Henk writes:

I've noticed that humans have a "thing" for threes:
Three blind mice.
Three wise men.
The holy Trinity (and Trinity in The Matrix, who happens to be really hot, very smart, and dressed all in black like a certain horse I know).
Third time lucky.

You get the idea.

Of course, "good things come in threes" (which would be why Lil shares her life with three fabulous Friesians) and so, apparently, do bad things, as Louis was about to discover.

You'll remember from my last post that our charming Canadian horse had managed to injure himself twice in the space of a week or so -- once by twisting a fetlock in the paddock, and then by trying to challenge Wilby for dominance of the herd. A very bad idea. So now the horse who'd never been sick or lame a day in his life was nursing injuries to both front legs, and just as he was starting to recover, he developed an abscess in his right hind hoof. I was trying to figure out how he'd manage to stand on one leg!

I've never had an abscess. My feet are perfect. Really. Ask my farrier (or, as I prefer to think of him, my personal pedicurist). He tells Lil all the time that if a textbook ever needed a picture of the perfect hoof, mine should be in it. Of course if you've ever seen such a book you'll know the picture usually shows HALF a hoof with all the bones and stuff showing, so I think I'll pass that honour up, thank you very much. Still, it's nice to have your feet appreciated.

So I've never experienced an abscess, but I know horses who have. Evidently it hurts like the devil. Some horses are tough and manage to hobble around in spite of the pain. The less stoic ones pretty much lie down on their backs and wave their feet in the air, desperate for their humans to make the pain go away. This, however, does not tend to be either quick or easy.

When Louis started hopping around on one hind, Lil set out to do all the usual stuff to help heal an abscess -- soak the hoof in warm water with Epsom salts to draw out the infection, wrap the legs for support, and leave the horse in his stall to rest.

Having never needed nursing before, Louis was unfamiliar with these procedures, and quickly decided that they were beneath his tough-guy Canadian-ness. The first day Lil tried to put his foot in a bucket of water I was lucky enough to be in the barn to watch.

Louis stood politely in the cross-ties, right hind leg lifted high to keep the hoof from contacting the ground, waiting to see what was going to happen. When Lil approached carrying a bucket, his ears perked up and he stuck his nose deep inside, looking for food. The look of shock was pretty funny, and he pulled his dripping muzzle away, snorting salty water all over the aisle, and Lil. He twitched his ears and pretended not to care as Lil carried the bucket toward his rear end. Embarrassed but not alarmed. He even let her take hold of the dangling right leg and lift it over the bucket, then gently lower his hoof down. All went well until his foot touched the water, and then he jerked his leg away, and now his eyes bugged out a little. Lil talked to him quietly and pulled the leg toward the bucket again, but this time he yanked it away hard, sending the bucket flying and water spilling everywhere. He hopped away sideways on his good leg and leaned his butt against a wall, looking at the spreading puddle and snorting loudly.

Lil uttered a few unprintable words and headed off to the washroom for more warm water and Epsom salts. Patience is not usually her strong suit, but she can be remarkably persistent with us horses. She didn't even get mad at Louis when he dumped the bucket a second time, and she eventually convinced him that it was OK to stand with his foot in the water, although she had to stay right beside him and stroke his rump for the entire 20 minutes. If she moved even a couple of feet to do something else (like groom him), Louis would pull his leg out of the bucket and start to fuss.

Finally, the first soaking session was over, and Lil dried Louis' leg, tied his tail in a knot to keep it out of the way, and got out the stable bandages. Louis was instantly on the alert again, watching her every move. What on earth was the human up to now?

Lil bandaged the healthy leg first, this being actually the more important leg to support, since Louis was putting all the weight of his substantial rear end on that leg to avoid using the sore foot. He watched her warily but decided to put up with the weird procedure rather than cause himself pain by stepping on that ouchy right leg. It was a different story, though, when Lil moved to the other side and started wrapping the right leg. He wasn't using it to stand on anyway, so using it as a weapon was pretty easy. He let fly time and again, and although it was never clear whether he was actually aiming for Lil or just kicking out in protest, she had to be pretty nimble to stay clear of that flying hoof. Executing a nice, even, supportive stable bandage on a moving target is tricky even when you're not dodging flying feet, but eventually the job was done. Lil was in a sweat. A few more unprintable words had been uttered.

She stroked Louis' neck while calling him some pretty ugly names, unclipped the cross ties and led him into his stall. Louis took a step and panicked a little, kicking out that troublesome right hind again. I guess the bandages felt like something had hold of his legs and his first thought was to fight it off. Lil started to laugh, and that really ticked him off. He put his head down and walked into his stall, hopping on one leg and flailing the other around like he was trying to get clear of thick deep mud. He hobbled to the corner of his stall and stood there sulking, muttering something in French that I couldn't understand.

I was secretly looking forward to a week or so of amusing performances, but darned if that abscess didn't drain right away. I swear he did a Jedi mind trick on it just to avoid any more "nursing." He was better and back outside with us... in just three days!

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