Apologies for the samey content, but we had another drama on Friday.
For those not in the UK, the temperature dropped at the end of last week and we have had frost or a little snow for the past few days.
Turnout was restricted a lot lately due to the fields being flooded. On Friday morning we had a text message saying “The fields are frozen hard. If you want your horse out it is at your own risk as the hard ground will increase the risk of injury. Please advise.”
I asked for him to go out. Not many people did want their horses out – in the morning slot there was only 1 livery. They put out a pony to keep him company, but the pony decided that he needed to try to jump the fence so he came in and they put Drifter out in the field next to the 1 livery horse to be calm company. Yay extra turnout for Drifter!
So that was fine. Then when the afternoon slot came round it was time for his companion (S) to be put out with him. They did some galloping. The owner of S and a member of staff decided to get some pony nuts to distract them from their galloping.* When they returned a few minutes later S had D pinned in a corner and was beating him up.
They broke it up and got them both in, but D came in squeaking. Various staff members have described it as squeaking or screaming. All staff present hadn’t heard a horse make a noise like that before. Every few steps he’d squeak and raise his lip. They put him in his stable while they tried to reach me (I was unavailable) and he stood “funny” and trembled and rolled his eyes. They changed his rug and he squeaked some more as soon as they went near him. He was completely uninterested in his haynet.
Failing to reach me, every staff member agreed a vet was needed. They phoned D’s usual vet, who was not very close and tied up, so he said he would be a couple of hours.
Some time passed and the physio turned up as she had an appointment with D anyway. Obviously the staff explained the situation – that he clearly had severe pain but they weren’t sure where. They asked the physio to have a look at him walking to see if she could spot the problem. She agreed but said she wasn’t going to do anything more with him without the vet coming first.
So they got him out and walked him… and he was totally fine.
The vet came after that and did walking, trotups and a battery of flexion tests, all totally fine. I arrived just after the vet and agreed that he seemed perfectly normal.
The vet took a blood test in case there’d been some muscular event he should know about, but Drifter was definitely fine. He suggested keeping him in the next day, I think just so it would be easier for staff to notice if anything recurred, but otherwise business as usual.
The only thing we can think is that it was a combination of the existing gut issues and the attack by his companion. That either a bite or kick landed on his gut (there are a row of bite marks down his side between ribs and hip) or that the gut stimulation that would be normal for a horse getting beaten up was more than his already strained digestion could take. That would explain why the pain was so severe and then disappeared if a problem section of gut relaxed or gut contents moved on past the problem. According to the wisdom of the internet a colicing horse may well raise its lip a lot.
So, as he was fine, the vet left and the physio got to work. This was great because as well as him getting a (mostly) relaxing treatment, she was already going over most of him, so finding little injuries fitted in well. In terms of fresh injuries we found 1 bite to the face (skin missing in a small patch), a series of bites down one side, mostly just welts/bruising, but one again with skin missing (this through a heavy-weight turnout rug), a tiny cut on one back leg and a sore stifle on the other. In terms of her original purpose for being there, he was quite tight and sore in both withers (not saddle related) but everything else was not particuarly worth mentioning. It was interesting to see that his traditional stiffness at the back legs and pelvis was not really there – clearly the way we are working is good for that region. Considering that both back legs have been lame this year I’m really pleased to hear he’s not built up any stiffness by favouring one or the other.
We’re not going to separate D & S on the strength of this one fight. Whenever the fields are next OK for turnout they will be put out together and watched. They’ve been fine together since the summer – this is the first time there’s been even any tension to speak of. If there were spare fields and they could have one each that would be great but there aren’t so if they need to be split up other pairings will have to be changed and reworked.
I can’t believe what a roller-coaster ride he gave me though.
The next day I gently rode him (as recommended by the vet & physio) and he didn’t want to do anything at all, so we had the slowest walk in the world on the buckle of the reins. Then on Sunday we had a lesson booked, so we turned up, not knowing if I had a lesson-worthy horse, and from the get go he was forwards, working into my hands and moved beautifully without any hitches or wonkyness. We even cantered!
I’m starting to wonder if my horse has separation anxiety. Not from me or from another horse, but from the vet!
*Well meaning but mildly concerning because Hello? Have you forgotten that the vet has taken D off pony nuts because of his exploding bottom? Sigh. Maybe they weren’t going to give D any… but maybe he’s getting a lot of snacks he shouldn’t from people who know full well what the vet has said.