I turned Lucy out in the back the other day. Sunshine had dried it out for the most part, and while there wasn't a lot of grass, there was some for the nibbling, and Lord knows Lucy could use the extra feed. Long backed girl that she is, it will be some time before she's carrying enough pounds to make her look even lean...she's just downright skinny at the moment.
I'd been trying to quench the excitement I'd felt growing within me. Lucy had done so well on the bull that I'd begun to contemplate finding a new home for one of the other horses. But who to give up? It wasn't an easy choice. Could I find someone to foster Tika? That would be difficult, though in all honesty, it would make the most sense. Neither Flirt or Oz fits the job description I'm looking for; Oz is just a bit too big and lumbering, and while Flirt is a lovely mover, there's nothing quick and catty about her. Tika is the only of the three who moves remotely like I want a cowhorse to move, but of course we're back to it being Tika, and that just isn't going to happen.
Lucy had about a week off, doing nothing but eat, when I decided I'd haul her along with me to the arena for a little bitty ride. I didn't want to burn too many calories when I'm trying to pack them on, but what would a 15 minute ride hurt? Just a few circles and stops. Nothing else. I loaded both her and Oz and off we went.
I had Lucy saddled and climbed on board. We walked and did a little bending and giving of the rib cage, then I asked for the trot. Hmmm...what's that? It didn't feel quite right. Not overly wrong, just not quite right. We walked again, and the feeling went away. But it was definitely there, if ever so faint, at the trot. I sighed and unsaddled her, feeling for heat of which I found none, and moved on to Oz.
Lucy was given a day off, and she played hard when turned out, showing no sign of lameness. That is, of course, until I went out to halter her 2 days later. I could see her head bobbing as she trotted up to the gate. Putting the halter on, I led her to my sandy round pen and asked her to trot at the end of the lead. I didn't see any discomfort, so I loaded her into the trailer and off to the arena we went, where she walked soundly across the footing toward the round pen nestled near the corner.
I glanced down and backward at Lucy's legs and feet as we traveled, and something caught my eye. What was that lump? I stopped and reached down. A hard knot was on the outside left of Lucy's coronet band, no heat, not soft. Lucy didn't seem to mind my pushing and prodding, so I continued to the round pen where I asked her to trot while I watched her travel.
Lame. Her head was bobbing and there was no doubt it was from the left leg. She didn't have any trouble swinging it forward and using her shoulder, so I figured it had to be the lump that was giving us trouble.
The following day a farrier was at the Cowboy's, so I hauled Lucy down for a look see. In the meantime, the night before, I'd done some research and came across two possibilities; ringbone or sidebone. Since I'd never dealt with either, I hoped the farrier and the Cowboy could give me a little insight.
The farrier said he was sure that it was sidebone. Of course, xrays would tell us for sure, but he had a client with a horse who had it, and it looked and felt the same. Lucy was a bit young, he said, but he would bet on it being sidebone.
The Cowboy looked at me, and I didn't even need to hear the words. "You'd better find her another home, Trace," he said, knowing I wasn't wanting to hear what he was saying. "It's not the forward motion, it's the turning that hurts them. Bugger...I know you kinda liked this one."
The rest of the morning was a blur, most likely due to the tears I was fighting back. I left Lucy there. A second farrier was coming down tomorrow. Never hurts to have a second opinion, right?
I called the vet that afternoon to find out about the possibility of xrays. I was told they'd want to do a nerve block first, to determine that was the actual cause of the lameness. Then after that, they'd do xrays. He rattled off the costs of farm calls and office calls and fees for procedures associated with Lucy's knot. I mentally tabulated it in my head, landing on the magic number of $500. Sigh...not exactly in the budget after all of Flirt's escapades last fall and the recent visit from the dentist. And in reality, all I needed was to have it confirmed that it was, indeed, sidebone. Lameness aside, from what I was reading all afternoon, Lucy didn't have a shot at any hard work in the future.
The following day, farrier #2 showed up. Indeed, he said, it was sidebone. He'd seen it in a lot of draft horses, but was surprised to see it in my four year old mustang. He'd just seen her 3 weeks ago when he trimmed her, and said it hadn't been exposed then (whew! I'd wondered if I'd just not noticed it?), and that the stress of the work I'd done the week before must have brought it to the surface. He also said not to give up on her as a riding horse...but again, light work.
My heart came crashing down. All that potential...those dreams of finding the mustang who may be competitive in the cutting arena...poof. Gone in an instant. I hadn't realized just how excited I'd been until that moment. I allowed myself to weep for my loss of a mare who'd captured my heart the remainder of the afternoon, but then reminded myself that, with the right care, Lucy would still have a productive life with the right home. She would still be able to go for nice, leisurely rides down the trail with someone who didn't want to chase cows or ribbons or trophies. There are those people out there, yes? I need one for Lucy.