• Gillian Keegan

Laminitis is a bitch

I could have titled this something PC - 'no foot, no horse' or something equally dull, but it simply doesn't do it justice - 'laminitis is a bitch' it is.

I can hardly believe this, but two weeks into my lease, Bucee has suspected laminitis. The curse of the wretched horse continues. Honestly, I'm addicted to them, but those that come under my fold will suffer any number of random misfeasances. There are too many to cram into this post without causing depression to any readers, but I'm sure I'll cover each sorry tale at some stage.....

Anyway, Bucee. Things were going so well. We were getting to know each other, relaxing, working on basics, enjoying rides out. Hell, I had even started to practice sitting trot and bought a competition jacket. Then a couple of Tuesdays ago I got to the yard to see him being led by a groom, back to his stall, after a morning hose. He looked off, but I put it down to the uneven concrete surface. I then led him myself and he still seemed off. Short, a slight unevenness in front. I trotted him up on sand for one of the instructors and he didn't look bad - they said he just looked tired. I tacked up, jumped on, but within two strides could feel that something wasn't right.

We pulled his shoes and he was very sensitive to hoof tests on both soles, with mild heat in his hoofs and elevated digital pulses. The vet was called, he was put on anti-inflammatories and box rest with his feet poulticed with dry sawdust for support, and to harden them up. I hadn't seen this in practice before, but it makes sense.

What didn't make sense, however, was that he was suffering pain in both front feet. He's a nine year old thoroughbred, in great condition, getting consistent, steady work on good surfaces. He's not out grazing on anything green. How could he have laminitis? Then I remembered that a few days earlier he had come in from the paddock with swelling on his face. It went down and we thought nothing of it, but he had a day off, and seemed a bit slow the following day, so we kept things really easy. Then back to normal.

I was reminded of horse I owned in Australia. She was a healthy two year old quarter horse, in good condition, not skinny, but certainly not fat. She came in from a summer drought paddock one day, lame. She, again, was sensitive in both front feet and when we x-rayed her, she had slight rotation and her pedal bones had sunk. Tests for cushings and EMS came back negative. We were advised to cut back her feed, soak her hay and to give Bute, which we did, but the result was a very hungry horse who became aggressive towards me. It was absolutely heartbreaking, and incredibly stressful to manage. After she managed to kick me in the arm whilst I was dragging a mound of incredibly heavy soaked hay into her paddock, I lost it and sent her to a barefoot farrier in the area, Andrew Bowe, who is an expert in laminitis rehab. She stayed with him for a few months and was treated for ulcers and given a thorough drenching with Panacur. With weekly trims on her feet, she gradually came good and was able to come home. Andrew had visited my property and had described it as the perfect land to keep horses on. His view was that the laminitis had started due to a spider or snake bite, some toxic load that set off an inflammatory reaction.

Ruby's x-ray showing slight rotation

The allergic reaction was the only thing I could think of that had set Bucee off. A week later he was still sore, so we arranged for x-rays. This, in itself, was a stressful experience. The young male vet didn't seem to be used to being questioned (in a super polite manner) about his methods, especially from a 'riding school client' and was pretty rude and dismissive. I was then asked to weigh the horse. It was the first time I had used that particular weigh bridge and didn't realise that you had to switch on and tare before you used it I turned it on with Bucee standing on it, then backed him on and off again. The reading came out at 629kg. "Weight?" demanded the vet. "629kg," I responded. "What???" The vet looked at me with an eyebrow raised. "629kg, six-two-nine" I repeated. Then the group of men around me (vet, grooms and instructors) laughed, "warmbloods wouldn't weigh that much - you must have been standing on the scales too - you'd be 60-70kg wouldn't you?" I was not standing on the scales, but took Bucee back and we got a lower reading. I think the weigh-bridge must have tared oddly the first time - I'm not sure what happened!! I felt very embarrassed, and pretty patronised. Anyway, the results of the x-rays came back, and his feet hadn't rotated, so, despite the embarrassment, all was good.

So, no rotation, but he was still sore so we had work to do to make sure his feet didn't get any worse. Seven days of icing, IV anti-inflammatories and box rest followed with the poor boy losing weight and muscle - he had been looking so well! The team in India also used a turmeric and curd concoction on his feet which looked liked bright green manure, but is used for all sorts here - skin complaints and allergies. I had been advised by my lovely vet in Australia to look at heart bar shoes to support his foot, however, there is only one person in India that is able to fit them, and he's not available! So we are still barefoot, and on box rest. Fingers crossed that we can walk out in hand soon......

In the meantime, I have been able to get to know the riding school manager (Bucee was one of her horses when she was a jockey, so he is very special to her). I mentioned my bad luck and she is planning a Pooja for me! In the Hindu religion, a Pooja is done to give thanks to the Gods, flowers and food are prepared and incense is burned. At this stage, I am up for anything and may do Pooja every day for the rest of my time here if it means that my horse is ok!!

x Gill x


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