It was never said that horses are the most intelligent creatures. They are 1,000+ pounds of herd-bound, prey-animal instinct, pack animals that we decided would be fun to get on and do stuff with.
Their favorite activities include spooking at things they’ve seen several hundred times before, developing new ways to ignore their rider, and finding obscure ways to injure themselves using their poorly designed anatomical features to their advantage. Walking around on 1 toe and a few tendons? Really? Or not being able to vomit? Who thought that was a good idea?
It almost always seems that when faced with the obvious choice, horses manage to get themselves in some particularly sticky situations.
From getting cast to putting feet through hay nets or over stall doors, getting body parts tangled in fences, magically and drastically moving around on trailer rides, finding every sharp or pointy surface in their stall/field to scrape themselves on, trying to jump out of things that they should most definitely not attempt to jump out of, pulling off shoes and stepping on nails, eating too much…I could go on for days. Horses are devilishly clever at finding new and interesting ways to give their owners heart attacks.
Personally, mine likes to fight. The adorable, almost-pony, in-your-pocket, sweet-as-a-button mare of mine is the playground bully. Despite her size, she enjoys picking on anyone who will get into it with her, and doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of self-preservation. She wears her battle wounds with pride, and seems totally unconcerned as I fret over new injuries.
A little over 3 weeks ago, she (after continually getting into it with a big Percheron boss mare in her field) finally bested her, although she came in several days later with a big swollen right hind. Per the vet’s advice, she went on bute for a few days, stall rest, cease work and turnout until the swelling went down. We stayed inside for 10 days, and the last 3 started to add in work (tack walking) when the leg looked better. In the time she was inside, she managed to scratch her head and nose from shoving her face through the grain-hole on her stall front. And, she was getting increasingly frustrated by the lack of turnout.
When the leg looked better (and she was nearly frantic at turnout-time), we decided to try her back outside.
And because 1 bout of stall rest wasn’t enough, she came in the next morning, with THE SAME LEG kicked. Again. But worse.
She’s a very stoic and hardy little creature (as most Morgans are), and rarely does she let on if she is painful. But this time, she was walking lame on it. We loaded her up and took her to Purdue (perks of being a vet student, I suppose). They took radiographs of her grossly swollen leg (no breaks, thank God). I was sent home with wrapping instructions, NSAIDs and antibiotics.
We are now on day 9 of 10 for the antibiotics, and we finished the NSAIDs a few days ago. We were given instructions to sweat for a few days, dry wrap for a few days, and then poultice/sweat/dry wrap as I saw fit.
I went out and bought a ball feeder in an attempt to keep The Mare busy on our next bout of stall rest. Again, because these creatures make no sense, she’s taken to shoving it under her door when it gets low, meaning she can’t play with it anymore.
Over the past 10 days, I have gotten really good at wrapping arguably the most awkward joint on the horse’s body. Because, remember, horses like to get into mischief, it has been an art to perfect.
Not enough elasticon? *tears off wrap at top*
Not enough tape on the top of the wrap? *splits wrap at cotton and tape*
Not enough tape at the bottom of the wrap? *ENTIRE wrap slides down*
Too much of any of the above? *worried mom gets concerned about the wrap being too tight*
Didn’t secure the vet-wrap well enough? *wrap loosens*
Wanting to avoid hock sores, I cut a little slit in the back of the wrap, right over her point of hock, and then put elasticon over the top *inevitably splits open and makes the wrap looser in that area*
I finally started to find the perfect balance of cotton/gauze/vet wrap/standing wrap. And every time the wrap would be nice, I’d come in the next day to find her to have rolled and mucked the thing up.
About 2ish days into NSAIDs and antibiotics, the swelling was significantly reduced and was starting to reduce to just one area (most likely where she actually got kicked). Today, it looked a little worse, and I’m beginning to wonder what to do when you are already doing everything you can.
I am driving a half an hour (each way) every day to change her wraps and take care of the leg. It ends up being about a 3 hour endeavor. Get horse out, take old wrap off; assess. Take picture to compare to previous days. Spray with fly spray so she doesn’t kick out with that leg while we cold hose. Cold hose. Get ice pack and MacGyver it to her hock so she can ice while we go back out and graze. Graze until the ice pack starts to slip down on her leg. Take inside. If time, hose again, graze again, ice again. Hand walk a little. Hand-graze as long as possible. Brush/shed out, since that’s all we can really do. Get wrapping supplies ready. Decide if sweating/poutlicing. Wrap good leg. Wrap bum leg. Curse/swear/drop wrap/yell at Mare. Finish wrapping bum leg. Fill ball feeder. Make sure she’s eating meds. Go home. Pray it looks better tomorrow. Do it all again tomorrow.
Did I mention that I’m in vet school too? In class from 7:30am until 4ish, which means (with commute) I’m leaving around 6:30am, and going straight to the barn after class, not getting home until 6:30/7pm, and then starting on my own schoolwork.
Tomorrow is the last day of antibiotics, and while today is the only day we’ve gone backwards in our progress, I’m feeling helpless. There’s SO many points in this process that can go wrong, and are out of my control.
I can make the perfect wrap, and she could roll, destroying it, or pulling any part of the wrap too tight or loose to be effective (and potentially cause more damage).
I can confine her too her stall, but she could walk too much (or too little), and cause more inflammation, or problems associated with not moving around.
She will inevitably find some way to get herself into trouble in her stall (i.e. the scratches on her head).
She’s used to 12 hours of grazing, and is now relegated to hand grazing, so I’m trying not to upset her GI system too much either.
Her leg was good to go, and I put her back in the field that caused this injury. What is to say it wouldn’t have happened if we’d waited a few more days? Or if I had put her in a pasture by herself that she wouldn’t have jumped out to get to her field mates, and caused more damage to herself? Who knows how long she’s going to be in this process, and what will happen when we go back to work and turn out (in a different field)? Will it happen again?
I have no more time to give during the week to her; I am trying every method I know how to manage her, and following orders explicitly. So what do you do when you’re doing everything you can, and it still doesn’t seem to be enough?
She’s getting frustrated being stuck in her stall, and I am getting frustrated with the situation, and unfairly, with her. All I can hope is that all my efforts, the meds, and the wrapping can overpower the unwavering ability of horses to get themselves into a pickle.
So tonight, I’ll pray that it looks better in the morning, and do it all again tomorrow.