Monday, June 4, 2018

The Weird Silver Lining in Injuries

The best kind of mounting block is the back tailgate, lol.
Last Wednesday, I managed another ride with R and Colby. We had wanted to do a low-key ride around the subdivision and a little school in the ring. The bears have still been hanging around, so it's not particularly safe to wander off into the woods, especially in the evening.

Annie came out quiet and was great to tack - after I mounted up she moved out willingly and then... she felt kind of weird. I halted her, gathered my reins, and asked her to trot. She trotted out on the asphalt and seemed kinda stiff? Unbalanced? Ouchy? I sighed, figuring it was due to our rocky trail ride the day before and trotted her again to assess. Now she felt fine. Ok then.

Cautiously, I continued the ride and noted she felt fine at the walk but every so often just felt weird. Not lame. Not limping. Just... kind of weird.

Apprehensive ears.
R and I rode over to the arena and as I trotted around, attempting to gauge the severity and if it was her hind feet feeling crappy, R called out that she looked fine. I was tentative to agree, and figured it was just some kind of soreness in her hind feet. She felt just fine tracking left and a bit stiff and resistant tracking right. Not wanting to push it, we quit there and headed home.

Back at the barn I poulticed and wrapped her hooves before turning her back out, hoping a few days worth of rest would help. I felt pretty bad about trail riding over the rocks, especially if it had caused her discomfort. I gave her a hearty pat, apologizing while I dumped mash into her bucket.

The next morning I went out and drove Spud, who was much better behaved than the drives prior. We worked hard to establish a trot-walk transition and ensuring he understood standing meant not moving an inch. I was happy with him and when I returned to the barn, I threw Annie on the lunge to see what I had.

Hint: it ends like this.
To the left, sound as a whistle. To the right? A verrrrry slight head bob every few steps. It was so slight and inconsistent I wasn't sure if she was compensating for her hinds or if something else was going on.

I scratched my head and took her through the barn to tie and started to peel off the hoof wraps to find... nothing.

Moving to her front, I looked down and saw it.

A very large, angry swelling bubbled up from her right fetlock to her knee. Upon further inspection of the area, I found a puncture wound hidden under her fetlock hair.

Post-cold hosing (day of discovery)
It was an "old" injury - must've been 24 hours or so old at that point, which means I rode the poor girl while she was injured. Ugh. I was so focused on her hind end that I neglected to look at the whole picture.

I went straight to work, cold hosing and poulticing, aiming to get the swelling under control. The wound itself was a few mm deep and after several walks around the paddock, I haven't found a damn thing she could've poked herself on. But, horses will be horses and I'm sure I'll never know how it happened.

Unhappy, fat leg. :(
Day 1
Regardless, I've fixed a few fences and cleaned up some fallen branches in the pasture - I am kicking myself for not inspecting her fronts and looking closer, so I've spent a few evenings walking aimless circles around the pasture trying to find something because I feel crappy about riding her. 

So far the wound is healing well and aside from a small bit of swelling in her fetlock near the puncture, her leg is more or less back to normal. There is some residual heat and swelling in her fetlock, as well as the jagged edge of the wound has caused the fetlock to look even puffier, but I hope as the wound itself heals it'll shrink a bit. The puncture itself is starting to close over and although the edges will never meet, it should scab over nicely.

Day 2, post-betadine scrub and cold hose.
If anything, Annie seems pretty smitten with this unplanned time off. And in a way, I am kind of... fascinated with this whole pony doctoring thing. At first, Annie was very reluctant to have me handle her injury - she was standoffish and not particularly happy to stand for 20min twice a day being cold hosed. Let's not talk about the several CTJ meetings we had over clipping her fetlock...

Day 4, post cold-hosing.

Her front right is kinda off centered, but you can see
the slight swelling and how the wound has caused the area
to look puffier due to the skin splitting.
But it's served as a good education opportunity and Annie has been happy to let me handle her leg and doctor her. It's not every day we do things like this, and I feel like there is only so much preparation you can do for potential injuries. When you are actually dealing with a hurt horse that really doesn't want you scrubbing their wound, the real education begins. I feel like it takes a level of trust from the horse, as silly as it sounds.

Lots of grazing in the front field, grooming, and cold hosing for this lady.
And so, Annie and I are taking advantage of this injury to expand our relationship and continue building the trust. As weird as it sounds, being able to clip, poke/prod, clean, and wrap an injury is something all riders should be able to do, but a real hurting horse that weighs 1200lbs is no match for us. Annie, while initially apprehensive, has taken to the multiple cold hosings, clipping, poking, and scrubbing.

Proud of both of these girls!
Weirdly, I'm proud of her. I haven't had to doctor her since I've owned her (aside from the trailer saga) and although I feel pretty lucky in that respect, it's good to be able to practice other aspects of my horsemanship. So... silver lining?


  1. Sorry to hear that she's injured but I totally agree about it being a good opportunity for trust/relationship building. Hope she's 100% soon :)

    1. It's been frustrating, because all I wanna do is ride, ahha. We'll get there tho! No sense in rushing it.

  2. Phantom generally let's me do anything with her until there is an owie involved - then she turns into bitch mate. Getting after doesn't work well as she will fight all day long. I usually go the clicker/treat method, but it doesn't always work well. She also has the memory of an elephant and won't forget for a long time when something hurt. She tried to scalp an ear a couple of years ago and I tried to clean it but gave up and just sprayed it silver. It took 6 months before she would let me touch that ear. Just that ear - the other ear was fine since it wasn't hurt.

    1. When animals are hurt, their primal instincts really come out hey? It's hard to try and explain to a 1000lb horse that you're trying to help them. Well, trying to "explain" to any animal.

  3. One of the horses here got a similar mystery injury in the perfectly level, entirely grass pasture. So weird. Fingers crossed she's feeling better soon, what a good girl she's being to let you doctor her up!

  4. Oh dang. Punctures near a joint scare the beejeesus outta me. I'm glad to hear it didn't need vet attention, especially since you don't have one nearby! You obviously know her well to have recognized a problem!

    1. Thankfully it was just fleshy tissue. We did consult a vet to make sure I am treating it appropriately and they were comfortable with me doctoring her on my own.