee and compromised teeth. Opinionated and as highly-strung as a six-string guitar tuned to a higher octave, he behaved like a tornado on the end of a lead rope when I first started hand-walking him. On the other hand, he could be as gentle as light mist when he was tied to a rail and being groomed. He would practically purr with delight.

It Begins with My Horse, Fox

My own horse, Fox, was a magnificent little fellow. I had rescued him from a rental string when his navicular disease had made him too lame to work. Proper farrier care and the good life made him serviceably sound to ride but he was still old, his teeth had seen better days, and he needed extra care.

Fox was hot-wired, so he burned calories like an Olympic swimmer and it was difficult to keep weight on him. It is important to give senior horses supplemental feed because their teeth lose the ability to grind hay adequately enough to obtain proper nutrition from it. Consequently, I prepared feasts of soaked pellets, beets, senior feed, and extra hay to give Fox the extra calories he needed. All this yummy food did not go unnoticed by Tazz, the skinny little bandy-legged Arab whose stall I had to walk by carrying my daily offerings to Fox.

A Flirtatious Neighbor

Tazz decided to reach out. He began to flirt shamelessly with me as I passed by with my feed bucket. He would nicker softly and stick his head out over the pipe railings of his stall, making eye contact as he pierced me in the heart with his pleas for food and attention. He really was terribly skinny. I bumped into his owner one day and asked her if I might give him a little mid-day snack of soaked Timothy pellets as a treat. She acquiesced and, from that moment on, I prepared an extra feeding for him on a daily basis on my dime.

Fox Retires

Some time passed and I made the decision to retire Fox to a facility about an hour’s drive away. I didn’t want to stop seeing Tazz, but Fox was my priority. I resolved to pop in once a week to see Tazz and give him some soaked pellets.

Unfortunately, Tazz colicked the day after one of my visits and, despite the vet’s insistence it was unlikely to be because of the Timothy pellets, his owner admonished me not to feed him anymore. I stopped calling in to see Tazz. My beloved Fox died after 3 months in retirement. My broken heart and empty wallet told me I was done with horses.

My Return

Years passed. I was invited to a Christmas party where I met an old friend who asked if I would consider helping out with a horse whose owner couldn’t manage barn work. The absence of a horse to love had left me wallowing in a deep void. I was vaguely aware that something was missing in my life and sharply cognizant that this might be an opportunity to climb out of the melancholy hole I had become accustomed to living in.

So, after a long absence, I found myself back at Tazz’s barn.

Instant Recognition

Tazz recognized me instantly. The first time he caught sight of me, he screamed from the pit of his being. He was so excited he hollered and whinnied and nickered and paced. It took a beat for me to register what had happened to him. His coat was dull, his knee jutted out at a strange angle, and he was skeletal. He was so weak, he was in danger of falling over from the ferocity of his vocalizing. In that moment, I truly believe that a horse with a spectacular memory, who had associated me with food in the past, was begging me to save him from starving to death.

A Turning point

It was a delicate situation. I believe Tazz’s owner still held me and the Timothy pellets accountable for his previous colic. She resisted when I suggested I might start giving him some supplemental feed again, like I had done in the past. She maintained that she was feeding him enough and he was thin because he was old.

Fate stepped in when the owner had to go out of town for a month and asked me to take care of Tazz for her. This was a turning point. When I pulled Tazz out of his stall for the first time, he could barely walk. I put my hands over his wasted body and, as I felt nothing but skin over bones, I could barely see him through my tears. I promised him I would help.

Another Blessing

I continued to advocate for Tazz and his need for increased soaked feed. The owner’s friend suggested that she ask her vet for advice. That was another blessing from the heavens.

The owner was still out of town, so I met with the vet. He rated Tazz a 1 on the Equine Body Conditioning Scale and recommended that his rations be at least tripled. He said if Tazz couldn’t handle the increase, it was better that he die of colic rather than suffer a slow death from starvation. The vet also warned me that Tazz was days away from death and there was a high likelihood he would not survive the week. He also told me Tazz had only a 50-50 chance of surviving beyond the week.

Rescue

Action stations! I knew it was dangerous to overfeed any emaciated animal, so I researched how to go about it safely. I started with tiny meals every four hours and enlisted a village to help me feed him around the clock.

I have undying gratitude for the many horse owners who rallied round to take a shift. I discovered that I wasn’t the only one who loved Tazz. The next few weeks were a blur of timetables and food bags, midnights and dawns. Whether or not he could come back from the brink of starvation was now all up to Tazz.

Recovery

Tazz did not die. Over a period of 6 weeks, I gradually increased the amount of food and reduced the number of feedings until we got down to two feedings a day and up to the weight of food recommended by the vet.

Ever so slowly, but noticeably, Tazz began to put on weight and recover muscle. Where lesser hearts might have given up, Tazz fought to bounce as far back as a horse in his mid-thirties could. The spark in his eye flickered and reignited. He became stronger with each passing day, and took on a joie de vivre that I had never seen in him before.

Joie de Vivre

The joy of living. Tazz embraced his comeback from the brink. He found joy in every moment. He loved his stall, and his horse neighbors, but he also loved getting out of his stall and into a turnout. He would roll delightedly in the sand and, though I took to averting my eyes as he struggled to get back on his feet, he always managed to find a way up.

Once up, he loved to buck and run with his tail in the air, his crippled legs somehow defying gravity as he floated around showing off his balletic moves.   He loved to be the center of attention. He loved being groomed and pampered. Finding his delicious spots on the crest of his neck and his withers would cause him to stretch his neck and purse his upper lip in profound appreciation.

Tazz Like Jazz, Back, sculpture by Ellen Woodbury
“Tazz Like Jazz” back view.  Photo by Mel Schockner

Absolute Love

There are so many different kinds of love. Tazz loved me with a consistent, gentle ferocity that I have never experienced before or since. They say that you have to earn the love of an Arabian horse, but once you do, that horse will love you with his whole heart, without condition or reservation.

He knew how to communicate in the language of love. He would call and scream and whinny and nicker the second he laid eyes on me coming around the corner to take care of him. He didn’t play games or act coy, he loved me and made sure I knew it.

I remember once putting my arms around his neck and whispering, “I love you, love you, love you,” to him. He responded by nickering softly and turning his head to pull me in closer to him. I thought it was a fluke, so I did it again and once again, he nickered softly and pulled me in closer to him. This became our thing, our understanding that we truly loved each other.

Worth Every Penny

None of this was plain sailing. The owner couldn’t afford to feed Tazz all the extra nutrition he needed to thrive. Unsure how long Tazz might live, I offered to pay for all his food for six months. That turned into two and a half years of buying food, medicine and other supplies for a 36-year-old horse that wasn’t mine and couldn’t be ridden. It was worth every penny.

His Body Betrays His Heart

There came a time when Tazz stopped rolling in the sand. He was smart enough to know that he wouldn’t be able to get back up again. The “good” front leg that had been taking on the strain from his “bad” front leg finally started to give out. Tazz would sway onto his back legs to try to give his front legs a break, and now his back legs were starting to buckle from the strain of that. His body was starting to betray his heart. His spirit was strong but his 36-year-old body was finally breaking down. The most difficult decision had to be made but it wasn’t mine to make.

A Heart Big Enough For Both

His “Mom” had loved him for 27 years and provided him with his forever home. Tazz loved her with a fierce loyalty.

Tazz loved me with a passionate purity. I could never be what she was to him… but neither could she ever be what I was to him. Tazz had room enough in his heart for both of us. We were both blessed.

Final Day

His final morning was filled with goodies he hadn’t been allowed for a long time. His teeth couldn’t manage regular treats, so I juiced some carrots and mixed the juice back into the pulp to make a carrot soup. His owner gave him applesauce. He was in heaven being fussed over by the two people he loved most in this world.

Salvation in the Act of Saving

Tazz was more than a horse. There will never be another like him. He was rare and exquisite, like a magical unicorn, a whirlwind of grace and depth. He saved me just as surely as I saved him. Looking after him and thinking of his welfare gave my life purpose and meaning.

Tazz was a kind and non-judgmental confidante who always made my days brighter. He gave me a reason to get out of bed in the morning and a reason to smile. Every ounce of love I poured into him was returned a hundred fold. By loving me so loudly, so passionately, so unmistakably, so steadfastly, Tazz showed me that I am lovable. That was and is a tremendous gift.

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

Lyrics from the jazz ballad “Nature Boy” written by Eden Ahbez.

301 Pounds Carrara Statuary Marble
301 pound raw block of Carrara Statuary Marble carved into “Tazz Like Jazz”.  The finished sculpture weighs 31 pounds due to all the negative space.

 

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