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Carmen on the day of her first trim, Sept'14

We've all got a horse story, haven't we. Personally I've had several, and Carmen is no exception. Here's mine and her story.

In September 2014, I was neither looking for, or needed, another horse. I had the perfect life/horse/work balance with Murf and Cookie, but then I met Carmen, a very pretty 7-yr old TB mare.

Carmen had started her life as a prospective racer, beautifully bred to fly and win. But - she was born with a turned-in front left hoof, so discarded to a life as a brood mare. By the age of 6 she'd been passed from home to home, and was found by her previous owner abandoned in a field when they were looking at another horse for their daughter. They didn't buy the horse, but saw the whip scars on Carmen's rump and how she hobbled, and took her home there and then.

The vet pronounced her effectively 2/10 lame with a permanent script of pain-relief and annual steroid jabs. She was turned out and loved, but meanwhile her barrel was expanding rapidly, more so than a summer on grass. Several months later Carmen produced a perfect foal, apparently the result of an illicit night with a big coloured WB boy.

A couple of years later, enter me. A sucker for a sob story, on hearing about her sad background, of course I went and cuddled her, and sure enough there was her pronounced wonky hoof, and in a pretty ropey state to boot. In fact, all her hooves hadn't seen a rasp for months - they were all overgrown and dished, poor quality with underrun heels and laminitic event lines on every one.

She also didn't look fabulous - not scrawny or thin so much, but under-nourished, dull scurfy coat, just generally not as good as you'd expect, especially for a TB. I casually asked what feed she was on and shuddered at the response - apart from solitary 24-hr grass turnout, she was on twice-a-day feeds of high-molassed, 17% sugar chaff and crappy nuts with all the ingredients I avoid like the plague. Trying not to look condemning, I asked why she was on so much hard feed for summer. "It's what our others get so she's on the same," came the reply. Ah. She obviously hadn't had any decent nutrition for months. I'm not implying for one minute that the then-owners weren't caring - totally the opposite, in fact. They just didn't know much, not even the basics, about any kind of equine nutrition or management.

There was also a particularly nasty looking wound on her right hind fetlock, which looked very gammy and in need of a good clean-up. I mentioned it, and they said she'd caught it on barbed wire months back after a hoon in the field. Months?! Apparently their vet had looked at it and said it would heal on its own. It plainly hadn't. Then the owners said they were thinking of selling her on as a companion. Ah. Those fatal words . . .

With her story ringing in my ears, I mentioned it to the husband. "Are you sure you want another horse?" he asked, looking a bit worried. "Um ..." I replied. I couldn't get her out of my head. You know that feeling. I wanted to get her right, and really felt she deserved a bit of a life other than being permanently turned out in a small paddock, isolated from other equine company, with pretty much zero attention other than a naff feedbowl chucked at her. Apart from anything, her hooves needed serious attention, and that wound definitely needed looking at.

The owners wanted £500 for her, so I figured I could scrape that together and she could be a companion for Cookie who adored the company of mares; poor Cookie had been very much stuck with Murf for years. I argued that I already had 2 horses so one more wouldn't be too much extra work, surely. After all, we'd originally had 5 - I could manage, no bother, I tried to convince him. Husband shrugged, and gave me the cash to go get her there and then.

The deal was done and Carmen was mine. I now had a beautiful 7-yr old chestnut TB mare in my care. She joined up with Murf and Cookie in the field and settled perfectly.

First off I switched her feed straight away to our regime of Copra, our EquiVita minerals and herbal JointTonic. She looked at me as if I was some kind of mad, and refused it all. Took a second for me to realise that of course, she'd been blissed out on a high sugar crap-in-a-bag diet, so naturally she was a bit peeved. Against every fibre in my body, I gritted my teeth and bought a bag of her crap-in-a-bag feed to wean her slowly off it, and within 2-weeks she was converted, licking her bowl cleaner than the other two.

I also set to on the fetlock wound and cleaned it up. Our trimmer came over within days and spent hours taking photos of Carmen's hooves and giving her her first proper trim. She was impeccable throughout, and by the end of the day her hooves looked remarkably improved. Trimmer also commented on the fetlock wound, and I gave her the story, assuring her I was on the case.

Two weeks later, Carmen suddenly couldn't walk. She was fine that same morning when I turned her out; now she was stock still in her field. It soon became apparent that she was beyond hopping lame on her right hind and in significant pain. Somehow I got her in - she was very brave and stoic, but each step was a military manoevre in itself. We finally got to her stable where I was able to have a good look at her. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, other than a bit of heat around her fetlock wound.

I called the vet immediately who immediately spotted her fetlock . I gave her the story - a several-months' old wound I inherited when I bought her, but we've cleaned it up and it's not getting any worse. The vet looked concerned, got out a very nasty looking needle and drew fluid from the joint, twice. With a grave face she then gave me the bad news. Our beautiful 7-yr old girl had joint sepsis in her fetlock. She advised me that the internal infection had probably been there for weeks, and had only presented itself that day as the infection got into the bloodstream. You could have knocked me over.

The vet immediately prescribed bute and antibiotics, although also gravely told me that the antibiotics only had a 5% chance of working. Then she hit me with it - if there was no improvement within 48-hours, Carmen's prognosis was PTS.

I went home in shock. Tears were shed. I barely slept until the next morning when I could drench all her drugs into her, which she took without batting an eyelid. 24-hours came and went. She was still in agony and couldn't weightbear on her leg at all. Very aware that I only had one more day, I diligently gave her her drugs and prayed hard to all the goddesses. I'd barely got to know her for 5-minutes and now I was counting down the clock to end her young life.

The following morning she was no better. I called the vet that morning in floods, accepting the prognosis, not wanting to prolong her suffering. We agreed to speak the following morning and make the dreaded appointment.

That night something in me changed. I drenched her as usual, hugged her like crazy and cried my eyes out. I knew I had to do the right thing by her but oh boy it was appalling to have to do. Then the red mist came through. What the heck was I doing, about to let a beautiful young girl die? How come the vet's anti-b's only had a pathetic 5% chance of working? What on earth was the point of just 5%, next to zero chance, not to mention all the damage they were doing to her gut and immunity, just when she needed the strongest immunity she could muster?

It was a Kelso deja-vu all over again. Vet meds not working - hang on, worse than that, didn't have a hope in heck of working as far as the vet was concerned. Suddenly my brain kicked in. I had to turn to herbs. Just like I'd done all those years ago with Kelso.

All I could think of was that I somehow had to give her the biggest blast of natural antibiotic, antiviral, anti-everything, detoxing and immune support that herbs could muster, to draw out/ kill off the infection as best I could. That night I put together a blend, and the following morning I gave her a double dose and crossed everything. I didn't make that call to the vet. Same again the next day, double dose, morning and evening.

The following morning when I peered over her stable door, Carmen's hoof was flat on the floor. I couldn't believe my eyes! Then I noticed a flipping great hole on her coronet band right below her wound. She'd abscessed beautifully - I've never been so happy to see an abscess in my life! She walked out of her stable that same morning after her breakfast, with only the mildest of limping but without a care in the world, and never looked back.

That was October 2014. Since then we've taken Carms out happy-hacking, and she's the sweetest ride, loose reins on her bitless bridle and completely non-spooky. She really enjoys going out, her coat is now glowing and she looks amazing. Her hooves are beautiful now, her underrun heels still a bit of a work in progress, but they'll take the time they need and she grows the hooves she needs to support herself. She gets the same daily detox herbs as the others, with additional joint support, and she's comfortable and happy. She does not get an annual steroid jab.

It's barely worth thinking about, but imagine if I'd gone with the vet (which in my emotional state I so nearly did) - I'd have ended the life of a beautiful 7-year old girl who'd already been through enough of a horrible life, and who is now thriving. I am so lucky to have her in my life and we adore her. Carmen is entirely responsible for our BioCARE blend.

Carmen 10-months later, taken Jul'15