The vet arrived at the stable yard wearing his customary grin. He is the happiest man I know. Of course he is. As he once explained to me, horses may be incredibly badly designed for the purposes of the horse-owner, but they are spectacularly well designed for the purposes of equine veterinary practices.
‘Don’t you dare look smug,’ I told him, as he whistled his way into the thoroughbred filly’s stable. ‘If this is bad, you’d better get a syringe full of sedative ready for me because I am going to go nuts.’
‘Ha haaa!’ he laughed, ecstatically.
‘I’m serious. I want ketamine.’
‘Ha haaa! Good one, Mel!’ He sounded like he had already had some. ‘Let’s have a look at this leg then,’ he chirped, examining the strange bump that had come up on one of her hind legs. ‘Oh yes, that’s a splint all right. Probably sequestered.’
‘You know I have no idea what that means, don’t you?’
‘Yup,’ he said, grinning from ear to ear. ‘Probably best to X-ray it.’
‘Of course it is.’
‘You’re insured, aren’t you?’
‘Of course I am.’
‘Tomorrow all right? Oh, hang on, I might have to do it the next day. I’ve got a big job on tomorrow.’
‘Lucky you. I wish I had. I might be able to pay for the X-rays then.’
‘Ha haaa! Good one! See you Thursday then.’
‘Yes. Brilliant. Look forward to it.’
‘By the way,’ he said, whistling as he passed by the skewbald pony’s stable, ‘how’s this one’s tendonitis?’
‘Fabulous. Couldn’t be better.’
‘Hmm,’ he said, feeling the back of her right foreleg, where there has been a small but deranging bump for two weeks now. ‘Might be a good idea to run the scanner down this while I’ve got the equipment out.’
‘No, you don’t. Tendonitis is fluid, right? If we scan it we will see the fluid and seeing the fluid won’t make it go away any faster. It will just make my money go away faster.’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I will.’ You have to hold your nerve in situations like this. When an equine vet gets his equipment out he likes to run it over everything like an out of control hose. The darn thing will be thrashing about scanning everything it can get within range of if I let him loose with it.
Sure enough, when I rang the office to confirm the X-ray visit they told me I had two scans booked.
‘No, no! One scan. One horse being scanned. Thank you.’
‘How about,’ she said, ‘we leave it as two horses to be scanned and then if you change your mind when he gets there we can change it to one later?’
‘How about we leave it as one horse to be scanned and then if I change my mind and decide I want to dispose of the money I need to pay my mortgage this month we add the second horse later?’
‘I think, let’s just leave it as two,’ she said, with that polite finality in her voice that meant I was going to have to lie down in front of the stable to stop the second scan happening.
I then started doing what I always do in these situations: Googling. I contented myself that splint bones are extraneous non-weight-bearing bones that horses can break with impunity. A sequestered splint means a chip of loose bone is swimming about.
By the time the vet came back whistling a happy tune, I was reconciled to the fact that it was going to cost me the best part of £500 to find out my thoroughbred has a chip of bone floating about in her leg, with no very particular consequences.
The vet put on a lead apron, told me to get out of the way and started X-raying. When the results came up on his laptop he announced, ‘So, it’s not a splint at all. There’s the splint bone, intact. And if we look here …we can see that the chip has come off the main cannon bone.’ I gasped. ‘I’m going to need that ketamine now,’ I said, staggering backwards and sitting on the floor of the stable.
‘Hang on. You’re all right, because…’ he fiddled around with the mouse, looking at the image from different angles… ‘because…’ He fiddled some more. Come on! Come on!
‘…because as we can see if we look at it like this…’ tap, tap, tap… ‘it’s healed really nicely.’
‘Yes! If you’d known this bone was chipped earlier you would have gone mad and we would have had to do something. But as you didn’t know, it’s healed really well itself!’
‘Just shows you,’ I said, holding my chest and gulping for air like a fish. ‘Sometimes, if you leave well alone…’
‘Oh yes. Absolutely. Now, how about that tendonitis?’
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