Happy, Healthy, & Horsey: Welcome to the TennesSeason of Abscesses

Here in this forum, I strive to provide upbeat, informative columns to help all of us become happier, healthier, and horsier. But sometimes, there’s serious news afoot. Verdant Tennessee valleys are found between ancient, hard-to-climb mountains, after all, and life’s ups-and-downs are no different.

As most everyone knows by now, this past week saw “TennesSea” hit by record-breaking rainfall. We endured, quite literally, a “once in a hundred years” rain event, and it all landed on already-saturated ground. The flooding has been rampant, deep, and deadly.

The folks of The Volunteer State are tough and resilient, so we will clean up, rebuild, and keep on rocky toppin’…

Personally, my farm, my critters, and I are blessed beyond measure. The upside of having to fill up a valley to create a level spot for a dressage arena (to the tune of six hundred and sixty tandem loads of dirt, followed by about a hundred loads of #10 rock, and that was just the beginning!) is that my home, barn, arena, storage buildings, and apiary all sit atop various hills and knolls, so a deluge is little cause for concern, other than trees crashing down as the soil gets too soaked to hold the roots anymore.

Normally, my farm is bone dry. Photos by Esther Roberts.

But, as my long-time vet, Dr. Eric Martin, likes to say, the soggy South is a prime climate for: (insert scary music here) abscesses.

I have some friends whose elite eventer has been battling an abscess for weeks upon weeks, due to all the rain we had in December and January. I feel for them and I hope the horse heals up quickly and completely.

Kaliwohi is a scruffy mustang, but this mustang mama’s heart skipped more than one beat yesterday morning when he greeted me at the barn on three legs. No blood, no obvious trauma. And absolutely no way was he gonna set his right hind anywhere near the ground. Even balancing on his toe was painful, and he would strike out repeatedly with his foot as if to say, “Ma! It hurrrrrts! Make it stooooop!”

Like any calm, rational, seasoned horsemama, I texted Eric: “Kaliwohi is on 3 legs! Maybe an abscess? Maybe a broken stifle?! Please come ASAP!”

And within a relatively short period of time, help arrived.

Using hoof testers, Doc located the primary ouchy point in Kiwi’s heel. But a bit of paring with the hoof knife did not track down the abscess. So, instead of carving exploratory holes in the sole of my horse’s foot, Doc opted for a more conservative approach. This, by the way, is one of the bazillion reasons why I’ve used this particular vet for over two decades – I appreciate and respect his holistic approach to healing.

Doc wrapped Kaliwohi’s foot in a poultice to try and encourage the abscess (if indeed it is that and not a bad stone bruise) to blow.

Once Kiwi was doped up, Doc Martin could manipulate his right hind and get a good look at the sole. Photos by Sarah Frances Smith.

The wet conditions have caused a few minor fissures in the white line, but nothing that indicates an abscess on the toe.

Step one of the poultice: a padded interior wrap, soaked in water.

Step two: vet wrap. (What would we do without that wonderful stuff?)

Step three: tape. Lots of tape. The first layer is duct tape; the outer layer is gorilla tape.

And now we wait. Friday morning, while this article is being published, I’ll be calling the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine to let Doc Martin know if Kaliwohi is weight bearing (which will indicate the pressure has been released) or if he’s still hobbling on three legs. I’ll let y’all know the outcome next week. At the moment of writing (Thursday evening), Kiwi is stalled, bored, and still on three legs. The good news – his stifle is just fine. #WorriedMamaMe

Also at the moment (Thursday evening), it’s raining again.

I’m gonna ask God if He could please turn off the spigot for a bit.

I’m gonna ask Webster’s Dictionary if we can respell “abscess” to “ABCS” — because surely such a painful condition deserves to be a four-letter word. #UrbanDictionaryNeedsHorseyTermsToo

And I’m gonna ask Joules if, along with my delightfully fun wet-weather bee boots, can they style some in size 0 for Kaliwohi.

Because if we’re gonna re-spell my home state to TennesSea, Kiwi’s gonna need galoshes.


Go Riding.

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