Confession: I’m worried sick because pony has a skin infection.
Like many animal lovers, I am more comfortable being ill or injured than seeing my horse or dog in pain. There is something so heart-wrenching about watching your pet suffer and not feeling like you are doing enough.
I hadn’t seen Ferrous in three days when I went to get him in the paddock on Monday. I was looking forward to a beautiful week of spring weather and enjoying some quality time with my guy. Unfortunately, plans change as they tend to do. He walked up to me in the field, just sweet as can be. He is normally very easy to catch, standing nicely for me, but now that we’ve been doing some liberty work and using treats for training, he comes when called. Mostly.
We walked back to the barn and I retrieved all my tack, then started to groom him. Immediately, I knew something was off. His face had crusty scabs and he was losing hair in places. I did a quick body scan and found quite a few ticks on him. Plans for my ride were scrapped and it was time to do some maintenance work. Using a shedding tool and my hands to detect the ticks, I picked them out one by one and sprayed his entire body with tick repellent. I confess that last year the tick’s weren’t bad in his paddock so I didn’t think to start preparing so early. My mistake. With the mostly mild winter and a lot of rain, these parasites are out in full force.
I was worried. I didn’t like the look of Ferrous’s face but assumed it was a poor reaction to the bites. So we took a quick little ride around the ring and then down to the other barn.
Ferrous was stiff, not grumpy at all, and not excited to go for a walk like he usually is. Normally he is ears forward, marching along, and wanting to be in first place. But instead, his ears were relaxed and he plodded along behind his friend.
Totally abnormal. Lovely, as I am working at getting him relaxed on the trail, but not himself.
Then I took his bridle off, and some of the hair around his browband came with it, and I wanted to cry. I immediately asked my trainer to look at him and even she was shocked at the extent of his face. She had never seen anything like it.
I took her advice and washed his face (it was too cold to wash all of him) and put on some antimicrobial cream from Zymox that had healed his cut during the summer. He was so tired of me messing with his face, and was incredibly itchy. My stomach was in complete knots. I immediately contacted the vet and asked her to come out and look at him.
Someone was looking out for me because she had a barn call at Lancaster for spring shots the next morning. I barely slept and as soon as I dropped the girls at school I went to the barn. Ferrous greeted me from his stall with a nicker, but I wanted to vomit. Some of his scabs were now missing but his face was oozing and weepy.
Luckily the vet was right on time, and she gave him a thorough exam. Her prognosis, probably a bacteria or fungus. I asked her if it could be a reaction from an insect bite, mentioning the ticks, but she had never seen a response like this before. She prescribed EquiShield medicated shampoo and salve once daily for one week then every other day for the following week. We would only use an internal antibiotic if we didn’t see improvement within a few days or he worsened. Oh my goodness, I really hope he gets better.
So what does a good horse owner do? I immediately run to the store for gloves, gauze, and proceed to bathe his face as directed. Ferrous used to be incredibly head shy but he is much better now. However, he is uncomfortable and frankly, over it. So on the cross ties, I had to coax him forward to me, keep his head down, and distract him with occasional treats. Luckily he will do almost anything for a treat! That does make things easier, but it was frustrating. I even had to chop off his forelock to keep him from getting the medication in his eyes and also spreading it to other areas.
After, I took him into the outdoor arena to run around and get some exercise because the vet thought it might be good to keep him separate for a day or two in case he was contagious. She didn’t think he was, but better safe than sorry. Only, the barn owner has a number of horses on trial, so there were no quarantine pens or paddocks available for us to use. Thus, the ring and supervised play.
Oh boy, did he get excited then! I tried to get video but I needed my hands, he was full on. Horses in three paddocks surrounding him, but unable to say hello he trotted around with his tail in the air. It was hilarious and quite good to see him still have energy. Until I realized that I made a mistake. I spent 30 minutes cleaning and treating his face, only to watch him drop down and roll in the dirt!!!!
I ran over and got him up but not before he managed to get dirt on his salve. Oh well, hopefully, it made him feel better because he now will be allowed to run around FIRST, then bathed.
My feeling in my gut is this is a reaction to the tick bites rather than anything more sinister. If this begins to clear and I can keep these parasites off of him then hopefully we will be in good shape. In the meantime, I’m buying out the first aid aisle and hovering over him. I even purchased a girth cover and gave his halter something soft and easily sanitized when I do have to put it on him. For the most part, no halter or bridles for awhile.
I still can’t eat with worry. I’m constantly worried if he is itchy, sore, going to get Lyme disease, missing his friends, etc. This is the first time my pony has had anything wrong with him under my watch, and it is KILLING me. It’s only been 24 hours and I’m exhausted.
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