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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

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

Friday, November 26, 2010

What to do, what to do

I have a confession to make. I've come to the realization that I am completely, utterly, totally, ridiculously, 100% useless without my functional horse. Every single important life decision I've made in the past four years has had her enormously factored in; for instance, the reasons that I took both the post-college jobs that I did were nearly entirely because of the benefits SHE reaped from them. (And yeah, it was good experience for me and all that, but that was way less important to me.) The major reasons for taking those jobs all centered around getting some great training for Gogo, or having a nice place to rehab Gogo, or whatever. I have come to realize that when my horse recently broke for good, I suddenly had no reason to take the job in NC anymore, because the greatest benefit the job had to offer was training and housing for HER. When I found out she couldn't come anyway if she was broken, it made my life simultaneously a lot easier and a lot harder - easier because I had a reason to say no, and harder because suddenly, I didn't know what to do, where to live, or remember what my lifelong goals were supposed to be.

In other words, I am utterly lost without her.

Very obviously, she's still here! It's not like she has gone somewhere or will be going somewhere. But I've come to realize that SO much of my life, time and energy goes into planning for her, thinking about her future, designing schedules and goals for her, shopping around for stuff I'd like to get for her, picking out which shows and/or places I'd like to take her to, playing around with supplement/blanket/tack/etc. choices for her...... that when all of those things come down to the very simple, very rudimentary "all we need to do is provide a good living situation for her and let nature do its thing," I suddenly have vast gaps in my day where I just DON'T know what to do. I feel completely confused and a little bewildered. My life has been given a good hard shake, and it feels like my brain isn't getting the full extent of the message. I'm in denial that I may never do more than sit on my horse's back ever again.

I am at war with myself over the best course of action for Gogo right now. Every fiber of my being screams against turning her out with a fresh soft-tissue injury. It's simply a fact: she WILL get hurt. It WILL hurt her. It MAY permanently damage and deform her. It MAY offer perfect, miracle healing. It might completely ruin her, and cosmetically and structurally destroy her permanently. The last horse I saw that was turned out with a SDFT injury ended up literally so deformed and lame that she knuckled over at the knee in an effort to not use her painful limb, and was severely lame at the walk even after the tendon was declared set for life. THAT could be Gogo. OR, she could take good care of her body, build up scar tissue, and come back as a mildly useable animal someday. The fact of the matter is that the body compensates for whatever it needs to in order to make itself functional. Likely, she'll build up an ugly bundle of disorganized scar tissue and heal herself. She'll hurt herself out there, oh yes! She will. Which is why I am at horrible, stomach-turning odds with myself. It's the right thing to do, retire her and let her loose to be a horse and give up hope of her ever being really rideable again. If she ever IS rideable, great! If not, it's fine too, so long as eventually she turns out pain free. Understandably, this is completely killing me.

I pulled her turnout after a day or two of seeing how utterly miserable she was post-injury. Dr. C said to just turn her out and that's that, but I just can't stand by and know that she's hurting. With a little bute, cold-tubbing and wrapping, her spirits improved, but she's just been sort of mopey ever since I stopped spending the vast majority of the day at barn. I think this retirement-until-further-notice is going to be really hard on her. This mare lives to have a job.

This is truly going to be a painful leap of faith. Letting her out into a herd and letting her just be a HORSE for once is in all honestly going to be the ultimate best medicine for her. I will just have to keep a desperately close eye on her, and be ready to alter my plans if something horrible should happen. I can only anticipate she's going to get into scraps along the way... she's a nasty piece of work out in the field. I love her, but you know she is! She WILL get hurt! But then she will heal again. I want to bubblewrap her and coldhose and wrap and rest her, but I just know it's just not right or fair at this point. What am I trying to prove? What am I trying to do? All I want is for her to be comfortable and happy. I don't care if she ever comes back to be even semi-rideable or not.

Only I hate every moment that she's hurting. So I continue to be at endless odds with myself.


As for the living situation, it currently comes down to where I can keep Gogo. I have a place for myself either in MI or in CT, but I have a place lined up for Gogo in MI only.... not in CT. I guess that means I'll be leaving New England, although hopefully not for good. I love it there, and leaving it will make me hurt.

Until we figure out a solution, I will keep teetering around in my little fog, looking for some sort of ray of sunlight to guide me out again. I suppose it's time to learn to be my own person again, someone who doesn't completely rely on her horsey best friend for the vast majority of her strength, drive, and happiness. I just... don't like that. At all. She is, and always will be, the center of my whole little universe.


Sydney_bitless said...

My equine health and disease provention prof said to us: One year of 24/7 turnout heals all injures, two years cures them. Horses are going to get hurt no matter how much bubble wrap we coat them in. In the end it comes down to letting a horse be a horse and a happy one.

Anonymous said...

I had to make the decision this past September to permanently retire my 13 yo warmblood cross mare Maisie due to adhesions and scarring of the DDFT and suspensories of both hind legs. We'd had years of on again/off again soundness, time off and bringing her back into work, but she was never really right for long. She's happy to walk trot and canter in the pasture and now lives outside 24/7 in a herd at a wonderful place in Tennessee. I no longer can ride her, and I can only see her when I take the trip down there, but she's happy, healthy, comfortable and well-cared for. That makes me happy, although I miss seeing her every day. I just got a new horse - of a different breed and type - and he's wonderful, although looking for him was a ton of work.

Good luck to you and your mare, whatever you decide.

Funder said...

I'm so sorry for you, Andrea.

I hope you come to find the amazing contentment that a lot of owners get from just watching their horses be horses in the pasture. Just watching Dixie snooze in the sun and bully her goats is incredibly peaceful. I hope you find a safe place for Gogo and get to experience that too. She can still be the center of your heart and the reason you get up in the mornings, even if you're not micromanaging her life.

Jen said...

I'd say just go along with the 24/7 turnout. I know from experience that it does work wonders. Back in 1997, I had to turn out my 5-yo gelding for a full year due to a bowed tendon injury, only bringing him in for cold-hosing and tubbing 1-2 times a day. And he came out sound. That was 13 years ago. I still own him and haven't had much problems with that leg (just odd ones here and there that went away with a week off). He's completely sound and the only noticable thing leftover from all that is 2 dis-connected patches of white on his front leg where the hair super-heated and fell off.

Go with the turn-out and let her be a horse. She can still be the center of your life, even though you're not riding her.

Andrea said...

She'll always be the center of my life. I'll always enjoy every minute with her. If I didn't, I'd get rid of her, being in the state that she is. I cannot afford another horse so long as I have her. And because of this, I understand that I am NOT going to be riding anything for years. And that's ok.... because I have her. I hope that nobody misunderstands me there.

Val said...

I do not think that she will hurt herself once she realizes that she will be out all the time.

You can still find a job for Gogo: groundwork and trick horse, barefoot hoof model, focus of your next writing project (a book?), friend to adorable children with Hobbes stuffies, etc.

After some time to heal, who says that you cannot ride her at the walk? My teacher rehabilitated her mare by riding her at the walk everyday. The mare stayed happy, eager, and did not walk a circular track in the floor of her stall. She will be walking 24/7 outside anyway.

Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger said...

I hear what you are are trying to find the best solution with no regrets for her. It's hard. There is always hindsight, etc. I tend to agree with keeping horse's mind healthy will equal in a happier horse and healthier. Turnout seems key in that. We cant change their life too much......although I stuggle with that daily, wanting to bubblewrap mine all the time and stuff him in my car so I can smuggle him in my city home and just sit and stare at him. :)
U better let me know if u come to Michigan!!!

Akhal-Eventer said...

My suggestion would be to turn her out as a pasture mate for someone else's horse in as big of a pasture as possible. Field-board on private property is often very inexpensive, provided you can find the right people. And while your mare is keeping good company, you shouldn't let your good riding skills get rusty! There are sooooo many horses out there that need good riders. Even if it's just the part-bred down the road whose pony clubber abandoned him for cheer leading practice!
Sometimes the most unassuming "projects" can end up being the most rewarding.

Summer said...

Oh Im sooo sorry Andrea! We know you mean the best and will ultimately make the best decision for you and your amazing mare. In regards to the turnout, Riley had a tendon tear about 2 years ago in his back left and was turned out in a small area where we alternated pressure wrapping, bute and cold hosing for a week than he went into his regular pasture where he got twie daily hosing and he is completly sound now! Ultrasound of the tendon shown that it had healed beautifully.

Anonymous said...

Andrea, I so know that feeling. Klein has dictated career decisions in the Air Force for me. She's also dictated certain people in and out of my life. Crazy. When you have the horse disease you HAVE IT.
Anyway, I vote for pasture too. Put her in a nice, relaxed, stable environment and let her be a horse, even if it is THE boss horse ;)

Java's Mom said...

Not sure if you addressed this in previous posts, but have you considered putting Gogo in a place that offers rehab boarding in CT? I'm not saying turout is better or worse than rehab/layup confinement, but you sound very concerned that she could end up in a situation with too much room to romp...?

Heather said...

We are in similar situations for very different reasons. My horse is on temporary retirement while I am pregnant. We ended our competition season in July and I have had to relearn how to enjoy my horse. He is on 24/7 pasture and I have been learning to enjoy just BEING with him. I am very goal oriented and while I knew there would be an adjustment period, I didn't know what to expect with changes to our relationship. Going for walks around the farm and just sharing an apple in the field have become my favorite things.

I know you will adapt and will learn to just enjoy her. Don't fight the transition phase you guys are in. It is a natural process. She is still your baby and you can enjoy each other in many ways.

Patricia said...

My solution to a similar problem was to move Shorty to a full care facility where he is turned out 10 hours a day minimum and checked on every two hours. He goes out in small groups in medium sized paddocks of either grass or limestone, depending on the weather. There isn't an indoor, but the outdoor arena has equi-tread footing, which is nice and cushony. For $500 a month, my horse is watched with a hawk eye and cared for by a competent person, and there are plenty of options to help out and work off some or all of your board. For a horse on semi or full retirement, its the perfect situation. If you ever considered coming back to Ohio, I'd be happy to give you the barn manager's number, or maybe you can find somewhere like that in Michigan.

christine said...

Hey Andrea I just figured I would let u know that Cliff the barefoot guy u recommended to me cut back on the horses he was trimming but had to pick them all up again because people messed them up or something so if Gogo is going to b in Michigan maybe he can help u to get started cuse I get the feeling he wants to cut back on how many horses he does and if ur in Michigan by east Lansing I'm sure we could work something out if u wanted to ride bingo...she's no gogo but she's something to ride! I'm serious! I hope something works out for u!

christine said...

And ill be seeing cliff on the 2nd if u want me to talk to him!

eventer79 said...

I hear that -- I was on "vacation" for the last ten days. I almost exploded due to having no Solo access. I completely understand that empty feeling in your brain without being able to just dump time into the horse we love.

I think you will find that she will grow to enjoy the turnout though. I know many will disagree with me, but I really don't think horses necessarily want "jobs," but instead they enjoy the interaction with us and the mental exercises activity gives them. They always are a bit thrown off by change in routine, but then they can learn a new routine. And you can still provide her with attention and interaction, it will just be in a different form.

spotteddrafter said...

I'm right there with you - my heart horse can no longer do what *I* was planning for us to we do what she wants, for the most part. I think she'd really love to just eat all day long, but I have to lovingly tell her that she can do that 22.5 hours a day...she can give me attention for 2.5.

Good luck in your decision. The side benefit of coming back to Michigan is that all board is so much cheaper on than on the east coast. I wouldn't count out riding something while she's laid yourself to that possibility and it will present itself.

Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger said... funny!!
Christine, email me..sounds like you and I use the same trimmer here in Michigan. CLIFF! :) How random!!
Or Andrea, send me her chatting w/ peeps that are close by.

Katie said...

This is such a tough call - I completely understand where you're coming from. It would go totally against my "gut feeling" to turn out a horse with a tendon injury. BUT - you've tried the "traditional" method, and it hasn't worked. And I do know several success stories of horses with tendon injuries that recovered completely on 24/7 turnout. A friend of mine found has a horse who came up DEAD lame with a red hot HUGE front tendon. My friend tossed her out in the field for the winter. Didn't even do an ultrasound. I had a heart attack on her mare's behalf. But I must admit that by summertime, the mare was 100% sound, and has never looked back - she does lower-level eventing and you'd never guess she'd ever been injured. I had to admit that her "technique" had worked, and it was SO much easier on the mare than stall rest would have been... But I feel your pain, as if it was my horse, I know I would have a hard time just turning her out, even though I knew it was for the best...

On another note - I know it's hard, but personally I would think about finding another horse to ride, even if it's a freelease or a partboarding situation... It's just I know from personal experience how miserable I get when I can't ride. It might sound ridiculous, but it would be easy enough to start "resenting" Gogo for not being able to ride, even subconsciously, which isn't healthy or fair for either of you... Just something to think about.