SUBSCRIBE TODAY Smiley face  Get updates via email! 

We Are Flying Solo

May 23, 2012

Horse Hospitals Are Even Slower Than Human Hospitals

Hard to believe, isn't it?

Remember the Flying Solo Test Of Horse Ownership Preparedness?  Oh yes, we're at it again.  Actually, when I called my insurer to give them a heads-up on what was going on, I swear I heard them sigh in despair when I said NC State.  They just sent me the kick injury check last week.  They are not thinking I am a good investment at the moment.

All surfaces hoseable...
Since Encore was NQR (Not Quite Right, for the uninitiated) at our lesson, I followed David's advice and so today found us meeting with the head orthopedic diagnostic guru at NC State University's veterinary hospital.  He and his flock of undervets and minions flexed and jogged and watched Encore under saddle and videoed and scribbled.  Oh, and this was all around 1:30ish.  Our appt and arrival time was at 10:30 am.  Ha.

I had given Guru a strict lecture -- I am a state employee and Encore IS insured, but there is still a 30% copays for diagnostics.  Guru turned to his head undervet and said, "what would you recommend for this horse?"

Undervet replies as dreaded:  "Bone scan.  But I think it's going to be a hard sell."

"Why is that?" asks Guru, "Just because it's money out of her pocket?"

Gee, thanks, man.  Oh well, just fix my horse.

The equine version of those little bracelets
Guru did agree with my assessment that Encore's limbs were fine, but there was something going on higher up.  And he wanted to scan his whole body since that pesky little LF limp step was showing up -- it's been there since the beginning, but I figured it was a bad foot thing and it goes away after a few minutes of warmup.

I did tell them that I already have radiographs of his front feet and his hind leg where he was kicked, so there's something...and I just paid his insurance deductible thanks to the lovely kick injury.

I wasn't alone though -- a girl just a bit younger than me was handgrazing her horse on the front lawn as I walked by and asked me beggingly, "Please tell me good news!  I just need to hear someone has good news."

"Sorry," I sadly replied, "I have none.  Horse ownership is pretty much a period of dealing with issues punctuated by brief interludes of bliss doing what you actually love."

We sighed together.

So Encore must stay in the hospital until Friday and will be released once he is no longer radioactive.  If you are curious about bone scans, you can read the layperson version here or the total science nerd version here.

I had read about bone scans and the procedure, but I suppose I hadn't really processed that I would have to leave him there and drive home with an empty trailer.  Undervet apparently recognized the blind panic on my face and suddenly became a great deal gentler.

"Don't worry," he said, "We'll take very good care of him and we will call you with any updates and before he goes in for scanning."  He took down feeding notes and had I been a bit younger, he might have patted me on the head.

Do not like.  Take home now, please.
I went to say goodbye to Encore, who kept trying to sneak out the door in a nervous lunge to please not stay here, mum!  I gave him a hug and told him to be a good boy and promised I was coming back for him (ok, maybe I cried a little, but no one saw it so it can never be proven) and took a deep breath and walked away.  It was a very loooong walk back to the trailer, with a brief pause at the checkout to give away a massive sum of invisible money.

They tell me images will be available on Friday morning, so we will know more then.  I have fearful suspicions, but hope that they are very wrong.  I do want something to show up though, because if it doesn't show up on a bone scan, that means it's soft tissue, which is far harder to pinpoint and treat.

All around though, I can assure you, hospitals still suck no matter what species you are.  At least in a person hospital, it's just me that's nervous.  In the horse hospital, I am nervous, Encore is nervous, then I am trying to be not nervous so he will not feed off my nervousness, then I get nervous that he looks more nervous...really, they should just give out Xanax at the door and be done with it!


  1. "Diagnosis of occult or intermittent lameness" - well, there was my answer. I've heard of nuclear scintigraphy, but didn't know what it was or why it's used, and I had no idea why this would be indicated in Encore's case, but now thanks to your links I (kind of) get it! I do sincerely hope that they find something bone-wise, and that it's imminently fixable... poor baby. I can just see the anxiety on his face. I would have bawled my way right out of there, for the record. :-(

  2. Val had nuclear scintigraphy. It did help pinpoint the location and nature of his hip injury.

    I hope the procedure sheds light on Encore's issue - fingers crossed for you. :)

  3. Fingers crossed for Encore!!

    And I know about the nervousness you speak of. It never leaves you, no matter how long you've been in the equine industry. I just had to make the dreaded call to my vet to have my 20-year old QH euthenized. Try being nervous, wanting to cry and sound professional (or at least adult) all at the same time.

    Good luck!


  4. I'm very sorry that you're having to go through this, especially after everything with Solo. :(

  5. RW, if I had stayed in the stall any longer, that might have been the case because I made myself leave. On top of everything else, sheesh!

    Thanks, CFS!!

    Aw, Jen, I am so sorry to hear that. I had to do the same thing with my Smokey-dog when I asked Dr. Bob to put her down for me. I was trying to be all professional but I was choking and I could feel my eyes twitching. He was kind enough to ignore that...

    Thanks, Beka -- I have read many good success stories of bone scans revealing previously unknown and obscure things, so I just want it to be worth all that invisible money!

  6. Here's hoping shelling out invisible money ends up with a definite diagnosis for young master Encore. Your description combined with his sad eyes made ME tear up. ((HUGS)) to you and your boy and lots of positive engergies!

  7. I sure hope you get some good news out of all this. My trainer's horse just had to make a trip out to Rood & Riddle for choke. When I told my husband what the initial cost was he about choked too and then he asked me if I was sure I still wanted to do this "horse" thing. Silly husband you either get it or you don't and if you don't there's no explaining it.

  8. You are very right, Amanda. It is a whole world which for some of us IS our life, a piece of us. You can be on the outside and understand, I have been blessed with an SO that does, even though he can't be with me right now. But if you don't understand that world at all, it will never make any sense. There is no logic, only love.

  9. Oh no, not the dreaded horsepital! Sad Encore eyes + extraction of massive amount of hard-earned invisible money = total agony!

    Fingers, toes, eyes, and hooves crossed for a definitive diagnosis from the Nuclear Encore Light Bright scan--hopefully, it's something that can be easily pinpointed and semi-affordably fixed.

    Yes, you deserve a whole bottle of Xanax and a tray full of triple fudge brownies. ;-)

  10. I've already got the brownies. Fortunately, treatment should not cost anything, since only diagnostics have a copay so they can do whatever the heck fancy treatment they want!

  11. Fingers and hooves crossed that Encore will be okay. I am on week 4 1/2 of 6 to 8 week treatment for EPM for my nice mare. All my plans for a horseshow and clinic summer have gone out the window--I just want my nice horse back.

  12. Nooooo! Poor Encore. Poor you. You need wine and chocolate, stat. Encore looks like he needs more carrots and someone to spring him, stat. I'm not sure I could have left that face without a box of tissues and vet students bodily escorting me out.

    Fingers crossed that the bone scan reveals the source of the problem(s?), and that treatment is easy and successful.

  13. Thank you! jenj, it was a close one. It took all my internal fortitude focused on one goal: getting to the truck without running back and springing him free.

  14. Ugh. I am so sorry! Thinking happy thoughts for your boy. I know the feeling of pulling away with an empty trailer, leaving your horse in sterile horsey jail with a bunch of ding dong vet students to care for him! Hang in there, you'll figure it all out soon enough. I still get a chuckle out of Pongo's bone scan which revealed his fused hock that was entirely unrelated to his acute injury and pretty much nothing else, LOL. Good to know UC Davis, good to know ;)

  15. Hoping for the best! Hang in there! <3

  16. Thanks, y'all -- the vet students don't do much aside from take histories, TPR's, and brush and feed. The residents and head vets do all the real stuff at NCSU and we are lucky to have a couple very good ones!

  17. Been there done that! Just remember that the scan will reveal alot... even stuff that may not be a problem at all. Good luck to you both!

  18. Yep, been there done that too! My partial body bone scan was done when we couldn't figure out why Gogo was a lot lamer post tendon injury than the vets expected.... turns out when she slid and did her tendons that she also jammed her stifle. One injection later and she was totally fine.

  19. Oh, and here's what your horse looks like when getting nuclear scintigraphized!

  20. If it makes you feel better, I had a bone scan and it is completely painless. Just kind of boring. And being radioactive isn't nearly as exciting as it sounds. Hope all goes well.

  21. LOL, M, yes, sadly, I don't think Encore appreciates the coolness of the technology quite as much as I do.

    Thanks for the pictures, Andrea! I hope they do give me a CD for Encore so I can check them out. Hoping hoping hoping it's injectible.