Well, my first week as a horse owner took a difficult turn yesterday. Last night during feeding I noticed Duke favoring his front leg and I was beside myself trying to understand why. He was sound when I purchased him on Saturday, everything was fine. What happened? And how could it have happened so quickly. Lots of things crossed my mind, and I feared the worse. Last night I cried. Every horse owner understands four simple words...no feet, no horse.
First thing this morning I contacted a local vet, the best horse doctor in the region. I had already planned to have him do a 'new horse' exam this weekend. I met up with him this afternoon and he confirmed my worse fear, Duke had a minor case of laminitis. Unfortunately, Duke is an 'at risk' horse for laminitis according to the vet for several reasons. Fortunately, we caught it early enough that the prognosis for full recovery is very good. What puts Duke at risk is first his weight, he needs to lose 100 pounds. Second, he had a severe bout with it three years ago, which his prior owner fully disclosed to me long before I decided to purchase Duke. I've done a great deal of reading about laminitis since learning of Duke's history, and everything I read gave me hope that while it could recur again, it is preventable through careful diet management. And third, he's large boned. But it was neither of these reasons that brought it about this time. The vet believes stress is the reason this time; the stress of a new home and new owners. While Duke has outwardly taken the change in stride, internally it was another story. Horses are like that, especially a horse like Duke. I've watched him carefully every day for signs of stress, but he never exhibited any outward signs.
It was frustrating, to say the least. Duke can't have alfalfa hay because of the high concentration of protein in alfalfa (which caused the bout three years ago), so I searched everywhere to find him grass hay (it's in short supply). His prior owner also fed him sweet feed and beet pulp to supplement his grass only diet. But I've heard some unfavorable views on sweet feed and so after consulting my other horsey friends, decided against the sweet feed and pulp. The vet agreed Duke doesn't need the extra bulk at this time. In the end, one of the last things he said was he's never seen a horse with such a great disposition (even in the pain he was in) and my decision to purchase him was the right one. We have a friend who also recently purchased a horse (a quarter horse) and the same vet rejected the first three horses he considered buying. This vet will tell it straight and honest, he knows how much is at stake with these horses and their people.
So, from here treatment consists of: reducing Duke's daily food intake from 20 pounds down to 10 pounds (he's not going to be happy about that!), administering a dose of horsey aspirin twice daily, soaking his feet in ice cold water every day and 30 days stall rest. No riding, no exercise. So, photos of me riding Duke will have to wait.
It's been quite a week.
As for the new job, it's been hectic too. But in different ways. New job, new people...Duke's not the only one feeling the stress of adjusting to change. But it's going very well. It's a nice change not feeling constantly overwhelmed.
Tuesday, before the lameness reared it's ugly head, Sam took photos of me and Duke after I played with him in the round pen. During a break in lounging, Duke and I posed for one shot and somehow we both managed to close our eyes at the precise second Sam pressed the shutter. Like minds Duke and I....like minds.
One...two...three...close your eyes!
Hey, I see other horses over there! Let's go check 'em out!
Eyes open and forward this time. Notice the one ear turned toward me, a sign that his attention is focused on me.