It's been unusually hot this summer, and also erratic in rain--not a happy time for horses.
On Tuesday, in going to catch Ko Ta, the show pony, for some light work, suddenly he was lame: three legged lame. Quelching rising emotion in the morning's rising heat, it took a long time to lead him to the wash, to check for insults to his foot, to call the vet; the verdict: abscess.
A quick research of hoof abscesses in horses yields both agreement and conflict: agreement on the pathology ( basically, a localized infection trapped in the hoof-- described variously by verbal advice as a toothache or deep zit), and disagreement about treatment-- cut a hole in the sole, don't cut, wrap or don't wrap, bute or not, epsom salts, icky tar, medicated pads. Estimates of the time it takes for the infection to burst out varies from a few days to almost two weeks.
Apparently, abscesses are common. Every equestrian gets familiar with them, and every one has favored treatment methods.
As fragile as horses are, in general, their feet are even more so. It's a wonder with the number of equine hospitols, veterinary programs and equestrian information sources that no definitive method for abscess treatment yet exists. There's an argument about whether or not treatment is the domain of vets or farriers; in the case of Ko Ta, he got a visit from both.
It's terrifying to put the thousands of hours and thousands of dollars into an athletic partner, only to have some situation such as this arise.
For those of us whose equine partner is both athlete and life partner, it's also emotionally fraught-- to see him in such obvious pain, to see his easy gaits an awkward hobble, to reflect on both the years of showing together and what plans had been ahead-- such suffering....
Maybe a nice, cool rain will come: a long soft one that heals his foot and our souls. Maybe this will be just some days soon forgotten. Now, the moon rises, and Ko Ta does not explore the night as usual, but stands favoring his foot; his burning foot, my burning heart.
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