Last Wednesday I went to the barn to work with Alfie. My boy was feeling frisky and energetic so I free lunged him in the arena – basically, he gets to run around and do whatever he wants. He cantered, he bucked, he even jumped a 2ft jump that was set up. My 27 year old horse was acting like a 5 year old. It was an amazing site to see.
On Thursday evening, I’m driving home from a visit with my mother when I get a call from Regina, the barn manager, telling me that Alfie was very lame again – this time, it was his back left foot. My heart sank. I asked if he needed the vet that night and she said it could wait until the next day. So on Friday morning I called the vet and was able to get Alfie seen that afternoon. The vet checked out his foot, nerve blocked his foot to confirm in fact it was his foot causing him pain, and finally resorted to taking some X-Rays to try to figure out what was happening with his foot. The vet even checked to see if possibly it was an abscess but all the usual diagnostic steps to check for an abscess came out negative.
The vet took a look at the images and saw nothing wrong. So the diagnosis was – he didn’t know. He felt he had slightly injured his coffin joint while playing in the snow. He recommended pain medication and stall rest for a few days. After hearing this, I cancelled the farrier who was supposed to come and change out the shoe on the good foot. This was the weekend we were going to ride after 6 weeks of healing/rest. I couldn’t believe how he was perfectly fine one day and literally crippled the next. My poor Alfie.
I got to the barn yesterday morning and my boy was feeling better, the pain medication was helping. I gave him a kiss and told him I was gonna have a lesson with Martini but we would hang out after I was done.
My lesson with Martini went very well. It’s been a long time since I rode him, and although I was a little rusty in the beginning, we ended on a high note.
After my lesson, I took Alfie out of his stall to walk him in the arena. The vet said he could be walked if he was up to it. Well, he was up to it. As soon as we got into the arena he started to trot. I promptly stopped him and told him that we are only walking because his foot needed time to heal.
I left the barn feeling very down. The last 6 weeks of worry over Alfie’s foot have really taken its toll on me. Just when the issue with his front foot got fixed now there’s a new issue with one of his back feet. Even though the vet didn’t seem overly concerned, not having an actual diagnosis for what was wrong was upsetting.
Curled up on the couch with my cats, watching TV, my cellphone dings. It’s a text message from Regina. She asks me if I’m sitting down. Now, with Alfie, this can really go either way, good or bad. I text her back and anxiously wait for her message to come through. Staring at the 3 blinking dots – indicating she’s typing her message – my heart starts to race and I feel my anxiety level jump. And then the message comes through. I just stare at it with such disbelief.
It was an abscess in his back left foot. It popped open, gunk and all. I turn to my husband and just start crying, it was an abscess, he didn’t hurt his coffin joint, it’s not a soft tissue injury, he shouldn’t need a follow up visit with the vet for an ultrasound, it was just an abscess.
Relief and shock, and a bit of slight irritation as the vet visit was extremely expensive, and all it was – an abscess. An abscess that hid itself so well as to avoid detection by the vet and the vet’s tools. A sneaky abscess indeed.
I texted the farrier to let him know it was an ABSCESS and he, like me, was super relieved to hear that.
I got to the barn today to see my boy was in his paddock with his friends. I went to get him and he eagerly and soundly walked through the snow to greet me. We walked to the barn, me looking at him putting full weight on the foot that only the day before he was crippled, my heart starts to smile.
Once in the barn, with the help of Regina, she lifts up some of his hair and sure enough, at the base of his coronary band, there is a slit, about 1 inch long, with 2 holes where the infection burst open. The wound is clean, and looks good and is draining so no wrapping of his foot is necessary.
We head into the arena and do groundwork, trotting, walking, some light lunging, and he is happy to be moving. I tell him we are gonna ride as soon as the farrier comes.
I left the barn tonight feeling good. The farrier is coming tomorrow, which means, Alfie and I can ride on Tuesday.
Horse ownership. It’s not only a financial investment, it’s an emotional one. I often refer to myself as Alfie’s mom. And in a lot of ways I am. Owning a horse is a multi role function. Sometimes I am “mom”, other times I’m his “partner”, other times I’m his “friend.” No matter how you identify your role with your horse, the one emotion that should be constant is love.❤️🐴