Where to begin. I’ve been wanting to do this blog topic from the very beginning. So here it goes and read on through, this may well save your horse this winter.
This is she:
Lake Street Bryony. Bryony. Brian. Big Butt. Bitch Features. Cantankerous Old Cow.
AKA My Soul. Pre The Libster, obviously.
Brian was actually Jen’s horse. Bought as a 4 year old from the Lake Street Stud in Quedgely, Glos, this was your stereotypical psycho chestnut mare youngster.
When I left at 17 to go and train to become a riding instructor/professional poo shoveller, Jen focused on Millie, her true partner in crime and Bry enjoyed terrorising the students on our college courses run from our yard. I returned at 21 with Bella in tow. Now, I was still not an experienced rider, but I naively took the ride of Bry on (no one else would ride her because she didn’t like anyone) and being an inexperienced rider, it meant she had an easy life with me.
And so the Golden Age followed. This mare who would throw herself on the floor just getting her toes wet, refused to do dressage and would routinely throw a buck in mid air when I picked the wrong stride, carried me round team chasing, showjumping and making me feel like a million dollars one minute and questioning my capability when I fell off her over a cross pole the next. All those quirks, those things that she did achieve, she achieved with me and no one else. She picked me.
All was well in life. Which is always the time that you should press the ‘save’ button in life so you can always restart at that point again.
One afternoon in October 8 years ago, I went to lunge the cow. I noted her off hind was marginally, and I mean MARGINALLLY, filled. We are a family filled with experience of legs. This was barely noticeable with no scabs on her and no heat. I lunged her, cussing her as she floated across the school perfectly sound telling her that if she wanted to, if she ever felt in the mood to, she could actually do that movement with me on board as well. She and the rest of the yard was put to bed.
The following morning, we found our beautiful, cantankerous cow drifting in and out of consciousness within her stable. Her leg had filled up from the bottom all the way to the top. She had developed mud fever, which had funneled through directly into her blood system and given her sepsis, with injections twice a day – she was fighting for her life. Over the next following weeks her leg broke down, weeping fluid throughout the pores. She wasn’t responding to any antibiotics until the vet took a swab of the fluid to take a culture. Walking for ten minutes every hour, she had intensive care from us all. Hours spent, walking round and round the school. The time spent slowly trying to clean her leg as the hair fell out, praying that she wouldn’t kick any of us.
And the weird thing? Not once did I ever think I was going to lose her. Glint in her eye I guess. Or blind belief. Or stupid faith. Who knows. She never did kick anyone either, despite the pain she was in. She knew.
Two years ensued. Two years of slow graft of pure devotion from all of us. Special bandages, ridiculous antibiotics, steroids, scab picking, blue roll cleaning care. One month I was going through her leg once again with a fine tooth comb for the thousandth time. We were in a solid stable part a year on and I found it. The culprit. No bigger than the head of a pin. I pulled out a chewy, sinuous plug of scar tissue. The point of entry of the bacteria from the mud fever.
Yep. The scab was no bigger than the head of a pin.
We step by step get her back into work. It was a labour of love like no other, but she was determined and so are we as a family. Although I had to go round with a vets letter to explain her permanent big leg, we get out again. Hell – to finish off summer we went to Riding Camp! We go cross country again, we jump, we even do dressage! Well. Attempted. She gave me a leg yield but I wasn’t entirely sure whether it was her feeling sorry for me and finally giving me an inch when I had given her life. Either way, it was one of the best weekends of my life.
And as always, I forgot to press the ‘Save’ button. The following November she was ill again. With such a low immune system, she had picked up a stomach infection. Two weeks at the vet, she came home to me on November 12th, my birthday. I promised her I would get her stable sign changed to Queen B as long as she just bloody stayed with me. She tried ever so hard for four days. The glint had finally gone from her eye and on the evening of November the 16th, I sat in the middle of the school as my soul went cold in my lap.
I can’t say I will ever get over Bryony, but I have learnt a number of things.
There is nothing like a Chestnut mare. A horse is never just a horse. The difficult ones are always the best. And for the love of god, take Mud Fever seriously. However small the scab. Prevention is always better than Cure.
Oh, and final note. Tell them you love them every single day out loud. And if possible, remember to switch on the auto save within this game of life. Just on the off chance in a parallel universe, you get to reset back to your golden years of pure happiness.
As we can see from Jo’s touching story, mud fever is a very serious condition that we should do everything to prevent. We’ve gathered together a few items available on our site that you can use to protect your horse:
Robinson Animalintex Poultice – This can be administered as a hot wet poultice, cold wet poultice or a dry wound dressing. It should be applied after cleansing and drying the area, before being secured with a bandage or boot.
Horseware Hypocare Skin Care – This spray helps to sooth infected skin whilst also offering relief from scratching, stings and insect bites. It is perfect for mud fever as is can be used to clean and flush wounds whilst maintaining healthy and itch-free skin. As it is an anti-bacterial spray it mirrors the body’s immune system and has an optimal skin neautral pH of 5.5. It works by attacking the DNA and RNA of pathogens associated with bacterial, viral and fungal infections.
Woof Wear Mud Fever Turnout Boot – These boots are the perfect solution for mud fever prevention as they stop mud getting onto the legs all year round, sealing from the knee to the base of the heel. The waterproof, breathable fabric has a abrasion resistant Kevlar which protects the bulbs of the heels.
Carr & Day & Martin Protection Plus Antibacterial Salve – This antibacterial salve is a pink ointment with a citronella scent. It is the perfect solution for protecting and waterproofing wounds, acting as a natural barrier against mud fever.
Carr & Day & Martin Wound Cream – We suggest this cream for treating wounds, it’s advanced, scientific formula lets the skin breathe and heal ‘correctly’ in appropriate moist conditions. It helps to reduce the healing time and is very useful when treating cases of mud fever.