"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Poppy in Trouble (A Girl and her Pony)

A couple of years ago, I rescued a shetland mare named Rosie. I had stopped in on a whim at a horse sale in my neighborhood and there, among the fine Arabians and Pureblooded Thoroughbreds, was this dumpy little grey pony with a couple of half-grown foals at her side. The woman running the auction could only tell me that her name was Rosie, she was about eight years old, had been born and lived her life in a free-running and free-breeding herd on a large Eastern Washington ranch, that she was halter-broke but no more, and that she was mine for $50. Otherwise she was headed to the local auction, which is more or less a death sentence.

I bought her, on condition that she be delivered, since I don't own a trailer. For some time, I entertained fantasies of turning her into a riding pony (Pony Love), but fairly soon realized that Rosie was far too wild to ever be more than a pasture pet. Nonetheless, I was overjoyed at having a pony again for the first time since I was twelve years old, and at the possibility of giving my children the chance to know equine love.

Nobody told me - because I presume nobody knew - that Rosie was pregnant. The spring after she came to live with us, she gave birth to a beautiful chestnut filly with a wide white blaze whom we christened Poppy. Poppy has been a delight since the day she was born - at first awkward and adorable, and then amazing us with a rate of growth that quickly outstripped her dam and made us wonder just what the hell sort of equine giant Rosie had mated with. I have come to feel blessed by the chance to work with Poppy from her childhood (foal-hood?) and, if I am diligent, to provide my own children with the life-affirming relationship with a horse that I enjoyed as a child. There's a story for another day - but for now, let's just say that my relationship with a pony when I was six to twelve years old was one of the most fulfilling bonds I've ever known - even now I remember that relationship with a tenderness and love that I can't apply to any other relationship in my life.

That might sound odd. If so, substitute "dog" for "pony" and think of popular tales like "Old Yeller." A Boy and his Dog is a theme celebrated in American literature. The theme of a girl and her horse is less celebrated, but I assure you the bond is just as strong. I have plans for Poppy Pony, and those plans involve making available to my children the great love than can exist between a girl and her horse.

Not to mention, Poppy is just a total sweetheart. She has grown into a big strong pony some twelve hands high, sturdy, bright, affectionate, and willing. She is a deep, bright red with a somewhat curly hide; a bright eye, and a muscular body with a deep chest and a strong arched neck. She likes to lick and nibble like a puppy. She stands for the farrier, allows injections, and kets me lift all four of her feet. I personally adore her more than it feels seemly to say.

When the farrier came two weeks ago, he told me that Poppy had been into something: she had blood in all four of her toes and that's a big deal. He trimmed up her feet so as to put the least amount of pressure possible on her toes and told me to be on the lookout for any signs of pain - bobbing her head when she walked, for example, or general stiffness.

Foundering, or laminitis ( Laminitis Page) is caused almost exclusively by an overdose of rich feed like grain or apples. I have no idea how Poppy might have gained access to such rich feed - our goat and chicken food is kept locked securely in a separate barn. The only thing I can think of is that Homero's nieces, who were here for some six weeks and who loved to go visit the horses, may have made a habit of feeding Poppy large amounts of grain. If they did feed her too much, it's entirely my own fault for not laying down the ground rules. Also, the recent hard freeze may have some of the blame - even a healthy horse can acquire similar symptoms by running over hard, uneven ground. If Poppy had some laminitis caused by overfeeding and then spent a lot of time running around over the hard-frozen ground, she could be exhibiting severe symptoms from multiple causes.

Whatever the cause, Poppy now has a medium-severe case of laminitis, and has been visited by the vet and the farrier multiple times over the last few days. They gave her a set of hoof-pads made out of thick pink foam insulation strapped on with duct tape. I will take a picture, I promise. She looks entirely silly. If she is not substantially better (as measured by...?) within a couple of days, then the vet will be back to take X-rays of her hooves. I am giving her anti-inflammatories morning and evening and confining her to the soft-floored barn.

Wish me luck. Horsey people, please give advice. I love this pony beyond words, and I want to relive her suffering and preserve her usefulness both. Thank you -


Lilac Cottage Homestead said...

I'm so so sorry to hear about Poppy. I will have her and you in my prayers. I hope she will be her old self in no time.


Karen said...

So sorry to hear about Poppy. Recovery from laminitis can be a long haul, but does happen. Poppy is likely to need a restricted pasture going forward. Once a horse has foundered they are at an increased risk going forward.

You might want to start planning a turn out area now, as it is unlikely that she will be able to be allowed on spring pasture. Depending on the condition of the pasture and type of grasses, summer might be okay. If you get a fall flush of growth with the rains, the same restrictions as spring may apply. Here's an article about some of the research on grass http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/horsecare/1370/47863.html

Ponies are at higher risk of laminitis to begin with, so that may have played a role as well.

Articles from the AAEP http://www.aaep.org/health_articles_view.php?id=281 and http://www.olympus.net/personal/pvd/AAEP.html

As far as advice, it sounds like you're doing what needs to be done. If you can convince her to lay down some of the time, maybe by using thick bedding, it would be good.

I have dealt with a horse who foundered badly enough to need a hoof resection. Recovery took a while, but did happen. Because she's at home, you're in a better position than most if it should come to that. It's easier if you are right there for time reasons.

Best wishes Poppy!

Laura said...

As Karen said, ponies are, in general, more prone to founder. It can also be caused by the re-growing grass in the fall, which is higher in sugars than summer forage.

There are some studies that indicate that botox injections help mitigate the swelling of the laminae, which in turn leads to the coffin bone rotation. Also, icing her hooves will help with the swelling.

If you go to http://www.equisearch.com/
and search for founder or laminitis, they will have some really good articles and information.

I'm sorry to hear about Poppy. I'm picking up a quarter pony this weekend (if the weather cooperates). I'm already wondering if I'll have to put a grazing muzzle on her come spring...

Let me know how it works out - I'll be thinking good thoughts for you.

Dea-chan said...

Oh your poor pony! I hope she gets better...

When you were talking about the dog/boy and girl/pony sets, it made me think of all of those 50s/60s "girl stories" I read as a kid. "Blue Ribbons for Betsy" anyone? (There were probably 5 girl and her pony books that I had access to.)

keewee said...

I am not a horsey person, not ever having been around any, but your story touched my heart, I am an old softy when it comes to animals, just read my posts about the semi-tame rabbits I befriend and feed, anyhow I digress, I wish Poppy a speedy recovery, she is so special to you and I know how you feel about her.