How many problems can one horse have in one leg? Last Wednesday, Minnie seemed a bit tender again, but I didn’t think much of it and put it down to over-exertion. However, on Thursday night, she came hobbling towards me, and she wasn’t putting any weight on her right fore. My heart sank. She had been doing so well, I couldn’t believe it. I knelt beside her and felt her leg, checking tendon and ligament. No change. When I got up again, Minnie pointed her leg, barely touching the ground with her toe. I was so worried that it took a few moments before it dawned on me to check her hoof, but when I did it was clear that was where the problem was; her hoof was hot, so there was probably an abscess in there.
I got the vet out – I’m considering taking out a season ticket the way things are going – and he confirmed that Minnie had an abscess in her hoof. As he started digging in an attempt to reach the site of the abscess, he commented that Minnie’s hoof was as hard as flint, he was barely able to open it up. Unfortunately, the abscess wasn’t ready to go yet, so it would need poulticing to draw it out.
Minnie was in terrible pain, and she was not impressed when I wanted to soak her foot in a basin with hot water and epsom salts. It was hard to explain to her that it was necessary, but once she understood what I wanted she was her usual helpful self. I realised how lucky I am that Minnie is such a nice girl and that soaking feet in buckets is something I should have practised ages ago, instead of waiting for an emergency to overtake us. Cassie will be seeing a lot of buckets soon!
The abscess burst after 2 days of soaking and poulticing. Minnie is still limping a bit, but she is in much better spirits and even tried a little canter today, so things are looking good again.
Meanwhile, I have been doing a lot of thinking about Minnie’s right fore leg. When the vet was scraping at Minnie’s hoof, he showed me evidence that she must have had an abscess in that hoof before, in more or less the same spot. I remembered that before I went barefoot, Minnie used to lose the right front shoes. Then there was the tendon injury and then the suspensory ligament. All in the same leg. It makes me wonder if that leg really is that weak, or if there is a reason why she keeps getting injured there. Is it possible that the root of the problem is in fact the opposite diagonal, an imbalance somewhere in her left hind leg? Her left hind feels stiff when I need to bring it forward to put on the hoofstand for trimming. Worth investigating when Minnie is sound again, I think.