|This photo was taken Jan 17th...one of the last days I was able to ride him. He was a raving lunatic on the ride, I thought I was going to get killed in traffic.|
The horse is unwell. I'm not sure I can adequately convey how much this distresses me. As an animal owner/guardian, you know that there could be problems to solve. Wounds to heal. You want the best for your animals, and you want them to be happy and healthy. You will do whatever it takes to make sure that they are ok.
So, about a month or so ago when my horse started acting differently, I didn't realize the slippery slope I was about to slide down. My other horses were always amazingly resilient and healthy. Above and beyond an occasional hoof abscess, I have no recollection of any problems in 12 years.
It all began with irritability. He went from being a nice, easy going horse that only spooked at normal things...to a horse that was trying to buck me off (or was objecting to easy commands) for no reason at all. Well, no reason that I could see. And I was scared. He was going to get me killed at this rate, as 95% of my riding is on the road.
You know, with the cars. And 18 wheelers.
He also objected to being brushed (which I did nightly as he munched hay in his stall) by pinning his ears and walking away. He loves to be brushed! What was this?
He started to get very picky about hay. I had bought 50 bales, and was still working off of that batch...and suddenly he wasn't interested in it. He'd eat EVERY single piece before. I bought more hay from a different farm without really looking at it...bad idea...BAD hay. Back to the original batch. He picked at it.
Then he started favoring a hind leg. He'd hold it up when standing around, and although I inspected the hoof, everything seemed fine. Maybe some tenderness at the back, on the middle of the frog.
We were trying to piece it all together, and Phyllis told me about a day, a few days earlier, that she went to bring the horses in for dinner and Boze wouldn't budge from the far side of the pasture. Usually he'd be at the gate as soon as he heard the barn door open. She had to go out (across an ice patch) to get him. Maybe he'd fallen on the ice earlier that day and was hurt from that in some small way??
With this thought, I asked a horse massage friend to come check him out. She came twice, he loved his massages, but he wasn't any better and now I was noticing a tenderness (bordering on pain) in his flank, on both sides. I guess this was going on all along, and first manifested itself when he was getting brushed and would walk away, I just didn't realize it yet.
Ok, now I'm really starting to worry. I've gone from being pissed off/scared at his change in behavior, to concerned that he's got a bruise or something, to wondering if there's more to it.
His former owner told me that he had a history of becoming impacted. Ok. At the time, I didn't pay much attention to this, I just figured since he was eating, drinking, and pooping...all was well.
Now he starts being really lame. Holding his leg up, gimping as he walked, sloppy turns. A recheck of the hoof showed signs of thrush. Ok. I can deal with thrush. But a front hoof also showed signs of thrush...and he wasn't favoring THAT one at all. What the heck?
Time to call the vet. A lyme test (negative). A thorough paring down of frog and treatment of thrush. A check of his sheath...in case it was dirty and that was causing belly pain reaction. Nope...it was clean. A complete check of body, pushing and prodding all muscles, bones, joints. Nothing except a loose patella, which may (or may not) have been there before. $450.
Keep treating the thrush. That's looking better. Belly pain getting worse. NOW I'm really worried. Now he's rolling daily, looking back at his belly, and pawing in the stall. NOT GOOD. Not good at ALL.
Call the vet again. Rectal exam, negative. Belly sounds, normal. Heart rate, normal. Given history of impaction we dose him with mineral oil anyway, and discuss why that may or may not help. At this point, I start crying in the stall. My horse is drugged, he's been in such pain, I've got $900 in vets bills to pay, and still no answers.
Where are we now? Treating him for stomach ulcers that he may or may not have (10 pills three times a day. I go over to the barn at midnight for the third dose), hoping to hell the thrush clears, his lameness dissipates, and the belly is pain free in a week or two.
My god. I took horse health for granted before. I feel like a fool.
FEB 23rd update: His lameness was an abscess that took its sweet time reaching a soft spot (coronary band above hoof)...the abdomen pain is gastric ulcers for sure...the medication (Ranitidine) worked wonders...and the thrush, well, we're dealing with it.