Laminitis. What a horrible thing. Just 4 months ago I had heard of it but had never given it much thought as it didn’t affect me since I owned a large Clydesdale mare, it is just a pony thing isn’t it?
I’m sure the last thing you want to hear is another sob story about a wonderful horse that has been put down for some reason or another. It’s sweet to read all these articles about wonderful horses who were amazing and special and had quirky personalities that made them unique. But they never really hit home to me. I had never lost a horse myself, so how could I know what it would be like?
That all changed about 3 weeks ago.
What a shock to have to make this decision. Do I keep going in the hope of one small chance that might save her? Or give in to the fact she’s in pain and decide she’s better off in peace? I think we all get a bit selfish and are horrified at the thought of not having our beautiful animal around any more. But it’s not the same animal any more is it? It’s lost forever when it’s in chronic pain, when it’s not fixable or when there is nothing more that can be done.
Bella was my Clydesdale mare and my best friend. She used to stand half way in my kitchen and I would feed her treats out of the fridge. She grazed on the lawn while I washed the dishes and she never wandered off. Three of us used to get on her and ride her around. She taught several children to ride and never put a foot wrong. She was special. Quiet, loving, sweet. If I had a bad day I would go out and sit with her for hours and she would stand there with me. If it rained I sat under her. She never moved.
Bella and I at the beach - We had so much fun together
Bella eating lunch on the lawn - She never went anywhere!
I am sure most of you can relate to these sweet memories. Most of us have a special friend we know is unique, irreplaceable and different. A friend we have a special bond, one that most wouldn’t understand…..
I lost her 3 weeks ago. I made the decision to take the light out of her eyes and it’s still haunting me.
2 years ago I put this beautiful mare in foal to a lovely stallion thinking “well she’s just too nice not to breed from” as we all do when we have a lovely mare (who we don’t need to be riding)
I had bred her the year before and got a lovely colt from her. I had no problems in foaling her and she was a very happy Mum.
Bella and my wee colt Mighty
Mighty standing in my driveway
Mighty in the long grass as a wee baby
I wanted a filly so reluctantly sold my lovely boy (you just can’t keep them all as they say) and bred again in the hopes of a filly! I used the same sire as Mighty was a very nice looking boy.
After much mucking around we finally got her back in foal again! The first time she had taken straight away (I should have known this was a bad sign).
The pregnancy went well with no issues. About a week or so before her due date I put a foaling alarm on her. I had this fear she wouldn’t lay down when she gave birth so each night every hour I was out there checking on her. She got quite used to me lifting her tail up and peering up there to see if anything was amiss. I was determined not to miss the show!
One morning around her due date she decided it was time. It was around 9am I noticed she was turning in the paddock like she was going to roll and looking very uncomfortable. Upon closer inspection I noticed a pair of little wee hoofs emerging then disappearing again. I just couldn’t believe it. I ran out to the paddock in my work clothes in the pouring rain to inspect what was going on. I had never done this before by myself so I called my friend who talked me though it. (I was fully prepared and had had everything I would need in case of emergency but when the time came I just couldn’t quite keep calm. I was just so excited!) But before I rang her, I frantically rang the vet who patiently told me she probably wasn’t needed but would come out anyway. After much “what do I do, what do I do” on the phone to my friend, my lovely baby slid out rather quickly (all under 10 minutes or so) and was on the ground looking thoroughly confused and very icky! I went over quietly and pulled the placenta off (it’s really strong and very slippery, much to my surprise!) and gave her a wee rub down. I need to remind you I’m still in my work clothes and there is torrential rain. This baby did not pick a good time to come into the world.
Bella got up and looked very pleased with her new baby and was licking it and nickering away to it. I knew already she was a good Mum as she did a perfect job with Mighty. I lifted up this wee baby’s tail and low and behold it was a filly. I ran around yelling and crying, it’s a girl! It’s a girl.
The baby was up by this point and swaying a wee bit but looking for the milk bar. She was cute as a button and I was thrilled. She was healthy, nothing was out of place. So again I had a nice healthy baby. All was well in the world.
The vet arrived at this point and little did I know at this point but Bella was doomed from here on.
The vet checked over the new baby and Bella. Bella still had part of her placenta in, it was half hanging out. The vet seemed quite happy that mummy and baby were well. “I’ll come back in a few hours and give her some oxytosin if that placenta hasn’t come out.” Why can’t you just pull it out” I asked stupidly? “Well it could tear the uterus and cause internal bleeding” said the vet patiently. “Oh” I said. “Ok, I will let you know if it doesn’t come out on its own.” “They usually come away on their own shortly after so don’t worry” she said.” She did recommend I get a wee calf cover or something on my new baby as it was still pouring and it wasn’t the warmest of days. “Right” I thought. Well I can do that and jumped into the car and zoomed up to the local rural store and got her a wee neon blue calf cover.
Angel sporting her wee calf cover
I must have looked a treat in the store soaking, muddy and probably a bit bloody in office clothes. What can I say, I don’t really care, I had a new baby.
I zoomed back still really excited about my latest addition to my family. I went out in the paddock and got her fancy calf cover on and both mummy and baby seemed very happy. I decided enough was enough and I had to go in the house and at least have a shower and get some dry clothes on. Mummy and baby needed some time together.
I went out an hour later. Hmmm placenta is still hanging out. “I’ll just give it a bit more time….”
Another hour later. Hmmm it’s still in. Right. Text the vet. “Please com bk out. PL still in” The Vet came back and gave Bella the oxytosin injection and a shot of antibiotics (just in-case). “Give this a few hours to work” If it doesn’t let me know and I will come back and give her another injection.
After a few more vet visits, the bloody placenta was STILL in. I had no idea how serious this was. The vet the following day tied weights to it to get it out. It finally came out around 24 hours later. Great.
Serious uterus infection set it even though she had been given antibiotics. This was the beginning of all the horror which was to follow…. She ended up on hard core antibiotics and needed to have her uterus cleaned out once daily. The vet had suddenly turned very solemn and said we need to keep a very close eye on this. No problem I thought. It’s an infection. Clean it out, give her antibiotics and she will be right as rain. Wrong.
Things went from bad to worse when she’s started to develop mild laminitis. About 3 days in the vet said I’m getting quite worried here as Laminitis can set in and become very serious. Laminitis???? How the heck can she get laminitis from a uterus infection???? Well the vet explained… Any serious infection or shock to the horses system can give a horse laminitis. Colic, diarrhea, severe injury, infection… It’s not just grass. Wow I thought, I never knew that and I have been around horses all my life! I still didn’t really know much about laminitis. I just knew it was bad, but not that bad and it can be fixed, right? Wrong again.
“Ok. Now what?” I thought. My vet recommended I send her to a clinic with the facilities to house her and deal with her uterus infection and now laminitis…
So I loaded Mum and baby on to the truck, took them to the clinic not really realizing how serious this was. I was worried but confident she would recover….. How could I lose Bella? She was practically invincible. I had had this horse for 3 years. She never cost me a thing. Feet like rock, always nice and fat, healthy. Never did anything stupid….I had visions of her growing old and gray in the paddock. I had even promised her I would keep her until she died! She would never be sold.
After 5 days at the clinic getting cleaned and given antibiotics they x-rayed her feet and sent her back to me. Great! Shes on the mend. But why x-ray her feet? I wondered. It was at that point the vet told me due to her laminitis her pedal bones could rotate. Goodness I thought. That sounds bad…. Well there was no rotation so it’s all ok.
Off home we went. Back into the paddock… Hmmm isn’t laminitis caused by grass or affected by grass?? I put this question to my vet…. “Her laminitis was caused by a severe infection. She should be ok on grass”. This didn’t feel right to me but off into paddock she went.
A few weeks passed. Her infection was gone but her laminitis was not. One Saturday morning I went out to check on them. She was walking very funny in the back end like she had stringhalt or something. This is not good. I ran my friend Nicky and didn’t even ask if I could bring my horse to her place. I just announced I was coming. I needed her stable to keep Bella off the grass and told her what happened. “Goodness” she said. Yep just bring them around.
This was the last truck ride Bella would take. I think this was the beginning of my complete education on Laminitis. What a nightmare…….
Final chapter to come soon….