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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The deed is done.

Sorry for my small bits of hiatus. I am currently in Michigan for a friend's wedding (which was THE fairytale wedding of the century, SERIOUSLY), and am headed back to Connecticut tonight. The less often I get to come home to Michigan, the more I miss it. I kind of don't want to go back.

Anyway. Dr. C came out on Thursday after I had already ridden Gogo (and she was fairly lovely but coming into heat so a little bit distractable), and after wrestling with it mentally (and physically, really) for a year, it was finally decided that hock injections were in fact the best and kindest way to approach the changes in her hocks. These changes are not causing lameness at this point, but they will in the future if I am not proactive now. I've done as much as I can otherwise to help her body, but she's given me the signs of needing a little more help than that. With all that in mind, I made the decision to do what I had hoped I wouldn't have to for maybe another year yet. Arthritis is not curable. All I can do at this point is try to keep her as comfortable as possible for the remainder of her years. We'll never know just why this started in her, or how. If I had been pounding on her as a 3 year-old, yes. But she lived in a field until she was nearly 5. Her hind end conformation is pretty correct. When I was jumping her hardest, it was once a week at the very most, over fences that maxed out at around 2'9", and rarely. But, it still happened. And there is no use now in crying over spilled milk. When the systemic solutions were not enough, I went directly to the source of the problem. And when we went into the low joint in that right hock, there was a bit of excess fluid that came leaking back out of the needle, a good sign that there was some inflammation in there. Despite my personal aversion to injections (and how I feel very strongly that they are an American sickness and crutch), deep down I know that I did the right thing.

And I feel better now that it is done. Now, I can stop fretting about it every day. Now, I know that she can get back to doing what she really seems to love - running and jumping - without fear on her part or mine that she will experience any discomfort in those wonky hocks. I'm very interested to see how she feels post-injection. She has today, tomorrow, and Sunday off, and then I will hack her Monday and see just how she feels.

I did the right thing. Whether or not she's running and jumping or just hanging out in a field, I still want her to be as comfortable as possible, and would likely have opted for this in the end no matter what my intentions with her were, sport or otherwise. Nevertheless, I still can't help feeling a little weird. I've talked about this before, but things like this always bring up the morality question: why do we do things to horses that break them? Why do we need things like injections in order to keep them going for our own amusement? This is one of the reasons why I have absolutely no intentions of ever being a professional rider or trainer. At the top levels of sport, somedays you HAVE to go train and ride no matter whether or not you or the horse feel in top shape. Especially right after I got Gogo back from Crazy Trainer, she would have days where she looked like a zombie, and I couldn't bring myself to do more than just play with her on those days. I think that's the right thing to do. She always came out better the next day for it. And yes, I'd lose a day of training, but better that than lose her brain to continual pounding when she couldn't mentally handle it. Last week, when she was feeling especially crappy and before I started her on the aloe, she had a day just like that. When I went to pull her out to ride her, she just looked at me as if to say, please no. And I didn't have the heart to disagree. Sometimes, as a professional, you have to compete a horse (client or otherwise) that you know isn't ready. That you know isn't all that sound. That you know you shouldn't. But you're under so much pressure, and you risk losing money, losing clients. So what do you do? Your four-star horse NEEDS to jump today, but he's feeling exhausted from a tough gallop the day before. You're going to the Pan Ams in two weeks and you can't risk deviating from your rigorous workout schedule. What do you do? I certainly don't possess nearly that kind of talent that I would ever find myself in that situation anyway, but in a similar professional setting on a lesser scale? I couldn't do it. I couldn't make myself.

This is a large part of why I want to go into alternative farrier work. I want to help horses feel and perform the best they can and be as healthy as they can. There isn't a soul around who wouldn't agree with you that keeping a horse barefoot IS the healthiest way for them, but it's just a fact we barefoot folks need to face: people have a point when they say they doubt a horse's ability to go around Rolex without some sort of additional traction. What horse in the wild is going around at a flat-out gallop leaping over enormous obstacles? Shoeing may or may not be the unhealthier way to keep a horse going, but this is where my dream career comes in... there HAS to be a better way than shoes, I WANT to find a better way. We all know the problems that can come with shoeing, so I'm not about to list them. Boots fall off, wiggle, cause rubs. Epoxy custom shoes can fail too. Our healthier alternatives are not yet good enough. I want to find a better way.

We've come a long, long, long way over the domestication of horses. I mean, for god's sake it used to be common practice to take a saucer full of turpentine and hold it to a horse's naval to cure founder. Hopefully in a hundred-odd years, technology will have finally given us our perfect alternative to shoes. And our kids (well, not mine, I'm not going to have any little runts) will look back and go wow, remember when our grandparents used to actually nail stuff to their horse's feet?


Dressager said...

I like the very few pros who stick with their own horses. Maybe train others' horses, but they don't show them. But like I said, that's a few.

Being a farrier would be an awesome job. If I didn't want to be a vet, I'd totally try to be a farrier.

I've never been one for shoes. I think that if a horse's hooves and legs have been well taken care of, then they shouldn't need shoes. They can definitely do more harm than good.

I would only put shoes on Greta if she needed them medically or temporarily, or both. Like the medicine shoes or orthopedic ones. If there were no other viable options. I've gotten too many rescues whose hooves had overgrown the shoes (yikes!) or whose shoes were put on wrong (and they usually ended up lame for a while or forever) etc. They can just do more harm then good.

And at the rate we're coming along with stem cells (if they would just stop using them to clone a high-price stallion so he can have more babies... c'mon now!) we could regrow a hoof or tendon or joint top how it's supposed to be! How cool would that be? Shoes would be old wives tales at that point.

Dressager said...

Hopefully all goes well for Gogo! It was starting to get worrisome with no post haha!

Sorry for the comment spam!

*Sharon* said...

Well said!
I know this is a decision you have really struggled with and my personal feelings/thoughts are not the point. You are doing the best you can for your mare and surely if she can now do her job happily and without pain, that's more important.

I hope you can find the shoeless alternative - that's a pretty good life goal. I was sad to read of Brego's troubles, but I understand Daun's decision too. Ah, horses! They are such joy and heartbreak.
Kia kaha.

Anonymous said...

I know it was a hard decision - but it was yours to make, not anyone else's. You took your horse's best interests to heart. And I firmly believe that some horses develop hock arthritis notwithstanding what we do with them - your mare is an example, as is mine. I expect she'll feel better for now, which is very good, and should allow you to continue to do what she and you enjoy - when you don't enjoy it anymore, then stop, but for now just have a good time.

Daun said...

You made the best decision for your mare that you could and I applaud you.

I'm going through the same thing over here, as you know, not with hocks, but with hooves. It's tough to make the call, but we always learn from it and if we put our heart first, we will never let them down.

Patricia said...

I know it was a tough decision for you to make, but I do hope that you see improvement with hock injections. I've been avoiding that route as well, and Shorty is a prime candidate in basically every leg joint. If I ever get serious about doing more than intro/training level dressage, I'd have to do his hocks and stifles for the rest of his working life.

I wish there was a better alternative to shoes. I feel bad for putting them on Shorty, I'm already doing bell boots and splint boots on every leg... hoof boots would make him look like an equine Darth Vader. He'd probably just pull them off anyways, since he overreaches terribly. I am certain that Shorty does not have great, strong feet like Gogo does, although they're getting better with significant improvements in his life, and I don't want to see his feet fall apart.

I liked your analogy for Jazzy. What I wanted to say was "Are you f***ing serious? Jazzy BUCKING? Jazzy might toss her head from time to time, but if that mare can get her hind legs off the ground, I'm playing the lotto today because that is one LUCKY SHOT."

S. Lauren said...

I like how you are with horses. I've worked with trainers that just seem to be relying on horses for their incomes and they always seemed greedy and had to show horses to earn some money to pay their bills. I understand that they have to make a living but I dislike how the horses sometimes suffer because of it.
I think you doing farrier work would be a good idea. You'd learn a lot about their balance and it's great that you want to create something to help the horses. Good luck with it and it's great that you're picking something you're passionate for.