Because it happens so rarely, when one of my ponies isn’t well, it’s reason for distress on my part. One day I noticed Honey, my three year old Fell Pony filly, wasn’t cleaning up her hay. She eagerly took treats and cleaned up her feed bucket, but she wasn’t finishing her hay meals. At the time, I had her isolated from the herd because I’d just wormed her and needed to keep her manure away from the dogs. At first I thought she was upset about being separated from her sisters. And of course I wondered if she was having an adverse reaction to the wormer. When things didn’t change in 48 hours and we were headed our typical two hours to see a vet with another pony anyway, we loaded Honey on the trailer too.
The vet didn’t come to any immediate conclusions upon initial examination, but after bloodwork came back indicating a low grade infection, antibiotics were prescribed and further examination was undertaken. Upon examination of Honey’s mouth, the source of the problem was discovered: a cap on a molar was loose but hadn’t yet been shed, causing both irritation in her mouth and a place for infection to set in. When the piece of the tooth was removed, I was astonished at its size: over an inch across. I’ve had baby teeth from three-year-old ponies come off in my hands at times over the years, usually not much bigger than a large pea. But I’d never seen a molar cap before and never knew that shedding them could be problematic. No wonder Honey’s symptoms were so strange!
Maybe it was just the time of year for tooth problems and infections in the head. My husband had a tooth pulled around the same time, and I had had a sinus infection. Then I talked to my nephew who mentioned having some dental work done, saying it runs in the family. I am unusual in my family for having a really good mouth, and when I told my nephew that, it made him jealous. Since none of Honey’s siblings have ever had this sort of problem, I figured Honey must be the anomaly in her family like I am in mine. The vet, though, had a different explanation. “She’s just doing the pony thing,” he said. When I looked quizzically at him, he said, “Fitting the same number of teeth into a smaller head.” Apparently he often sees three year old ponies needing help shedding their baby teeth. I hadn’t ever thought of it that way.
Honey’s prescription for antibiotics gave us an opportunity to interact intimately for several days. She wasn’t too thrilled with the regime until I figured out how to add honey to the mix. Somehow it seems appropriate that that was helped Honey take her medicine.
While Honey’s strange symptoms had been reason for distress on my part, they also had their reward, beyond Honey getting the help she needed. I learned to be watchful of three-year-olds shedding teeth, and I learned Honey likes honey!
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2017
If you enjoy reading stories about the Fell Ponies at Willowtrail Farm, you’ll also enjoy the book What an Honor, available internationally by clicking here or on the picture.