Thursday, January 24, 2013

What to do With Sassy- Part 2

Which is worse; knowing what your horses problem is and not being able to fix it, or knowing that she has a problem, that you can't properly diagnose and not being able to fix it?

Today I am going with option 2.  Even after more x-rays and flexion tests and hoof tests, we are no closer to an answer with Sassy than we were before.  Well except that we know what it ISN'T.

She is definitely  more lame on the right front than the left.  The left was the alleged chipped coffin bone.  The x-rays show no issues with any of the bones or joints. Her soles are plenty thick, her coffin bone looks good.     The hoof test shows the pain to be towards her heel areas.  At that point Bruce stopped and said, "Look I could sit here all day and take x-rays and burn up your money, but the answers will be the same.  I don't know what is wrong and I don't have the right equipment to find it. She needs an MRI."

Oh ok, that should be simple right?

Well not really. The closest place to get an MRI is at CSU. He says it will cost thousands just to diagnose her. That doesn't even include what ever treatment she needs, if it can even be treated.  The truth is, right now I don't have thousands.  I can usually come up with a few hundred at a time, but not thousands.

So let me back up a little with my story.

When I got off work, I ran home, started my truck (the one with the nosey prints all over the window) , grabbed a bucket of grain and walked to the round pen. She practically beat me in the gate. I let her eat some of it, haltered her up without issue, and lead her to the trailer. She took one sniff and jumped in, eyes wide with wonder and curiosity. It has been a while since she has gone anywhere so she was pretty excited.  Not in a bad or unmanageable way, just in her cute little Sassy way.

My neighbor followed me over so that she could watch and help out if needed.  When we got there, Bruce was not there yet, but I went ahead and unloaded her.  She walked around with her head up, taking in the surroundings.  When we walked to the indoor arena my neighbor started looking for a latch for the big door.
Before she could even get to it, I had Sassy inside through the man door.  The girl has no fear.

While we waited on Bruce, I did a little training with her. We pushed the ball around, she thought that was fun. We went to the bridge, at first she tried to go around it. I moved her back into position and then just waited. She sniffed, she put one foot up, then she put the other foot up, then up she went!

Her first time
After that we couldn't keep her off.

She did this on her own. I didn't even ask.

She says "You're getting all this for the blog right?
 I want people to see how smart and cute I am!"
Yes Sassy I'm getting it.
After that the cats came in. As soon as she saw them she started to follow them. She was not afraid, just curious.  She sniffed at them and nosed them around until they decided they had enough and went where she couldn't get them.
We played with a tarp. When I flung it by her side like a giant plastic bag she was bothered at first but calmed down quickly. She wore it on her head and walked around, she walked on it. She did not care.  She was just so happy to be out and about.

When it came time to do x-rays she stood so still on the blocks and was just so good. I have never been more proud of her than I was then.  Then it was time to load up and go home.  She is the only horse I have who does not want to go home. She wanted to investigate more. She didn't want to go in the trailer. She did go without too much trouble but she let me know first that she was not ready to go.  She is such a bright young thing with one of the best personalities I have ever seen. She loves to learn, she loves to see things. She loves new challenges. What more could you ask for in a horse.....besides soundness. :(

So now comes the time where I have to make a decision on what to do next.
She is in pain. It is obvious. She still runs around the pasture like a fool, but at a trot her pain is clear.  Sometimes even just turning on her front is hard for her. She has to unload immediately. If she is this lame at 4, just being in the pasture, imagine what it would be like for her at 10 or 15. So keeping her as pet isn't even an option.
I do not have the money for the MRI, right now anyways.
She cannot be bred unless we know this is from and injury and not poor breeding, so selling her as a brood mare is out.
There is the option of donating her to CSU as a learning tool for their veterinary program. They would try to heal her and then place her in their horse program, or put her down.  Of course that means giving her up forever, and constantly wondering if they were good to her. But maybe it is the right answer.

I find myself wanting to grasp at straws...ultra sound?  Stall rest and supplements?  (stop all that running around all crazy)   Special shoes, special trimming? What is going to work?  Is anything going to work?  Do I give up and just put her down and spend the rest of my life wondering if I gave up too soon?   If I knew what was wrong and that I couldn't help her, then the decision would be easy.   Do I keep trying different vets until some one says what I want to hear.  Will they tell me what I want to hear just to get my money?  (it happens)

I am at a complete and total loss here. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions I would love to hear them. Even if it isn't the suggestion I want, I still want to hear what you guys think. I am stuck and having a hard time being objective.

For now, I guess I am going to go with stall rest and supplements.  I will try some stretching, although I'm not sure that is going to do much. I will take her for walks everyday, but will stop all the craziness for a while. But soon I am going to have to decide what to do.


  1. Oh that sounds so awful. I hate not knowing!!! I have no ideas but will keep hoping works out and you find something that works for you.

  2. She seems soooo sweet!

    I hate that theres no diagnosis. What are the possible things that the MRI would show? Like, would it show a torn ligament, etc? Could you try doing any of the treatments for that (obviously not surgery) and see if it moves her in the right direction at all? Of course, I don't know what exactly treatment there is for a torn ligament....massage and stall rest?

    Could it be a suspensory issue in the fore leg? I don't know much about suspensory, especially in the fore, except that it definitely can happen.

    Could it be a problem with her frog? I don't know if those can develop any problems, other than thrush...but its worth some research since she doesn't have any problem in the leg area...

    Could it be a shoulder? I guess that would show up in the flexion test. What if she is possibly out of alignment in the shoulder area, and makes her put pressure on her hoof differently and thats where the pain is coming from.

    Is there any sort of a pinched nerve that it could be? Like, what if she's not necessarily in pain but more can't feel it. I could see her limping/staying off of it if she can't feel it, or only has partial sensation of where it is.

    These are all kind of off the wall ideas...obviously I really don't know all that much about horse anatomy and health, but I've spent enough time curing gymnastics injurys to know that sometimes if something hurts, you have to try every crazy idea and work your way up from the actual problem! Plus, one of my crazy ideas could trigger something else that you could think of that makes sense to you!

    1. Could it be an infection in the tendon sheath in her leg? I know she had problems with her cannon bone all along, what if in the healing something got infected? I don't know if it would show up in any of the tests that the vet did or not

  3. Marissa, thanks those are some great ideas and worth looking into for sure. The shoulder being a good one. She has a scar over her shoulder where why was ripped open on a fence when she was 3 days old. Although it has never seemed to give her issue, it could be making her put her weight a little off. When we did nerve block and made her wound it made it clear that the issue is somewhere down low.
    He is thinking tendon or ligament.
    Oh and thanks for the link. will check it out.

  4. This would be easy if she was a bad horse, or a pain in the butt, or really hard headed. I'd be scheduling an appt to put her down, end of story. But she isn't. Mentally she is the best horse I have. Of all of them she is the one I always figured would be something special, because she has that "special something" that people look for in a horse. That makes this so much harder.

  5. She's willing to get her front end up because it relieves the pressure on both front feet. I would put sand in her run and then a 2 x 4 'box' filled with more sand so she can get her front end up and wait and see if it gets better with more rest.

    1. That makes sense Merideth. Her stall right now has a decent slope so she can park either up hill or down, which ever gives her more relief. My Trainer, who has been trimming her since I got her says that he thinks it is contracted heels. He has always said that she had them and now they are getting worse. He thinks that special shoes would help her immensely.

  6. I don't really have any suggestions as such but just wanted to tell you that being unable to make choices with this sort of thing with a good horse is something I dealt with too. I had a darling mare who was unsound for at least 4 and a half of our five years together. I made some bad choices through taking incorrect vet advice and also by second guessing myself too much. I've never been so indecisive in my dealings with my horses before or since. She was just such a good-hearted soul and I felt so bad for her to be so damaged so young. In the end she had to be put down at 13 when the bone spur in her knee was too bad for her to be comfortable on it in the paddock. I regret some of the choices I made along the way and wish I'd been more decisive, but I don't regret giving her the good times she had earned by serving humanity so well (though not with me) and I did the right thing by putting her down gently in her own paddock in the end. I could have had her put down earlier and maybe should have, for both our sakes, and maybe next time I would, but you can only do what you think is right at the time and I certainly agonised enough over each choice when I made it. I guess what I am trying to say is that this sort of situation is hard for anyone who cares about their horses, and all you can do is work from your heart and your head both, and also your wallet, and check the look in her eyes to make sure she is still enjoying life, and go from there. No-one who is outside your relationship with her gets to judge what you decide, because you love her best and know your own situation best. I might have said, don't send her to the university, but then if she is really such a bright spark who loves outings and change, she might enjoy that sort of life more than being retired in your paddock. Only you can know.