I arrive at the barn today and it’s still just as cold as it was yesterday, except – no sunshine today, so the bitter cold is sincerely in force.
The horses have all been turned out except for Alfie, he is enjoying the entire arena all to himself. He hears my voice as I’m chatting with our barn manager Regina and the knickers begin. I peak my head in and notice that he is walking better than yesterday.
My trainer Kari arrives, so together we go in to see how he’s doing. As he’s walking it’s hard to tell honestly which foot is bothering him, so we stop walking, and Kari removes his bell boots. She tries to pick up the bad foot and he eventually lifts it up but is reluctant. She looks down and says, “is this blood”? I tell her I’m not sure I haven’t gotten a good look at the heel of his foot but I didn’t notice any blood on it yesterday. I call Regina into the arena and there we are, 3 women bent down looking at Alfie’s foot. Sure enough, there is a small hole and a little dried blood right above his inner heel…it was an abscess, and it finally popped.
So, I’m new to the world of abscesses. In the course of my relationship with Alfie we’ve dealt with lots of injuries and medical issues. There was the time he stepped on an old rusted roofing nail, oh and who could forget the raging diarrhea he had for years until we figured out it was ulcers, stress and hay that was the cause. And oh yes, the time last year he ate a bunch of acorns and spit out the bigger shell pieces where I thought he was crunching on one of his teeth! Tendon issues, a fallen coffin bone in his hoof, ha, all child’s play compared to this abscess.
The normal progression of an abscess – lameness, heat in the effected area. I was told by everyone he would get worse before he got better. Well, he didn’t get worse he got better. The heat in his foot disappeared. The shoe was put back on and he was doing ok but then yesterday he was walking with a limp again and his hoof was warm. I had discussed with Regina giving him one more week to see if the bruise or his sore foot would improve on its own before calling the vet. Thankfully it looks like this is just an abscess so no vet visit needed.
I put a drawing salve on his heel to help draw out the infection. I groomed him, did some massage and a few stretches with him, gave him a bunch of cookies and mints and a kiss. I sang to him and told him once the abscess has completely drained he could go back outside with his friends.
The foot that the abscess has occurred is his bad foot. It’s the foot where the coffin bone which is inside his hoof has collapsed, causing stress on his tendons. Because of the coffin bone issue, he requires 3 degree lifts in his shoes, to help ease the tension on his tendons. Yes, Alfie wears tendon boots or polo wraps every time we ride and during this abscess issue, he has been turned out in the arena with them on as well. With the issues that the foot and leg have, walking on uneven frozen ground with a painful abscess isn’t something I or Regina are willing to risk him possibly suffering further permanent injury. I feel badly that he is missing his friends but a few weeks of being stuck inside where the ground is even and soft, is frankly a no brainer.
This horse. This incredibly special horse who now understands if something is bothering him all he has to do is tell me, and I listen. This big guy, man, there just aren’t enough words to express how deep my love for him is. And I can honestly say, I will sleep better tonight knowing that all that is wrong with the bad foot, is just an abscess.❤️🐴