I’ve had Traveller for more than a decade. In that time we have had many ups and downs, and I have had moments all over the emotional spectrum – pure happiness, frustration, and have certainly shed more than a few tears for him. You would think that after all this time, I would get better at handling the tough times, and the little bumps in the road. Although this may be the case when it comes to riding endeavours, his little stunts don’t faze me anymore, it is entirely different when it comes to his health and soundness. Beyond the loss of his eye, we have dealt with a fairly nasty tendon injury, a few minor illnesses, and the odd lameness here and there. Nothing truly catastrophic, even when things looked bad at first they always worked out, the only lasting precaution is that I have to watch his tendon and monitor the footing we work in, but that’s about it. So, with this track record, I should be getting more level headed about things, right?
Well, maybe I’m halfway there, but I think it’s an uphill trek (up the sheer side of a mountain).
About a week ago, in terms of when I’m writing this, I went out to go riding. Like usual, I put his supplement in the arena, and just let him in so he could eat it while I gathered my tack. Everything seemed normal, but immediately upon mounting, I could feel that he was off in his front right. Since this is the leg where he had the tendon injury, I instantly hopped off to check things out. The tendon felt fine, but upon closer inspection, I could see a little pink spot on his coronet band, and there was the faintest feeling of heat. My thoughts? We’ve got an abscess brewing.
A few years ago my old fellow had a hoof abscess, and just this past spring one of Traveller’s pasture mates had one, so I was quite confident in my diagnosis. If my science degree taught me anything, it was how to look at things analytically and form a conclusion based on the evidence at hand. It if walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. Well, usually.
Right away, I started soaking his foot in epsom salts twice daily, and applied a poultice over the spot on the coronet band. Since his hoof tested out okay, it seemed like it was going to be a nasty one that came out the top, but with the experience I had and with some bute on hand, I wasn’t super concerned. My head didn’t blow immediately. Although it would be a while to complete recovery, and he was going to be lame for a while, it was manageable. His appetite was fine, and he still moved about in the pasture – a little slower than normal, but he seemed content overall.
Knowing that his feet needed to be trimmed anyway, I gave the farrier a call and arranged to have him come look at the problem foot. Unfortunately, he was away for the long weekend, but nothing had changed much, so I figured that waiting a couple days would be fine. Of course, just because I thought that to myself, things started to run downhill. Moving from just being lame on that right front, Trav began to look sore all over. Knowing my horse, I had a strong feeling that he was compensating for the sore foot – some horses are very stoic, Traveller is dramatic – but I was still worried. Dragging the horsey neighbours out to look, they agreed with me, and pointed out that we did seem to be getting somewhere with the poulticing – the pink spot had grown and it seemed like it was on the verge of bursting. It’s just and abscess, it’s just an abscess….
A couple days later, he was steadily lame, but still moving around and grazing just fine. Finally, the farrier was due to come out, so I was pleased with that. I get home from work one evening to find a message from the farrier on my answering machiene. I had just missed him, but he went and had a look at Trav. His thoughts? Your horse is likely foundering.
And this is where my head blew.
Laminitis?! You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s a dreaded thing to any horse owner, and it scares the pants off me. All of a sudden, my duck starting sporting stripes and a trunk, and all of my sensibility went out the window.
Crying, I text my mother, who calls, and since I wasn’t exactly in shape to talk coherently to the vet, she agrees to phone the clinic. Since it was after hours at this point, she just left a message to have the on-call vet to call me ASAP. Alright, get it together Keara. About twenty minutes later the vet calls me, and thankfully it turns out to be one of my favourites. We go over the entire timeline, and why I think my horse may be foundering. He agrees that there are a few risk factors – he is a bit cresty, at this point seems lame on all four, and has been on grass, but he feels that, if I’m comfortable with it, it can wait until morning since his condition really hadn’t changed in a few days and 12 hours wouldn’t make much of a difference (except the emergency callout fee). Take him off the grass and give him a gram of bute.
Thinking of looming bills and my ability to afford school, I agree that an appointment the next morning would be fine. In hindsight, this was an awful decision – I had a solid 12 hours to think things through. With my brain, this isn’t good. Now locked on the laminitis track, the implications of it just kept circling through my brain. Although I had never had a horse with it, I was a long time pony clubber and have thousands of volunteer hours at vet clinics, so I know what it’s all about. Lets just say that I wasn’t having positive thoughts, and I slept about an hour all night.
Come appointment time, I walk over expecting to see him crippled with his coffin bones sticking though his soles, and instead find a very grumpy (from being locked up), but otherwise s considerably sounder horse. And what’s that on his coronet band? A bunch of blood… Hmm. Refusing to let myself have any hope incase it had to crash down again, I just brushed the mud off of him, and waited for the vets truck to come down the driveway.
Upon the vets arrival, I walk Trav out onto the grass to meet him. Immediately, he said some magical words- “He is certainly very lame on that right front, but it sure doesn’t look like he’s foundering”. Whoa. My mind started to regain its footing.
Long story short, after examining him, the vet agreed with my original diagnosis – it is an abscess that has unfortunately decided to come out the coronet band, and I should continue soaking the poulticing it. He is not foundering, his coffin bones are going to stay in his feet, and his hooves aren’t going to fall off. The blood on the coronet? What I had hoped, the abscess decided to blow that night, just when I was convinced that it was laminitis and that I was a horrible, horrible, horse owner that should probably be shot.
Although it will be a while resolving, Trav will be fine to fight another day. He is happy that he can go back out with his friends, and I’m just plain relieved.
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