Horse owners are being warned about the "hidden menace" of blackthorn after a pony was found to be suffering from a potentially fatal wound.

Fergus had a 7mm thorn embedded deep in one of his back legs for a year without displaying any signs of injury or discomfort.

The 15-year-old pony is owned by a pharmacist at Seadown Veterinary Hospital in Hythe.

Seadown vet Kirsten Broadley said: "Fergus had been treated for a soft tissue injury in his right hind for months.

"In between assessments a hard, non-painful lump appeared at the back of his left hind fetlock, but there was no wound, discharge or pain. There was no sign at this point of a foreign body.

"We discussed the possibility of a thorn causing the damage but agreed it was highly unlikely as Fergus didn't have access to brambles or blackthorn.

"Since he was so comfortable and there was no significant soft tissue damage, the decision was made to give him time to rehabilitate, and scan further down the line."

The 15-year-old pony had a 7mm thorn removed from one of his hind legs by vets at SeadownThe 15-year-old pony had a 7mm thorn removed from one of his hind legs by vets at Seadown (Image: Seadown/Nariece Acworth)

When the scans were carried out they revealed a foreign object that had previously gone undetected.

Kirsten said: "We were surprised to find a very obvious thorn in the subcutaneous tissue at the back of his left hind fetlock.

"A small fluid pocket had developed around the thorn, making it visible on ultrasound.

"Fergus was admitted to the clinic in order to surgically remove the thorn while he was sedated. With the help of a nerve block, ultrasound guidance, and an extremely well-behaved Fergus, it was removed."

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Kirsten said the thorn was "dangerously close" to a tendon sheath, posing a constant risk of infection.

She added: "Luckily all went smoothly and Fergus made a steady recovery at home, with the help of antibiotics and meticulous care."

Fergus was treated by Seadown Veterinary Services at HytheFergus was treated by Seadown Veterinary Services at Hythe (Image: Richard Dunwoody)

Now his owner, Nariece Acworth, has issued a warning to other horse lovers.

She said: "Cut down as much blackthorn as possible and fence away from it as a precaution. We'd already done that but somehow the blackthorn made its way into his paddock and left no entry wound.

"I would also add that owners know their own horses.

"If you feel something isn't right, your vet is always the best point of call - they're your best friend in these circumstances.

"Without Kirsten's help it's very likely Fergus wouldn't be with us anymore. I'll always be grateful to her and the whole Seadown team for their wonderful care and attention."