(The Things We Do for Love)
(Photos c2009 by Nickers and Ink. All rights reserved.)
Although I majored in English and Journalism, I have been feeling a bit like Florence VET-engale lately. In the past few weeks, I have grown bolder and gutsier about blood and gore than I ever dreamed possible. I have also learned much more about lymphangitis and explosive equine abscesses than I ever wanted to know.
Thank God the brutal cold snap has passed, and milder weather has come to the Northern tundra. Anyone who cares for horses, particularly horses requiring special medications and treatments, is certainly counting the blessings of warmer days.
Cold-hosing a lame leg, hand-walking a sore horse, applying poultices and sweat-wrapping fetlocks are considerably easier when the mercury rises above freezing.
Keeping the Mare Going
My beloved mare (our first horse ever and the mother of our young horses) has developed an ongoing case of lymphangitis. Apparently, scar tissue has formed inside one of her hind legs, probably resulting from a very old injury. This has compromised the circulation in that limb, making the horse particularly susceptible to lymphangitis.
These photos clearly show the size difference between the horse's two hind legs. The right leg is shown in the photos in full lymphangitic bloom.
The mare competed in three-day eventing when she was younger. Then she participated in several years of hunter-jumper and dressage training and shows. She is now semi-retired, although she would rather work than anything else (except eat). This horse has the finest work ethic of anyone I have ever known, equine or even human.
Basically, equine lymphangitis is an inflammation, usually caused by a bacterial infection. A small laceration or even a case of scratches can set it off.
The best preventions are cleanliness and exercise. Tons of exercise. Barn friends tease me, because I offer pony rides to nearly every little kid who visits the barn. Here’s the funny part. I have no pony. We pile these tots into a big Western saddle on my 16.3 hand Westfalen mare.
Although this mare has a motor, even now, she turns into a babysitter around small children, packing them around in the smaller arena or at the end of a 20-meter longe line.
Wrapping It Up
To prevent the lymphangitis-prone leg from swelling, I have taken to wrapping it every night. I have a pair of super-convenient pillow wraps with Velcro attachments. On top of the pillow, I bind the mare’s leg as firmly as possible with a standing wrap.
Of course, we unwrap the horse’s leg every morning before turning her out in the pasture with her herd.
The Big Blowup
Last week, however, the unthinkable happened. Early one morning, I received a call from the barn. (That is nearly never good news.)
The horse’s leg had exploded open, just above the hock. The lower leg was still wrapped, but a nasty wound had sprung spontaneously, and it was leaking angry fluid like a faucet.
A couple of hours later, our valiant vet had pronounced the leak to be an abscess. Broad-spectrum antibiotics and diuretics were added to the horse’s daily rations. My daily barn routine was tripled, as I began injecting antibiotic medications directly into the gaping, gooey wound.
By evening, turned loose in the indoor arena, the horse was volunteering to trot. Sometimes I wonder if she might be part feline, for she certainly has nine lives.