What do you mean, what Oscar?
The Oscar for Best Abscess.
What? You never heard of it? I may be simply an adequate rider, but I am our barn’s resident AQ. I am The Abscess Queen. We all have to excel at something…? (Too bad it’s not riding.)
I lunged Tiny. I was niggled by a slight unevenness behind in the way he was traveling. He wasn’t lame, or noticeably off: he was just…wrong. I called Lilly over. She said “Oh geeze, he looks okay to me, but you’re better at seeing subtle? I can see he’s not using himself behind. What’s catching you?”
“Well first, I might be wrong…what do you think?”, I say, “His right hip doesn’t look like rising and falling evenly, if you look at his hips on a level plane? His right hind isn’t tracking up all the way?”
We look at each other. Not tracking up could be any number of things, including laziness, but the uneven use of his hips suggests he’s landing funny on that hoof. We both know what the most likely culprit of landing funny on that hoof: it hurts. Sure enough, after taking hoof temperatures, that one is noticeably warmer.
“I’ll get the kettle”, I say. “Got it covered.” Lilly returns to Ruby, and continues her warm up.
While the kettle is set to boil with surgical tweezers inside, I get the epsom salts, betadine, diapers, VetWrap, packing goo, duct tape and his draft-sized Davis boot. Tiny is so used the program, he yawns in the cross ties. To make sure I understand which hoof needs help, he lifts his rear leg high, stares at it, and then looks pointedly at me. I rub his forehead. “Got it buddy”, I say. The leg stays in the air. He heaves a mighty sigh, and dangles the hoof so it swings a little. Okay, okay. I walk over and hold his leg, giving the hoof a cursory look, so he knows I got the message. Satisfied, he puts the hoof back on the ground.
Tiny may not tell the truth about everything, but he never lies about his feet. If he holds it in the air to show it to you, he’s got a problem. I pick his hoof out and scrub it clean.
Water boils, I pour some into the boot, add epsom salts and betadine, stir to dissolve, and slowly add cold water until it’s still hot, but bearable. I do this mixing right in the boot. Because Tiny will let me put a sloshing boot of medicated hot water right on his hoof. (Standard horse procedure: you put the boot on, and pour the liquid into the boot). He sighs with relief, and shifts his weight to stand in the water. I don’t have a lot of hope this will draw it out. There were no soft spots, and he didn’t react to the hoof tester. It will probably take a couple of (painful) days for this to come to the surface. I give him bute.
Next comes our favorite part: I stuff him with carrots and kiss him on the nose a billion times.
Done. Remove boot, dry hoof with a towel, and press with my fingers. Nothing. No soft spots, no tenderness. Dang.
One of the new boarders comes up. Looks at Tiny, and all the junk. She stands for a minute, puzzled. I expect she’s never seen an abscess before.
Actually, it turns out she’s never seen ME before.
“What happened to your breeches? Do you need another pair? I have an extra in my car. Did they tear?”, she says.
Me? My breeches? I look down. Oh. Right.
I have six strips of duct tape going horizontally across each of my thighs. The (red) VetWrap is open, started, and the loose end is tucked into the neck of my T-shirt, the roll end is thumping on my chest as I move. I have 2 diapers hanging from my waist band like some sort of bizarre attempt at avant guard designer wear. The unused duct tape, still on the roll, is around my wrist like a bracelet.
To me, I’m set and ready to pack and wrap that hoof in 60 seconds or under.
To her, I look like I just walked out of The House of Hoarders: newspapers stacked to the ceiling with narrow walkway tunnels. Quite possibly I left 17 cats inside licking clean an entire room full of used cat food cans. My breeches are held together with duct tape, and I seem to have stuck VetWrap to my chest for some reason. I can think of no possible scenarios in which open diapers hanging off my hips makes sense. And of course, I was just upside down: standing up to talk made my hair poof out to fright wig status. BIG hair.
“Uh, no, my breeches are fine, thanks…” I say, “See…Tiny has this…”
She sees her trainer. “Okay” she interrupts., “just checking…there’s my trainer!” and off she goes. Like a shot.
Later, after the boarder left, her trainer, who must have heard all about the crazy person dancing around the big horse, came up, patted Tiny, squeezed my shoulder just as I finished applying the last layer of duct tape, and said “Another abscess, huh?” I could tell she’d explained the situation to her student. “Nope”, I said, “fashion statement!”
We both doubled over laughing, gasping and choking, and I tore off a square of duct tape and slapped it on her breeches. This made her wrestle the duct tape away from me, and tear off a square and slap it on my breeches.
Duct Tape Tag!
I am so ready for the red carpet.