It all started in March of 2010. I got to the barn one day to find Ricci with a swollen leg. It was the inside of her right front, running from the inside, back of her knee and down into her pastern. There was no heat, no reaction when pressed or otherwise manipulated, and no soundness issues. It seemed to go away with massaging and moving, leading me to believe it was circulatory. I worked her cautiously, monitoring her movement and ready to stop if she was in pain.
On March 18th, 2010, I had a chiropractor out for my old girl. She worked primarily on Ricci’s loin/low back and neck, but I had her look at her legs too. She noticed a slight restriction in range of motion on one her pasterns, guessing it was slightly arthritic, but I was no closer to an answer about Ricci’s mysterious swelling.
Working with a vet, we came to a decision on April 9th, 2010. After a lameness evaluation and nerve blocks to localize the pain, and X-rays to confirm no laminitis or navicular issues, it was determined she had strained the soft tissue in the heel of her left hoof. The swelling in her left leg was from overcompensating for the pain in her left hoof. And so we begin the very long process of giving Ricci the perfect hoof, battling miscellaneous injuries, moving barns, and life in general.
Ricci started to experience some more noticeable lameness and the swelling continued. My vet was out early to mid March for teeth. I asked him about her leg and when he looked it, it wasn’t swollen at all. He didn’t seem overly concerned since it had gone away and wasn’t particularly lame at the time. She was pulled from work until all our issues were sorted out.
Mid July, 2010, we run into a situation with Ricci’s tendons appearing to be bowed. Slightly warm, sporadic lameness, but not in obvious pain. As has been the course of the summer, Ricci spends more time on stall rest with standing wraps, pain meds, and liniments. Luckily, this too, did pass.
In November, I came out to feed dinner to find my lovely mare colicking. At approximately 10pm, I was lucky enough to have my normal vet on call and out at the barn to pump her stomach. While her colic was relatively mild, it was all very alarming. The vet guessed the problem was the change in weather. The water was getting colder, causing the horses to drink less, leading to their intestines being less lubricated and making it difficult to pass manure.
$500 and a few hours later, I was at the barn in the cold, walking my mare and praying for poop. At 5am, I grabbed some McDonald’s breakfast, went home to shower and change, and was back at the barn by 7 to continue monitoring Ricci. By the next evening, I believed Ricci to be in the clear, and ever since, I’ve been feeding electrolytes when it starts getting colder.
Getting deeper into winter, I was starting to doubt the farrier recommended to me. Ricci’s intermittent swelling and mild lameness was persisting. The idea was to help her grow a little more heel to relieve the soft tissue in the heel of her hoof. She was being seen every 6 weeks on the dot, and was later shortened to a 5 week schedule. Looking at it logically, I had been using this farrier for the better part of a year, and nothing was changing, she was not improving. Talking to some very knowledgeable people on a horse forum, I tried to learn as much as I could.
In December of 2010, I decided to talk to a few different farriers and barefoot trimmers and get some of their input as well. While I talked to quite a few that weren’t much help, and one who was a downright asshole, I eventually had a barefoot trimmer out to give me a consult. What she told me made a lot of sense. She pointed out how unbalanced Ricci’s hooves were and how much hoof she had in general. She thought Ricci had much too much heel and it wasn’t doing her any favors.
I decided to express my concerns with my farrier and go from there. In my opinion, he did not take it well. I appreciated that he was a good farrier, but he just wasn’t working for my mare. He was offended by my questions and concerns, and when I suggested maybe she had too much heel now, he said that was the whole point but had no qualms lobbing her entire heel off. I didn’t make another appointment with him.
Ricci’s feet were well on their way to perfect with the help of this trimmer. It wasn’t long after using this new lady that Ricci started feeling better. We slowly started getting back into work, and I am absolutely thrilled with her progress.
Then we ran into teeth issues which were making her uncomfortable and she started losing weight. We were back out of work. I kept her warm and fed her more than usual through the winter until I could get her teeth done. The end of January, 2012, I moved an hour north. My girls followed three weeks later. The new barn is a little rough around the edges. While Gracie hasn’t had much issue, Ricci has had a hard time of it. In April, I came out for the first time in two weeks and found that she had taken a chunk out of her knee. I found a vet, and he came out to clean it, cut away the proud flesh, wrap it, and give her some antibiotics and a tetanus booster. While the wound was large and in a delicate spot, Ricci wasn’t bothered by it. She reacted when you pressed on it, but was otherwise sound.
Soon after this, the vet was out to float teeth. We slowly started getting back into work when we faced another obstacle. She developed a large lump on the front of her right knee. Soon after, she started growing a similar feeling lump on the front of both pasterns as well as her other knee. Following all the lumps, I saw a sore in the middle of all of them. Ricci started coming up lame, again. Having no idea what we were facing, and being concerned about the lump so close to her knee that she recently injured, the vet was out. Again.
It was determined that she was simply banging her knee on the feeder. The barn was an old cow barn, with a low concrete ledge that my mare was smacking herself on while reaching for as much hay as possible. I was to keep applying triple antibiotic ointment to the sores but otherwise, it would heal itself as she was starting to spend more and more time out in the pasture grazing. Luckily, this proved to be true, and I shouldn’t have to deal with this again until next spring when we stop feeding hay.
Now I have lots of reasons and excuses why Ricci’s beautiful hooves were left to decline this spring. I won’t bore you with the details, but farrier work is one of the things that slipped under the cracks while I adjusted financially to the move and the vet bills Ricci accrued. She is currently back on a 4 week trim with the best farrier I’ve been able to find in the area. She was most recently trimmed on September 26. Before the trim, I trotted her around and she seemed very sound. After the trim, she was a little sensitive on her right front, which I assume is from the farrier paring away the frogs [not something I agree with]. When the soft “new” frog has a change to toughen up, I’m sure she will be fine. I will also be asking the farrier not to trim away so much of it.
Our current obstacle is dealing with two abscesses that blew out in July. One for each back hoof, one much worse than the other. Ricci’s hooves also did some significant “self-trimming” and she took a rather large chunk off her back hoof that has been causing her some discomfort.
Keeping true to her clumsy, accident-prone self, I found this large wound underneath her tail in August. While it didn’t inhibit her at all, or otherwise cause her much pain, it was still a large enough injury worth noting. Luckily, there is a decent amount of blood flow to the area, and because it wasn’t able to get very dirty or covered in flies, it healed up quickly and without intervention.
All of her wounds are now healed. The injury on her knee has left slight scarring but aside from a small patch of wayward hairs, isn’t noticeable. The scar and lump underneath her tail has grown smaller. The abscesses are growing out with the help of a good farrier. Hopefully by spring, after several months of consistent trims every 4 weeks, I will be able to introduce my lovely old mare back into the work she loves. After almost three years off, I don’t expect us to get back up to the level we were previously at, but I know both of us will thoroughly enjoy getting back to work. There is nothing like a great ride on a good mare. I cannot wait for the day I can pull her out, saddle her up, and not be overly concerned that she will be lame. However, even if she can never be ridden again, she has a home with me for the rest of her life. I won’t ever be ready to lose her, but I hope to have several more years. Long live Ricci.