From Endurance to Dressage
Last week, I wrote several times about taking care of Speedy's abscess myself. (You can read those posts here and here.) I didn't call my vet. I didn't call my farrier, I did the work on my own. A reader took me to task for performing a procedure that she felt fell squarely under the purview of a licensed veterinarian.
It's hard to disagree with her. I would ALWAYS rather have a licensed veterinarian perform all of my horses' treatment needs. If he wouldn't mind, I'd love him to show up every day to ensure that Speedy gets his daily dose of Prascend. I'd also like him to look at that weird wound on Izzy's lip. And if it wouldn't be too much trouble, I'd like him to dab some goop on that weird cut Speedy has over his eye. Since I am not independently wealthy nor married to a veterinarian (oh my gosh how convenient would THAT be?), I have to do most of the health care tasks myself. I am sure you do the same.
I guess the problem is that we don't all possess the same knowledge nor do we all have the same level of experience. The procedures that I find easy to do, you might feel are red alerts - something for which a vet should do. I don't even flinch at the thought of doing IM injections; I gave them to myself for several years. In fact, I still do a small, monthly injection for my migraines. Not too long ago, I did a course of B12 shots. Injections are no big deal. Administering something in the vein is where I draw the line. I've never been trained to do that, and I know that it's above my current skill level.
I know my limits. I know what I've been "trained" to do. And if I ever have a single shred of doubt, I pick up the phone and call my vet. Dr. Tolley and I have a relationship that spans decades. From the very beginning, even back to when I was about 8 years old, I've been a hands on owner. Teach me, show me, train me, let me learn ... There isn't a single part of my horses' anatomy that I don't want to understand. There are no procedures that I don't or can't watch. I even assisted when we euthanized my heart mare, Montoya. It broke my heart, but my horses trust me. I couldn't let her face that alone.
Since Speedy's first abscess in January of 2019, Dr. Tolley has "trained" me to use hoof testers and a hoof knife. He's explained what to look for and how to cut. He knows I am never going to cut too deeply since I am always yelling at him for making the hole too big. I am conservative always. I poultice longer than needed. I take my time when digging into the sole, always spreading it out over the course of days. I want the poultice to do the work for me. I bandage with Betadine longer than he suggests because I am mindful of introducing new bacteria.
A friend posted a link to Stone Gate Farm's Facebook page. On it, was a very interesting excerpt from the book, The Essential Hoof Book. After reading it, I felt very justified in my treatment. While my vet didn't do the work himself, it was still performed under my his authorization. I followed his protocols exactly. Speedy saw Dr. Tolley on Saturday. My vet looked over my "work" and said everything looked great and that I should keep doing what I was doing.
The reader who criticized my treatment strategy stated that opening up the abscess was an inappropriate course of treatment. My licensed veterinarian, who has been in practice for more than 30 years, would disagree. Poulticing nearly always helps, but it isn't a guarantee that the abscess will drain. By not creating a drainage hole, the horse will likely suffer an increased amount of pain and possibly even greater damage to the hoof.
I think the reader's main objection was that I cut the sole myself. She also seemed concerned that opening the sole created a pathway for new bacteria to enter. Even had I taken Speedy to see Dr. Tolley, he would still have a hole in his foot. Dr. Tolley would have done exactly what I did, but the hole would have been deeper. I was able to make a smaller hole because I poulticed it for a number of days which softened things up.
In either case, there would have been a hole that needed to be packed with Betadine to kill any remaining infection while protecting the exposed, sensitive tissue from further contamination. According to Dr. Tolley, once the abscess is opened and drained, the wound should be packed with Betadine for seven days to allow epithelialization to occur.
So what does all of this mean? Do the treatments that you feel safe and confident doing, but if you feel that something is above your pay grade, call a professional. I use a chiropractor, saddle fitter, farrier, and of course my vet. When I am in doubt, I call one of them.
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%: