What Happened to Eve’s Leg?!?

**Warning: Graphic Pictures!*

Whenever we move to a new barn or meet a new person, the first question I get is “OMG, What happened to her leg?!” I get the question so often both in real life and on Instagram, why not make an in depth blog post about everything you ever wanted to know about her scar?

If this is the first time you’re even hearing about Eve’s scar, then you’re probably asking yourself “OMG, What happened to her leg?!” Well, I don’t know the original injury that led to her scar, but I know pretty much everything else about it. So let’s get started.

The Origins

The injury came about after she was sold in 1998 at Fasig-Tipton in Maryland. I do not know her whereabouts between 1998-2000, but in that small time frame of her life, she ended up in some bad hands. She was sold at the auction to someone who bred her, and then I guess forgot about her in a field? Or maybe she was bought at the auction and then sold again? Regardless, whoever had her neglected to treat the wound she had on her back left leg, and it got bad. Really bad. If you know the Eve of today, you know she’s extremely accident prone, so she could’ve injured herself any number of ways. How she did it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that her owners never treated the wound, and it festered. The wound was really old and had been infected for a while by the time she got to the rescue. And once she started getting care for the injury, it took 2 years for the wound to heal to a point where it didn’t need to be wrapped anymore.

She actually had surgery while at the rescue and had a skin graft done on that leg. They even put some hair follicles in the graft to see if hair would grow – and wouldn’t you know it – they did. Hair does grow on her scar leg from that procedure. Because only Eve would be able to practically rip her leg apart and then have hair be able to grow back.

Her scar in 2007

The Aftermath

After her leg healed, it left what can only be described as a gnarly scar on her entire cannon and reshaped her leg. Since there was a raging infection in that leg for so long, she doesn’t have much feeling in it which makes caring for it complicated. When it gets infected, she’s not as obvious about limping on it until it’s been infected for a day or two. The size of her leg also throws her off balance, so she’ll trip over things more easily making her scar leg a prime target for punctures and scrapes. Inside the leg is all scar tissue. The lymphatic system is compromised, so it’s more susceptible to infection and stocks up a lot more than the average horse. Whenever she does get an injury on that leg like a scratch or a gash, it doesn’t heal right. It takes forever to heal if it even does heal. For example, when we were riding years ago, she tripped/fell in the stream and cut her scar leg on some rocks. To this day she still has a hardened scab on that leg and on her pastern from the incident. You can pick the scabs off, but they come right back – and this happened 10 years ago. She also had a puncture just a couple years ago that left a raised scar after it took months to heal. That leg has a lot of little scars on it. Kind of like a tally of all the injuries she’s ever had. She likes to keep track.

Her hoof on her hind leg is also affected by her scar. My farrier said the circulation in that leg causes the hoof to grow out differently – that and a combo of how Eve distributes weight on her backend cause the hoof to split on the sides. So the hoof goes through phases where it looks really good and then looks not so good depending on a number of different factors like the weather and her level of activity. She’s a difficult horse to trim for sure.

The large scab after the rock cut her that isn’t as prominent anymore, but there’s still smaller scabs there

Another thing is her scar – up until a few years ago – was always changing. White “calcified crap” as my vet called it would grow out of that leg. It used to cover the scar. Her scar would be dark grey and then she’d have this gross hard, white “stuff” (sorry I’m not a doctor I don’t know the terms) on one side that protruded from her leg. My vet would pick it all off and then it would bleed. If she knocked the white parts of her scar off, it would take months to heal because there was just so much proud flesh underneath. It was like that for years. It was a very difficult leg to treat, and a pretty unattractive sight to see.

All the scabby marks from falling in the stream

The Infections

A small cut in 2008 triggered a leg infection that had to be sweat wrapped, cold hosed and put on stall rest

Because her leg was so compromised, it didn’t take much for an infection to set in. A bug bite, a minor case of scratches, a small cut could all trigger an infection. Her leg probably got infected at least twice a year if not more. Whenever she got an infection, it required antibiotics, stall rest, sweat wrapping and cold hosing. It was a pain. Worst case scenario, it required the vet to come out every day to administer antibiotics and steroids, and required me to go up twice a day to wrap/re-wrap and cold hose. Best case scenario, she required oral antibiotics twice a day and wrapping/cold hosing once a day. Every time her leg got infected, it got worse and worse. She would develop a tolerance to antibiotics, lose even more feeling in her leg, and it would stock up even more than previously. Plus every time she got a leg infection, it made her even more susceptible to infections. Eve was fighting in a battle and losing, yet somehow not dying. Like really how? Especially after her last super severe leg infection where she didn’t respond to the antibiotics, her leg swelled up almost 3 times its size, and her hoof nearly fell off from the lack of circulation. It was after that horrible infection (that was caught a day late and ravaged her leg for 3 days before the antibiotics kicked in) that my vet told me straight up, the next time her leg gets infected, it won’t end well. And since my ultimate goal in life is to have Eve be above ground for as long as possible, I did whatever I had to do to make sure it never got infected again.

Comparison of her hind legs

The Maintenance

Before this, we had just let her live her life normally, but after all these leg infections, I realized we couldn’t do that anymore. Eve now has a routine for her scar leg maintenance, and it really isn’t all that hard. I wish I had thought of it sooner, but I was a dumb teenager back then and didn’t put 2 and 2 together.

Stocked up from being in small stall

Keeping Eve’s scar leg clean is key, so I used to scrub her leg every day with betadine, dry it with a clean towel and spray alushield over the scar. I did that everyday for 2 years before I was like, I think this is serious overkill. I realized if her leg isn’t noticeably dirty then why am I cleaning it? It was unnecessary. I wanted a little bit of my life back (and my money back since betadine ain’t cheap), so I use my own discretion now. I generally scrub it every other day with shampoo, dry it and apply alushield. In the summer, I might clean it everyday because there’s more bugs and mud. I’ll also fly spray the s*** out of it and douse the leg in swat. At one point, I had a custom made fly wrap for that leg, but since her scar has no fur, the wrap just rubbed and irritated it. So swat is our life. In the winter, I cut it back a bit and clean it maybe every 2 or 3 days. If it’s not muddy, there’s no bugs and she doesn’t roll, then there’s no reason for me to scrub it.

What her scar looked like after a couple years on the supplement; more pink skin and less white stuff

The most recent leg infection she got was 2 years go, and it was from a minor case of scratches on the back of her pastern. So now when I see her, I brush the back of her pasterns and check for any scratches. It’s pretty easy to maintain now that I’ve figured out how to maintain it. I realized you can’t ignore it and pretend it’s just another leg because it’s not. It very well could be the thing that does her in, and I don’t want that to happen. The whole routine takes about 10 minutes now that it’s perfected. And Eve is very familiar with the process, so she stands like an angel for it all. She knows the drill.

This is what her leg should look like all the time. It doesn’t look quite this good anymore when she came off the supplement, but we’ll get to this level of greatness again.

Every time I go up, I just give it a once over. The scar leg does have a stocking up problem sometimes, so I keep her Back on Track boot close by in case she needs to get the swelling down. After the worst leg infection, her leg would stock up double its size in a stall, so she required her Back on Track boot every time she came in. We’d also have to do some “physical therapy” sessions in the indoor and walk/trot to get some circulation going. My friend recommended this homeopathic supplement that absorbs scar tissue and helps with circulation. They said it had no side effects so was worth a shot. After the first month Eve was on it, I saw results. Her leg stopped stocking up, so she didn’t need her Back on Track boot anymore. And years later, her scar actually stopped growing that gross white stuff, and instead is now soft pink skin. It looks so much better. It also helps because her scar was really hard and stiff, so it was easier to injure it because if she knocked it on something, there was no give in the leg. It would bleed so much easier. The supplement helps keep her leg supple and soft, and I’ve found she injures it a ton less. She has to stay on the supplement though to keep the white stuff away. I took her off of it for a bit (because someone at my barn threw it away and I didn’t feel like buying more),and I noticed the white stuff started coming back after a few months. I also notice the stocking up worsens when she’s not taking it regularly. So we’re staying with our homeopathic remedy forever.

Eve’s homeopathic remedy. We just sprinkle some over cinnamon applesauce once a week and see results

Riding Eve with her “Disability”

A lot of people would see Eve’s scar and think she couldn’t do much, but we had one of our vets do a pre-purchase exam on her (even though she had already been purchased…), and they cleared her to jump 3ft. Our other vet recommended that we wrap her back legs with polos to protect it during our rides, so we have many, many, many polos.

Eve is a gorgeous mover, despite her scar. She’s always been clumsy, so I can’t blame her scar for that. In our lessons (and even today), she would always trip on her back end. And I think that was a combination of Eve’s genetic clumsiness and also the fact that her scar leg was bigger and required more effort to be lifted off the ground than her other. Eve wasn’t the most balanced, so her asymmetry didn’t help. She still enjoyed jumping though. She’d jump random sticks on trails that were an inch high, she’d take off with me at shows, she bucked me off once at the walk because she didn’t want to go where I so politely asked her to go, and she had a rearing problem for a while. She still threatens to rear up to this day and I’m nervous because I know if I call her bluff, she’ll actually do it. But besides her horrible behavioral issues, she is very capable of being ridden. Light riding and exercise actually help her scar leg immensely. Working and riding are really therapeutic for it, so I do kind of enjoy when she’s running around being a wild child because it stimulates the circulation. I take her for walks, too, especially in the winter because that’s when the stocking up gets worse. Her back is too sore to ride in the cold (a back injury she sustained at the rescue due to a combination of a too heavy rider and ill-fitting tack), so we lunge and walk around instead. It prevents stocking up and gets the blood flowing which could also help prevent any infections. Eve doesn’t like working at all, but it does her some good to get her lazy ass up and moving. And 15 minutes of work won’t kill her (but she’d disagree).

Public Perception

Eve spent almost 10 years in and out of the rescue (her horrible behavior and accident proneness are probably to blame). Her scar didn’t really turn heads while I was there. I mean, some of the horses at the rescue had far worse disfigurements than she did. Every horse there had a story and an old injury to go along with it. Eve’s scar being on her back leg kind of blended in. You wouldn’t notice right away, so a lot of people didn’t. It’s not like her leg was an elephant leg and it impeded her ability to walk properly. So she flew under the radar most of the time. When adopters came to see her though, the scar was definitely a turn off. Since it got infected often, people (understandably) didn’t want to deal with that. They also assumed just by looking at the scar that she was limited in what she could do undersaddle which wasn’t true. Although the rescue marketed her as light riding, Eve was more than capable of doing 3ft hunter jumper courses and showing (which we attempted, but Eve was a god awful show horse. the patience of a squirrel). I had talked to one potential adopter who was looking at Eve, but upon seeing her scar, they lost interest. I told them the scar didn’t hold her back with her riding capabilities, but I guess they didn’t believe me.

At the rescue, people just accepted Eve’s scar. But once I adopted her and we got into the real world, people started to take notice. The people we’ve encountered fit into the following categories: the alarmists, the sympathizers, the interrogators and the Paris Hiltons.

The Alarmists

The alarmists are people who think her scar is a fresh wound. Eve and I will be walking by or in the barn chilling, and the alarmists will suddenly freak out and be like OHHH MY GOD WHAT HAPPENED. And I’ll have a heart attack thinking there’s something actually wrong with Eve. And I’ll be like what!? What’s wrong?!?! And they’ll be like HER LEGGGG. That’s probably given me so many almost heart attacks. Like when you have a horse that is always getting punctures, someone walking by calling out your horse asking what happened to her leg is just anxiety inducing. I think most people haven’t seen a large scar on a horse before. I can count 4 horses off the top of my head (besides Eve) that I’ve seen over the years with noticeable scars on their legs. And I think we know not everyone that has a horse is actually horse knowledgeable, so they can’t tell the difference between a fresh wound and a 20 year old scar. So we’ve encountered many alarmists in our days.

The Interrogators

The interrogators are people who inquire innocently about the scar on her leg. Then they keep asking and asking….and asking. What happened? When did it happen? What year specifically? How old was she? How old is she now? Can she get ridden? It just keeps going on and on to the point where I just want to fax them her entire medical history so we can all move on with our lives. Usually if people ask what happened, I’ll say it’s an old injury that scarred over and that’ll be the end of it. But some people just won’t stop, and before you know it a half hour will have passed and I’m still talking about Eve’s life story. My last barn had a ton of interrogators, so I am glad to be done with that. Any time Eve’s leg was wrapped even if it was for a very innocuous reason like her stocking up issue, they’d inquire about why it was wrapped. I just couldn’t get away.

The Sympathizers

The sympathizers are people who feel an overwhelming sense of emotion when you tell them Eve got that scar because she was neglected. Eve looked pretty ok when she went to the rescue in terms of weight, so she wasn’t starved. She was just super neglected with treatment to her leg. I mean, I’m sure Eve was absolutely miserable with a rotting leg living in a field for weeks, but she wasn’t beaten, abused or traumatized. Eve had it bad, but some horses had it way, way worse. Some horses are injured in such a way that they have permanent physical limitations. Eve – of course it would only happen to Eve – scarred her leg into oblivion and it had little to no impact on her physical abilities. She was still able to get ridden, jump, compete, rear, buck, kick, be an asshole. So when people look at her scar and pity her, she doesn’t need that. Eve won the genetic lottery. We all should envy the abuse that horse is able to take without having any detrimental effects on her health. It’s nice that people feel bad, but it’s not necessary. Her ordeal happened over 20 years ago, and I’m sure she has little recollection of the event. Although, people do often give her more treats when they hear she was neglected, so Eve probably wants all their sympathy if that’s the case.

Paris Hiltons

These are the type of people who constantly brag about how their horse is prettier/better/stronger/faster/whatever than yours. I’ve only dealt with a few of them over the years, but it’s an unpleasant experience whenever I do come across one. It’s bad enough these type of people exist in the horse world, but it makes you even more of a target when your horse is Eve. When we first moved to a barn, the first thing someone said to me was that if I wanted to show Eve, I’d have to cover up her scar because no one wants to see that. Like honestly – in the nicest way possible – gfy. We covered Eve’s scar when we rode with polos for protection as recommended by our vet not because we were trying to hide it.

People would also always brag about how their horse is never on stall rest and never gets hurt. Eve was on stall rest often for a puncture, infection or something, so obviously your ego is already boosted pretty high, and then these people come in bragging about how their horses are superior because they only see the vet for routine vaccinations. Like cool Susan, I really don’t care. It’s funny now though kind of in a dark karma kind of way. Some of these people went on to have horses that did actually develop something later in their life that limited their riding abilities permanently and put them on stall rest for quite some time. And their horses weren’t nearly as old as Eve, so it’s sad that happened, but also don’t speak too soon because this shit can happen to anyone. And it’s not nice to target others for being “lesser” just because you haven’t experienced it yet. Eve is 29.5 years old and still getting ridden with her ability to jump still intact (though we won’t attempt), so every horse can make a comeback. Don’t hate.

Living With the Scar Today

Eve’s scar has become a pretty nonissue now that we’ve been taking care of it thoroughly. After 12 years together, I’m so used to taking care of it. It doesn’t consume my life or my time if I maintain it. I see her generally 3-4 times a week – sometimes less if I go on vacation or have a busy schedule, and she’s fine. It’s been a long ride figuring out how to take care of her in such a way that it doesn’t impact her quality of life. I mean, Eve has spent a good chunk of her life on stall rest, and what life is that for a horse? To be stuck in a stall 24/7 for weeks and weeks because of an injury that happened to you 20 years prior? It just sucks, and that’s not fair to her. She didn’t ask for that scar, so why does she have to deal with the consequences of it? By maintaining the cleanliness and monitoring her scar leg 3-4 times a week, we minimize the risk of infection so she doesn’t have to go on stall rest. Thankfully, in the past 2 years, she has been on stall rest I believe just 7 days but they were spread out. She was on it a couple days for her pastern injury this fall and a few days for her eye injury in the spring. But she has had no leg infections for 2 whole years which is a new record for her. It’s really exciting, and I’m really happy that for 2 years her leg hasn’t had any serious issues. The last leg infection Eve did get was 3 years ago, but the infection was so minor it actually didn’t require any stall rest – my vet preferred that she get turned out. So it’s almost 3 years since her last leg infection happened, but it was the most mild infection she’d ever gotten, which is also a win.

What her leg looks like today. You can see some of the crusty white stuff made a return from when she wasn’t on the supplement. But in the next year or so, it should look how it did before.

Our goal now is to keep going on that record. Eve was on stall rest SO many times from prior injuries – laminitis which was almost a full year, all those infections and punctures which were weeks and weeks almost every other month year after year – she has a lot of time to make up. I’m glad that we’re able to give her a better quality of life. She was always miserable and unhappy on stall rest, so in her final years, I really just want her to be able to go out with her friends and do horsey things like eating and standing in the field doing absolutely nothing like horses for whatever reason enjoy so much.

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