Monday, June 6, 2011

NASTR - the utterly awful bit

Here's what I never said in the last post: we didn't complete. She's lame. I broke my horse. :(

I think we rode about 90% as well as humanly possible. We all got sucked into riding the technical bit of the trail a little too fast, but then Thunder lost a boot so my little group pulled off and let the speedier people get past us. And Dixie vetted through two checks ok after that, so I really don't think she hurt herself there. After that ride-your-own-ride reminder, I made damn sure I rode my own ride. John and Meredith were averaging the same speed as me, but their horses had a bit faster trot and slower walk, so they'd surge ahead then we'd catch up. Dixie didn't like that - she wanted to canter to keep up with their trot - but I wouldn't let her.

Anyway, we vetted through both checks fine, then rode carefully back down the mountain to camp. We walked the last mile and all was well. I led Dixie over to the trailer, petted my Cersei dog (who was sleeping when we got there!), stripped tack and blanketed, and led Dixie back to the final vet check, about 100 yards away.

She wasn't walking ahead of me or even parallel to me - she was just behind my shoulder, just visible in my peripheral vision. We got maybe halfway there and all of a sudden I could just tell that she was not right. I wheeled around and stared at her and asked "is she off? Did she just come up lame?!?" My friends who were walking with me hadn't been paying attention to her and they kinda laughed it off... but I was not at all surprised when she was damn near three-legged lame at the vet check. She wouldn't even trot - when the scribe chased us, Dixie managed a horrible broken-legged lame canter thing. I wanted to puke.

Honestly, the vets sucked about it. In retrospect I'm pretty pissed. The head vet came over when she saw Dixie not trotting. She did a quick exam, without telling me anything at all, while I stood and cried. She hoof tester'd the front right, flexed it (but didn't have her move out, so not a flex test?), palpated just under the knee, and told us to go home. I said "what should I do?" She said, "call the vet tomorrow or Monday." We walked/limped slowly away, then I remembered my bute and stopped to ask. The head vet was already somewhere else, so the other lady vet came over and discussed hydration with me - bute is BAD in a dehydrated horse, so only bute if she's hydrated and still drinking. I asked about cold hosing and she agreed that'd be a good idea.

So we limped away with me trying not to bawl my eyes out. We stopped at the photographer's, because dammit I rode for eleven hours and I earned that picture. He took pity on the crying girl with the lame horse and gave us all the pix for $10. Here's one:

Yes, I'm doing the \m/ rock-on hand.

After I bought the pictures Dixie really didn't want to walk at all. She picked up the bad leg and wiggled it and gave me this pitiful look and put it back down and wouldn't move. I asked the photographers to please hold her while I brought the trailer around, and of course they agreed. Not that she was going anywhere, but you know, it's bad form to let your horse "wander around" loose.

I gimped back to the trailer. I could seriously barely walk. Found Meredith and John on the way and told them we got pulled and cried on their shoulders. Then I got back to the truck, took the tent down, loaded all my shit, and hauled up the road to where Dixie was.

Then I did the One Really Brilliant Thing Of The Day. I hit my thoroughly rudimentary first aid box and pulled out one of those chemical instant ice packs. Vet wrapped that to her leg, loaded my pitifully gimpy horse, and drove home crying in the rain.

That was one of the lowest points of my life. Probably the awfulest I've felt since the day Champ died.

She unloaded much less lame. Surprisingly less lame. And the swelling had mostly subsided. I think the ice pack really mitigated the damage, I honestly do. I let her get a big drink of her delicious home water, then gave her a gram of bute and cold hosed the leg.

Sunday she was a little off at the walk. There was a tiny bit of thickening below the knee on the right front, but no real heat and no puffiness in any leg. I kept buting her and hosing the leg, just in case. I didn't trot her; what's the point?

Today I called the good expensive lameness vet at 8:01 am and got a 10:30 appointment. Dixie was all "oh HELL naw" when she saw the trailer, but she loaded up with just a tiny bit of insistence.

Lame Dixie at Comstock Large Animal Hospital from Funder on Vimeo.

She was just a little lame, very consistently, at the trot.

I had a good diagnosis/treatment discussion with the vet. We ended up a pretty standard lameness exam: hoof testers, palpation, a nerve block just below the fetlock (abaxial sesamoid), trot-out/lunging before and after the nerve block, and an ultrasound of the suspected damaged area.

I am one of those people who can't even see the human fetus unless it's a false-color "3D" ultrasound, so I was really hoping I wouldn't be able to see anything on the ultrasound. Fortunately I was right. The vets (the one I was paying and two student vets) could only find some very minor damage to her high suspensory ligament. This is fantastic news. I know just enough about tendon/ligament injuries to know that Dixie was showing all the signs of having one, and I was horribly afraid it'd be torn or ruptured or something career/life ending. Minor disruption of the ligament fibers is wonderful. It's like I won the horse lottery.

I told the vet up front that I didn't really want to try any cutting edge therapies. Dixie's not insured, and I don't think the outcome improvement is worth the treatment cost for shockwave/PRP/stem cell treatments. It seems like tendon injuries need time more than anything else.

Anyway, we're looking at a standard 6 week healing/rehab process. Yes, I know it will probably take longer, and that's just fine. But for now, it's 2 weeks confined with bute and cold hosing. Two weeks handwalking, two weeks walking under saddle, then a recheck.

I'm not actually putting Dixie in a stall; I'm really not set up for that. I hot taped off a small area around her run-in and hay feeder. It's big enough for her to roll and walk, but hopefully not trot. It is totally ghetto looking - those fiberglass step-in posts are not very sturdy so, uh, I kinda tied the corner posts to some dead shrubs with hay twine to keep them upright.

I'd love for Dixie to recover 100% so that we can pick up endurance again, but if she doesn't, no big deal. She can stay in my backyard in all her bad-tempered supermodel glory for the rest of her life, either way.

So - anybody have any good clicker tricks to teach a bored angry confined slightly lame horse?


  1. She should recover fine from that - and you're right the ice probably made a big difference (I just spent some time this evening holding an ice pack on the swollen knee of a horse that's not even mine - I'm a big believer in ice). Don't beat yourself up - these things happen to all of us and she'll probably be just fine.

  2. Funder, DO NOT beat yourself up. I live with a farm full of examples of how crap happens. In the grand scheme of things I would be right there where you are, feeling like I had won the lottery.

  3. I must be really naive, but is something like that really a career ender? I mean, I have seen rather simple things go badly without proper care, but I'm POSITIVE that won't be the case with Dixie.

    I'm wishing a speedy recovery to that feisty girl, but know those things take time.

    As for you, I'm sure you are bummed that you will be out of competition for quite some time. It's hard not to be when you really enjoy what you do. I'm sure that by this fall though, you and Dixie girl will be back at it, fine and fit as a fiddle.

  4. I think everyone that has ever really done any serious riding/competing has been there before- or will be at some point. (Not that it makes things any easier to deal with when its your horse thats come up lame.)
    Its amazing what giving a horse time to heal can do!
    Will send healing thoughts your way.

  5. I know it's so hard not to second-guess yourself and play "what if" over Dixie's injury, but it sounds like something that could have easily happened anywhere on the ride - and given how pathetic Dixie was at the end, it probably happened quite late in the game! I'm sure she would have told you if it had been bothering her earlier. Be gentle with yourself while you're taking such good care of Ms. Dixie.

    Also, are you sure that the head-tossing, fire-breathing mare in the video did 50 miles two days before? 'Cause um, she looks like she's recovered from that...

    PS. I have fiberglass step-in posts too. We can be ghetto together! ;)

  6. I'm pissed FOR you. That is the least helpful thing I've heard a vet say in a while.

    I know the heart sinking feeling of having your horse pulled for lameness and wouldn't wish it on anyone.

    Thinking of you :-/

  7. Well, that totally sucks - I hope she fully recovers and you get another chance to follow your dream with her.

  8. Just give it some time. You two will be back at it.

    Far away "granny" hug.


  9. Good thinking about the instant ice pack!

    So sorry your endurance riding is put on hold - you've really worked hard - it has to be disappointing as all get out.

    Wishing Dixie a full and speedy recovery!!

  10. First off, that really sucks. :(

    But on a lighter note, I need photo evidence of your ghetto stable please. :)

  11. Aww, crap. :( I'm so sorry. But, I agree with Kate that there's a good chance she's going to be fine, given plenty of time and a gentle return to work. ((hugs)) And it isn't your fault -- this stuff happens even to the most careful and experienced among us.

  12. On my very last 25 miler with The World's Greatest Arabian, he came up lame at the lunch stop and was pulled. I was 17 so the vet took pity on my and told me what was up and how to handle it (he popped a splint). The worst part was that I realized afterwords that I had felt he was off before the ride and never looked into it. Still pretty pissed at myself about that.

    Clicker tricks for bored, laid up ponies? Targeting, smiling, ears forward, leg raises, back raises, standing on a pedestal, standing on a mat...

    Need any more?

  13. Clicker training.... hmmm... I can't remember what you've taught her and what you haven't. Have you taught her to hug? To pick up objects? Smile? Nod? Shake her head?

    Ummm... can't think of much that doesn't involve moving....

    But, it's always nice to make a grumpy horse hug :)

    Seriously, I'm glad that it's (relatively) minor. Been there when Peanut's rear tendons swelled and he ended up dropping his pasterns with each step. Ugh, so heartbreaking. Here's hoping she's back to pulling you over when you need a little privacy behind a bush in no time!

  14. Oh! Fund,
    So sorry. And very sort that the vets sucked. My Thermography specialist did a couple vet checks at endurance rides..making up some of her technical papers for clinical applications for the vet board. She was astounded at the vets passing people's horse's, she could clearly see ee not sound. Then, she did Thermography, and proved it.

    Please don't be too hard on yourself. These are the things that happen to our equine athletes sometimes, as they do to us. You had excellent resource with that ice..and now making sure she heals right. Timing, and come good for no other reason...than to be you're Dixie-endurance or not.

    Be well..this time down will certainly prove to be worthy for her does sound!

    Loved your neat ride photo!!

    I cried when too mentioned Champ!

  15. PS
    I spent 4 years hurting my mare with approved boots and saddles...its all a learning process..we do the best we can, don't we!

  16. What you've got going for you is that Dixie is in great shape. Her recovery would be so much harder and longer if she was a schlump. She's already in condition and I suspect that she will heal quick. Supposedly there are supplements out there specifically for tendon/ligament repair help. Might help? Good luck!

  17. Funder, I am a little surprised by your QUOTED rehab time... I have done a couple rehabs with high suspensory injuries and have always been told 9 months... Not sure why they push the Bute, but I would think about that one. I almost never stall the horse, as long as they are in a place where they can't get rowdy and re injure. Good luck and it was nice to meet you at NASTR..

  18. You might try a bit of liniment on the shoulder too... Don't have her trot in any more circle. Get someone to trot her in a straight line away from you & toward you & past you. You can see more & do less wear/tear.
    I just have a "feeling" that she will be just fine!

  19. Geez! That really sucks!

    Is that all that a ride vet does is tell you you're done and nothing more? If that's the case, that sucks too.

    Hopefully this will heal up quickly and you'll be back at it again before you know it.

  20. Gheesh, do I feel like a selfish self centered loser. I had no idea. So sorry to hear of the sorry I didn't check in earlier.. I totally know what your going through... I love the ghetto corral/ pen btw. Feel feel to email or vent on my blog if you ever need a cyber shoulder to cry on! Honestly...

  21. Yep - totally been there. Tears, doubt, shame. It truly sucks, but I swear it gets better. And unlink having a horse die, you aren't still crying on the anniversay of the injury years later. :)

    I wanted to comment on the whole vet thing. I too have been suprised by some of the vets at endurance rides when I was dealing with some sort of issue and just wanted some advice on what to do to stablize it for the first 24 hours until I could go to my regular vet, OR even give me a clue to what I might be dealing with.

    I have found as vets begin to recognize me, they were more encouraging and more likely to offer a phrase like - I think you are doing what you can right now- or some other comfort that I was trying to do the best for my horse, even when sh*t happened, or I had made a mistake that led to this.

    Even though it frusterates me when I'm standing there with uncontrollable tears because of a situation similar to yours - I do understand. They aren't treatment vets. In some cases they aren't even licesned to treat or give professional advice in that state. As a future vet I know I've given thought into where legally, ethically, and personally I can draw the line between job, hobby, and personal life. They probably see a lot of crap as ride vets and more than anyone, could be weary and wary of giving informaion for all the reasons I stated in my "honesty" post a couple of days ago. that being said - I hope as a vet I can remember that there are humans behind the animals and find the time and heart to say a word to an owner who is obviously destraught. At the 20 MT ride, a ride vet who I have come to recognize over the last couple of years (and likewise) went on a limb and told me what he thought could be Farley's problem. He ended up being wrong, BUT just having SOMETHING to hold onto for those couple of days was so comforting. So yes, I understand both sides- but it still sucks when you are in the middle of it.

  22. aw, i got all bummed when I read this! I can imagine how you felt. And ice is great, as is cold-water hosing. You'll both be baaaaaaaaaaaaaack, with time.
    : )
    - The Equestrian Vagabond


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