I’ve been dealing with a horse mystery this week. I think I have it figured out. My barn has a concrete aisle way. Spirit is in the first stall by the door. Then there is an empty stall and Prize is in the third stall.

Tuesday night – I turn the horses out at night and they are in the barn all day to get away from the bugs. I got Prize and walked to her to Spirit’s stall. I put Spirit’s halter on and led him out of the stall while I turned to grab Prize’s rope and have her follow. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw Spirit limping. I turned my head but he was out the door by then. On the grass he was not limping. He’s limped before for two days in the 22 years he’s lived with me. I thought I must have imagined it.

Wednesday morning – Led them both in from the pasture. Spirit is fine. Later, the vet comes and pregnancy checks Prize. She’s not pregnant. We talk for a while and then lead her back to her stall.

Wednesday night – Lead Spirit out by himself to see how he moves on the cement. No problems. Definitely imagined it, I decide. Go back to get Prize. She can hardly walk. She was fine this morning on the cement. Get her to the grass and she is fine. I pick out her feet and the sole seems soft and slightly painful. She missed the scheduled farrier visit when she was out being bred. I hadn’t made it up. Physical exam – inside of her left front foot is warm and has an increased pulse. So, I called my farrier and she agreed to come out the next morning. I figure she may be developing an abscess. Tell the farrier she’ll either be fine in the morning or hopping on three legs.

Thursday morning – At 2:00 AM we have a huge thunderstorm. Grab the horses out of the pasture and lead them in. Prize is scared of storms and she runs into the barn. At high speed she shows no sign of lameness on the cement. Recheck her in the morning and she’s fine. The farrier comes and she can’t really find anything wrong with her either. Trim her feet and think we may have solved her problem.

Thursday night – No lameness when they are taken out to the pasture.

Friday – Every time I move Prize she’s fine. Figure that she just had been too long since her last foot trim.

Saturday night – Go to take horses out of the stall and neither one can walk. Spirit only has a few steps to go to the grass and he is limping on his left front foot. He fine on the grass. I wasn’t sure that Prize would make it out of the barn. But once she was outside she had a limp on the left front but was walking freely.

Ok, class, what is our diagnosis?

Black walnut wood mixed into the shavings that I use for bedding.

The thing that really bothered me Saturday is that I thought of this on Thursday and looked at the bedding. Walnut should be dark and smell funny. I didn’t see any. I’ve been using this load of sawdust since April with no problems. So I let that thought go. I should listen to myself. Walnut causes inflammation of the feet in horses if they come into contact with it. This inflammation can lead to destruction of the interior of the hoof and eventual death if it is bad enough. But if you get them away from the wood then they get better. So, my horses would be lame after being in their stalls and get better over night when they were outside. My other thought was that there may be something growing the pasture but they should have gotten sick at night and been better after being inside.

I stripped all the shavings out of Spirit’s stall and let him have bare mats until today when I can go get more bedding. I put Prize the empty stall that has old bedding that didn’t come from this load. They have been fine ever since. I decided to ice Prize’s bad leg by strapping a bag of frozen cauliflower to her leg for the half hour I had before I had to head back to foster care class. You’d have thunk I was trying to strap a grown mountain lion to her. She such a drama queen. She doesn’t just say, “I would prefer that you didn’t do that.” She throws herself against the back of the stall and has a fit of the vapors. If she could flutter her hands over her heart she would. I end up just looking at her and then asking if she is finished yet. When she feels she’s made her point she comes up to talk to me again. I figured that if I got it on her she’d break the other three legs in the drama to follow.

Sunday morning I went to get them from the pasture. Prize got mad at Spirit and gave a slight rear. She jumped up and kicked out her back legs at him. Then she landed with all her weight on her front legs. I figured that meant that her feet felt much better.