As you guys know, Gogo's lameness has continued to dramatically escalate over the past week or so. After seeing just how bad it was on Sunday, I had to step in and do something. We trailered out for an 11:00AM appointment yesterday with Dr. H, who is our regular vet and also 'the leg man' in this area - the authority on sports injury in the distal limb. I knew he'd give me a good dose of reality, if I needed it.
And I did. Remember about two weeks ago when I wrote this?:
"Gogo is, once again, pretty unsound. Not consistently, not horribly, but it's there. Going to the right on the lunge, she looks completely normal and fine... you wouldn't even know there was a problem unless you were truly looking for something, and hard. Going to the left, she has a consistent hitch in her right hind. I am grateful that whatever is going on still appears to be with the SDFT, and that this presentation of lameness has been positively associated with SDFT damage in the past, because this is a classic suspensory presentation. If she had a new suspensory injury on top of everything, I think I'd die. Thankfully, as far as I can tell it's just the same old thing, forever."
I was in denial. Remember all the recent swelling around the branches of her suspensory and underneath her fetlock? I thought it was related to the SDFT/annular ligament/tendon sheath. Denial.
We pulled her out of the trailer and Dr. H looked curiously at the fill below her fetlock. Watching her walk, I thought I could detect the beginnings of discomfort at the walk - which she's never had before. We watched her jog out. She was dead lame. We flexed the fetlock (with some difficulty, as the limb was so filled with fluid and swelling that it is becoming hard to bend). She hopped off, hardly able to even put the leg down. The leg continued to bother her even after the jog out once it had been flexed - she hard trouble turning and walking, and spent a lot of time resting it.
I've never seen her that lame before. Not even during her first injuries in 2009. She was easily a 4/5 lame.
When we ultrasounded, the old scar tissue and general mess in the SDFT and then tendon sheath was still there. Disorganized and ugly, yes, but still the same as they were. There was no new damage to those structures. I cringed, worried about what we were going to find as the real culprit for the acute lameness and swelling. And sure enough, there is was - where the suspensory makes an insertion on the long pastern bone under the fetlock, there was significant damage and degeneration.
A brand new injury, two years into this never ending rehab, and it's a severe one at that. Game over. There is no solution, therapy, rehab protocol, medicine, or anything short for a magic wand that can fix this. There is no cure at this point. The leg is experiencing systematic breakdown. It doesn't matter what we do, how much money we spend, or how much time we give it - there is no turning around after this.
She is never going to be rideable again. No, not even as a trail horse. (I asked.) Best case scenario is that the limb manages to stabilize itself through more scar tissue and thickening, and she manages to get around until something else breaks down. The vet said to breed her, but that "it will shorten her serviceable life." The suspensory will degenerate and sink like this in the healing process either way, regardless of what we do. I am NOT going to breed her as this would be irresponsible of me.
The vet's advice was this: "If you had a huge pile of money and this lame horse, at the end of a year you would have no money and this exact same lame horse." Even if I had a million dollars to pour into this horse, it would do me no good.
Best case scenario is that she manages to build up enough scar tissue to get around in a field for awhile and somehow not end up with another injury. Having watched her fall apart over the past two years - and having seen injury after injury take place even when just doing things like walking around in her field - it is nearly certain that she will reinjure again somewhere, or injure something new again, like she has just done. With all this damage to the right hind, how long until the left hind gives out? It had an injury too when this first happened, and it has areas of scar tissue as well. If the right hind continues to systematically fail, eventually the left hind will too.
It is my personal belief that it is cruel to make a horse limp around in a field until her legs give out. I don't believe that it is right or fair to make this mare stumble painfully around in a field for the next however many years (if she even makes it that long before complete breakdown) until I decide to let her go. I don't believe that that is quality of life. It is better to let one go while they are still somewhat mobile and happy instead of waiting until they are suffering and crippled when you know that that is the direction they are heading in. If there was hope for her comfort and happiness, I'd let her be a pasture puff. Maybe without this new injury, there would have been. But now the hope is so slim that it's not fair to make her hang around in limbo to wait and see if there's a chance for her comfort. It isn't right and it isn't ethical. It's cruel and I won't do that to her.
I haven't made a final decision yet as to what I am going to do. Right now, I don't need to hear stories about what other people would do if Gogo were their horse, or what their experiences were in the past with their own horses, or to not give up hope. None of those things will help me right now. Ultimately, this is my decision. I am the one who has spent every possible waking moment with this mare for the past five years, and I am the one who has watched the ups and downs of her life in person. I am the one who had made all the choices in her life, for better or for worse. It is now my responsibility and duty to make the best choice for her. I owe her so much, and she deserves her dignity. She has given very last inch of her heart for me, and I have tried my best to give everything I can to her in return. And if I cannot give her health and happiness... if there is no hope for a comfortable and mobile life for her.... then I will give her peace.
Please respect whatever ultimate decision I choose and my thought process behind all of this. We all deal with death and mortality issues differently, and we all would do different things in the same situations. This is a very tough time for me; I am sure you all know how attached and utterly devoted I am to her. I love her more than anything and I can't imagine life without her.
5 hours ago