NANCY, a 12hh flea-bitten grey Welsh Mountain cross (foaled 1994), is an eight-year-old boy’s Pony Club pony. With her young jockey Charlie she tackles hacking, jumping, gymkhana games, dressage, cross country and the occasional show with equal enthusiasm. Although getting on in years she is fit, energetic and ordinarily sound.
IN the spring of 2013, after a particularly wet and cold winter in which Nancy was, by her owner’s admission, “ridden less frequently than might be considered ideal”, she attended a Pony Club show. There she helped to scoop a haul of rosettes for Charlie over the course of quite a long day. She was sound and clearly very happy to be out and about.
However, the following Tuesday, at the Pony Club’s next rally, Nancy was hopping lame in the first lesson of the day. Once it was clear she was not going to come sound after a short period of rest and some ‘phenylbutazone’ (Bute), her owner, Tilly, took her directly to Hook Norton vets where she was examined and x-rayed. The x-rays were reviewed by vets and sent to farrier Chris Selwyn for his consideration.
The treatment plan
THE vet concluded that the pain was most likely caused by bruising to the sole with the caveat that an abscess could develop secondary to the bruising. Warm poultices, changed twice daily, and appropriate doses of Bute were prescribed to ease the bruising and draw any abscess that may develop down and out through the sole of the foot.
Both the vet and farrier had warned that if Nancy were to develop an abscess, the pony could become a lot lamer before she would improve but this was expected due to the build-up of pressure within the foot.
Giving Nancy Bute at the first sign of pain, though done with the best of intentions, may in fact have slowed the rate at which the abscess emerged, causing it to travel up and out through the coronary band, following the path of least resistance. Bute can reduce the natural inflammatory process, which may enable an abscess to erupt at the point of least resistance. Veterinary advice should be sought before administering any prescription drugs.
On this occasion, Bute was prescribed by the vet because her earliest suspicion was that Nancy’s pain was caused by bruising, as there was no evidence on the sole or white line of an entry point for the infection. Had they seen evidence of this kind, Bute would not have necessarily been prescribed.
After about a week of warm poulticing, the abscess burst through Nancy’s coronary band, adding to her pain. Following a couple more days of warm poulticing to draw the infection out, a dry poultice was recommended. However she remained lame despite the abscess having burst out.
A discussion then took place as to whether to put Nancy on a course of antibiotics. The vet cautioned that there was a risk of the infection becoming more localised if the abscess became sealed off and therefore not penetrable by the antibiotics – and then the abscess could flair up further down the line. However, because the abscess continued to drain and there was some filling to her distal limb, a course of antibiotics was warranted to help resolve the infection.
Seeking a second opinion
BECAUSE there was some discharge still from the coronary band, filling in the lower leg and continued lameness, further poulticing was recommended. Still Nancy remained lame so Andrea sought a second opinion from another vet who suggested that although antibiotics may not work, they could do and so it was worth a try at this stage. His view was that as the abscess had burst out, it was extremely unlikely that this would seal the abscess.
Eager to ease Nancy’s pain, owner Tilly decided to request antibiotics and Hook Norton Vets put her on a five-day course. Tilly also applied Manuka Honey to help the wound heal.
SOON after this, Nancy became sound, and began light work beginning with walking on as soft a ground as possible, keeping a careful watch for any ‘unlevelness’. Charlie moved her up through her paces, increasing her workload once they were confident she was remaining sound. Thankfully by early August, Nancy was once again fit and ready to go to Pony Club summer camp.
A hoof wall defect
NANCY remained sound throughout the summer but approximately six months after the abscess was first diagnosed, a defect in her hoof wall due to the disruption at the coronary band emerged. This ridge had grown down the hoof wall and caused it to crack two thirds of the way down.
Tilly called her farrier who cut back the entire area of cracked hoof. Nancy remained sound so the only treatment recommended was to keep it as clean and dry as possible and soak it in a salt bath twice a day.
Nine months from onset, the hoof has now ground down almost fully, and happily, she remains sound although, given the extremely wet winter conditions, she is brought in nightly to give the hoof the chance to dry out properly.
Costs and contacts
The total cost of vet’s (including x-rays and antibiotics) and farrier’s fees was around £240.00.
Vets: Hook Norton Veterinary Group (01608) 730 085
Farrier: Chris Selwyn, Chipping Norton (07980)148 847
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