May 28, 2019
I've been asking you to share your stories about making medical decisions with your horses. Kellie Auld from California sent me this email of a story she wanted to share about her mare, Little Girl.
Kellie bought Little Girl as a 2-year-old. Her registered name is Skip to My Leaguer. Together they went all over California competing in little shows and eventing.
Kellie and Little Girl had a good relationship. When Little Girl was 11, the two took part in an eventing clinic at their boarding stable. Little Girl had worked hard during the clinic and Kellie wanted to get her out for a hand-walk on the trail the next day to stretch her legs. This was a trail they had been on many times. Both of them knew about the free range peacocks living in the area. About 1/2 mile down the trail they ran into a male "paint" peacock. A big blue-and-white peacock. This was a first.
Little Girl is a high-energy horse, and she went into survival mode. Kellie had to hang on to the lead rope while trying to disengage her horse. The ground was hard, rocky, and uneven. They had only walked out about 10 minutes when this happened, but they took nearly 30 minutes to get back. So much for a relaxing walk. They both came back in a sweat. Poor Little Girl was lathered up.
Little Girl had a compound fracture in her right hind splint bone and had bruises on all 4 feet despite being shod and wearing protective boots. She was lame all the way around. X-rays and ultrasounds on all four feet showed nothing other than the fracture. The vet prescribed a month of stall rest followed by a month of hand walking. Little Girl finally got turned out for some light trotting. Ice treatments, poultices, DMSO, and water treatments usually followed.
Her splint calcified and resolved and her feet returned to their natural state. Finally, the vets gave the okay for tack-walking and lunge-line work. She was not back to 100%, so Kellie took it slow. Little Girl looked good except for the right front lameness. Six months and two follow-up vet exams passed and still there was no improvement. The vet advised Kellie to stay consistent with her exercise. Don't increase the workload.
After another month, the lameness worsened. Kellie sought a second opinion. Of course, it was another thorough exam involving x-rays, blocking, and everything that goes with it. This vet said the only way to see what was really going on was with an MRI. Without insurance, it would have to come out of Kellie's pocket.
About this time, Kellie got another job and moved. The move put her closer to a well-known equine podiatrist and lameness specialist with a standing MRI. The cost of the MRI was $2700, but Kellie had to know what was going on with Little Girl. She put everything on credit cards that were already under the strain of the first rounds of vet exams.
It was a full year after the initial injury that Kellie finally got an answer through the MRI. In all the commotion and chaos with the peacocks, Little Girl had come down so hard on that right front hoof she had internally lacerated her deep digital flexor tendon with her navicular bone. She had slightly chipped her navicular and bruised her bursa. This diagnosis meant stall rest for 6 months (no hand walking) and then light hand walking and stall rest for another 6 months. Telling a fit, high energy 12-year-old they have to stay locked up and can't go outside was an extreme challenge.
Little Girl is now 15 and Kellie faces a tough decision. She has done everything the vets prescribed. Three different farriers and special shoes haven't made the difference she hoped for. Does she retire Little Girl from riding for good? While Kellie would be okay if Little Girl spent the rest of her life with light trail riding and groundwork, the pain is clear even in those activities.
In Kellie's words, "I am heartbroken for my own selfish reasons for I put money and time into 4 vets, thousands of dollars (I really don't have). Now my horse tells me she wants to keep riding and having fun, but she just can't. I feel for everyone who has to battle with lameness. There is no right answer sometimes. There is just us doing the best we can at the moment. Little Girl is happy, loving, and sound enough to be a pasture pony now. The day may come when she is not. We will cross that bridge when we get there. For now, I love on her and let her be, even though when I go out there she still wants to play games. She doesn't understand why we don't go for trail rides, because she likes them just as much as me, if not more."
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