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The case of the missing horse hide

The case of the missing horse hide

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

When you become a horse owner, you quickly learn that one of the hats you’ll be wearing is that of a detective. How did my horse get out of his stall? Where is my horse’s fly mask? How did my horse end up in the next stall over with another horse? And sometimes, where did that gash come from? All of our horses at one point or another came back to the barn with some kind of wound that left us wondering how it happened. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why it’s a good idea to see them at least once a day, at feeding time or bringing them into the barn for the night. Even so, this morning while heading to Romeo’s stall to let him out of the barn for the day, I gasped enough to make him jump. The poor thing is missing a pretty big piece of skin on his forehead and also under his chin. First thing is first – treating the wound. It wasn’t bleeding much but it was dirty, probably from rolling or maybe just from dust. So we gently placed a halter on him and brought him out to the center aisle of the barn where we have cross ties. If you don’t have these in your barn, I strongly suggest adding them. Crossties are simple two long ties (straps or rope) with quick-release latches that meet the horse in the middle in a way that keeps the horse from being able to move from side to side or even back to front very much. More about that in another post. So we cross-tied Romeo and Mikki cleaned the wound with some antibacterial scrub. Romeo was a trooper, though he clearly didn’t care for it much. It probably stung. Then she dressed it with ichthammol, a thick antiseptic salve that does a good job of treating and protecting light wounds from getting dirty and infected. You really need to have a small tub of it around at all times. A few “good boy” treats and off he went to find new trouble.

Romeo's forehead injury
It looks worse here than it does in person. It’s not a deep wound.

So next up comes the detective work. As responsible horse owners, we must try to figure out what caused this problem. I realize horses seem to spend their lives trying to find new ways to kill themselves; they’re mischievous, it’s true. But we have to keep trying to avert disasters of all sizes. So we run down a list of suspects:

  • Something in his stall. Nails, gate bungs, etc.
  • Barbed wire fence. We still have some that needs replacing.
  • Pine trees. A large one has fallen in the pasture and needs removing.
  • Horse fight. Not likely, given the length and shape.
  • Old barn or fence. Sometimes used as a scratching post.

So we start in the barn. Romeo’s stall has a large gate so we checked for sharp bungs or edges and found none. I remembered taking photos of Romeo the day before and discovered this very same wound on him then, though for some reason it didn’t stand out then. So it may not have happened in his stall which leaves 7 acres or so of partially wooded property to review.

I’ll make a long story short by saying that we haven’t yet found out what caused the wound but some quick checking didn’t reveal any standouts. My guess is that he really wanted a piece of grass that was hard to get to and scraped his head on some old barbed wire (which we really have to replace with something more horse-friendly) or around a fallen pine tree that came down in a recent storm. But the fact remains that the case is still open and our detective skills, better with time and experience, are called upon often to solve horse mysteries like this.

What kind of mysteries do you have to solve that require your horse detective hat?

Caring for an Injured Hoof

Caring for an Injured Hoof

As I posted a couple of days ago, Moonshine got an owie. We still don’t know exactly how she did it, but she did a good job of it. We’ve been caring for it for almost a week now, and (knock on wood), it’s going okay. Per our farrier’s instructions, we washed it out, coated it with antibiotic ointment and tried to keep her in her stall for a few days. The last part didn’t go so well – she HATED it and didn’t care who knew. She was inside all day Tuesday and part of the day on Wednesday. We freed her Wednesday afternoon and let her out again on Thursday, since she was caterwauling so loudly and because the pasture seemed just as clean as her stall…maybe cleaner than after she’d been in long enough to refill it with poo. On Thursday afternoon I noted some white goop around the top of the wound and decided maybe she’d better stay in after all. So she was in her stall again on Friday and part of the day on Saturday. By 2:00 p.m. we couldn’t take the ruckus anymore – and were afraid the ASPCA may be called – so we freed her. She shot out of the barn-like a rocket. Poor Valentine, we think she may have given him what-for out on the back 40, for not hanging out at the barn with her.

Cracked hoof

So here’s what we’ve been doing, per advice from the farrier, our vet-assistant friend and a couple of nice people on Horse City: Every morning and evening, we spray out the wound really well with a hose (boy does she love that – especially since it’s icy-cold well water). We douse it with iodine spray and let it air-dry for a few minutes while we walk her around the lawn. As a bonus, she’s getting really good at obeying lead-rope signals because of this walking time! Then I slather on a wonderful substance called ichthamol (or ichthammol) – it looks and smells like tar, just not as thick. Then she’s free to go out to the pasture for the day or into her stall for the evening, as the case may be. We also observe her carefully for any limping (none; she’s not even favoring it, and actually galloped across the pasture today) and feel the area for heat (a sign of infection) and inspect for pus (ditto). The injury itself looks bad because the hoof is actually separated, but the wound seems to be healing nicely.

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