Foxtails and an Abscess

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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It seems to be a pattern that we end up calling the vet shortly after getting a new horse. This time around is turned out to be no exception.

As we mentioned, Aiden was a little off on the right hind when farrier saw him on Wednesday. We checked in with him on Thursday and Friday, and he seemed to be doing better.

But then on Saturday, Brian’s parents came for a visit. They were curious to meet our new horses, so they drove over from Chicago to spend Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning with us. We schemed about getting all four of us on horseback at once.

Except, yeah, that didn’t happen.

We got to the barn, and I immediately noticed that the bale full of foxtails had not been replaced. Worse, the other bale was almost gone. The herd does avoid the foxtail bales if they have a choice, but when there’s nothing else to eat, they’ll eat the bad hay.

We went into the pasture and started checking everyone out. Steen had huge amounts of drool in his mouth and on his lips,and sores developing. Laredo was drooling blood. Bear and Oliver seemed the least affected. We took them inside and thought we’d just ride those two, but when it came to bridling, Oliver was so sensitive to touches on his lips, we couldn’t even get the bit near his mouth. He’s never offered the slightest protest about being bridled before. So, obviously, we weren’t going to push that.

I took Oliver back out to the pasture and thought I’d bring Aiden to groom him and meet his grandparents. I noticed he was standing with all the weight off his right hind when I haltered him. Then I asked him to walk. He wouldn’t come.

I worked on different angles, and eventually got him unstuck. But going forward he would only hop on three legs. He absolutely would not put weight on the right hind.

It took several minutes to go a few yards. I didn’t have a plan at that point, so I unhaltered him and went inside, where Brian’s mom was having a nice ride on Bear. Brian and I were discussing our options when I saw the barn owner’s husband head out to the pasture with a tractor. We were the only ones there, and he’s not a horse person at all, so I went out to see if I could help. I showed him the foxtails and explained the symptoms. He said the drought made this year so strange with grass growth, and clearly felt really bad about the bad hay. He wanted to come in with the tractor and pull out both bales, clean up all the leftover hay, and start fresh.

So, I drove the herd into the airlock. And Aiden didn’t go along. The other horses were trotting and prancing and kicking it up. He stayed on three legs where I’d left him, calling. At that point, I knew whatever was wrong was really wrong.

After I got the rest of the herd secured, I took Aiden inside. He made it by hopping the whole way. We looked at the crack, but it didn’t seem any worse than it had a few days before. He also had a little cut on his hock, but it seemed really minor. Finally, we called the vet.

I love our vet, but calling him means hours and hours of waiting. It’s not his fault. He serves a huge region, but still, it wasn’t quite how I’d hoped to spend my Saturday. Brian’s mom finished her ride, and it was getting colder by the minute. Brian put Bear away. We soaked Aiden’s foot. We iced Aiden’s leg. Nothing seemed to make much difference. Finally, Brian and his parents went home to warm up and eat some food.

I waited. Brian came back. Finally, five or so hours after I first called him, the vet arrived. He looked at the crack and dismissed it. He looked at the cut and dismissed it. Then he found the massive heel abscess the soaking must have drawn out.

From there it was just a question of getting it drained and wrapped. Aiden was tolerant and quiet through most of this, in spite of clearly being in massive amounts of pain. Once everything was squared away, we put him in a stall, thanked the vet, and went out for a late dinner with Brian’s parents.

In the morning, we checked on everyone. Aiden seemed relaxed in his stall, though still wasn’t wanting to keep much weight on the foot. The new bales were out, and the rest of the herd was much happier. Still, we didn’t ride anyone. It seemed nicer to just give them some time to recover. In the afternoon, we went back to soak the foot again and replace the bandage.

Today, Brian and I both had to work until 5, so we went out just to doctor Aiden. Fortunately, we saw a noticeable improvement. He would stand on the foot sometimes, and was a lot less touchy about the cleaning process. We soaked, cleaned, rewrapped, and put him back in the stall. Hopefully in a few more days, he’ll be over the worst of it.

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6 years ago

Ouch, abscesses are terrible. So happy I haven't had to deal with one personally yet (knock on wood), but have seen horses out here hopping around on three legs from them. At least the prognosis is good, once they're healed there aren't usually any lasting effects.

It seems that horses are always finding ways to ruin our plans. Oh well, at least they're still good to be around most of the time. 🙂