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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

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

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

There is still no easy answer.

I've been a busy girl as of late. Between my trip to Austin, trimming horses, and starting a new job at an equine rehab facility (which is awesome.... pictured right is the Aqua Tread), I've not had a lot of time to get out and watch Gogo really move since her vet appointment. I've seen her walk around a bit (or maybe at this point the correct term would be waddle), but aside from that, I hadn't had a good chance to review her soundness and whether or not she had improved since her cortisone injection in the tendon sheath on the RH. Conveniently, her barn is only about 10 minutes away from the new job... how about that. I had no idea it was so close until I actually drove there after work yesterday.... one less thing to worry about.

Being away in Austin and refusing to think about the whole mess did me no favors in the end in terms of coping and coming to terms with possible and unthinkable things. I pushed the whole idea of finality out of my head during the trip and refused to think about it, even for a moment. In doing so, I allowed myself to create the delusion that life is continuing on as it always has, and that Gogo is really fine and that I must have been overreacting to her severe lameness. I can't imagine life without her, so that's exactly what I've been refusing to try to comprehend.

The original area of filling (the excess in the tendon sheath) has dramatically improved post-injection, just the same as it had last time. The area below it, however - the area of new damage - has not changed. It still looks as terrible as ever.

On the lunge, well... there is some improvement going right, but going left, she is as hip-hiking lame as ever.

Reality check. This did not magically improve while I was away blissfully ignoring matters as hand. This is still a serious problem.

Yet, she is still as cheerful as ever. I am struggling with the morality of the issue at hand - it isn't right to euth a horse who is still in great spirits and getting around okay, but it also isn't right to make a horse wait until they are on three legs and unable to get around before you make that decision for them. Given her current level of mobility and her happiness, it is absolutely NOT time to consider euthanasia yet. I am surrounded constantly by far lamer horses than her who are still alive and getting around okay as well. Still, just because we can keep them going doesn't necessarily mean we should keep them going.

Playing God is impossibly hard to do in these situations. You can eke a little life out of something that normally would have already died, or you can end a life by choice whenever you decide the time is right. They don't ask to die unless they are already dying. They, like all other living beings on the planet, are just trying to survive as best they can.

I've been told that it is to my detriment that I don't believe in organized religion or Men In The Sky or the healing power of prayer. I am every bit a right-brained thinker, but I also wholeheartedly believe in biology and science, and I know a tendon/ligament problem is just not going to magically heal itself to good-as-new. Right now, however, I wish I could buy into the idea of hoping for a small miracle. My hope always spikes and then deflates. I've never had lasting good luck in my life... I can't imagine it would bother to start now.


Denali's Mom said...

You know I love you. It's totally your choice, and we will support you either way. I had a long discussion with someone who who just does not undestand why I still have Denali. She is in horses for the $ and if they are of no use they go. I don't think she'll ever get it.

For me, the decision is when the bad days out number the good. I won't wait until she is suffering. After our last "almost dying, canceling dying incident" I wrote out my plan. At what point it is that I will let her go.

Then it's not my choice, it's the paper and the plans choice. It won't be easier, we all know that, but that's me. That's also what makes humans cool, we can have totally different thoughts on the same subject an still be right.

Love you lady!! Big hugs!

Muriel said...

I am convinced that with your knowledge you will make teh right decision at the right moment for Gogo.
Just to clarify one thing. I see everyday at the yard much lamer horses at my yard ... They are happy to much on their hay, some are broodmares, some pasture ornament. They limp and waddle back and forth.

Pain and aches is part of life as you age. I have a broken back, and yes, I ache, I am in pain. But I cope. Think of the elderly people, disable people. Don't you think they are in pain somewhere?

Just to say that you should not feel guilty for Gogo being in pain. If she is eating happily and bullying those around, she is FINE coping with the pain.
Only you, will see when she has enough to be in pain.

I am sure you will see it through. So stop being you around. Every body aches when they are grow older. Just think about profesional althles ... What about them?

Muriel said...

I meant STOP BEATING YOURSELF about it. You love and care for Gogo better than many other people.

Lisa said...

I've been thinking over your last few posts and I wasn't going to bring it up but (and I agree that you prob shouldn't put her in foal) what is the possibility of collecting eggs and getting a foal from a surrogate? I know diddly squat about that whole process but the actual conception process wouldn't be too stressful for her, it would just be the late heavily pregnant stage yes? I guess it would be quite expensive too...

Anyway, just wanted to ask the question. And I'm thinking of you, every time I see my ponies I think about you and Gogo.

Andrea said...

Lisa, unfortunately embryo transfer is mucho MUCHO $$$$$$$. I would save something like that only for my most prized and excellent mares that I wanted many offspring out of. (Not that Gogo isn't, but you know. It's not like she went to the Olympics!) Also, it's probably best not to pass on her genes anyway, much as it breaks my heart to say it.

Natalie Keller Reinert said...

Okay, a job at an equine rehab facility sounds AMAZING. If I had been a sensible girl and made sound educational decisions, that's almost certainly what I would have done as a career. It's like being a vet but more awesome.

But I've had fun being a vagrant horse trainer, too, so..

Anyway, you know what to do when the time comes. It will stare you in the face and you'll say OK... I get it. Horses with collapsed pasterns aren't that uncommon, and I had a retired broodmare once who collapsed in BOTH hind legs and yet was an absolute danger to society at feeding time. I thought she'd break a leg the way she'd skid into the barn at full speed but she never did...

FWIW I also don't think it's unethical to put down a healthy horse. Horses aren't waiting for something to happen. They eat. They go to sleep. They wake up. They eat. They don't lay down at night and think, "Oh, tomorrow is going to be BRILLIANT." They just go to sleep. You're not cutting anything short by denying them something they were anticipating, essentially. Animals live in the moment; most humans live for the future.

Niamh said...

I was wondering (actually before I discovered you work at a rehab facility) if swimming her would be of any help? Maybe not for the actual injury, but for weight? If she can waddle around happily for awhile maybe getting some extra weight off her will only improve her situation? ps. Equus had a nice article about making these tough decisions (life vs. death) in the latest issue. Hugs for you both.

Gingham said...

Oh gosh. Kudos to you for your thoughtful manner of processing all of this. Emotional highs and lows are to be expected I suppose, but it seems like you are doing an exceptional job of putting all the thought and consideration into your decision as you have with everything else.

Your commitment to your mare is inspiring (even if it's not unexpected.. :) )

Michaela said...

I can't even imagine what you are going through. My heart goes out to you and I know you will make the right choice, whatever it is.

I still don't understand how there isn't anything that can be done for her to at least keep her pasture sound. I know someone who had a horse with a suspensory injury and absolutely nothing worked until they resorted to the less modern practice of slicing it and hoping it grows back normally. I guess it's the combination of the two injuries now?

I got so excited when I saw the horse in the pool because my first thought was, "OMG it's Gogo and they found a cure!"
But then I realized it wasn't...

Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger said...

Situations like this, are hardest on us, as the human 'Moms' But wouldn't you rather be harder on you, than her. That is how I felt. I take our rehab day by day and there are great ones and ones where I question myself sick. You can only do what you feel is right and that is exactly what you are sorting through. HUGS and kisses and give that Gogo some eye rubs from me.

achieve1dream said...

I hope my comments haven't offended you. Even though you don't believe in miracles, I do so I'll continue to pray for one. I really hope that isn't of offense . . . I only wish the best for you and Gogo.

Congrats on the new job. It sounds wonderful. :)

Denial is a natural part of the grieving process. It doesn't make it easier, but it's normal. I can't imagine what it must be like knowing your time together is short, but I hope you're able to enjoy the time you have left with her.

I like the idea of swimming to get the extra weight off. With some sort of supportive wrap to the fetlock would that be safe for her to try? Would she be at risk of striking the injured leg? Getting the weight off could extend out how many comfortable days she has.

I'm sorry you're going through this. It must all be so overwhelming. We're here for you.

Oh almost forgot. Have you tried anything like DMSO? Or is there some sort of injection that would help the newer injury? Like Adequan is for arthritis, but I know someone who used it on himself for nerve pain in his hip and it's have amazing results. I know there isn't a cure, but just thinking of ideas that will extend her comfort. I know it's expensive though . . . you'll do what's right for her because you know her better than anyone.

Breathe said...

I wish there was more that could be done. I do think you will know when it's time. Quantity of life is not as important as quality, and I tend to be in the camp of seeing emotional health as the biggest indicator of when it's time.

Whatever decision you make, whenever you make it, will be the right one.

(Next time you're in Austin, give me a hollar, would love to grab some lunch...)

Margaret said...

Having horses isn't ALL about riding, as you know. And I agree with all the readers. But I can't help but think... unfortunately, money does start to play into this whole process. I am new to your blog and like what I see... love your kitty post below. My heart goes out to you. (I'm a new follower).

OneHindResting said...

Sometimes we are lucky enough to share some time with a horse so special that the thought of losing them feels like losing a part of ourselves. Perhaps it's because of the grace and bloody-mindedness with which they "help" us to grow. Perhaps it's because of the good-natured way they point out our weaknesses to us... and then good-naturedly ignore them. Perhaps it's because we know we are better people for having known them.

Two years ago, my horse went into hospital very ill. What I learnt about life from the experience was hard earned:
1. We all need a purpose: To have any quality of life, my horse needed to feel like he had a purpose, and to keep mentally engaged. Without a job, he was sour and withdrawn. (Your description of Gogo bossing the herd makes me think she is still sounds so keen)
2. It's okay for me to be angry or grief-stricken about the likelihood of losing my horse - I'm allowed to be upset (as long as it doesn't interfere with me making any decisions), and I don't need to avoid, postpone or discount my feelings.
3. It's okay for me to think about what's best for me too. Horses are expensive, and it's okay to make a decision to stop spending money (if this is also in the interests of the horse). We all eventually reach a point where our other financial commitments need to be addressed too, and it's not being uncaring for me to be realistic.
4. We all have bad days. Being unwell is hard work and sometimes it shows. At times, while you're in it, it feels like it's all there ever will be. After days of gradual improvement in the hospital, my horse's recovery slowed, then he had a few signs of being worse - I wondered what I was doing putting my horse through all this, was it fair? But the next day, my horse had that keen "what are we doing today?" look. We all have bad days, and that's okay... as long as we have good days too.
5. My horse actually recovered, and is happy, rideable and still a smart-alec (but is a bit slower these days). I still feel like I'm on borrowed time with him - every ride is a ride I would not have had. I know I am still going to lose that horse one day, probably sooner rather than later as he is an older horse (but I can still hope for later). But today... well today, I'm blessed enough to have been granted another day.

Whilst I do still ride my horse, he has another important purpose in my life. He inspires and grounds me. He motivates me to be a better person. He reminds what is important. He makes me smile. If Gogo does any of those things for you, and she is comfortable enough to do so for now, then you are one lucky person!

I do sometimes wonder how I will know that it's time to let go (when eventually I need to). How will I know that it's the right time? I don't know. But I do know that right now, I look at my horse and smile and know it's not time now. And I think, in the same way, one day I will look at my horse and know that it is. In the mean time, I'm just gonna enjoy what I can - hope you can too :)

(Here is an interesting article, that kinda deals with some of the same issues -

Bif said...


I totally understand the fear of waiting "a day too late". If you want a possible answer to "How can I know without waiting too long?", here is one option.

Since you know it is unlikely she will magically heal, perhaps it is best to just watch how much she is resting the off leg. Between your visits and the barn personnel's observations, you could be able to use this as a gauge.

If she gets to the point she is resting that leg more than just 60% or 70% of the time, or that she starts changing resting legs very frequently (unless that is an old habit of hers), you could consider that a sign of enough degeneration that the bad leg is getting close to meltdown.

In the case of the frequent changes, it can indicate the good leg is starting to have issues from overuse.

This is a reasonable judge of how she is doing, and easier on her than lunging (you pretty much know you'll not like what you see, and she is more likely to cause more strain on a circle than not lunging).

As always, hoping for a long, comfortable time for the two of you together. =}

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

:( Oh, crap. That is so hard. That decision stares me in the face daily. It has Aaruba's big, black eyes. Crap, crap, crap. And hugs. And remember that while you have to decide, you don't have to decide right this second.