I know that several times and with several horses, I have thought we were at the rainbow bridge. I know that my inexperience with serious equine issues has sometimes resulted in either a false alarm, or blissful ignorance about how serious an issue is. For example, I remember distinctly the first glimpse of Aggie Jo, when the trailer door opened, and there was this tiny, tiny scared little filly, and it was love. I could see she was thin and dirty and mistrustful, but I thought she was wonderful, and would be fine. I just saw right through the matted feces, protruding hip bones, and laminitic feet, out of ignorance. Geri, our hoof care chick, came to try and work on her soon after, to clip the long ‘three toes’ that her untreated hooves had grown into, try and help me get this tiny filly to overcome her fear of humans. She was very patient with both of us, trying to explain that the filly might never be sound, might never run without pain. She told me later that she cried on the way home. I didn’t realize how extreme Aggie was until later, and that ignorance probably helped me just steamroll through, and with time and care and training, we have a fat sassy, sound, young filly today.
When I first saw Jed, there was no denying the amount of pain he was in, the dire straights in which he was left. He was dumped at auction after being trashed by his owner, and no one wanted him. No one would help. His eyes pleaded for it, even as his body sagged. He was HUGE, and both his size and the degree of his obvious issues frightened me. I hoped someone else would step up; I did not feel ‘up to the task’. But no one else was there. Leaving him was not an option. Jed was purchased for $10 and taken home.
If you’re reading this, you likely know the journey we have walked with Jed, learning about founder and how to care for him. Getting x-rays to confirm his 19 degree rotation (which meant nothing to me at the time), learning that zero degrees is normal and 6 is considered bad. Proceeding anyway, because of the light in Jed’s eyes and the soft soul emerging. IN the months that followed, we learned that Jed was not trained to pick up his feet, and likely had little hoof care. We learned that bone density is the same in a pony or in a belgian, therefore his recovery was more difficult because of the increased pressure on the compromised feet. We looked at the new x-rays seven months later, which showed both good and bad developments; his rotation had decreased to 10 or 11 degrees, which was wonderful, but his coffin bones were disintegrating under the weight of the horse. The front line, which should have appeared straight, was curved in, like a slipper foot. While practitioners disagree on a lot, everyone agrees that you cannot re-grow bone. While what he had remaining ‘could’ be enough, more change needed to happen, and fast, if he would have a chance.
We purchased a sling and tried to elevate him with that, to access the underside of his feet. But Jed didn’t understand how to lean into it, and his pain was so great in his feet that it was difficult for Geri to even trim. Our work was helping but time was taking it’s toll. Jed was now abscessing again (which, for laymen, means that the infection inside his foot needs to find a way out, and so it pushes through the very hoof wall. Yes it hurts as much as it sounds).
The sad fact is, most of him is healthy, but his hoof isn’t. It’s dying. The blood supply was likely crushed when he foundered, back on the amish farm.
The saying is, ‘no hoof, no horse’ and it’s true.
Jed is on increased pain management now, and he is being x-rayed again on Friday. Additional hoist equipment might arrive by then, but it may not matter. His right front hoof has long ‘slits’ now, at the coronet band, trying to still drain. It’s hot, and the drainage smells of infection. The hoof material that has grown in looks awful. The hoof is trying to come back but isn’t having great success. His left foot is bearing the bulk of his weight, and actually looks worse in the xrays because of this increased effort; a condition known as ‘support limb laminitis’, or, ‘why can’t I sit down because standing on one foot hurts like hell?’.
He has been soaked a bit, which he tolerates. I cannot tell if it helps, but it doesn’t hurt, and is one of the few things we can offer him.
A friend wrote this to me yesterday; “some of these wonderful creatures have circles of life smaller than others, but by no means any less significant. The quality of life and the prospects for the future must be a guide, when we make that choice to go forward with a care plan or release them into the spirit world.”
I am wrong a lot and I hope that this is one of those times. But I wanted to share where we are at today, and what I am struggling with; Jed is happy, limping around and eating, enjoying being loved. How much longer that will continue is really the question.
Photo from March, after Jed had been at RF for a week, mostly laying down the entire time. He asked to go for a walk. Life affirming, it was.