Well, do you want the good news or the bad news?
Let’s start optimistically. Oakley and I have been spending lots of quality time together this week. Unfortunately, that time has been limited to hand-walking, icing, poulticing and bandaging.
OK, backtrack. As of two weeks ago, a big, beautifully-decorated course has been set up in our indoor to prepare our two riders who will be showing at the upcoming Royal Winter Fair (which is a notoriously spooky ring.) At first, we struggled to have productive rides in here, as there wasn’t a lot of space to navigate his big self around the jumps, but with the help of Trainer A, we started getting really good work, especially at the canter, which has come leaps and bounds, balance-wise. Oakley stepped up to the plate day after day; he felt stronger and more rideable every time. As a bonus, he was very blasé about all the cornstalks, flowers, pumpkins, filler and streamers, which would have sent Schmoodle into a conniption fit of epic proportions.
Towards the end of last week, he was a little more resistant in the bridle and came out quite stiff in the right hock, which convinced me that it’s time to inject that sucker. He also had a little spot of fluid in the left front after one ride, but I figured it was from a weirdly-wrapped polo, as the fill disappeared immediately.
Saturday, my parents, brother, aunt and uncle came out to meet Oakley. We spent the morning stuffing him with treats, giving him the spa treatment, and taking photos of his handsome self as he enjoyed his daily turnout. He looked great: shiny, getting a little fatter, happy and relaxed.
Alas, on Sunday I took him out of his stall and he was dead lame. Like crippled, leg-tremblingly lame, despite having been totally sound the previous day and having done nothing but stood in his large, well-bedded stall ever since. ASLDJQW!!@(#*&@($&.
The left front leg was very full of fluid, though the tendons/ligaments weren’t sore on palpation. He had some significant heat in the heel, so the barn manager and I crossed our fingers that it just an abscess. I drove home in a hell of a funk and promptly let the tears flow (…all over my boyfriend and his favourite sweater. Sorry about those mascara stains, babe.)
I waited with bated breath for the vet’s report the next day. Of course, the text message from the barn manager came as I sat through a most pointless and boring meeting. All I could see on the preview of the message, without being rude/unprofessional and unlocking my phone to read it, was: “So, good news and bad news. We blocked out the foot and he was still off…” AGH LET ME OUT OF THIS MEETING IMMEDIATELY.
The full message was hardly comforting. I speed-read it, gleaning a few key words: “thinking high suspensory strain…” “doesn’t look like it’s a new injury…” “tendons on both legs don’t look great…”
Well that is wonderful.
I drove to the barn in a fit of anxiety. When I got there, however, the barn manager explained the vet’s diagnosis more fully, and it really wasn’t as bad as I thought. The vet had ultrasounded both legs and found no tears or lesions, only fluid. The tendons themselves were pristine; in both front legs, however, fluid was present around them (more so on the left, clearly.) The vet surmised that this was secondary to what are basically crushed heels: the foot angles are out of whack and causing strain on the tendons. I suspect that when our new farrier shod Oakley for the first time last week, he might have tried to be too ambitious with changing the angles; at any rate, he’s coming back out of Friday to re-shoe, get the heels up, and make sure Oakley has good support. The vet said he wasn’t surprised, given his feet, that this soreness had presented itself, and that once his feet have healthier angles, the problem will disappear. In the meantime: ten days of stall rest plus hand-walking, then he’ll come out to re-evaluate. He even said he probably won’t bother to ultrasound again, given that the tendons themselves are A-OK.
So, not the end of the world. Of course, I will remain worried until he gets a clean bill of health (and, let’s be real, for a good long while after that), but the vet was optimistic in no uncertain terms that he will go back to work just fine.
Our new evening routine is as follows: unbandage Oakley, hand walk for fifteen minutes, ice boot on the left for twenty minutes while I brush and fuss over him, then poultice both sides and re-bandage. On Monday, Oakley was not in a happy mental place: he was very reluctant to hand-walk, and seemed touched out after his afternoon of veterinary unpleasantness. (Also, his dinner had been RUINED! RUINED I SAY! by the addition of bute.) I even got him a Likit to hang in his stall during his convalescence, but he regarded it with intense suspicion.
Last night, thankfully his attitude was a million percent better: he was back to being my bright-eyed guy. His gait was far more even; he tolerated his hand-walk easily. The barn had fed him molasses-flavoured bute rather than peppermint – infinitely preferable.
We’ll be on the bench for a little while, but on the brighter side, Oakley has time to pack on some pounds, ready to be converted into sexy topline muscle when he comes back into work. Also, I’m learning that our new barn is just wonderful: they’ve been super attentive and knowledgeable and have been providing great care. I guess putting your horse on a medical regimen is one way to road-test the barn staff.
The more I think about this, the more I realize I have had the great fortune to have never really been sidelined by a horse’s injury, across all the different horses I’ve ridden. I guess I was well overdue. It makes me more anxious and prone to assume the worst than your average owner, I think, because I haven’t had enough experience with lameness/injury care for it to become normalized. But I shall keep calm and poultice on.
(Oh PS the vet still has to inject his hocks. Hahaha VET BILLS.)