Dreams Dashed Needlessly
Feb 17, 2012Dreams Dashed Needlesslyby Robert Koontz DVM
Bella Score was once a winning standardbred racehorse. On Saturday nights she would race under the lights. She could really strut under those lights. People would cheer, photographers would take pictures, and officials would drape her in flowers.
Those days of course are long gone. Bella Score was fast but she could not outrun time. Now Bella Score is a brood mare, and being a brood mare there is hope on the horizon. Bella Score was bred almost a year ago and as spring approaches the anticipation of her coming foal grows. Maybe she can produce a champion that will once again strut under the lights on a Saturday night.
Early on a chilly March morning a filly was born in the straw. She came into the world like all horses, gasping for those precious first breaths of air. She struggled to free herself from the womb, the umbilical cord, and the ammonic sack. These structures protected her and provided nutrition for the last 11 ½ months but now it was time to force herself free and start to grow into her destiny. Within minutes she was standing. Within hours she could nurse in the safety between Bella Score's hind legs.
When the sun broke the horizon the humans came into the Barn to get their first glimpse of the much anticipated foal. The filly was strong and healthy; she bore a striking resemblance to Bella Score. The humans would call her Bell after her mother but hopefully one day she would earn a prestigious name fit for a racehorse.
Bell started life on wobbly knees but soon she learned to run, and she was fast. Bell frolicked in the pasture under Bella Score's watchful eye. Bell raced the other foals, unknowingly preparing for the day she would race under the lights. The humans watched Bell, she was "put together right" and she almost always won the playful races. Perhaps she was going to be their champion.
Then one day she was racing along the fence, when she felt a sharp pain in her foot. Immediately she pulled up lame. Bell had never felt this kind of pain before. It hurt too much to put her front foot on the ground. Bell hobbled back to her mother using only three legs. It simply hurt too much to place weight on the injured foot.
Bella Score and Bell slowly made their way to the barn. When the sun was starting to set the humans finally entered the barn and noticed that Bell was lame. By this time the throbbing in her foot was almost unbearable. Bell had stepped on a wire. The misstep drove the wire through the bottom of her foot and up her front leg. Somehow the humans didn't realize that the pain was coming from the foot. They kept pressing on and manipulating her shoulder.
The decision was made to put Bell in a stall and see if her "shoulder" would heal. Had I been called that day, I may have been able to save the dream. I could have easily identified the foot as the source of lameness. With x-rays I would have identified the wire. Finally I could have treated the injury. I wasn't called. Bell suffered in excruciating pain for three months. The continual pounding in her foot, the inability to bear weight, and the unrelenting pain made the days frolicking in the pasture seem far away. Racing under the lights was inconceivable.
Three months later I walked into Bell's stall. She looked at me as another human that would not be able to help. At least this one knew the pain was coming from the foot she thought. Of course at this point it would be hard not to know the foot was involved. The misshapen foot was deformed and swollen. There were several holes leaking pus.
There was a large swollen "grapefruit" on the side of Bell's neck. When she lowered her head to eat her neck hurt almost as badly as her foot. The pain in her neck was the result of a single shot of penicillin given incorrectly by a neighbor, with a dirty needle. The shot was a pathetic attempt to treat infection. Soon her neck would be leaking pus along with her foot.
I quickly determined the cause of the lameness. X-rays revealed the wire, which I immediately removed. I surgically established drainage, and started Bell on painkillers and antibiotics. The damage however had been done. Three months of infection killed the dream. Bells coffin joint, pastern joint, coffin bone and pastern bone were all infected. We might be able to defeat the infection but Bell will never walk normally again.
Bell is a filly with great bloodlines. Maybe she can grow into a brood mare. Maybe the humans had learned something. Maybe they would be less apathetic next time. Maybe they would call for help sooner. Maybe Bell can produce a foal that will earn a prestigious name fit for a racehorse. Maybe Bell can produce a champion that will once again strut under the lights on a Saturday night.
If you would like information on how to correctly deal with a penetrating wound to the hoof, view our article on PENETRATING HOOF WOUNDS. If you would like to see how we successfully treated a horse with a penetrating wound to the foot, see this CASE STUDY.