April 16, 2013

Look, It's Hard Being Six People At The Same Time

So many posts that need writing, so little brainpower available to throw at them.  But there are exciting things coming up, I swear, including a contest.  Like, with actual prizes!

Monday, I sat down with Dr. Bob at the clinic to talk about short- and long-term management options and possibilities for dear little Encore.  As many of you know, last spring, with the help of the amazing orthopedic department at NC State University's Vet School, we were able to pinpoint Encore's hind end subtle quirks and pain to arthritic changes in his vertebral processes between T12-L1.  He was injected at the vet school (although a resident told me this process would never have to be repeated, which seemed highly biologically improbable at the time and later, I learned my instincts were right) and over the process of three weeks, returned to comfort and full work.  Of course, he then promptly slipped and pulled his SI ligament at Five Points HT that August.  *headdesk*
Being a star at Holder Event Team's Windhaven Farm.

When we returned from our magical fantasy time with Becky, out of nowhere, his back flared up and it was as if someone had flipped a switch, turning my strong, balanced horse into the stumbling, rushing, anxious kid of a year ago.  I was caught so completely off guard, I admit to full-on panic, frantic weekend emails to NCSU (which were actually answered, bless them) and whirling confusion as to what this all meant.

Dr. Bob was able to reinject his back with no issues after consulting with the Vet School, with the clocking ticking down to Longleaf Pines HT.  I did not want to push a sore horse, so I deeply hoped he would feel better quickly and not make me eat $220 of entry fees.

Long story short, it was bumpy, but he began to make positive progress this past weekend and it looks as if he will ok to head to my favourite horse trial on Saturday.  But I had some things to think about and some questions to ask.

Would managing his back spiral into insanity, leaving both of us in a constant state of anxiety and frustration?

Would Encore even be able to make it in eventing -- all I want is Training Level and he can jump that from a standstill.

Should I consider surgery?

Head spinning, quite exorcist-like, I crashed through the clinic doorway and assaulted our poor, wonderful vet with all of it.  In his trademark practical, calm delivery, he allayed many of my concerns and quieted the howling confusion and uncertainty yet again.

As his imagery shows, Encore's vertebral changes are low-grade, a 1 out of 4.  He does not show bone loss or fusion and still has joint space, even though it is reduced.  By keeping his topline strong, continuing to teach him to use his body in a round outline, and keeping the inflammation at bay with periodic injections, he should not have a problem achieving the goals I have set for us.

So I decided to start breathing again.  That is reasonable management and that I can do.  I am well aware by now that a horse in training and competition WILL need management of some kind.  As soon as you begin to challenge their body, unless you are just insanely lucky (and I sort of hate you), you will have to support that body, just as you would any athlete's, through diet, medical care, physical therapy, and all those other details.  Be it injecting hocks or padding feet or supplying Adequan or calming ulcers or building up stifles or unlocking a weak joint or muscle, once you enter the sporthorse game, those cards will land on your table.

The decision we must make, then, includes defining what is reasonable for both horse and human.  If it's a joint injection and muscle building, well heck, half of that I need to do anyway and the other half is pretty straightforward and low on the "things that help our horses" totem pole, so I'm ok with that.  Solo needed his hocks done every six months when he was in work.  Encore needing the same for his back every 8-10 months (pretty much the same price) is fine.  In fact, it may be less than that -- doing ten days of very intensive training in a row, in my reality, is not something that is going to happen again any time in the foreseeable future, so that level of body stress for a prolonged period of time will be rare (thank goodness for BOTH of us).

For today then, Encore and I will continue to be a matched pair, with a bit of crunch in our backs that, with a little helping hand, doesn't diminish our enthusiasm for the road ahead.  Hopefully, it will stay that way.


  1. NCSU vets are the best! I'm glad you have a maintenance plan that is doable.

  2. Your vet sounds wonderful and I'm glad your worries could be calmed!

  3. Glad to hear the good prognosis. Glad and relieved because you are right all of us owners of sport horses will have to deal with maintenance issues at some point and it's good to be reminded that this is pretty normal.

  4. Dang, I should not post without proofreading when tired, I left out some important words! Now fixed, glad the gist was still clear, LOL.

    Thank you and yes, Dr. Bob is great. He has put up with my crazy for 5 or 6 years now and still answers my questions!

    Amanda, it is definitely a reminder for myself too! BFF and I often have this conversation when one of our horses breaks. If you train it, it will crash. I need to paint that on my tack shed or something!

  5. Woot! About time you all got some good news! Yeah, we riders and our horses definitely need to be Super Glue-d back together again once in a while--just make sure ya let the glue set and you guys will be good to go! ;-)

  6. Well, that is a relief for both of you! Maintenance of horse AND rider is definitely to be expected. I'm sure that the extra effort at Becky's is what caused this flare-up and your buddy will be good to go now for a while. *fingers crossed*

    Looking forward to hearing about your run at Longleaf, yay!

  7. I hope indeed it is good news! Worry still sneaks in on me because he is still pretty young at 8, but I guess everything we do is a calculated risk. I'm just hoping for an uneventful completion at Longleaf!

  8. I'm glad you get to compete this weekend!

    I understand your frenzy though... we just want the best for our horses. I'm taking my 4 1/2 year old to his first event this weekend, and last weekend I came to the barn and he was OUT OF IT with swollen glands and I freaked! Luckily, my awesome vet told me it was likely allergies because there was no fever and gave me some antihistamine. Not quite the same with Encore, but I'm just saying- I get the tendency to over-react and panic and worry you should pull from the event and oh will your horse survive!? :)

    But I'm glad we both get to go on and compete this weekend with the horses we love! Best of luck!