Commander’s having a go-round with laminitis. Yep, my previously foundered horse is in danger of it happening again. And I was being so careful about the spring grass!
Last year, with a slow, cautious introduction process, Commander adjusted to grazing without any problem, went through summer and fall living happily on his fields, and was sound enough, in fact, to go barefoot for a couple of months toward the end of that time, till the ground froze hard and he needed the extra buffer of front shoes.
So this year, while always mindful that Commander would require more caution than the other horses, I felt comfortable getting him onto grass, first for brief times on the boys’ near paddock, gradually increasing their grazing time till they were doing fine out there for an hour and a half, until the grass there was grazed down to nubbins. At that point I opened the gate to the field – only for a few minutes at first; most of their grass time was still in the paddock. Over weeks the field time edged up to 20 or 30 minutes. It was about the same schedule I’d followed the year before with no problem.
This year, though, there’s a problem. Was my timing off? Is the grass, for whatever reason of sun/rain/temperature, richer than last spring’s? Is now-21-year-old Commander’s metabolism altering as he ages? I dunno, but....
On May 7th I took a picture of the two boys galloping gaily out to their paddock, a sight I've been seeing every day since I started the incremental process of getting them adapted to grazing.
But in the last few days Commander, I noticed, was no longer dashing out; he was stopping to eat almost as soon as he got through the gate. And yet, released from the paddock into the field, or called in from it for his measly two cups of daily grain, he could and would run with enthusiasm. Walking around as he grazed, or back in the run-in dry lot, he seemed all right. Then yesterday he trotted in instead of running, and I thought he looked just a tiny bit, well, not quite right in front, especially on the hardness of the run-in apron. So I called the vet’s office and made an appointment for a Monday checkup.
Today I arrived, went to let the boys out, took one look at how Commander was moving, emitted some expletives, and dashed back to my car for my cellphone. The vet arrived within the hour, checked him over, and confirmed that he’s having a laminitis flareup. On the plus side: the palpable heat in his feet wasn’t too bad and he wasn’t rocked back on his hindquarters in the classic founder stance; there was no sign that his soles were in immediate danger of being penetrated; and as soon as Kelly Vetwrapped thick foam pads on his front feet he looked more comfortable. In fact, when I led him up the graveled driveway to the barn to start him on stall rest, he walked easily, with hardly any suggestion of pain in his front feet. By the time I left the barn, an hour or so after the vet had departed, Commander was moving about his stall looking darn near normal (or as normal as a horse can look with wrappings reminiscent of clown shoes on his front feet).
He got a shot of Banamine for immediate relief, and I got medicines and instructions for him: Three days of bute twice a day, three days of bute once a day, then off the bute and recheck by Kelly a week from Monday. Daily dose of Thyro-L on the premise that we could be dealing with insulin resistance in my old man. Stall rest for now (which I’d have to do in any case with several days of off-and-on rain ahead of us, to save his foot wrappings). Pick up another set of pads and wrappings on Monday from the office with the expectation I’ll have to rewrap him at least once before his recheck. And of course, if he takes a turn for the worse, call the vet! My farrier’s been alerted and stands ready to do whatever corrective shoeing may be required.
I’m cautiously optimistic it’s mild enough and we’ve caught it soon enough to stave off any serious developments. I daresay if Kelly thought we were facing an immediately dire situation she wouldn’t have scheduled his recheck so far out. The stall rest is a double bummer, since he and Ben are so bonded that leaving Ben out in the run-in while Commander’s in the barn would throw the Morgan into a frenzy of inconsolable screaming, stall-spinning grief and terror, and he really doesn’t need to be stressed out like that right now. Ben would be upset, too. But Ben likes being in his stall, and the stalls themselves are huge and airy, so it’s not too bad for them. I just get to clean mass quantities of dirty stall bedding for the next week-plus, sigh. At least getting the medications into Commander is easy-peasy; this afternoon I mixed the powders along with his regular supplements into a scant cup of his senior feed and he inhaled the lot, then licked the bucket clean.
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm............... It’s quarter of 10:00; time for me to run over to the barn for another dose of bute, a stall picking, and a refreshing of hay and water for the night. Guess I’ll save this draft, go see what’s what, and add an update before I ship it out.
Woohooo!!! He looks MAHHHHHHHHVELOUS!
No, seriously, when I got there he was lying down, but got up for a (low-glycemic flaxseed) cookie and moved easily to come to me for it. I led him into an untenanted stall across the aisle so I could clean his mess – and he strode right out as if nothing was wrong! In that stall he walked around vigorously, checking it out; when returned to his own picked-out stall he stepped right out, pivoted on his front feet for halter removal without a trace of discomfort, and by golly! If I hadn’t seen him a few hours before I would never guess he was having a bout of laminitis. He scarfed down his evening’s bute dose in a handful of grain and a handful of moistened bran, leaving no trace of its passing.
It’s been about seven hours since his Banamine shot; six or so since his first dose of bute; while he does have drugs aboard, I have to think that this freedom of movement is a very good sign. Hopefully he will still be looking good in another 12 hours, when next I see him tomorrow morning.