After the extensive vet exam and the x-rays, plus the designer shoes with pads and silicone, I got exactly two rides on Wally before he went lame in the other front foot!
The first ride, a week after he got his new shoes and was pronounced, "Good to go" by my vet, Jennifer, I took him on a lovely ride. I was so pleased with how he strode easily down my cement driveway as I led him to the bridle path. It was obvious that his feet didn't hurt him at all. Oh, blessed day! Then we headed to the arena where I worked him at the walk, jog and lope. I even practiced opening and closing the arena gate with my good arm, as if I were competing in a make-believe trail class. Then we rode for about half an hour through the neighborhood, just like in the past. When we crossed the streets, Wally didn't hesitate or flinch when he stepped onto the asphalt. I was overjoyed!
The next day I had too many riding lessons to give, so Wally had the day off.
When I saddled him up the next day, he seemed to hesitate before stepping onto the cement. I patted him on the neck and encouraged him to follow me to the bridle path. Though he walked okay, he seemed to be a little short on his left front... the opposite foot than the one that was so sore before. (We ended up discovering a big bruise on the right front sole). Because I was getting suspicious, I only rode in the soft footing of the arena. Even then, I noticed two or three times when Wally took a short, protective step on that front leg.
No, I wasn't imagining things. So I hastily took him home.
Sure enough, he was off by the time I had him untacked and turned out in his paddock. I gave him a gram of bute, blanketed him and put him to bed in his cushy stall.
When he was even worse the next day, I called the vet. When butazolidin (an anti-inflammatory) doesn't ease pain, I begin to think it's either something really serious, like a fracture, or something infectious, like a hoof abscess.
By this afternoon he was three-legged lame. I was distraught, to say the least. Not only was I distressed to see my dear Wally in such pain, but I kept wondering why, once again, something dear to me was being taken away. Hadn't I given up enough already? As if having that riding accident and suffering the resultant pain and disability in my arm wasn't enough, I had to give up any future dreams of competing ever again. Now, after coming to peace by compromising with recreational riding on the trails, my best pal, Wally, was deteriorating before my eyes. And no matter how much money I was spending on vet and farrier bills, he was only getting worse.
Yes indeedy, I was hosting my very own Pity Party.
When Jennifer left today, after taking what seemed like an entire photo album of x-rays, she actually prepared me for the possibility--however remote--that Wally might've suffered a fracture in his foot that might leave us with no other choice but to humanely euthanize him. As a lifelong horsewoman, I accepted that news. Though putting a horse down is not something I enjoy, I was not about to have my horse suffer in pain for weeks or months simply because I couldn't let him go.
As the hours passed I made myself physically ill with worry.
Then, this evening, Jennifer called with the report. Wally's stack of x-rays were remarkably clean, bone-wise: no fracture, no bone spurs. "However, once again, I have to point out that he does have very thin soles."
But what was also evident was a large black area surrounding his heel. "It's a huge abscess," Jennifer said. She explained that the only time an abscess shows up on plain x-rays is when a gas pocket forms due to the activity of bacteria as it builds up pressure. In other words, it's like a burgeoning, walled off infection inside his hoof. No wonder he was in excruciating pain!
"The good news," Jennifer said, "is that we can fix this. It may take time, but once it opens up and drains, he'll be okay."
To make things easier for both Wally and me, I hauled him over to El Ranchito, my parents' place across town. It took both Ron and me (and a handful of peppermints) to coax Wally down the driveway to the trailer. He was so very, very lame, even with his hoof protected with a plastic pad and wrapped in a thick bandage.
Now Wally is sequestered in the big foaling stall at my parents' place, which is heavily bedded in shavings. Plus, the environment over there is just softer everywhere; the soil is clay rather than the hard gravel, granite and packed sand that I have here. And I can coordinate packing and wrapping Wally's foot with the days that my sister, Jill, is visiting. (Ron, though supportive of my horsekeeping, is not very good at wrangling Wally while he's being doctored).
If you'd like to read more about abscesses (because who among us doesn't like to read all about oozing bacterial infections) you can click on this link back to a great informative article on Horse Channel: All You'll Ever Want to Know About Hoof Abscesses.
So now you can understand why I'm praying for pus. Because when it comes to abscesses, pus and drainage is a good thing. A very good thing.
Ick. I know. I just wrote about something gross. But life around horses can be gross and dirty sometimes. If you'd like to share your thoughts--gross or otherwise-- just click on "comments" below.