From Endurance to Dressage
Speedy's abscess is still going. Over the weekend, he seemed a wee bit worse, so I used my hoof testers on the good hoof just for comparison. Fortunately, there was zero response no matter how hard I squeezed. And since that foot is standing on wet ground all day, it's pretty soft right now. It's so soft that his sole flexes easily when I squeeze with the hoof testers. He's lame, but it's not on his right foot.
I pulled the poultice off the left foot and put the hoof testers on; he gave a hard jerk and glared at me. The abscess on which I used the poultice is on the lateral bar, the side farthest from his body. Since his hoof was still warm to the touch, I decided to check the medial side, and he jerked back even harder. Hmmm ... that means he has more than one abscess, or the offending gravel is on the move. Even though I know it hurt, I poked around on the medial bar with my hoof knife until I found the track line. The problem with Numotizine is that it hardens the hoof making it harder to dig out the sole.
I dug out as much as I could, which wasn't much, but after rewrapping, Speedy seemed less lame than before. That suggests that I was able to relieve some of the pressure. The video below is after poking around and finding the second abscess.
Since several people have recently asked me about abscesses and other injuries, I decided to give my vet kit a quick once over. While I was doing that, I stopped to take some pictures in case anyone wanted to know what sort of veterinarian supplies are good to have on hand. A lot of my horse care items, things like shampoos, large canisters of goop, and other things that I use regularly live in open bins. The more technical or sensitive stuff lives in a two-drawer, plastic storage unit.
Next to the storage unit is my "backstock" - things that I stock up on and keep in reserve: clean towels, extra vet wrap, a spare tub of Numotizine, rolls of duct tape stored in a plastic bag, another bag containing extra catheter syringes, my stethoscope, and a cutting board for cutting apples or pills.
The top drawer contains loose items like scissors, hoof knife & hoof pick, Neomycin, saline, q-tips, and mini irrigation syringes. A second container with a lid holds very sensitive things like Banamine, Dormosedan gel, Bute, syringes and needles, eucalyptus oil, injectable ace, digital thermometer, and a few other prescription drugs.
The bottom drawer is reserved for bandaging materials. I always keep a good supply of Telfa pads, hydrophilic foam pads, cotton rolls, square gauze, brown gauze rolls, and of course vet wrap.
Over the past 40 years - how has it been that long?, my horses have had just about every horrible injury or illness you can imagine. During that time, I have learned from experience which items should be kept in my medical kit, but I only keep things that I am 100% confident in using or administering. I have no problem doing intramuscular (IM) injections, but I am not doing intravenous injections (IV). I also only keep and administer things that my vet recommends. There are some drugs that even though I have on hand, I will only use after a consultation with my vet. Banamine is one of those drugs.
Owning horses means that things are eventually going to go south. It's a lot less scary if you have a way to do some quick triage. It will also help your vet if you are able to relay your horse's vitals: heart rate, temperature, and gut sounds. Being able to stanch the flow of blood or wrap a wound after an injury without a frantic run to the vet for supplies will also keep you calmer in a crisis. I am always thinking of new things to add, and unfortunately, every time there's a new kind of injury, I find yet another tub or tube to add to my medical kit. Most of these things are fairly inexpensive, so when it comes to pharmaceuticals, I'd rather have them on hand and not need them than need them and not have them.
Better safe than sorry is my motto.
When schools closed in March of 2020, I knew we were in for a world of hurt. I wrote about my fear that the drastic response to the virus was likely politically motivated. I still believe that. Whatever you believe, we are still feeling the effects of a national shutdown and likely will continue to do so for the next decade. Yesterday, I found yet another aftereffect of the lockdowns.
Before 2020, I was buying Ivermectin for around $2 a tube. By 2021, you couldn't find Ivermectin for horses because so much of it was being used to treat humans. There must still be a shortage because the cost of Ivermectin is now 500% of what it was just two years ago.
My vet recommends using a dewormer at least twice a year, more if an Eggs Per Gram (EPG) shows a high enough positive number. His preferred time of year to dose is in the spring and then again in the fall after the first freeze. The problem is that we rarely get a freeze until winter and our fly season lasts for 10 months. It turns out that I typically worm in January and then forget to do it in late summer as I wait for a cold snap. It didn't get cold until after Thanksgiving this year.
I was checking through my vet records and realized that I haven't used a dewormer since January. Oops! I placed an order for two tubes yesterday. They should be here by Saturday.
Maybe I'll remember to use a dewormer this summer. Probably not.
As promised, here is how I wrap something really low on the leg.
#1 - Get it Clean
First clean the wound as well as possible. For this wound, I've been using baby shampoo and then toweling the leg dry. I also squirt Betadine on the wound just before wrapping to prevent infection.
#2 - Soak with Saline
Since the wound is only about the size of a quarter, I am cutting the hydrophilic foam pads into fourths. Use a clean container for some saline. Press the foam down and squeeze gently so that it absorbs the saline. Since the container is clean, and I don't need a sterile solution, I just snap the lid back on after I am finished, adding more saline as needed.
#3 - Cover with a Hydrophilic Foam Pad
Place the saline soaked pad directly over the wound. I like to use brown gauze to hold the pad firmly in place. It doesn't do much good if the pad slips off the wound. If you're worrying about applying the gauze and elastic bandage too tightly - a legitimate concern, use a roll of cotton sheet bandage between the pad and the brown gauze so that when you pull everything tight, the cotton will prevent the gauze and elastic bandage from pulling too tightly. I did not use cotton.
#4 Wrap with Elastic Bandage
Dr. Tolley likes to create a twist to "anchor" the elastic bandage which keeps it from sliding up too much. I don't have a lot of success with this technique, but it does slow the creep-up. If the horse is shod, try to get the elastic bandage between the bottom of the hoof and the shoe. This also keeps the elastic bandage from creeping upwards.
#5 - Cover it Smoothly
Finish applying the elastic bandage, leaving it pressed smooth without anything to grab the tail end of the bandage which could cause it to loosen and unwind.
#6 - Duct Tape
I like to finish off the bandage with a layer (or 5) of duct tape. Use caution though; duct tape doesn't breath, bend, or flex very well. You obviously don't want to apply it to hair, but it will stick fairly well to a dry hoof. The instant it gets wet (or cold) however, it tends to slide off.
#7 - Bell Boot Cover
Depending on where the wound is, I like to add a bell boot. For a hoof abscess, I don't use a bell boot because I don't bandage very high up the pastern, and I don't need a rub on top of an abscess. Since this wound is below the pastern, and since the pastern is well protected, I use a bell boot to discourage chewing at the bandage. Chew stop also helps.
#8 Repeat as Needed
Be prepared to rewrap daily if the horse is a walker. Horses in pain tend not to do much walking which will keep the bandage in place for another day or two. Izzy isn't in any pain, plus, I am riding him daily which means I pull it off in the morning, ride, and then reapply.
This method will get the wound healed, but it does take persistence, patience, and lots of duct tape - the more the better.
It has been a hot minute since I've had to deal with a wound, injury, or illness. I guess the universe thought I could handle one more thing. Thanks? Fortunately, this go-round doesn't seem bad.
After we got back from Nashville a week ago Tuesday, I headed out to the barn early Wednesday morning to check on my boys. I know them so well that it takes me seconds to spot anything amiss. Right away I noticed a dime sized patch of bare skin just above Izzy's coronary band. I gave it a gentle poked and was a bit concerned at how spongey it felt, but without any oozing, heat, or puffiness, there wasn't much to do other than wait and see.
Each day, I gave it a quick check and a feel. For five days, it did nothing. Then on Monday, the 4th of July to be exact, it burst open and drained. Rather than being upset, I was relieved. Doing nothing usually means a wound is doing something inside which is not usually a good thing. I scrubbed off the discharge and gauged the size of the wound. Happily the worrisome spot was no bigger than a nickel, and things looked pretty good.
As luck would have it, the vet was out that same day for one of the ranch mares who was a bit colicky after the neighbor's fireworks party the night before. He asked how my horses were, and I mentioned that I would be calling the next morning to ask about a small wound Izzy had on his foot. Before he left for the day, Dr. Gonzalez came over and gave the wound a quick glance. He didn't seem too worried about it but suggested I wrap it to keep a summer sore from developing. The Habronema fly has been causing some problems in our neck of the woods.
On Tuesday, the wound looked a little bigger, so I wrapped it. On Wednesday morning, it seemed a bit bigger still, so I put on a different kind of wrap. Yesterday, it had grown to the size of a quarter and was looking much like ground hamburger which is not a healthy look for a wound. Fair warning, the picture below is a teeny bit off putting.
I snapped the photo below and sent it to Dr. Tolley over at Bakersfield Large Animal Hospital. Within twenty minutes he was on the phone giving me his thoughts. He agreed that it was probably some type of abscess. He asked a few questions, but since he knows me so well, he already knew what my answers would be: No, there hadn't been any heat or swelling. No external signs of infection. No loss of appetite. And while I hadn't taken Izzy's temperature, I had considered it, but with zero indicators of a fever, I didn't do it. And finally, no, Izzy was 100% sound. Photo below ...
Dr. Tolley advised me to keep a close eye on it and to keep it clean and wrapped. Wrapping is something I know well. If you want to read about the many types of wraps I know how to do, read how I wrapped Izzy's leg every other day for a year. You'll have to start at the end and click previous to find the beginning of the series, but you might find something useful. I specialize in leg wraps.
Wrapping the coronary band isn't the easiest wrap to do since horses love to chew these off, but it can be done. Over the years, Dr. Tolley's bandaging preferences have changed. Now, instead of Telfa pads soaked in white lotion, he recommends using hydrophilic foam dressing pads soaked in saline. I applied one of those directly over the wound and held it in place with brown gauze. I covered that with vet wrap and topped the whole thing with a bell boot.
Since Izzy is not lame, and since the wound isn't in a place that experiences a lot of movement like a knee or fetlock, Dr. Tolley gave an okay for Izzy to be ridden while it heals. Again, since Dr. Tolley knows me well, he knows that being ridden hinges on how well the wound is healing. If it is not healing or shows signs of worsening, he knows I'll call back and/or take Izzy in to be seen.
Over the weekend, I'll rewrap it, but I'll take step-by-step photos to show how you can wrap a coronary band and get the bandage to stay. Speedy actually had a pretty nasty wound at his coronary band that took months and months to heal. Near the end, I kept it covered with a sock with the toe cut off. Izzy already ate the top of the bell boot above, but since he has done that so many times before, I have ten or more mismatched bell boots that are missing their mates. As he destroys one, I'll just drag out a "new" one. That's why I never toss a lone sock; you never know when you'll need just one!
Now what, indeed.
In this case, that isn't a figure a speech. Over the weekend, both of my boys saw Dr. Tolley at Bakersfield Large Animal Hospital. While we didn't do any diagnostics or bloodwork, Dr. Tolley did do all of the usual things. He listened to their pulse and respiration, checked their bellies for signs of sand, and gave them both a general once over.
Before doing all of that though, we also put each one on the scale. When Speedy was at his heaviest, he weighed in at 1,005 pounds. He's never been an easy keeper, but since he hasn't been working, he's held his weight really well. He came in at 958 pounds. He got a little thin early in the winter, so I upped his daily supplemental feed. I was happy to see that his weight has held steady at over 900 pounds.
The big brown horse, a beast by most any standard, surprised us all. Dr. Tolley couldn't believe how big and solid Izzy is. He remarked several times that Izzy has really blossomed. He agreed that there isn't an ounce of fat on that horse; he is solid muscle. I was sure he'd hit the 1,400 mark this time, but nope. He came in exactly at 1,350 pounds like always.
That morning, Izzy's poop was super splatty. I am still trying to test out how frequently to use the GastroElm, if at all, so I went from once a week to none. At exactly the two-week mark, I got piles like the one you see in the photo above. Gross. Doctor Tolley agreed that products don't work forever. He said that psyllium, great for removing sand, is also a general fix-it-all for tummy imbalances. I'll be starting Izzy on a seven-day treatment this week. It also seems like I should use the GastroElm once a week until I can find something to trade off with.
Once we were inside, Dr. Tolley started with Speedy. His separation anxiety is harder to overcome with drugs, so we always do him first. Izzy screams and hollers, but he isn't likely to hurt himself like Speedy might. And once Speedy gets all jacked up on adrenaline, it's harder to sedate him for the dental work. Izzy screamed the entire time, but with a little cocktail and me by his side, Speedy didn't even notice.
Dr. Tolley has been Speedy's dentist for fifteen years. When he looked in Speedy's mouth, he proudly stated, "this horse has the best teeth of any older Arabian." It's because of Dr. Tolley of course. He is a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to teeth. After doing his exam, he handed his head lamp to me so that I could do my own inspection. I always tell him what I see or feel and he either agrees with me or redirects me. Speedy needed very little work this year. Dr. Tolley believes that horses have an easier time in their senior years if you do annual work on their teeth.
Big brown horse didn't need much work either. Dr. Tolley did the same exam and followed the same process. He starts with power tools and finishes off by hand for the detail work. He works efficiently so that the horses are done quickly with as little drama as possible. When Izzy was done, he joined Speedy in his own catch pen to sober up a bit. I walked back to the office to chat with the ladies, get vaccination certificates, and wait for my bill.
The doctors and staff at Bakersfield Large Animal Hospital are really phenomenal. They know their clients and treat them as friends and family. There is an unpretentious atmosphere that I really appreciate. I wish I could have the same type of relationship with my dogs' vet, but they barely let clients in the door. Dr. Tolley welcomes my hands-on approach, probably because he knows that a hands-on owner detects problems much more quickly than the other kind.
While I love going to the vet for routine care, I hope I don't see them again for at least six months.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: