Bravo’s Abscess Obsession

Should we take bets if Bravo will make it a full sweep in one year? He has now produced abscesses in front left, left hind, and right hind hooves so all that’s left is front right and we….win?

Before I brought Bravo home I had never encountered or had to treat a hoof abscess. Sure, I had heard about them and several of you fellow bloggers have posted about them over the years but I thought they were a fairly rare phenomenon that seemed to only be an issue for thoroughbreds. I specifically shopped for NOT a thoroughbred for no other reason than they seemed to be higher maintenance creatures and I wasn’t all that skilled in horse doctoring. I patted myself on the back when I found Bravo because although he is a big boy, he had what I thought to be nice big legs and big hooves. When I got him home to my barn and got a better look at the work I had in front of me to re-feed his underweight, still growing body, other people at my barn would even comment that “at least he’s got good hooves.”

Joke’s on me, I guess, because he isn’t a thoroughbred and although his feet are large and decently shaped, there’s a lot going on beneath the surface and it’s too soon to tell if this going to be a chronic issue for him or if better care/nutrition can make the difference.

Every horse owner should know how to wrap a hoof so at least I am now quite adept. My vet even commented on the high quality construction of my handmade duct tape boots. Bravo came up hopping lame on Monday, November 18th. I was slightly perplexed because I had ridden him on Sunday evening and we had what I thought was a pretty good ride. He stood quietly at the mounting block and acted like a pro despite a very full arena. Sure, he was a little behind my leg and balky- that seems to be his thing starting out but we worked through it and he was going around just fine. We definitely don’t have power steering yet, but we didn’t look half bad. Some of that reluctance to go forward could have been that brewing abscess all along.

 

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My barn owner managed to drag him back in from his field and I came out that night to poultice and wrap his hoof. We DON’T soak. He barely lets me futz with it enough to wrap it and loses his mind if anything resembling a bucket, water, or a bag go near his back legs. I filled a diaper with Epsom salt, warm water, and a splash of sore-no-more sauce and very quickly wrapped that on him. After a couple days of re-wrapping and poulticing, he was still barely willing to put weight on it, was all stocked up, and feeling pretty sorry for himself so I called and made an appointment with the vet.

This vet appointment was freaking traumatic for both of us. As soon as the vet hit a sensitive part of his foot with the hoof testers, Bravo started to lose it. He just wanted to peace right out of there and didn’t care if I was holding him or what else he would be plowing through on his way out, he was just DONE. It was all too much for his baby brain. Four days cooped up in his stall, the scary vet who makes his foot hurt- nope. bye. The vet had to sedate him. And then it wasn’t enough so he had to sedate him again. Meanwhile, by this time he had dragged me around the barn, nervous pooped and then trampled it with his freshly dug out abscess foot, knocked over a bucket of water the vet was going to use to clean his shit foot, tried to kick the vet, and nearly brought down the barn careening into walls to get away. It was unpleasant…

The vet proclaimed Bravo to be a big baby considering the abscess he found and drained wasn’t very big. We got it poulticed and re-wrapped and I gave him some bute while the sedation was still wearing off. Our pastures are mud pits right now but he needed to move so I had him turned out the next day. He came in without the wrap, hoof coated in mud, but in a much more sane mood. I washed, disinfected, and re-wrapped his hoof for five straight days. I figured we were in the clear- the fill in his leg dissipated, he was serviceably sound again, and the abscess site wasn’t draining anymore. I stuffed some hawthornes sole pack in the cavity on that Tuesday and left town for Thanksgiving.

On Thanksgiving I got another dreaded text from my barn owner that Bravo was hopping lame again on the same foot. uggghhhghh I asked her to keep him in until I got home. I was supposed to fly back home on Saturday morning but then I got stuck in the midwest snowstorm and had to change my flight to Monday. He mostly stayed in until I got back on Monday and I went straight to the barn from the airport. I arrived to this:

 

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Monday, Dec 2nd

 

Well that explains the very short-lived “recovery” and probably also explains most of the theatrics from the vet visit. Is this horse a pansy or maybe was this massive gravel in there the whole time making things rather uncomfortable for him? I cleaned him up and started the process of poultice and wrapping all over again. I took photos to see the healing progress over the week.

 

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Wednesday, Dec 4th

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Thursday, Dec 5th

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Friday, Dec 6th

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Monday, Dec 9th

 

Tuesday night after I rinsed the mud and picked the hoof, I notice the original abscess hole on the bottom of his hoof has re-opened and was draining again. Sigh… The coronary band blowout is looking much better and with fairly little maintenance seems to be healing alright. I don’t know whether this abscess tract is through and through or if these were separate pockets, but now I’m back to flushing the bottom cavity with banixx and then packing it with dry animalintex. Needless to say, the past four weeks have been exhausting. I really hope my buddy comes through this tough abscess so we can start back over with training, again, for like the hundredth time.

Spoke Too Soon

I reflected positively on the past two weeks of progress we have made and started celebrating the tapering off of ulcer meds…maybe a touch too soon. The horse-ownership gods saw fit to bless me with TWO NEW ailments to knock me down off of my boastful high horse. Last Monday when I went out to the barn Bravo had a runny nose. The discharge was not a great color and only coming from one nostril. I didn’t like the look of it at all but to avoid overreacting I thought I would see if it cleared up in the next couple of days. Long story short, it did not, so I called the vet and made an appointment for Monday (today) which was the earliest they could fit me in on a non-emergency basis.

 

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Friday night after work I headed out to the barn to check on Bravo. He still had his runny nose but was also still not showing any other symptoms- fairly perky, still eating great, no labored breathing or coughing, clear eyes. My workout plan for the night was going to be an in-hand proprioception exercise walking over raised poles. I took him out, picked his feet, and headed towards the indoor arena which, astonishingly, we had all to ourselves. We did a lap and he seemed a little off. I turned and watched him walk a little and he took some freakishly wobbly steps with his hind and I knew something was wrong. I looked him up and down feeling for heat, checking for cuts or bumps, but found nothing. I made him walk a little more and he was now limping quite badly. Panicking and assuming my darling lemon of a horse had somehow permanently injured himself I called the vet back and told them I needed him to be seen immediately.

The vet came out and watched me walk Bravo around the gravel lot. We took him into the round pen and made him trot out which he did rather pathetically. The vet then remarked “you got me all excited, I thought you had something neurological going on with the call notes I got- I think you’re looking at a hoof abscess here.” This is the same vet with the questionable bedside manner- I think he’s just got a very odd sense of humor. He flexed him and Bravo didn’t even flinch or look the slightest bit more uncomfortable so he felt confident the foot was the issue. Cue sigh of relief.

He was sensitive to the hoof testers but nothing looked obvious. He decided not to go digging on the off chance that maybe it was just a stone bruise so he wrapped it up with some animalintex and set me to the task of soaking, wrapping, and monitoring it over the weekend.

By this time, Bravo’s nose was running again and the vet got a little more serious. “That’s not clear discharge.” All I could think was whoever they’ve got taking call notes at the office isn’t helping me out much! He took some blood, gave him some painkiller for his foot, and started him on an antibiotic.

 

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“I’m going to give you a bottle of 100 pills to get him through the weekend and then you can come pick up a 500 count on Monday.” Great.

I ultimately didn’t have time for a pity party this weekend as I spent nearly the whole time out at the barn either wrapping, treating, soaking, or trying unsuccessfully to sneak medications into my horse. I learned a lot about myself. I cursed a lot. Bravo was a…we’ll just say…non-compliant patient for the majority of the doctoring. Having never done some of this stuff myself previously- there was a steep learning curve.

 

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There were some silver linings to the vet visit. My vet is still totally intrigued with and loves Bravo. He desperately wants to know his breeding and generally thinks he’s a cool horse. He also pointed to his hooves and said, “that line, is the day you brought him home and he actually started getting proper nutrition.” Uh yes, I will take that compliment. It starts to feel more and more everyday like I rescued this horse when I bought him and that makes me feel really good. Helping my five year old through these rough patches is frustrating and exhausting but seeing him develop keeps me encouraged and hopeful. I think he’s going to be something really great for me someday if we can just get through these…er…growing pains.

 

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Anybody got any good tricks for getting your horse to take bute? How about for hiding meds in food? He’s been good with the SMZs so far, but just in case…tell me your tricks!

Bedside Manner

A few weeks ago my veterinarian came out to give Harley his hock injections. Harley was pretty overdue for them and had started to take more bad steps behind during some of our rides. He is pretty stoic about pain and also gets a daily Equioxx so even though he hadn’t had injections for a year he was never unsound.

 

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Drunken cross-tie naps

 

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Weeble wobble back to his stall

 

Harley has some White Coat Syndrome and is always wired for sound when the vet is treating him. The vet checked his hooves and back for any alarming soreness before flexing Harley and having his student trot him in the arena. Surprising exactly no one- his hocks were bad. Bad bad. Especially on the right. The vet mentioned it also might be worth considering injecting his ankles too. He wavered back and forth and ultimately told me it was my decision about the fetlocks. I said “I think maybe the hocks today, and I’ll wait on the ankles” to which he halfway interrupted, “Oh, I’m injecting these hocks today or I’m putting this horse down.”

uh….that escalated quickly….

I understand that he was trying to make a point about the necessity of the injections but there are certainly better ways to do that than making me feel like The World’s Shittiest Leaser TM.

I was pretty much in shock and thought sure he was joking but he reiterated and said it again. I responded, “Awww, this horse is too good-looking to put down”

His response: “Yeah, the Canadians would LOVE him!”

Dude. WTF?!

 

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Broken, useless, old, disposable

 

Yep, lets put down this fully functioning 20 year old and then sell him for meat. Cool.

 

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Horrific body condition for a senior horse

 

 

I’m going to try and assume that the surgery he had before coming out to the barn went long or maybe he didn’t sleep much the night before and was kind of slaphappy- but seriously, it’d be nice to try and never say these things to a client whether in jest or not.

I’m a slightly captive audience and he does render decent care, so I guess I’m not mad enough leave…just disappointed. How’s your vet’s bedside manner?