I am keeping the vet in work all on my own

Darcy has been lame all year, and it just keeps getting worse

Real Life

23 Mar 2016

If you are the sort of person who enjoys tinkering with a classic car prone to myriad mechanical problems then you really should consider taking up thoroughbred horses as a hobby. After weeks of leg bandaging and foot poulticing, I am becoming a basket case.

But apparently there are people who enjoy this sort of thing. They prefer tinkering to riding. I presume they haven’t much appetite for speed, and therefore prefer to spend time with their horse while it is stationary in a confined space.

About twice a year, perhaps, they manage to get it to go right and so they enjoy a lovely Sunday afternoon out in the lanes, with people pipping them from behind as they make a holy show of themselves.

The horse then promptly breaks down and they happily confine it to quarters again to be tinkered with to their heart’s content. But it’s not for me. All that tinkering makes me want to eat my own head with frustration.

To recap: Darcy was going great guns in training as a budding point-to-pointer, or possibly hurdler if she showed any great burst of speed, and then one day she trod on a screw: a screw stuck in a small plank of wood left over from some fly-tipping on the common.

I could go on about the scourge of fly-tipping in Surrey by people I am not allowed to describe by the name they call themselves, but of course I won’t.

It would be pointless. The fact is, the rubbish was tipped, a leftover plank of wood with a screw protruding from it lay dormant in the mud after the council had supposedly cleared up, and the next day my mind-numbingly expensive, excrutiatingly sensitive horse stuck her delicate little back foot straight down on top of it and went hopping lame. When the trainer pulled the screw out the wound bled and looked clean, so poor Darcy was put on box rest for several weeks, until her foot was no longer sore.

But then, as any classic car owner knows, the process of getting one problem sorted triggered another.

Because she had been rested, she went stir-fry crazy when we took her out of the box. She hurtled around the yard bucking and rearing on the end of the rope as the stable lads tried to get her in and out of the walker. ‘I’m not sure I’m going to be able to get on,’ I said, watching the gymnastics.

In the end, the trainer suggested we put her in the sand school to let her blow off steam. And this she did, to the extent that she slammed her feet about so much she came back in even lamer than before.

More rest, with regular foot poulticing, and a week later she came sound again, was walked out on the common — and went hopping lame in front. The trainer rang and said, ‘It really has all gone wrong now.’ The left foreleg had swollen up. Possibly a tendon strain had been brewing or possibly it went bang during the sand school blow-out. Who knows?

The first scan showed a lot of swelling masking a tendon lesion of some kind. I took her home and started cold hosing and bandaging.

Every day, morning and night, I unbandaged the bad leg, cold-hosed for 20 minutes and rebandaged both front legs for support. I stood her in next to the pony Gracie, which made her much happier.

While I bandaged, I tied her up outside Gracie’s stall. The first few days they shared a hay net, munching happily. Then Gracie decided it was all very well having her sister home, but hay was hay. I turned my back to get more bandages and there was a high-pitched neigh. Gracie had bared her teeth at Darcy and Darcy had lunged sideways and banged her head on the stable rafter, slicing a piece of fur clean off, a millimetre above her eye.

‘That’s it!’ I screeched. ‘You two need to realise I’m at breaking point! No more injuries!’

The second scan a week later showed the injury in full: a rupture in the superficial digital flexor tendon. Not catastrophic, but bad enough, and putting her out of action for the rest of the year in all likelihood. More box rest for weeks or possibly months loomed. More bandaging, more cold hosing.

Oh, and the back foot needed dressing again because there was proud flesh forming, so I had my orders to scrub that with surgical spirit and wrap it every day.

As we walked back to his car, the vet turned round and saw my face. He put his arms round me. ‘Cheer up, girl,’ he said, as my grimy hand wiped away a tear.


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