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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label injury. Show all posts
Showing posts with label injury. Show all posts

May 23, 2020

Solo Steps In & Other Updates

Thank you again to all who took the time to share compassion & kindness for the loss of our dear friend.  I miss Richard very much.  I miss bumping into him feeding his horses when I get home from work, when I would stop the truck for a chat.  I miss his friendly greeting of, "Hey, girl," always accompanied by his infectious smile.  Sometimes I talk to him as I walk around the farm now -- it's not the same without his quiet chuckle, though.  There were still so many things I wanted to ask him & stories I wanted to hear. 

In the meantime, Echo is working on shoulder healing.  Being a horse, he of course does not proceed in a linear, or even understandable fashion.  But there is slow progress.  And I'm getting pretty good at equine massage.
Ridiculous creature
In between those meantimes, I've been doing short work sessions with Solo.  Sometimes longeing, sometimes riding, at all times, a joy.  I decided since I don't know how many rides he has left in  him (although we never know that for any horse...or human), I didn't want to waste any opportunities.  We both love working with each other -- although Solo has distinctly less love for longeing, given his long & complex history with it.

We don't do anything complex -- walking, a bit of trotting, some ground poles, depending on what he is feeling up to (he never fails to tell me).  I sneak in a few steps of lateral work or transitions, then quickly look away in case he catches me trying to surprise him with his nemesis, Dressage.  Occasionally,  he gets excited & takes a few steps of canter.  I let him have it because it puts a big, stupid grin on both of our faces, but I bring him back after a few strides so he doesn't make himself too sore.

His bad foot gets tired quickly, so I keep field sessions around 30 minutes or so, although he can walk longer on a trail once Echo can go out again.  He's crooked, but I don't pick at him since he's 24 & carrying old injuries.  Despite that, he still has his lovely suspension when he lifts into the trot.  And I still get to spend a few minutes with my favourite view in the world.

April 17, 2020

Echo's Vet Update

Before I dive into the latest installment of Echo's vet addiction, I do want to send out my best to all of you.  I went back & forth, but decided that I wasn't going to write much, if anything, about The Virus -- it was already all the words on all the channels & I didn't think I had anything meaningful to add to all that noise.  The best any of us can do at present is to follow reputable safety protocols to the best of our ability & for your own sanity, turn off the news & the facebook (if you even watch it, I do not anyway as I don't need to add to my sources of anger).

We are fine (at least as much as we ever are) here -- my job is secure & I can do much of my office work remotely to the extent that my limited rural internet access allows.  Our field work is reduced, but we will still be working on mission-critical projects; there is plenty of room for social distancing in the river though.  I generally don't go many places outside of work anyway; I hate grocery shopping so much I only go maybe once a month (basically when there is literally nothing left in the house), & as an introvert, I don't encounter other humans often.  I remain grateful to have the horses at home, so not many changes for us.  I definitely feel for all of you who can't see your horses right now & am hoping that ends as soon as possible! 

If you are in a position to help others, but are not sure what to do, you can follow this link to a summary page from Charity Navigator of groups which are accepting donations to help with everything from medical supplies to food to financial assistance.  Sending even a dollar from your living room is risk-free for you & can make a difference to someone else.
Click to find a reputable charity helping those in need
Turning back to my problem child...

Earlier this week, I took Echo back to the vet, as his shoulder was just...lingering.  I had started doing stretches & massage about a week prior to that following a phone consultation with vet.  That treatment did bring about some improvement & Echo was moving a bit more freely with a little less limping, but I wasn't comfortable proceeding without a better idea of what exactly we were dealing with.

Also..."Echo's Vet Update" should probably be the new name of this blog.

Turns out he did indeed partially tear his triceps muscle.  Good news:  that muscle is enormous, covering the entire scapula, so there is plenty of "extra" to do the job it needs to do.  Also good news:  it will heal without any functional limitations.  Also good news:  he is at the point in healing where he can start to go back to work as he needs to use it to continue making progress.
Equine shoulder; From horsesidevetguide.com
Less good news:  muscles heal slowly & giant muscles heal even slower.  It will probably 5-6 months until it is completely healed.  He may have a permanent divot to add to his existing scar collection, but at least it won't affect anything.

In the balance, while it's not great, it could be so much worse.  At least we can start doing things again, while is a huge relief to us both.  I will, as always, be conservative -- I got on a couple days ago & we just did walk work & stepping over poles.  Of course, Echo is already happily trotting & cantering around in the pastures on his own.  I'll never know exactly what happened -- maybe it was a kick, maybe he just slipped, maybe it was both.
His lump 10 days ago
I did put him back on the Equioxx, carefully, after we finished other meds, & am relieved that he is having no issues with it, so he has that mild anti-inflammatory support as we work through the physical therapy process.  He also completed a week of Ulcerguard & his stomach is much happier, so he's back to eating his meals (although still at the slowest....speed.....possible).

Farrier also put the hoof testers on him last week & he had no reactions, so it looks like the coffin bone bruise is healed up too.  At least it helps me to gauge lameness without the compounding factor of that foot on the same leg as his shoulder.

I'm sure Echo will find new things to do, but it still felt good to cross at least a couple of the more recent issues off the list.  And even though I hate any injury in my horses, it's going to happen one way or another, because horses, so I'm still grateful when it is at least something that will heal, because I've dealt with enough things that won't & that is much worse.
Shaking off gnats while regaining weight, shine, & getting less lumpy every day
Baby steps for Baby Monster, but we will begin re-building that topline once again.  It should be easier this time since he has more skills than he did a year ago - some of them are even useful.

March 14, 2020

Update On Disaster Horse

Maybe that should be his new name...

Echo's shoulder has improved some this week.  I'm leaning heavily towards it being a kick & have absolutely no doubt that he was asking for it (he basically always is).  Reason being, he has shown no protest to me extending the leg & he did a big "downward dog" stretch himself this morning, which I don't think he'd be that in to if he had pulled those muscles.

He still has a lump there, although it's reduced a bit, which I'll continue to SoreNoMore, but plan on tapering back the bute & seeing what happens.  He's moving much better, I don't see any more tightness in his walk & he trotted up for his late-night snack last night.

I briefly got on him bareback this morning, just to walk him around & get a feel for things, as that can often give me a lot of information.  I didn't feel anything from that bruised foot (granted, he was still on bute, but that doesn't hide everything), which is good, & got no real resistance from the shoulder.

On Thursday, farrier removed the glue-on boots & put him back in the flip flop pads.  So far, he's looking pretty comfortable in them, which confirms that his initial discomfort with them last time was in fact that it was a suddenly firm surface under that bruise.  He's made enough healing progress now that it no longer bothers him.  We did use race nails (thinner/lighter) in the shoes this time, just for cautious bet-hedging. 
They're back (altho this weird-angle pic is from the first round)
Thanks to the commenter on that post who gave us a perfectly timed tip:  the EasyCare flip flop boots CAN be reused!  We pried them off intact with a screwdriver (by the way, the Adhere glue worked perfectly for 5 weeks).  The adhesive stayed stuck to the hoof, so the boots came off clean & ready to go if I ever want to use them again.  If adhesive does stick to the boot, it can be easily dremel-ed off.  This at least made the price slightly less painful -- if you get two cycles out of them, that's $30 a cycle, which is still a bit high, but much closer with other plastic/rubber/polyurethane footwear.

I am happy with the boots' performance overall:  they stayed on (always critical), tread still looks good, horse moved normally (you know, for a creature with 3 functional legs).  I would definitely add the pour-in material in the toe in the future, as there is just no way to get gunk out of there & there was some moisture trapped in there when we pulled them (we've been in a rainy period).  Echo's feet were healthy when they went on, so no harm done, but pad material would help prevent that buildup.  Alternatively, you could probably cut out some sole "windows," the way we've done with the pads, because the material is pretty sturdy (caveat, I haven't tried this, but I bet someone has).  

Please, Echo, can we just be boring for a while?
Discovering spring grass a couple weeks ago

March 10, 2020

Unlucky People Shouldn't Own Unlucky Horses

Echo insists on continuing to demonstrate his talent...for misfortune.  Combined with my own terrible luck, I feel like we are stuck on a moebius strip of exasperation.

You know his left front leg, the one with the bruised coffin bone at the end of it?  Well, it had been showing some improvement...until yesterday.

I came home from work to find him limping anew.  I initially thought we had somehow aggravated the foot on the short, walking trail ride I ponied him along on Sunday.  Oh no -- now he has done something to the shoulder ON THE SAME LEG!

I found a big, hard lump just behind his scapula that foamed up white as soon as I put SoreNoMore on it (which can be an indication of elevated temperatures which go along with inflammation/spasm in the muscles, which arnica reacts to).  At this point, my hypotheses are either:

  1. Solo kicked him.  Which I have absolutely no doubt Echo deserved, so I couldn't even be irritated at Solo.  If you get kicked by Solo, it's only after you have ignored countless warnings, which are not subtle.  Echo is not one to take warnings seriously if he feels entertained.  There wasn't a mark, but Solo is barefoot. 
  2. Echo torqued the shoulder playing Wild Rearing Plunging Mustang games.  Equally possible.
He didn't react at all when I poked it.  I've seen him roll & get up just fine & he's weight-bearing.  He had no problem with me lifting the leg, extending it in front of him, rolling the shoulder around in its joint.  Which is a little baffling, but at least tells me he didn't break a rib (or anything else) & he didn't dislocate the shoulder.
At least one piece of my tack is getting some use
I'll give him a few days with bute & rest -- oh wait, he was already resting, gahhhh.  If he doesn't improve much with that, then I'll call my poor, harassed vet again.  I'm cautiously hopeful it looks like nothing too major right now, as the lump had softened when I got home from work today.  I put some ice on it this afternoon, although I'm not sure it can penetrate much in an area with so much body mass.

Hopefully he will decide to quit all this nonsense before I forget how to ride a horse.  The key to preventing this kind of stuff is strengthening soft tissues through fitness -- which is a little hard to do when you can't work them.  That hollow, thumping sound you hear is just my skull hitting the table repeatedly.  I'm thinking it would be smarter to trade him in for a pet turtle -- it takes some serious effort to break a turtle. 

Can someone just pat my head & possibly pour some libations down my throat??

February 18, 2020

It's Not An Abscess

Echo decides to prove yet again that my paranoia is not unfounded.

We finally made it to the vet today for spring shots & the planned radiograph I mentioned previously.  It was supposed to be last week, but the rain prevented the machine from coming out to play & it was so wet, I couldn't get the trailer hooked up & out without tearing up half my property.

Turns out, Echo's prolonged on again/off again soreness on his left front is in fact due to some bone bruising on the medial wing of that coffin bone.  Which Dr. Bob also referred to as "crushing" & "micro-fractures."  Which I did not really appreciate because I don't care what the vet-land rules are, but these words do not all mean the same thing to me & shave several years off my life!  I am just going to call it bone smooshing because that is descriptive without being quite so terrifying-sounding.
Smooshing is right where the #4 is on this coffin bone
This type of injury happens when a horse's heel impacts something hard, such as a rock or a hard piece of ground, with too much force or just the right angle or it's Tuesday.  Fortunately for Echo & I, his smooshing is right at the tip of the bone.  Which means it will heal, is already healing, & he should be fine.  If you get smooshing farther forward on the bone (like by 3 or 5) or extending up into the joint, that is when it becomes a Really Bad Thing.  I am hopeful I never have to learn any further detail about that.

Since this has been going on since early December, Echo is already a "fur piece" down the healing road.  Having had a gnarly bone bruise, I am familiar with their slowness; Dr. Bob said this type of thing can range from 6-8 weeks for a mild one (like Echo's) up to 6 months for something more severe.  So we should be on the "improving" side of the curve & we should see continued gradual progress over the next month or so.

Also fortunately, my gut management instincts (& repetitive haunting of Dr. Bob's phone line) guided the correct course of action over the winter, even though I wasn't certain of the cause.  He's done very little work, which consisted entirely of walking & an occasional short trot for feels on soft ground.  He's been able to move freely in the pasture, which is what needed to happen for circulation which then fuels healing. 

And for the last month or so, as he's moving more & when we get more frozen ground cycles, both front feet have been protected with full support across the heels & frogs.  The exact devices will get their own post, because farrier & I have been learning about new technology, but right now, he's wearing a pair of EasyCare's flip flop boots & they are working pretty well.
One of his expensive slippers
These allow his heels full lateral freedom (which is his particular Princess Pony Foot demand), but provide a thick, sturdy pad under his entire foot while still providing good traction in mud or frosty grass.  All the details will come in the next post.

Until then, he has been cleared commanded to go back into more consistent work under saddle on the flat (with bute as needed) to use that 5-yr-old energy most constructively (although I am sure he will still engage in many spring frolics) & help the rebuilding process.  I am sure I will be ultra paranoid conservative about it, but I suspect I shall receive no arguments from Echo other than "SO WHYYYY IS ALL-CANTERZ A BAD IDEA????"

Definitely not as "benign" as the abscess I was voting for, but on the upside, it involves no wrapping & will be far less messy.  Another plus:  this was the only foot I didn't have radiographs of yet, so now I have images of all four (yes, horse owners celebrate weird things).  Joint spaces were clean & lovely, navicular bone was fine, soft tissue had no issues, & all the other pieces were where they were supposed to be.  And while it's been frustrating to watch his muscling disappear, I'm just glad that it's not permanent (at least not this time).

Answers bring a great deal of peace of mind, even more so when they are not catastrophic.  We'll see how the next 30 days go, but I'll be thrilled if they are completely uneventful...  
I know he's just hatching his next plot...but at least he will do it shini-ly

February 2, 2020

Bruise Purgatory

This is where I've been with Echo for the last too-many-weeks.  A lurking bruise in a front foot that just won't commit to action.  At least I hope it's a bruise, because a worse alternative is...much worse.

He bruised something inside that foot in November, taking a bad step in a field (I saw it, fortunately, he was essentially standing still, so not a ton of force, he just vastly over-reacted to moving out of Solo's way).  Vet checked it out with a basic exam, wasn't overly concerned, we rested.

It lingered.  In early December, Echo was still sore at times & I had worked myself up into an over-anxious state by drawing many parallels with Solo's DDFT injury.  So we went back to vet & he said still just a bruise & after watching the exam, I returned to normal baseline paranoia.

It still lingers, as bruises can sometimes do as they shift around & laugh at me, which Encore expertly taught me.  I am getting twitchy again, because my brain loves to gnaw on things & also does not know how to process time, so I often struggle with temporal perspective.  We have spring shots scheduled in 10 days, so if it's not better by then, we'll shoot a radiograph to see if there's anything bizarre we missed (surely not in a horse that I own *sarcasm*).

Like all things horse, it's complicated.  We did put some super-cool fancy pads on his front feet, which will get their own post, as I thought that would help him bridge the last gap of healing (he's been barefoot for over a year).  Unfortunately, it appeared that one nail, while not a "hot" nail, did put pressure next to the bruise, so we had to pull the shoes after a week & will try some glue-on boots instead.
Thank goodness for Gorilla Tape, my booties now last 3 days
He was much better within an hour of pulling the shoes, but is still a bit sore a week later, so that nail may have aggravated it a little.  Not horrible, just enough that I can see it on harder ground, definitely in his foot, around the medial side of his toe.  Not sore enough that he won't frolic around in his paddock, so I did sit on him today (almost all walking & it just rained so the ground is soft).  I didn't give him any bute beforehand because I wanted an honest feel & while I could still feel the lingerer, I think he did seem a bit better?

Sigh, these subtle things are so confusing & frustrating.  Especially when you don't own imaging devices.  I'm trying to shame Echo by reminding him that his almost-24-yr-old "brother" with arthritis is currently sounder than him.  I'm fairly certain, though, that Echo was standing behind the door when they handed out guilt.
Shame not installed

October 5, 2019

Wound Wars: The Battle Of Proud Flesh

Proud flesh:  the nemesis of wound care.  When you have any open wound that can't be stitched (which seems to define nearly all horse wounds), you have to wait for them to fill in on their own with granulation tissue.  However, this tissue has a serious overachievement problem & inevitably multiplies into a cauliflower-esque explosion of cell growth that protrudes well above the skin surface.  It then blocks the migration of healthy skin cells that would otherwise move in to close the wound.

It is particularly problematic in areas of poor blood supply & high motion, like the lower legs.  Where 100% of my horses' wounds were.  Of course.

If the wound in located somewhere you can apply a pressure bandage, like a standing wrap, you can prevent proud flesh.  When those cells can't push outward, they seem to just give up & pout, giving the good cells room to do their magic.  This was awesome for 25% of our wounds, specifically, Solo's skinned cannon bone.
You can see by mid-Sept the bone is once more covered by a sub-layer & as of this weekend, new skin has covered more than 50% of the original area.  I'm keeping a non-stick pad coated with Dr. Bob's Magic Red Sauce + standing wrap on this until it's filled in more, as one less place I have to fight the evils of proud flesh.

Solo's hock has been the primary battleground.  High motion, impossible to pressure wrap, with a horizontal cut destined to pull apart - it was inevitable, really.  The Magic Red Sauce (I don't know all the ingredients in this concoction) is supposed to help both retard proud flesh & encourage epithelial cell growth, but its magic definitely has limits.

I was scrubbing madly with my dilute betadine, but it wasn't enough, so mid-Sept, I called Dr. Bob.  He knows I do surgery on endangered species (& they live), so he gave me permission to get aggressive.  Really aggressive.  I dunked the knife & scissors on my multi-tool in the beta-water & charged back into battle.
 
The one good thing about proud flesh is that it doesn't contain any nerves, just a zillion blood vessels.  So it will make an unholy mess when you hack (very carefully) away at it but your horse won't feel a thing.  This wasn't a super fun addition to the twice-a-day cleanings & it made them even longer, but Solo dozed patiently while I chopped off endless tiny tissue nodules, just trying to keep it roughly even with the skin surface.
Front
Looking good today (white is Corona)
Lateral side
Today's view, still a little proud flesh, but the skin will soon swallow it
After scrubbing, I would alternate between polysporin & Magic Red Sauce.  I am happy to say that after several weeks of battle, not only is the proud flesh on pouty retreat, but the front hole has finally closed, meaning no more diaper wrapping & ending the 2-roll-a-day vetwrap suffering!  There is still some fill in that hock, so it gets hosed daily, but has drastically reduced with today's cooler weather.

Echo's return to work was delayed by the fact that it took me an hour to do Solo's bandage when I got home from work, after which it was basically dark.  He is now back under saddle, though, for the past 10 days.  He is almost completely healed.  The friction burns on his chest have vanished under his new winter parka-in-progress, you can't even tell they were there.
Top is Sept 3, bottom is Sept 27
Proud flesh did rear its ugly head on his knee, so it also got the knife & is now gasping its very last, tiny breaths.  A few more Red Sauce treatments & it too will vanish.  The cut on the outside of his cannon is a small scab hidden in fur.

My knife hasn't been needed in several days.  Both boys are sound & happy.  So much so that my next story for you involves a lesson (OMG, a lesson!!?!) in which Baby Monster is making some very exciting progress.
Coming soon...

September 19, 2019

Tricks of the Equine First Aid Trade

Since I am currently using nearly all of the equine nursing tricks I've developed over the years, I wanted to share a few products I've adapted from the human world.  In many cases, this is much cheaper than buying "horse" labeled products, as we all know that's an automatic 300% markup. 

Horses & humans may both be mammals, but are NOT interchangeable, so product transference should always be done with caution.  I check with my vet before I try anything new.  And Dr. Bob himself has suggested several of them!

In my wound care kit right now:
  • Generic wound wash from CVS -- a mix of antiseptic & lidocaine, this stuff has become the first thing I grab for cuts & scrapes.  Dr. Bob first mentioned something like this when Solo got staples in his head last year, as the lidocaine reduces itching so they don't rub on everything.  I squirt on a clean cloth to apply & a bottle lasts me a long time (uh, usually).
  • Non-stick wound pads (biggest size available) -- fabulous for things on legs that get wrapped.  In the last post, you can see one sticking out of the wrap around Solo's cannon scrape.  I've found that if you leave a little sticking out above the vetwrap, it helps prevent the pad from sliding out the bottom.  They absorb without peeling off healing tissue when you change bandages.
  • Nitrile gloves (altho medium is of course too small for my giant man-hands) -- not sterile, but cleaner than my fingers & saves me from having to wipe 5 different kinds of goop off my hands.  I also like that the blue is easier for me to see when I drop it or it blows out of a trash bucket.
  • Polysporin -- a long time ago, a dr. told me that 10% of people develop allergic responses to Neosporin, so polysporin was a safer choice.  I don't know if this is applicable to horses or not, but I've used the poly ever since on full-thickness cuts & it works well.
  • Colored duct tape -- I always tape wraps/standing bandages that are worn unattended.  I try to get tape that is a different color than my standing wraps so I can easily see from a distance if it's still there, but I had blue left over from something else, so oops.  
  • Gorilla tape -- I usually only use this for hoof wrapping, for which it is a godsend, but I was about to run out of duct tape, so have also used it on standings.  It has not left a residue or caused any damage to my standing wraps.
The discolored gladware with 3 little syringes is my wound lavage kit.  NCSU vet school taught me this method when I had to clean out Solo's healing head-holes.  Add a little Betadine to water, so it's a diluted mixture, about the colour of weak tea or lighter.  Use the syringes to flush out the wound.  Syringes allow you to control direction & pressure of stream pretty well.  Because Betadine is cytotoxic, you never want to use it full strength on an open wound & even dilute, use only when needed to prevent infection/flush out debris.  It will stain whatever container you put it in, so pick something you don't plan to eat out of later.

Finally, the big fat syringe is just a dosing syringe with the tip cut off, making it easier to give dissolved stuff like SMZs without losing 1/3 of your dose stuck in the plastic tip.

What about you?  Do you have favorite products you've adapted to equine use?

September 9, 2019

A Healing Update - It's Never Simple

The first week post-carnage went fairly smoothly.  The Horse Gods saw this & felt it necessary to remind me that this is an unacceptable premise.  As if I need reminding.

Both horses were wrapped for the first week & I was pleased with their progress.  Then Friday morning, I came out to feed breakfast & Solo was suddenly non-weight bearing on that hind leg.

He is a seriously stoic horse, so my panic level shot to maximum while I coaxed & pleaded him in hobbling hops back to the shed.  I took his temperature (normal), pulse (slightly elevated at 44 bpm, but not extreme), & unwrapped his bandages to check for any signs of infection.  Nothing appeared to be any worse than it had been 12 hours before.  Solo was eating & drinking & pooping with a happy face, he just did not want to move that leg.
Doing fine the first week
I called the vet & parked the hose over Solo's hock.  There was still a fair amount of swelling around the hock, but it's a pretty ugly wound, so that's not unexpected.  Dr. Bob talked me off the ledge (he's getting way too much practice at this).  He agreed infection was unlikely & thought Solo had probably just tweaked one of the many bruised tendons/ligaments sometime during the night.  He increased his SMZ dose to be cautious & if we didn't see improvement by Monday, we might try a heftier antibiotic.

I hadn't thought of that possibility, but I now think he is probably right.  Solo could have slipped or torqued it getting up.  I'm glad to say that he is improving -- he's walking, albeit slowly, as well as standing on it, including resting on that leg, which alleviates many of my concerns about the joint.  I also think, based on how he moves, all that delicate healing skin on a high motion area is pulling, especially as it dries & gets tighter, which probably doesn't feel great & he's protecting it.  I know he didn't run around, Solo is a careful guy.

The cuts are healing very well.  Everything is closed except for a small hole at the front, which is good for drainage (only a small amount now).  We're sticking with the SMZs - after Solo had TWO resistant bacteria show up while he was at the vet school in 2017, I am uber-conservative with antibiotic use in all circumstances.  Well, plus, I'm a biologist & I know better.  Only when prescribed, only when truly necessary, & the lowest level possible, as appropriate to the situation.
Front view, this morning, before hosing - WEIGHTBEARING!
Side view this morning (day 9), base layer is closed
It will take a while for the cannon bone scrape to fill in completely, but it has clean margins & it doesn't worry me.  I will keep wrapping until the hock is closed & dry since flies are still out in force.  Why not, I've already purchased my body weight in Co-Flex/VetWrap since one bandage job takes a whole roll.
This is what is under the standing wrap
Echo is doing just fine.  Well, aside from making me crazy by trying to stick his nose into every. single. damn. thing while I'm tending to Solo.  Children.

He's been wrap-free & bute-free since Friday & his last dose of SMZs is today.  The cut on the outside of his leg is pretty much closed & his chest is all healthy skin again except one stripe which will soon be done.  Nothing on his chest actually cut the skin, these were friction burns & they were not sore after the first day or two.
3 days ago; today it's now all healthy, normal skin
3 days ago, that one stripe is still healing
The scary-looking hole behind his knee filled in very quickly.  I'll have to stay on top of proud flesh since I can't pressure-wrap the area, but it's not painful at all.  No swelling & he should be back in work this week.  I just keep Dr. Bob's Magic Red Sauce on it & slather Corona & Swat on the rest to keep the bugs out. 
2 days ago, drying out & filling in
Thanks to everyone for your well-wishes, as always, they mean a lot!  I know horses are experts at mangling themselves no matter what, but I'm going to be angry at myself for a long time for missing that jumper wire.  I did a lot of modifications to the fence when I moved in & thought I had removed all of those, but I was wrong.  However small the odds that the horses would hit the fence at that corner, out of all the corners -- it happened.  Shame on me, but it won't fool me twice.   

I'm cautiously optimistic that the worst is behind us.  Thanks to Erica for helping me finish the last of the fence repairs yesterday!

Cross all the things for us & hopefully the next update will have NO ooze or vet calls. 

Hey, let me have my dream.

September 2, 2019

Emergency Vet -- A Two-Fer

I was working outside on Saturday when I heard the fence wires suddenly start jangling in a bad way.  I had just put the horses in a small side paddock to munch on some fresh grass while I worked on their fields.  I whipped my head around to see Echo flailing about as the top wire dropped (it has breakaway points for this reason) & both horses took off to the other end of the paddock.

Since I only saw the end of the action, I'm not sure exactly what happened, but my educated guess is that Solo kicked out at Echo while he was up against the fence.  Solo got a hind leg over the top wire & Echo somehow got one front leg over it.

As soon as I caught them, I saw that I needed an immediate Dr. Bob inspection (of COURSE, it's a weekend, that's how horses do).  I was cautiously optimistic there wasn't anything catastrophic, as both were trotting & walking around in proper mechanical order (albeit full of adrenaline), but with ugly things - & these were definitely ugly - around joints, I am always very cautious.

To make it more fun, I don't know if you've ever tried to do first aid on two horses while trying to keep a phone in the good reception spot so the vet could call you back.  Well, it's impossible.  A HUGE thanks to Trainer Neighbour who came over & helped me juggle all the things until the vet arrived!

Both horses were really damn lucky.  Warning:  photos follow. 

Echo put a gnarly hole behind his left knee, but it is in a "safe" valley between vital structures.  We can't wrap it due to location, but it is already filling in rapidly.
Right after it happened Sat
He has a full thickness cut on the outside of his cannon, but it is just skin, I will wrap until it closes just to keep it clean as well as to reduce swelling there & below the knee.  Some wire chafes on the tops of both forelegs look bad, but no cuts there.  Thanks to youth, he's not even stiff.
Keeping Corona & Swat in business
I am so very grateful it is not Sacred Leg which doesn't like touching, otherwise I would be far more miserable.

Solo's right hind got the worst of it.  He exposed a chunk of cannon bone above the fetlock, which looks dramatic, but those usually heal up pretty well.
I really never wanted to see my horse's bones...
The front of his hock suffered two full thickness slices while pulling the wire down, but all the tendons are ok, just bruised.  I don't have fresh pics of those, we were too busy tending. 
Side view ~14 hrs later (Sun am)
A blood vessel got nicked & ruptured when I initially hosed it, so I was reminded yet again that horses have a lot of blood.  I think I could have done a transfusion when I rinsed out the initial bandages (below) in the bathtub yesterday.

This morning, those cuts were already nearly closed & all the tissue looks healthy so far.  My main job is to keep everything clean to prevent infection & try to keep the bugs off where I can't wrap.  Both will get a full course of SMZs along with bute for swelling.  Dr. Bob had me put some of the green Epsom salt gel in Solo's hock bandage, to try to draw out fluid into the diaper wrapped around it.  I've never used that on a wound before, just feet -- I'm pretty impressed!
Front view Sun am, healing up
What Went Wrong & What Went Right?

It was mostly a freak accident in just the wrong place.  My property came with hi-tensile wire fencing, which my neighbour built very well.  I have lined much of it with a strand of HorseGuard tape, but this section was not lined.  I'm glad it wasn't, because I think added tape might have made things worse in this case.

The wire itself is heavy-gauge & as I have learned during a couple other times Solo has bounced off the fence, this is an important safety feature which helps it roll off before cutting.  Unfortunately, just about anything will cut when you put an entire horse's weight on it.  I have seen horrific injuries from wood, electrobraid, PVC, mesh, thin tape -- horses are just way too good at carnage.

One of the multiple breakaway points did give when it was supposed to, which created the slack needed for the horses to get out & undoubtedly prevented much worse injury.  However, one point that should have released didn't & I found afterwards that there was an old jumper wire hidden in a bush that I had missed which prevented that release.  That's on me, as I'm sure that led to Solo's hock cuts.  I cut that off & reinspected all the other connections so it will never happen again.
It finally stopped bleeding, still tweaking my bandage setup
Despite the emergency bill & the stress of double first aid, I'm very grateful that things weren't worse.  No one needed stitches or sedation.  Both horses are sound, will heal fully, & are experienced at letting me clean & poke & wrap sore parts without kicking my head off.  After I do my penance of a couple weeks of nursing, everyone should be well on their way. 

Go hug your horses & check your fences.  Don't forget to look under the bushes.

January 13, 2019

Bridging The Space Between Us

Echo & I had physical & mental assignments to tackle.  Both would take time, but that was a resource I had available, particularly that first winter, when you don't feel like you're missing out if you can't ride in the cold/dark/wind. 

Welcome Home To Prison

As mentioned, Echo had some sesamoiditis in one ankle.  This was a new one for me.  You can google it, but as I quickly learned after diving into vet textbooks & scientific literature, there are many uncertainties around this condition.  In brief, it's an inflammation within the bone itself which creates mysterious channels (unknown exactly how they form), usually related to excessive concussion (so not uncommon in racehorses).  The sesamoid bones are strange free-floating bones at the back of the fetlock (under the yellow bulge in the graphic), wrapped in the suspensory branches where they split to go around the ankle.  As such, they have a poor blood supply & are among the slowest in the body to heal.

Of course. 

It's often separated into two grades of severity, based on whether or not there is associated soft tissue involvement (i.e. suspensory branch desmitis).  The prognosis is better if it is caught early & there is no ligament damage.  Echo had a clean ultrasound of the suspensory ligament in that leg, so the prescription was rest.  And no more racing.

Love his white dot
I was ok with both.  I needed to put several hundred pounds on him, so it's not like we were going anywhere in a hurry anyway.  I conferred with Dr. Bob:  his radiograph showed the bone channels were more pronounced than originally thought & he had a little chunk of cartilage floating around.  He's a lucky horse:  he was raced by his breeder & retired just in time.  From what I saw on the rad, his next race could have ended with a sesamoid fracture across that weakened channel & his story would be very different.

Fortunately for us both, the cartilage would be re-absorbed by the body, causing no concern, & soft tissues still all looked good, so Dr. Bob agreed we still had a good prognosis.  And it was already becoming apparent to me, even in the first few weeks, that this horse was going to be well worth some effort.

Echo had developed some minor fill & warmth in the ankle around these stressed structures, so Dr. Bob prescribed 6-8 weeks of small pen rest with wrapping as needed.  He injected it to help bring down the inflammation, preventing joint damage.  He wanted to take the most conservative approach to ensure we protected those critical tissues & I was grateful for it.  We also had the advantage of a young horse body which was still developing & still had all those healing powers my own body has long since forgotten.

The cutest prisoner
Inmate Development & Rehab Programs

While I didn't love pen-cleaning or trying to figure out how to prevent a bored young horse from eating plywood (tip: you can't), or the inherent anxiety that comes with waiting for anything to heal, this time did turn into an opportunity.  Echo had enough space to not feel trapped (approximately 3x the length of that picture...the space in the picture...not the actual picture...you get it), but not enough to say, elude me across 2-3 acres.  We had nothing to juggle on the schedule but "eat & relax," & this intelligent kid needed something to engage him.  I began what I call Operation Farm-Breaking.

A racehorse knows how to lead, how to be groomed, how to be tacked up.  He's used to baths & farriers & (often) clippers & loud equipment.  He's not Farm Broke.  A Farm Broke horse gets blanketed at liberty in the dark after the headlamp-wearing owner trips over the fence wire.  He is approached & haltered in a large field by a woman wearing 7 different colours & a noisy, hooded rain jacket.  His rump is used for draping said noisy jackets or jangly girths, which often slide off & land under his feet.  His owner drops ropes, tosses brushes, splashes water, drags weird-shaped objects, & moves things without permission.

This monster may approach at any time & will definitely trip on something
I started small miniscule:  the lead-rope-touching skittishness.  After making sure he would let me touch every part of his body with my hands (he did), I began by draping the rope over his neck, about midway & sliding it back towards his withers, just until he started to get uncomfortable.  I'd pause for just a moment there, pet & praise (he didn't yet understand how to eat treats, also common with OTTBs), then move it back up to the "safe" zone as a release.  Rinse & repeat ad nauseum for a few minutes every time I caught him.  Eventually, I could swing the end of the rope all the way back to his butt (this is one of the many reasons I only buy 10' leads, plenty to work with). 

This was also the base of my pledge to him on which I was to build everything else:  I will never unfairly hurt you & I will never ask you to do something you can't do.

Over the following days & weeks, we learned plenty, using the same gradual approach, including:
  • Blankets cause no actual physical harm, despite sliding across your rump like a two-dimensional cougar.  Same goes for rain jackets, plastic bags, & other loud crinkly things.  You don't have to love it, you just have to accept it.
  • Headlamp-wearing human is not a disembodied orb seeking to extract your soul; in fact, she often produces delicious morsels
  • Small objects presented under nose by owner's hand are actually delicious morsels for nomming.  Except apples, we still don't understand apples.
  • No human parts go in your mouth unless the human puts them there herself.  This includes clothing.  Owner may dress like a homeless person, but the clothes are not actually disposable.
  • Strange human presents no real threat & does speak rudimentary Horse.  Should always be investigated for morsels & can generally be counted on to provide some form of entertainment.
April: Learning is exhausting. Also, he is not a graceful sleeper.
Along with this went Bodywork By Me.  I had wanted Dr. Bob to do a chiro adjustment with spring shots in February, but he recommended waiting until fall:  Echo's body was so tight that any adjustments would probably just get pulled right back out until we retrained that muscle memory.  I re-toned my forearms with liberal application of massage to all those tight tissues & slathered SoreNoMore on that pulled butt.  Producing many sighs, drooping ears, lip licking, & reinforcing that most of the time, contact with Weird Human is a good thing.

Awakenings

As days became weeks became months, I began to see the returns on my investment.  Echo's initial guardedness melted away into an enormous, gregarious personality who wanted his nose in the middle of everything.  I didn't have to walk up to him in the pasture because he came to me as soon as he spotted me (which Solo has rarely done, he maintains that the world should proceed on his terms).  Each barrier we conquered made the next one easier as I gained his trust.

July 2018:  I can haz morsel?
His body made progress too.  That ankle was cool & quiet & we graduated back to normal turnout.  Butt muscle healed uneventfully.  The feet, well, I think that will have to be a whole 'nother post.  But they were stuttering forwards (and backwards...and forwards...and backwards) too.   His rangy frame began to fill out, drifting from "whippet-shaped" to "horse-shaped."  I'm not sure if it's because he's dark brown, but he has more substance to him than first appears.  He has nice big cannon bones & roomy joints & his head is FULL full-sized.  It was very obvious that there was going to be plenty more "filling out" in our future, but at least I could brush him without feeling like I was going break the edge off some sticky-out-y part! 

Feb vs Sept:  please don't ever make me add up that feed bill
My favourite part, though, & the most rewarding by far, was the change in his expression & overall demeanor.  As I've said before, he was always friendly, always curious, but you could feel a reserve there, as if he was withholding judgement pending further review.  I felt like he was filing away experiences in labeled boxes or making a pro & con list on me:  "Hmmm, the blanket thing ended up fine & I got lots of morsels, file that under 'pro!'  But she occasionally has sparks on her fingers (winter static is begrudged), NOT COOL, that is a 'con!'"

After nearly 13 years with emotionally intuitive Solo, I am sensitive to (or try to be) the nuances of horses' personalities & reactions.  No, they aren't human (thank goodness), but they absolutely have both emotions, intuition, & intent, along with the ability to read that of other animals -- a necessary skill for a prey animal living in a herd.  Pondering how to reach across Echo's moat of reserve & knock on the door meant also examining myself & the signals I was sending.  The more I observed him, it felt like he was waiting.  But for what?

Cautious reservation
I realized I was withholding too.  In my fear of "something bad" happening, in my compensatory attempt to protect my battered self from more disappointment, more sadness, I was keeping my own heart at a distance & trying not to get too attached to this fragile animal, just in case it didn't work out.  I enjoyed Echo, I was kind to him, but in a rather businesslike manner.  And I think this very intelligent, very sensitive horse, who was already responding to my purposeful changes in projected mental energy in groundwork, also picked up on that distance. 

He was waiting for me.

With a deep & shaky breath, I leaned my shoulder to the heavy lid of the box around my heart.  I haven't gotten it all the way open, I don't think that setting exists anymore.  After all, Solo is already in the box, so I can't let him escape.  But as Johnathan Safran Foer sagely wrote, "You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness."  With some metaphorical & actual fresh air & sunlight, I am making some tentative forays into the edges of hope & trust.   

As I do so, Echo is lowering the drawbridge & opening the door to reveal a cool, confident exuberance paired with a desire to please & venturesome spirit that I can't wait to keep exploring.  And it's written all over his face.

The world?  Bring it.