This Week, Nails Were My Source of Anxiety

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"For want of a nail, the shoe was lost; For want of the shoe, the horse was lost; For want of the horse, the rider was lost; For want of the rider, the battle was lost; For want of the battle, the kingdom was lost; And all for the want of a nail."

Those famous lines are from Shakespeare?s epic play "Richard III," in which King Richard is thrown from his horse in battle because the blacksmith put one too few nails into the horse's shoe.

This week, two few nails haven't been my problem. I've had too many nails, and in the wrong places, and they've caused lameness in two of my horses.

Last Friday the most bizarre thing happened while I was riding my homebred mare, Amani. On the previous Sunday, she?d actually torn off her right front shoe while loading into the trailer to come home from the Woodside Horse Trials, but my farrier hadn?t been able to come out that week to tack the shoe back on. So on Friday, I decided to do some flat work at the walk, confident that the ring?s footing wouldn?t aggravate the unshod hoof. As I was crossing the diagonal, she suddenly took about a dozen very lame steps behind. Since she?d come in from her pasture that morning with a slightly inflamed wound on the inside of her cannon bone on that leg, I figured she must have kicked herself, and I thought, ?I better take a closer look at that wound. Unusual for her to react that way.?

And I kept working her for about another 20 minutes. When I got back to the barn, I told our ever-vigilant barn manager, Roxanne, that we should look more closely at the wound since she?d reacted so strongly. So I started scrubbing out the small wound vigorously, and, naturally, she picked up the leg in irritation. Fortunately, Roxanne was standing directly behind her, because she suddenly put her hands to her face and exclaimed, ?Oh, my god?look!!? Amani had a nail driven into the inside cleft of her frog.

I succeeded relatively quickly in pulling the nail, which was driven halfway into her foot, with a hammer, and we immediately called our veterinarian while scrubbing her foot with Betadine and small scrub brush. He arrived within an hour, and it appears as if she will be fine. The wound is healing nicely, and sHe's showed no sign of lameness or infection, fortunately.

But where did the nail come from, we wondered' On inspecting the nail, we realized that it was a small fence nail, the kind of nail that secures the fence around our ring, not our pasture fences. And I recalled her sudden lameness while I was riding her. Since the nail was unbent and sharp, we don't think it had been used, so we're surmising that at some time someone dropped this nail in the ring, and it had been stirred up by dragging the ring. And it must have been sitting in the footing, pointing nearly straight up.

What are the odds that she could have perfectly stepped on this nail in the ring, so that it drove straight into her foot' I think, as the baby in the e-Trade commercials says, ?about the same as the odds of being attacked by a polar bear and a regular bear in the same day.?

And then on Monday our farrier did come for a regular appointment?and to tack Amani?s front shoe back on. It was shoeing day for my preliminary level mare, Alba, and when Roxanne took her out of her stall to turn her out for the night, she noticed Alba was moving tentatively, not in her normal purposely powerful way. I determined that she was lame in her right front leg, and that it appeared to be her hoof, which felt a bit warmer than the other front hoof. Deduction suggested the culprit to be a close nail, since she?d been shod about four hours earlier.

So I called our farrier, and he promised to be back the next day. He did return about 5:00 p.m., and hoof clippers confirmed that she was sore on the inside of the right front hoof. So he removed the shoe, carefully beveled the edges so the shoe didn't touch the tender area, and put the shoe back on using the old nail holes. Alba seemed much relieved right away.

I was relieved too, since sHe's set to compete this weekend in what may be her final preliminary level horse trial before I move her up to intermediate level in the spring. I'm also incredibly relieved that Amani seems to have recovered from her nail, especially as I'm pointing her for the training level three-day event at the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event on Nov. 1-4. that's supposed to be her final training level start before she moves up to preliminary level in the spring.

But, ?for want of a nail? this week, neither might have happened.

I've offered to our students this experience as evidence that, even though you do everything you can to keep your horses healthy and safe, weird things still happen, weird things that can disrupt your plans and your pocketbook.