My horse of a lifetime was Jack. I lost him in 2011 and it's a day that still haunts me and probably will forever. I'll talk more about the good times in future posts, but his is a story that must be told.
Jack was a fit and well horse, he had perfect feet. He was exercised regularly and he was a forward going (not for the faint-hearted), full of beans little Welsh D x Arab. It was quite a mix! He took me through from 11 to 24, and he gave me the best education. He was difficult - he wouldn't box, he reared and napped, he had the world's most shocking buck but once I stood up to him we were an amazing team. We went everywhere together.
He had come from Reading market - rescued by his previous owner and then he was mine. The first horse I'd ever owned. I loved him, and I'm pretty sure he loved me back.
He was spoilt by us as a family, he had the best tack, rugs, farrier, vet and we would have done anything for him.
In the spring of 2007 he was struck down. He had really severe laminitis in both front feet and two pedal rotations. The vet said the prognosis wasn't good, and that we'd never get him on the grass again. But I was determined not to let this little character go. There was still life to be had. His feet had let him down. I had let him down by allowing a diet too rich in grass - and I needed to fix it.
This was a long road, Jack was on box rest with no outside exercise for 9 months. He had abscess after access. The farrier worked with the vet and together they created a steel plate to give Jack the support he needed. I switched to Manuka honey to pack out his abscesses, and slowly our boy healed - the natural way. We had a lucky escape, and the warning shot had been fired.
We had an amazing 3 years after the initial bout of laminitis. I had learnt more about feet than I did at college. All through hands on experience with the vet. He told me never to let my guard down - Jack was safely back on the grass and living the life of a normal horse.
On 28th Feb 2011 I rode my chipper little chestnut for the last time, he was full of beans, sound, happy and as forward going as ever. By 4th March 2011 we had lost him. I had turned him out onto the frosty grass. I had let my guard down as the paddock was bare. He went lame, hind limb laminitis and pedal rotation in both feet. He couldn't overcome his pain, and it was his time at 30 years old. I blame myself still, but looking back it was possible there was a metabolic disorder - I'll never know.
My message is clear, beware of the autumn and winter. Hot then wet conditions make for perfect sugary grazing, then those early frosts will provide the catalyst for laminitis. Autumn mimics Spring. Laminitis isn't just reserved for round little ponies. It can happen to the healthiest, fittest horse given the right conditions. Keep your guard up - and monitor that grazing.