Visiting the vet

This morning I was out at 6.30, bringing Minnie and Cassie in from the field to get them ready for our trip to the vet. A quick brush, pick out feet, put on tail-bandages and travel-boots and we were ready for trailer loading. I took Cassie first, she is the heavier of the two and I wanted her on the right-hand side of the trailer. Cassie needs a bit of encouragement to load: if I bring her straight up to the ramp, she’ll stop and dig her heels in, so I walk a few circles past the ramp until she relaxes, then I incorporate the ramp in our circle. When I feel she’ll follow, I walk up the ramp and straight into the trailer without hesitating or looking back. Once in, Cassie is fine. She won’t try to back out and she will stand quietly while I tie her up and walk around to close the bar behind her. Minnie would follow me anywhere so loading her only took seconds.

 I had never travelled Minnie and Cassie together before, and I wondered how they would react to being in such a small space together, but they were very sweet. When Minnie tried to sample Cassie’s haynet , Cassie responded by simply hanging it outside the trailer, out of Minnie’s reach. No pinned ears, no bitching, instead breakfast al fresco! 

At the vet’s, I took Cassie out first. Cassie immediately recognised where she was, took one look at the open door to the treatment room and decided she did not want to go in. I don’t believe in putting pressure on a horse in a situation like that, and besides, with Cassie that would only result in a rear, so I just walked and jogged around with her while the vet watched how she moved. Then I walked backwards into the treatment room and this time Cassie came along nicely. The vet and I talked about her treatment and I told him that I was still massaging ointment into the bone spur twice a day, and that apart from the cortisol/dmso cream I was using Comfrey ointment. He is very interested in treating horses with herbs and he hadn’t heard of Comfrey, so I told him that Comfrey is also known as knit-bone and excellent for healing bones. Then he gave me the good news: “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it because it is working, that bone spur has reduced in size since the previous x-ray. I suggest you keep going for another month or so. That bone spur needs to be reduced by at least another 40% to stop pinching the suspensory. It is still hot and active, so that is good. Once the bone spur is reduced, we’ll scan her to check the suspensory, she’ll probably needs to rest it for a while. It is going to be slow, but in a couple of months she should be ok.”

Then it was Minnie’s turn. I walked and trotted with her in the concrete yard and although Minnie moved with me like a dream, she was obviously very uncomfortable. The vet tried to lift her left hind and found that she didn’t want to do that at all. After several attempts he managed to lift it, but not very far. Then he had a good look at her from behind and he pointed out that she had some muscle atrophy on the left side. He told me he suspected that the damage from the fall was higher that her stifle, possibly a hairline fracture in pelvis or hip and without a doubt major soft tissue trauma that hadn’t healed properly, like a torn muscle that was now full of scar tissue. To find out if she had an old fracture would take an MRI scan, which is not an option as I simply can’t afford it, but the vet said it wouldn’t really make any difference anymore, because of the time passed since the fall.

We brought Minnie inside and the vet scanned her right fore leg. He said I was spot on with my diagnosis of a problem with the diagonal: the suspensory ligament in her right fore was inflamed again and about 30% bigger than it should be. The left hind was impeding healing in the right fore and it was causing a downward spiral: the pain in her right fore was making her left hind even stiffer. He said it was obvious that I was extremely attached to her, but that he felt her career as a riding horse was most likely over. I asked him if there was anything that might help and we discussed possible treatment. The vet said he didn’t really believe in superficial soft tissue manipulation doing any good and the only option was really a properly trained veterinary physiotherapist. Then he suggested I should consider putting her in foal, “she is a nice mare and well-built”.

I put Minnie back in the trailer and went home. I felt hopeful with regards to the chances of Cassie making a full recovery. Even if the bone spur needs some shock wave treatment, it doesn’t look as bleak as it did a couple of weeks ago, which is a relief. For Minnie, I am going to find a good physiotherapist. I have to find out if it is possible to break this cycle of injury on injury that she is in and make her more comfortable and more balanced. This evening I had a good look at her.

Now that I knew what to look for, I can really see the atrophy on the left and she is carrying her tail slightly to the right. The problems also show up in her hooves and it is very obvious when I trim her. Her right fore always has a lot more growth of both hoof wall and bars; she is not wearing it down at all. All her weight is on her left fore, which is actually changing shape. That is not something I can even attempt to fix. Time to call in the experts there too, I think. Poor Minnie, it’s not looking too good, but I’m not giving up just yet!

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8 thoughts on “Visiting the vet

  1. What a bummer about Minnie, I wish I knew something helpful to tell you 😦
    I don’t think that it would hurt her to get a massage though.

    That’s super encouraging about Cassie though, I’ll have to remember that about the comfrey.

    • Shannon, Comfrey is a great ointment to have around, it’s excellent for lower backpain too! I can actually see that the bone spur has reduced in size now, so I am very hopeful I can get Cassie right without having to go for injections or shockwave therapy.

  2. Wolfie, I hope that a good physiotherapist will be able to free Minnie up a bit, she has definitely lost movement in her left hind over the last few months. If I had been told about that fall at the time, things might have gone differently. Now I have to deal with an old and established injury. It just goes to show how important it is to get treatment as early as possible and of course how dependent we are on practices in a livery yard when somebody else is looking after our horse. I’m so glad I can keep my horses at home now!

  3. That’s really good news about Cassie.

    You’re certainly facing a challenge with Minnie – I’m sure you’ll learn/are learning a lot from this. That photo shows the atrophy really clearly.

    It’s inevitable, isn’t it, that it’s suggested the horse has to be given a new raison d’etre now that you can’t ride her – e.g. “put her in foal.” I’m sure horses like to have a purpose in life as much as people, but I think we’re very limited in our thinking as to what that purpose might be.

    F’rinstance – like the other day George deliberately did a healing on my legs. I mean – I feel really stupid now that at one time I thought his job in life was to learn how to be chased around a round pen or something. Gosh, it reminds me of the time when I had a part-time babysitter who’d been a biochemistry professor at the University of Beijing and had come to the U.S. with her husband who was studying here. She had no work visa and ended up taking care of my babies a few hours a week! I felt, like – Something Is Wrong With This Picture.

    • June, as you know I’ve always said that the main thing for me is that Minnie can live her life to the best of her abilities without pain. I love her to bits and she is much, much more to me than “just” a riding horse and that is more than enough for me to justify her existence; I certainly wouldn’t put her in foal just for that reason. Anyway, I would only go for a foal if I was in the position to keep another horse, which at the moment is out of the question.

      I loved your story about George doing a healing on you. Someone once said to me that some horses come into our lives for a reason. I had a horse like that a few years ago. I was never able to ride this horse, but he was the best teacher I ever had. Without him, I would only be half the horse person I am today.

  4. This comment is for this post and your last post as well.

    It’s scary how fragile horses are. They’re so big, people often think that they’re incredibly tough, and they can be, but they’re so easily damaged as well. That’s one of my greatest fears about boarding horse, that something would happen and I wouldn’t be informed. I am very fortunante though to have wonderful barn owners, and since I board outside, they never have any reason to do anything with my guys.

    I really admire you for wanting to do what you can for Minnie, and standing by her even if she won’t be ridable. Riding is a fun bonus but to me, and for a lot of people, it isn’t the big draw for horses. Just being with them is.

    It’s frustrating how a lot of people think that if you can’t ride a mare, you should breed her. I have that issue with my two-year-old filly, Cas, the one with the bad leg. When people find out that I will not be training her under saddle, the next question is always if I’m going to breed her. I think having an existance of being a horse out in the field and being a companion for us can be enough.

    I’m really glad to hear that about Cassie though! Hopeful she heals nicely and your girls stop giving you reasons to worry!

  5. Cjay, I’ve had a few bad experiences over the years with Livery yards, where I wasn’t contacted when something happened to my horse, which happened to me more than once or other things like not enough bedding in the stable or not enough turn out. It was the reason why I bought land, to be able to keep my horses at home.

    It’s interesting how people react when you can’t ride a horse. With a mare the question about breeding is inevitable. Even in a country full of unwanted horses, people still assume that if you can’t ride a mare, you put her in foal. It just makes me wonder what those people would say if the injured horse is a gelding.

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