Not good. This is what we've all been worried about for years. Maybe you don't know this, but that left hind leg has always been a source of concern, because when she was a yearling, it was broken. BROKEN. We forked out the money back then to that leg x-rayed , and sure enough, it was cracked. By then we'd ALL completely fallen for this tiny cute sweet big-eyed blinky baby. The crack was right down into the fetlock joint and was getting ready to be a future arthritis problem.
Nothing could be done but stall rest, and 10 minutes twice each day of hand-walking. Glenn the vet couldn't make any promises about her condition. He told us he could never tell us that she'd be sound, even if she appeared to be fine. We might end up with a really cute lawn ornament. A much loved little lawn ornament.
So, we did it. Or I should say, my parents did it, because I lived too far away. The entire family had a decision to make: if we put the time into this little horse, we make a commitment to keeping her for her lifetime. No strenuous riding, no barrel racing, no jumping, no breeding. Watch her weight, and be prepared to get into an arthritis management program at some point in her life. Never sell her, because we couldn't trust anyone else to get it, and give her the care she needs. Above all, know that when she is in pain, and we can't make her comfortable anymore, we put her out of her misery. Scary, eh?
She healed up. A year later, she was a new horse. She was muscular and fit. She didn't limp. Glenn the vet was impressed. You could say he was amazed.
Occasionally over the years, she'd look a little stiff if the weather took a cold turn. Heck, so do I. She always got over it. We marveled regularly at how great she's doing, how awesome she is, and how glad we are that we put the work into saving her.
Then this morning, she's all limpy.
They came into the corral after lunch and she was not putting any weight on it. At all. She was walking on three legs and dragging the fourth.
I dropped everything, left my mother to do the work we'd planned together, and wrapped up the Little Lady's hind legs. I put both horses in the barn to keep Phoenix from moving her around. The horses both looked at me like I was nuts, because it's the middle of the afternoon, and this isn't when they get their grain, and can they please go back out? The barn cats had those cool faces like, "So where's our kibble at?"
We got in the car and dashed off to get the kids from school. I was thinking about the stuff I wasn't getting done in the house, and thinking about a horse who will not be used for lessons now, and that maybe this is my wake up call. Maybe she'll be okay but I can't push her too hard. Maybe it's my fault for riding her almost every day for over two weeks. Then I got into the What Ifs and that was too awful to say out loud.
Back home again, I wrapped her legs with some cold lotion. Then they blasted out to the pasture like their tails were on fire, and guess what? SHE CAN RUN ON THREE LEGS. Forehead slap.
I called the vet and left a message.
After supper I talked to Cindy the vet. She said she'd come out in the morning, and told me to check the cold lotion jar, to see if it's allowed to stay on overnight. She told to pick out her hooves real good. If she's got a stone in there or something, it could affect the weight bearing and then irritate that old injury.
I was feeling a little frazzled by this time, and relieved that Mom happened to have the day off work, and she did the cooking today. If I'd been alone, we'd be eating crackers and cheese for dinner. Keeping horses in the barn overnight is a lot more labour intensive than keeping them in the corral for the night. I threw down a couple hay bales, topped up the water buckets, and brought the horses in. Fed the cats too, not that they needed it, judging by the pile of feathers in the aisle.
I undid the mare's legs and checked for swelling. All okay. I got out the nasty old polo bandages and wrapped her up again, making sure I got under the fetlock for support.
I was putting stuff away in the tack room when I remembered Cindy's point about the hoof pick. I wrestled Copper's leg up again - she was losing her good natured co-operation by this time - and dug the hoof pick into the cleft. It stopped. It stuck on something.
I felt around with my fingers and found...
A NAIL HEAD.
I PULLED A HALF INCH LONG NAIL OUT OF HER HOOF.
Felt a little dizzy, folks. It was right up in there, vertically.
I'm so fanatical about picking up every nail and bit of junk that works its way to the surface of this old barnyard. And yet.
So, I got some iodine to squirt on the underside of her hoof, and a square or gauze with some duct tape to stick it on, and made a funny lookin' little booty around her hoof to keep the dirt out until morning when the vet gets here.
I'm thinking now, maybe she's not permanently arthritic. Yet. Maybe it's not the old leg injury acting up - I mean, you'd limp too if you had a NAIL IN YOUR HOOF, right?
Okay, so it's not so terribly horribly bad, other than the poor girl having a RUSTY PIECE OF METAL IN HER. Which I pulled out and disinfected and wrapped and holy crap how long does a tetanus shot last???
Poor sweet little mare... she always gets it. Cut her forehead in June, has to have baby-bum-cream on her little pink muzzle to avoid sunburn, got mudcrack this summer and had the have yellow goop on her pastern to get rid of the scabs, has super sensitive skin and hates being brushed when she's in heat, and also HAD A BROKEN LEG WHEN SHE WAS A BABY.
I am really, really tired, folks. I have to do all that laundry I didn't do this afternoon when I was wrapping legs. Have to go to bed. My hair is frizzy with humidity and sweat and that bath I had this morning has been totally negated.
How am I going to do this - take care of two horses, make a living with them, when I haven't even gotten my coaching insurance stitched up and therefore haven't gotten any solid gigs out here yet, and still be there for my kids, maintain a long-distance relationship with my husband (I don't recommend this by the way) and feed people, take my dog for a run outside along the hay field, clean the cat's litter box, sweep floors, write novels (which I am taking a break from this month, geez) and like, be me, and sleep? And have a bath at least once a week?
I mean, people do this, right? People who DON'T live with Mom?
At least I might have a bus stop for the kids, so I only have to drive 5 minutes instead of a half hour to get them to school.
I can do this, right?
I hope my little mare is feeling better in the morning. When I left her, she was munching hay like she always hangs in the barn with her legs wrapped up and one hoof encased in duct tape. It's cool, baby. Totally normal. Leave the barn door open, eh? The breeze is nice...