“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”
- Dr. Seuss
I've been scratching my head trying to figure out why on earth Gem is acting out so much under saddle in the arena. Its typical for her to be that way for the first couple weeks in a new place, but not for an entire month. Yes, it is colder out. Yes, she is getting grain. Yes, it is dark out. But still.
I'm anal about grooming her before I ride. I figure that she deserves a nice cleaning and once over before I ask her to work. I not only brush her out, pick out the hay and burrs from her mane, but I always pick out her feet and run my hand over her legs to feel for swelling. She was fine Monday. Friday night I noticed this....
A big crack in her heel. That's not supposed to be there. It is supposed to be one solid piece. This is her back left. Her back right looked similar. Crap. I panicked like any good person would do and called up the hubs. He suggested I lunge her to see her move and watch for lameness. That would have been a good idea except she broke my lunge line at the beginning of summer. This barn has a lovely round pen though and while I have never used one before, I thought it was as good a time as any to try it out.
We went over to the round pen and I let her loose. She was a very naughty mare. I asked her to walk - she ate the grass around the edges. I asked her to trot - she bolted and kicked out at me. I asked her to go to the right - she spun and went left. I lost my good natured patience (HA!) with her. I got firm and forced her to go the direction I wanted. I stopped asking and started telling. She did a whole lot more work than I had anticipated. All I wanted was for her to walk, but she would canter, so I made her canter until I told her to stop. Around and around she went. Eventually she listened and walked when I said to and then we repeated going to the left. Same thing. Eventually she walked and at the very end she went to spook at some imaginary monster, looked over at me first, and then kept walking calmly. Great mare!!! The good news was that I didn't see any lameness issues in any gait in either direction. She loaded all 4 feet heel first without short striding at all.
I took her back in and cleaned out the cracks as best I could with the hoof pick and then put her back out. At home I visited the internet and researched heel bulb cracks. Apparently it is a fungal infection. Or it could be yeast. But don't forget about bacteria - it could be that too. If all else fails you can also blame it on contracted heels and poor weightbearing. Sigh. Nothing is ever simple. So...to the endurance forum I went. I posted a question with pictures and got some responses all screaming doomsday and giving me the worst case scenario possible. Sigh. Why are people like that? Well, anyway. I decided to treat her for all the above.
I have been going out and irrigating out the cracks with betadine solution. I figure that we use it for surgical scrubs and I have my patients use it on macerated skin between their toes or on ulcerations. Its gotta be similar in horses. I also ordered a powder product called No Thrush. It seems like a good enough product and I like the science behind it. It should arrive tomorrow and I will start it Friday. I know one of the keys to treatment is keeping the feet as dry as possible until healed. This is the only part I am having trouble with. She is out 24/7. It hasn't been raining (although it is slated to begin now that I am needing dry weather) but the dew is awfully thick in the morning. Does that count as moisture? I will monitor and see how she does.
The good thing out of al of this is my introduction to the round pen. I have decided to use it once a week until she starts behaving better. I used it again Monday night and she was much, much better behaved. It still took a while for her to start to listen, but not as long as the first time. Once she gets to really being good I will stop using it so much and maybe use it once a month as a refresher. I don't want her going in a smallish circle for too many miles. That can't be great for her joints.