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Pony fights back to bright future after infection put her life at risk

A “tenacious” pony who spent five years undergoing treatment for a serious hoof condition that meant she was nearly put down has been discharged from hospital.

In 2014 10-year-old cob Audrey joined Redwings after she was rescued from “horrific” conditions at a site in Wales.

A spokesman for the charity said in January 2015 Audrey was found to be suffering from mild infection in her front hooves and was treated by the veterinary team.

“They used topical treatments to soothe the condition but just a few weeks later, Audrey was back before the vets with her feet looking much worse. It was then she was diagnosed with canker,” said the spokesman.

“Farriers were called to remove as much of the infected hoof tissue as possible, but the canker returned. In August 2015 Audrey underwent a general anaesthetic to strip back her hooves even further and her stay at the hospital began.”

Six months after her operation Audrey had to have more abnormal issue removed from one of her hooves.

“Sadly with all treatment options being exhausted, it was agreed in 2016 Audrey would be given a final summer to enjoy some peaceful turnout and then she would be put to sleep due to the impact her condition was having on her quality of life,” said the spokesman.

Redwings veterinary surgeon Sarah Prior said canker is a frustrating disease as some cases fail to respond to treatment.

“When we decided to give her one last summer we dressed her hooves every day, treated them with iodine, put her in protective boots and kept an eye on her. Then to our surprise, her condition started to stabilise,” said Ms Prior.

“We were very sad she was on her own as we like the horses to be in herds where they can exhibit their natural behaviours, but she seemed so content that it became difficult to justify putting her to sleep. If she had been miserable, then it probably would have been another story, but we decided to keep monitoring her and that’s what we continued to do.”

The spokesman said during Audrey’s time in the hospital, behaviour specialists worked closely with the veterinary team to help keep the mare relaxed during treatment and assessments, and provide advice on enrichment activities.

“In 2019 to everyone’s amazement the canker looked like it was starting to clear up. Over the next year, the veterinary team slowly began to withdraw from dressing Audrey’s hooves and started looking for some suitable friends for her,” said the spokesman.

“Audrey has been sharing a fence-line with prospective new field mates, fellow cobs Clarence and Fleetwood. All the signs are pointing towards positive friendships being formed.”

Audrey meeting new friends Clarence and Fleetwood

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Ms Prior said seeing Audrey in a paddock making new friends has brought a tear to many eyes.

“We honestly thought she may never leave the hospital as that was the only way we could keep on top of this terrible infection. She was such a long-term resident, she kind of became the hospital mascot. Everyone loved her so much, but we were desperate for her to have friends,” she said.

“Especially in the times we’re living in right now, knowing however long it’s taken that we’ve been able to turn her life around, and to see her so happy has been an incredible lift for everyone.”

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