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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

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

Friday, February 19, 2010

I plan on eating a tube of Ulcergard for breakfast tomorrow.

"Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard
Oh, take me back to the start"

~ Coldplay

The steady progress Gogo and I had been making up until around mid-January has obviously slowed considerably in the past month, pockmarked by various hiccups for one reason or another. Since January 24th, I've only been on her 8 times. While she had had the totally horrible and mystery blip a week and a half ago, it had resolved itself in three days, and she was looking and feeling outstanding. I followed my vet's instructions, started her back up last Saturday after jogging sound for the latter part of the week, and she's been doing fantastically ever since. She worked well on Tuesday, and had Wednesday off, seeing as it was also my day off and I had no plans to go to the barn. The staff had instructions to leave her overnight wraps off and they did.

Yesterday, however, I arrived at the barn after she had already been turned out. Normally, I like to be there when she goes out so I can be the one to do it (and I can inspect her legs), but I had put her on the Wenesday turnout list for the first shift of turnouts, and since I wasn't there to change it for the next day, she was already outside. When I went to go bring her in, I could see all the way from the barn that both hinds were big. Very, very big. Whether or not they had been big in the morning (or the day before), I don't know. I was rather alarmed at their size but thought that perhaps the fact that she hadn't had wraps on for two days had caught up to her, and she was just filled like crazy. (Which, of course, you'd think would go down in turnout.) On closer inspection, however, I was not happy to find that there was no uniformity to the swelling - it was located entirely in the area of her SDFT. Nothing higher up or further forward was involved. I put her on the treadmill, thinking that perhaps she just didn't move around enough in turnout to make them go down, and was unnerved to see that movement did NOT make them come down. That was my first clue at the AECs that something was wrong - movement did not make the swelling go down. I had one of my staff jog her for me and yep, sure enough, she was quite lame RH. What was even more alarming was that the leg immediately after got even bigger and HOT. Blisteringly hot. Back into the tub she went, and I was most unhappy to find that even after a half hour of standing in freezing water, the leg was still warm directly out of the bucket, and immeditely burned up again. The swelling did come down, but I tried to put her ice boots on while she was back in the stall - she was so uncomfortable in them she couldn't even hold still. She shifted around, lifted her legs, kicked at the wraps, and shuffled around and around her stall miserably, refusing to even stand still for a fresh flake of hay. The RH swelling was very, very painful to touch. Exactly like how it was the day she originally injured herself.

I obviously went home feeling pretty crappy yesterday.

I did not expect improvement today. I had a call in to the vet, and quite honestly thought she had reinjured herself - I felt pretty certain that I would be making another trip back to the vet in the near future. Today's protocol included intensive cold-tubbing, icing, anti-inflammatories, wrapping, minimal handwalking, and strict rest, and after I went through the barn to do my morning check on all the other horses, I pulled her out of her stall and into the washrack. I hadn't done more than just dry wrap her the night before, just to see what the legs would be like the next morning. I cringed as I started to pull her wraps off, unsure of what to expect.

And.... they were cool. And tight.


I continued on with the aggressive cold-tubbing and anti-inflammatories anyway, and when I pulled her legs out of the tubs, they were icy cold and had zero fill in them. Nothing like yesterday at all.


She went back in her stall until around 2pm, when my constant eyes-on-the-ground boarder arrived. We pulled her out of her stall and took her over to the arena for a jog. She'd had 500lbs of Banammine at 8am, enough to take the inflammation down but probably not enough to make her feel 100%. I expected her to be pretty lame still.

And... she was not. She was about 98% sound. She didn't look very strong, to be sure, but quite frankly she looked far better than she had two days out from the last freak mystery lameness two weeks ago. And this was about 15 hours out this time, with a far more alarming presentation of the lameness. And unlike yesterday, after she jogged out today the legs stayed totally tight and cool.


I kinda... have no idea what to think, really. I don't think she's reinjured herself severely, because she'd still be lame and the leg would still have SOME heat and swelling in it. It seems like more adhesions breaking up or perhaps a continuation of the other possible adhesion breaking up, but seriously... it's WEIRD. Really, really weird. We're going to be super conservative over these next few days and reevaluate at the end of the weekend to see what we have, but it's pretty obvious that despite the fact that she was cleared to canter, she is not ready for it yet.

Unfortunately for me, the fact that we're approaching an entire month lost to more time off than saddle time is posing a serious risk to the upcoming season. Even though our first scheduled event wasn't going to be until the end of June, if we really want to be competitive and ready to roll this year we are going to need more time than we have. She's going to need six to eight weeks of really being legged up and actively galloping, jumping full courses, doing LSD work and legitimate dressage as well before I even think about turning down the centerline at an event at Training level, but is she going to be ready for that? Whether or not she would be ready fitness-wise, would those legs be up to it after such a short comeback period? I see no need to cut corners here. There is no need to push it if there is any question about her strength at all. Unless she is ready in the beginning of May to start really serious training and fitness work, then our season is over before it even begins. Unless she is ridiculously sound and ready to roll, I see no reason in pushing her hard. I see no reason to spend a ton of money on shows if she's not going to be competitive or it's going to compromise her soundness. I see no reason to risk anything at this point. This mare is too special to push anything unless and until she's 110%. It's not worth it. She has so many competitive years left ahead of her IF I give her every chance possible now.

So at this point, I'm not sure what to do or what to think. I'm going to see how she does over the next few days, and then perhaps I will have a clearer picture. I think it's safe to say at this point that our upcoming eventing season is suspended at this point until further notice. You never know, everything might work out, but... what's the hurry?

As today's Men's Super-G gold-medal winner Aksel Lund Svindal said after making a miraculous rebound from his horrible crash while training at Beaver Creek in 2007, "it doesn't matter if it takes you two months or ten, so long as you come back 110% percent." (Obviously in my case we're talking about a much larger timeframe..!) I'll do what it takes to get this mare back. If it takes us a year of doing nothing but trail riding and chilling out, I'll do it. Whatever I have to do to secure a sound future for her, I'll do it.

"You see the world in black and white
No colour or light
You think you'll never get it right
But you're wrong. You might."

Obviously, it seems like I'm handling this really quite well at this point. I can assure you... I'm not. All I can think about was how my first horse died abruptly after three years with me, and my second horse who had a major injury started to backslide after 8 months of stall rest and progress and died after not quite two years with me. I've had Gogo for three and a half and she's starting to backslide now too. I'm not sure what I've done to make the gods of horse ownership so angry. I try and I try and I do everything I can for these animals, they're my entire life. So why do things just fall apart despite all my best efforts? What am I doing wrong?


Jen said...

You're not doing anything wrong. We all do the best that we can for our horses and sometimes we just keep getting bad luck. But I'm sure that Gogo will turn around and get to complete soundness (hopefully sooner rather than later).

And if you do have to forgo the season this year, hey, there's always breeding!

Kristina said...

Big hugs to you and Gogo!

Even from just reading your blog and not knowing you in person, it's obvious you're a very conscientious horse owner that does right by her horse 100% of the time.

It'll pay off in the long run.

Akhal-Eventer said...

How long has she gone in the past year without standing wraps overnight? Have you considered that she might have become dependant on them? I know you said her legs were hot, which indicates inflammation not fluid retention, but the fact that it went away so quickly w/ no lameness seems very strange.

Andrea said...

Actually there was lameness... a lot of lameness. I expected the legs to fill some after the first few nights without wraps and they did. In the past five months she wore then 24/7 for about 2 months post-injury, then we weaned her to nightly wraps. This was the first time she'd gone for two nights without wraps so I anticipated fill. Just not the major heat, pain, and lameness in the RH. I had hoped it was just stocking up but movement didn't make the fill go away.... it got worse. Bigger, hotter, lamer.
Your guess is as good as mine :\

McFawn said...

When my horse had several months of mystery lameness, I had a regimen of wrapping, hosing, rubbing, hand walking and stall rest I was to follow. None of it seemed to help, and eventually my horse became so unhappy on such little turnout/movement that I said "screw it," and just started turning him out--for his normal 8+ hours a day.

He came around shortly thereafter, leading me to believe that the treatment was as much a problem as the original lameness. I feel that the turnout and stopping the wrapping made the difference--not that I'm recommending that for Gogo, but sometimes less can be more. Maybe just give her a few days without wraps and more movement and see if it evens out.

Val said...

Andrea: You ARE doing right by your mare. She WILL get better! I know that it is easy to say that from behind by computer, but it is my sincere belief.

The healing process sometimes includes recurrence of pain and small reinjury as the tissues rebuild and regain their original form. I am sure that people who have recovered from surgery, fractures, or muscle injuries would attest to this. I would imagine that it is similar for the healing horse. Tendons and ligaments take the absolute longest time to rebuild.

I have similar suspicions to those expressed by Akhal-Eventer. I am not a vet, but if that is the only "variable" that changed, I would look to the wraps. Did she get them off when you really expected? Could the wraps be counterintuitively slowing or preventing some aspect of the healing process? Maybe she felt so good that she overexerted herself, experienced a minor setback, and is now on the mend again. Perhaps these are necessary minor re-injuries as she heals. At least, my hope is that this view point may make you feel a little better!

Andrea said...

It's possible Val. It's hard to say. I wouldn't be surprised to find there's some component of dependency with the wraps, but it wouldn't explain why there was so much pain and heat and lameness in one leg - the one without major original injury - but not the other leg. If anything I'd think it would be a uniform thing on both legs.

The "variable" that changed that made a difference was not the wraps I don't think, it was the addition of the canter.

In all honesty it's hard to say with the wraps. I completely appreciate the need to limit swelling and inflammation in the limb through that kind of compression because of the damage it can cause, but I also understand a body's need to heal itself without our help. I just am so very keenly aware of what happens when healing fails, or when the body compensates improperly... what happens when human caretakers don't intervene when they need to. I just want to give her the best chance I can.

purpleshamp2 said...

Andrea, Don't get discouraged! I went through the same thing with Toby, though his was his check ligament. There was a lot of up and downs and his adhesions breaking up put him back four months and honestly it was the same thing you are describing, just on top of all of that it stuck to his blood vessel and caused a minor tear in that as well. I missed out on an entire show season. However, because of how fit he was before his year of stall rest he was able to come back at a good pace and now he's jumping bigger and better than ever. And his leg looks great you can barely tell it was injured. Webster was the same way. Don't forget that sometimes scar tissue even as minimal as it is can break up as well... which is what you want. But it can still cause pain and swelling.
These types of injuries, even strains take time and there are a lot of ups and downs on the road. As I'm sure you know. Don't let it get to you. You are doing exactly what you need to do. Gogo will be ready for shows when she's done healing. Whether that's this season or the next, doesn't matter. The fact is that you will get there. Toby is finally going to a show in March at Chagrin. It will be absolutely priceless.

Funder said...

Andrea, I have nothing but sympathy for you. :( You are absolutely doing the best you can for your horse, and you did the best you could at the time for your previous horses. All of my previous horses are dead, and I've only been in horses for 3+ years, so I really know how you feel! All you can do is think about all the advice you get from your friends and make the best decisions you can. Hang in there!

Dressager said...

I'm no expert, and I have no personal experience, but I can read! I've never once read a recovery story in a horse magazine that things go quickly and smoothly, even though that would always be super nice! All I can truly attest to is your commitment to Gogo, your wonderful handling of the situation, your knowledge of what is going on, and the fact you are an all-around awesome equestrian and owner. If that won't get you anywhere, I don't know what will! I'm keeping Gogo and you in my thoughts and prayers, sugar-coating and all!

Mel said...

You are right, That is so weird! I don't have any advice or reassurances except that from what I read on your blog, you are not to be blames if she does backslide. You have diligently done everything asked of you and have been absolutley dedicated to this horse. I love that you are going to do what is beat for the horse, which is not necessarily the quickest path. I really appreciate you putting your journey here for everyone to see.

tangerine said...

The best of luck! I've also known horses that never got better under intensive care procedures (wrapping, stall rest, cold hose etc) but were fit as a fiddle after 6 mo out in pasture being horses and doing what horses do. I know it's so hard because you want to micromanage every step of the way because we're supposed to be the intelligent beings in the situation, but maybe she does just need time to figure it out?

Whatever you choose to do will work out eventually and I think you're doing an amazing job taking such good care of her. Again, I wish you all the best of luck!

Nicku said...

I think you and I could shut down a bar trying to figure out what we've done wrong!!! But, I can tell you we'd get nowhere. You cannot figure this kind of stuff out, it just happens. They're just such fragile animals. I know you're probably not keen on spending more money on ultrasounds but when Puna flared up Monday on the LF, I treated her aggressively as well until her vet visit on Wed and almost cancelled the appt because her leg looked mysterious all better and tight and she was 100% sound. However, I went ahead with it and you know the rest. I say this because my vet said when in doubt, always just do the ultrasound because when it's tendon stuff just because the outside clears up doesnt mean the inside is ok. That made me pause, primarily because I figured that if she was sound and the leg was tight, she was fine and clearly the swelling and what not was just a fluke thing, right? I was super wrong about that and learn (again, ugh). My point being, maybe taking a look at this leg internally might be an idea at this point given the weird stuff that's been going on? Couldnt hurt???

Nicku said...

PS: lemme know how your ulcerguard treatment went...I might try it myself, the scotch and pepto isnt cutting it this week ;)

Patricia said...

You are not doing anything wrong, to echo the comments of others. When I first got Trigger, he went through about nine months of what you described: alternating cold, tight tendons with no lameness and hot, swollen, lame ones due to adhesions breaking up. Sometimes he felt like a rockstar, and sometimes he felt like crap. Months and tons of turnout later, Trigger started (slowly, of course) barrel racing, and eventually became a 1D champ. Although retired now, he still very sound and loves life. He's pushing 20 now but still wins 4H ribbons with his new owner. So, long story short, Gogo will come out of this sound, maybe not this season, but she will pull through for you.

Cathryn said...

I don't post here much, but I think it's time I started. I read your blog faithfully and I happened to msis this post, as I am a college student now. I went through the same thing with Oliver. He was lame on and off for a year. keep doing what you are going, it will get better.