Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Letting go of MY agenda

I have to admit to myself that Grace has never really been 100% sound. I’m sure the woman I wrote the check too when I bought her would not agree to that, but I do remember her having a reluctance to pick up her left lead when we first rode her.
Grace loves her job so much that she does not want me to know when she hurts.
There are days I wish she was more like my last horse Bailey, he had no problem taking time off when he didn’t feel up to a ride. She has so much heart she always gives me everything she has, even if it causes pain.

This last winter was one of our best so far. We were able to ride 4-5 days a week even hauling to an indoor arena during the shortest days. Drill team practice started in March; Grace has been a super star at practices. Both practices were on a Monday night, by Friday of the same week she had crashed. Both Friday’s I had a lesson with Sarah. At the last lesson, she could not walk without showing discomfort. Grace wasn’t noticeably lame, but she was sucked up in her gut and coughing. Not a respiratory cough that I could link to anything, more of a trying to get comfortable in her body cough, not sure if that makes sense to anyone but me. I’ve been thinking the cough is a response to ulcers, almost like an acid reflux. I’ve been treating her with a product that coats her esophagus and her stomach, but still she would stop, pull her head to her front hoofs and cough.

Sarah recommended we give Grace time off to heal, not just a few weeks, but several months. I knew when she said it, that she was right, but I just wasn’t ready that day. Grace had been doing so well up until the last few weeks, the last time I ran a barrel pattern with her it was so much better than last year, I was so excited about getting her to some races this year. The drill team pattern was really coming together. Grace’s position was on the outside of the wagon wheel, she got to go fast this year! The rodeo was only a few months away; weekly practices would be starting in two weeks. I somewhat emotionally explained to Sarah that I had heard what she was saying, but I just wasn’t ready. It would be easier if Grace was 3 legged lame, then Sarah explained that whatever was going on with Grace, was an unsoundness, the mare was clearly in pain. I had gone against Sarah’s advice concerning Grace in the past, it didn’t turn out well. I knew in my heart that I was not going to put my mare, the horse who I consider to be my best friend through that again. Sarah and I agreed to give it two weeks, and then we would reassess. In the meantime I was committed to giving Grace a week off, I would also increase the amount of ulcer treatment she was getting.

The weather was bad for the week I gave Grace off. I read the Twilight series in 5 days.
I was guarded around Grace, crazy as it sounds, I did not want her to pretend to be better just for me. I pulled her out of the pasture every day and brushed her. She still seemed sucked up in her gut. It was better by the end of the week, but I still felt that she could crash again. In the meantime I had called a horse communicator. Yes, I am that crazy! The communicator confirmed that Grace was in pain. She said her hind end hurt and her front end was sore because she had started leaning on it, Grace also had a headache. Grace told her 3 times that she wants to have a baby. She also talked about her love of barrel racing and the rodeo arena. The communicator said that Grace wanted her hocks injected. I wasn’t too sure about that one; it seemed like a really specific request that had a human influence behind it. After the session with the communicator, I scheduled a vet visit for Grace.

Ever told the vet that you talked to a horse communicator? Ever wondered if you really are as crazy as everyone around you must think you are? Actually Dr.Hills took it really well, like something he hears every day. We talked about the coughing and my theory about ulcers. From the physical exam he did not see any outward signs of respiratory distress or ulcers. He commented more than once on how good she looked, he said her weight and body condition were perfect. He did want to closely evaluate her hind end lameness. We started a series of flexion tests; I fully expected her hocks to be an issue. She has arthritis in her left hock that this vet diagnosed in the past. He told me that he believes that her left hock may be fused at this point, something we could confirm with x-rays. What surprised us both was her reaction to him palpating her suspensory ligaments. She wanted nothing to do with it. The Dr. Hills explained to me that the treatment for her hocks verses suspensorys would almost contradict each other. While he would like to see her continue to exercise for her hocks, if her suspensories were involved, she would need rest. I agreed to have them ultrasounded. The good news is that there are no tears or strains. Both ligaments are inflamed and thicker than they should be. We discussed shock wave therapy, which would reduce the inflammation, pain and increase the healing time. Grace had her first treatment while we were at the clinic. Dr. Hills plans to recheck Grace in two weeks; we will spend more time on her hocks at that appointment as we both agree that this is where things started. It became very clear to me during the appointment that Grace would be taking the next 6 weeks off. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I now had a direction, and an entire summer of unscheduled weekends.

My focus is now on getting Grace better. Dr. Hills cleared us for hand walking over the next 6 weeks. I am already thinking of what it will be like to bring her back in the fall, stronger and sounder than ever before. Right now my pressing concern is keeping her brain busy during this down time. By the end of last week she was pacing the fence line, not something that will help keep her sound. Sarah had already started us on some in hand exercises over the winter. I could hear the wheels turning in her head last night on the phone as we discussed a game plan for Grace’s recovery. I sent an email out to the drill team last night, letting them know of my decision to step down. I ordered a set of magnetic standing wraps this morning. I am headed to Walmart to get Grace her own roll of saran wrap and I have to remember to check my supply of clay poultice when I get home. That little mare is going to make a horseman out of me someday.

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