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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Vet Appointment and Some Bad News.

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.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

No progress.

Worsening as of today.

If you still can't see a lameness, then use this video to learn what it looks like in the hind end. You can also see at the end where she struggles to turn around.

I'm about 50-50 on the fence about this. 50% of me says I should make some radical changes and try new options and give it one last go, and the other 50% of me says it's not worth it to anyone or fair to try. Either way I'm going to have to make a decision soon as to what I want to do. I'm running out of time.

EDITED TO ADD: My plan is essentially this....
Immediate short term: Stall her, bute, handwalk, coldhose and wrap (all things I promised her I'd never force her to go through again) until I can stabilize this
Long term: Move her to a different facility with a flat dry lot and solo turnout where she can be strictly dieted and coldhosed/wrapped until this stabilizes. Then hopefully get her to lose some weight, try some herbs/homeopathy/e-stim/whatever.
Basically the same thing all over again, forever. Something needs to change RIGHT NOW or she will blow the limb completely. She gets worse every day out in that field and I need to intervene.

Basically... is it more ethical to let her be happy and limping on a worsening limb letting her be a horse, or be miserable and confined and alone for the sake of her leg... with a pretty grim prognosis either way?

Or, I could euthanize.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Big Picture

Future Hubs has spent more than one evening consoling me lately when I get myself wound up about looking at the whole Big Picture of life instead of little bite-size day-by-day pieces, the likes of which are easier to swallow and deal with in general. He tells me I have a tendency (and he's right) to let myself get overwhelmed by huge, long-term things that seem too big to tackle, instead of just breaking things up into sizable and doable pieces. I had been very good up until now about just letting Gogo's rehab situation cruise along at a day-by-day speed, keeping my thoughts positive and forward-thinking. But last night, as I watched my horse and her ever-worsening lameness hobble around in the roundpen, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed.

She was terrible last night. Ever since the potential reinjury earlier in the month, her RH has just looked terrible. I've done what I can for it while she is in turnout, but it's not enough. The last few times I've seen her, her lameness has been worsening, and last night she was hip-hiking, toe-dragging lame on the RH. I would give it a 2.5-3/5 on the lameness scale. It was bad.

She's not resting it any more than usual, and she's still resting the other hind normally and also standing four-square when the mood strikes. She is also still sound at the walk, like she has always been. She seems happy. She still struggles with pivoting around on her hind end.... she plants both hind legs and shuffles awkwardly around, which is a relatively new thing (past several months or so). Last night was also the first time I saw her struggle when I asked her to move backwards - she hopped painfully back, avoiding putting too much weigh on the RH.

Little increasingly bad signs that just keep adding up.

Looking at the entire big picture, we are now 2 whole years out from the original injury, and she is NO better. (It will be 2 years on September 12th). If anything, she is now worse off than ever because there is such a mess of scar tissue, adhesions, and other structural involvement in the area where where was simply a tendon sheath issue after the first injury. A reinjury, a second reinjury, and now a THIRD reinjury... this past time while doing nothing at all. She reinjured just being out in her field.

It is not ethical to make a mare like this go back and stand miserably in a stall for another period of who-knows-how-long for for a chronic, perpetual injury like this one. It's not fair to sacrifice her quality of life at this point. Qualify of life is about all she has right now.
It is also not ethical to consider euthanasia for a horse who is still walking around fine and happy in her field. Again, quality of life is what we're basing everything around right now. When she stops being comfortable and happy is when she will make that decision for me, if it ever comes down to that.

I can't not look at the entire picture and go hmm, she is now just as lame as she was two years ago during the original injury, only now there is chronic and proably permanent damage in the leg... which leaves her worse off than ever before. And it's only getting worse. Right now, there are no steps forward.... only steps back.

I hate to say it, but I also have to think of it in an economical way as well. I have poured so much time, money, and emotion into this injury, and not a single thing we've done has had long lasting healing effects. I could keep pouring money into fancier and more extreme treatments, but to what purpose and with what guarantee?

Stall rest, controlled exercise, and daily sedation were all things I was willing to do for her legs at the temporary expensive of her mental stability when this injury was fresh and her chances for recovery were very good. It's a different story now.

WHAT is the right thing to do? I don't know anymore.

There are lots of small options and things I could potentially change - moving her to a new facility where she can be in a smaller drylot with a stricter diet, E-Stim, Aquatread, homeopathy, castor oil wraps, essential oils, etc. - but again, are any of these things going to help? I'm willing to give them a reasonable try, or at least some of them, but at this point I'm just grasping at straws.

She's happy, and she's still getting around well enough. So long as she shows me she's willing to keep moseying, I'll keep trying. But you better believe I will do the right thing if she ever tells me that she's done trying and she's had enough.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Whittling It Down

Starting the process of looking for a second horse is a daunting task for me. This is quadrupled in difficulty by the fact that I am absolutely NOT ready to purchase/lease/be given/etc a horse at this point. I'm still having trouble paying for what I have in the first place. Obtaining a second horse is a prospect that is waaaaaaaaaaaaaay in the distance. Like, within the next year - hopefully. It all depends on how the business does, how my finances are, and most importantly, how Gogo is doing. If she makes a majikal turnaround, then great! Who needs another horse when I have her to ride! But she also may very well have completely tanked and been either permanently retired or put into a hole by this time next year, so I have to keep that in mind too. It's really depressing to think about, but I have to keep an open mind as to whatever is best for her. For now, it's day by day, and she's getting around just fine for the moment. We'll just have to see.

But I digress. I think that my first step is to analyze and consider the following question: What do I REALLY want in a second horse? What are my absolute requirements, things I MUST have? What can I live with, what can't I live without?

Basically, it boils down to this: I want a Prelim+ prospect who has three solidly nice gaits and a strong gallop, a fantastic jump, a brave and intelligent mind, and an absolutely immaculate vet check. Basically, this is exactly the same set of requirements I had for when I set out to find Gogo. I'm looking for something to fill the role that she had as my event horse, because she was (and is) perfect for me in every way.

This is why I have spent so much time debating on whether or not I want to breed her. I desperately wish I had her carbon copy as my next event horse. Breeding is a risk and you never know what you're going to get - that thing might come out crooked, ugly and lame - but I have obviously spent a lot of time painfully going back and forth about it. My mind is still not made up. Regardless of if I ever do make that decision, that baby won't be ready to ride for many years, and I have to be honest with myself: I don't want to wait that long before I am galloping on XC again!

So how to find a Prelim+ prospect who has three solidly nice gaits and a strong gallop, a fantastic jump, a brave and intelligent mind, and an absolutely immaculate vet check.... on a tight budget? Well, I'm going to have to make some compromises more than likely. It might be something with some mental baggage. It might be something with a training issue. It might be something not yet under saddle. It might be a weird breed, it might be a bit small. It might be marketed as something else completely, but it just has the raw potential to become what I want it to be. I don't know yet.

There is no reason I won't be able to find something nice out there for a decent price though. The market is terrible these days, and nothing is selling. Especially in Texas this year (too bad I'm not buying now!), breeders are liquidating their NICE stock because their horses have nothing to eat - all the grass and hay is just gone with this drought. Here is proof that there are nice horses for low prices that are close to me! (A bit on the small side, but she is nice looking, SUPER close, and a pretty mover. It can be found!)

Any breed and any gender may apply for the position... so long as they have potential!

Why I mentioned a mustang earlier: I figure in terms of finding a diamond in the rough, it's hard to go wrong here. You can pick up a damn nice horse with $125 if you have a good eye for one. I also figure that if two horses can survive out in Great Basin long enough to procreate, and if that baby can live long enough to make it to adulthood and not get killed and/or crippled in the meanwhile and during its roundup process, then I probably have a pretty good chance that nature (through breeding and through environment) probably gave it a decent and hardy set of legs and a good brain. The mutt factor also can't hurt - carefully bred warmbloods seem to have legs made of glass, but the most grade of backyard mutts never seem to break down do they? There is something to be said about it.... look at all the tough, hardy mixed breed dogs out there versus carefully bred dog breeds with endless medical problems. There very well could be something to it!

But you have to have a good eye for not only build and soundness when checking out a bunch of wild horses in a pen, but for temperament too. A lot of mustangs are said to be easy and quick to train despite their wildness - not all of them, but many. They survived out in the wild after all... they have to have a few brain cells to make it. I personally am pretty good at picking out a good strong soul in a group of horses.... hell, I've had Gogo for years, I know a confident personality when I see one! You also have to not find a shrimp if you can help it - some mustangs can get into the 16hh+ size but most are ponies. I think my legs are a BIT long for that!

Plus, what kind of a RIDICULOUSLY FUN project would that be?? Not to mention the bond you'd have with that horse. I really like the idea, if logistics ever worked out. You obviously won't have any idea if the horse is capable of doing until you get to working with it, but if you pick one with good conformation and a good brain, you stand a pretty darn good chance.

You can find some NICE horses amongst the herd if you look for them. Take this guy Reno for example - his first time ever free jumping. If I didn't know he was a mustang, I'd say he was a well-bred warmblood.

And who can forget about Padre, the mustang who won the 4 Year and Older In-Hand Stallion class at Dressage at Devon last year, beating out a bunch of NICELY bred warmblood stallions?

It's an idea I certainly want to keep in my head. Of course, there could very well be some diamonds in the rough around here too, so I can't close my eyes to anything!

And....... this isn't going to happen until next year anyway. But it can't hurt to start dreaming now.

Pup Portraits: Chaos for Cookies

As some of you guys know, I have a complete menagerie of pets aside from Gogo. I am a sucker for a critter in need, which is how I ended up with a Greyhound (rescued from the track), a Doberman/Rottweiler (on a chain in somebody's backyard), and a Corgi (running loose on the highway with no owner to be found). They are ridiculously amusing and all wonderful companions. They also all have a set of tricks that I've taught them, as follows:

Ti (Greyhound): Lay down, sit, sit pretty, up, dance, turn around, shake (standing and sitting, with both paws), crawl, bow
Tonka (Dobe/Rott): Sit, shake (both paws), lay down, play dead, turn around
Twiggy (Corgi): Sit, shake, dance, speak, roll over

I should teach them more tricks, I like teaching dogs useless and funny tricks.

Anyway, here's a video of the three of them going completely nuts over cookie time and (sort of) doing some of their tricks. Mostly it's just them crashing into each other and trying to steal everybody else's cookies. Oh I love them so.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Comparison Videos

I thought it would be interesting to post a comparison video from last month and this month in terms of lameness. Last month, I thought she looked pretty good, but could still see a very mild lameness and others could too. This month, I can see an obvious lameness but not everyone else sees it. Tell me what you think after watching these back to back:

Gogo 7/11/11:

And Gogo 8/21/11:

I see a worse lameness now, which corresponds to the ugly fat leg. (It was ugly and fat before, but quite a lot worse now.) What do you see?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Another Really Bad Lameness Eval Video

It's pretty much impossible to get a distractable mare to pay attention on the lunge when you are completely ignoring her in favor of handling a iPod recording a video. Sorry about the totally AWFUL quality. Hard to see anything with her head in the area paying attention to absolutely everything except me. She is, and always has been, a giraffe on the lunge - which is why I never, EVER as a rule used to lunge her without equipment on. Talk about unproductive. Also, potentially harmful. Remember Crazy Trainer who lunged Gogo into the ground on a 12m circle for an HOUR a day in ONE direction (to the right) on uneven ground? Six days a week... for SIX MONTHS? Yep... that'll mess a young mare for life. And I wonder why the right continues to be a problem. We wonder sometimes why they break down... if they're just too weak to hold up and have some sort of genetic anomaly. In reality, WE are usually the cause for it - they'd be fine and sturdy and hardy if WE didn't mess them up so badly. The poorly conformed ones break down easily, and the tough ones still have issues if we trash them when they are young and growing. I still, to this day, blame myself for Gogo's accident. And I always will. I blame myself for her re-injuries too. I cantered her on a circle when she wasn't ready the first time. And I rode her out on the beach when she wasn't ready the second. Regardless of whether or not I thought she was ready, she wasn't. And I'm now facing a chronic injury that might result in a permanent lameness because of it.

Anyway, I digress. Here's today's footage:

It's about the same as it was the other day - noticeably lame to the left, and pretty darn good for the most part to the right.

Poor Gogo. I still don't think she injured herself because she's genetically weak, and I don't think she re-injured because of that either. I still think the blame resides with me. It would be irresponsible of me to do what so many horse owners do and blame the horse for not being able to hold up to their workload. In some cases, like with a badly conformed horse, why would a rider put them through something they won't be able to hold up to anyway? And in a well-conformed horse, that in theory SHOULD be able to hold up well under pressure, it's even sadder - how did you manage to break that thing? It's not like he chose to be lame on purpose.

Unless it's in an unrelated pasture/barn/trailer/whatever accident, the blame rests with the rider/trainer/barn manager when a horse goes lame. Disagree with me if you will, but 9 times out of 10, I fully believe that it is the human's fault in one way or another, be it through improper management, improper riding, pushing a horse too much or beyond his limit, or the like. I don't believe that "some horses just break down and that's how they are." All that does is ensure that whoever caused the problem in the first place feels better about themselves and moves the blame to the animal in question, as though it was the horse's own fault that he went lame. There is ALWAYS a reason, whether it an acute injury or repetitive damage.

Even those of us to struggle every day to do the best we can by our athletes don't always get it right.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book Review: The Head and Not The Heart

About a week ago, Natalie Keller Reinert over at Retired Racehorse asked if I could read her debut novella, The Head and Not The Heart, and give a review here on the blog. I always enjoy Natalie's blog and writing style, and so I naturally agreed.

The novella asks a question that most, if not all, equestrians have asked themselves at one point or another - could I ever live this life without horses? What hard-working horsewoman (or man) has not stumbled into the barn before the sunrise at least once and wondered, how does it feel to be still sleeping right now? How many horse people have slaved day in and day out for their animals and not sat down and asked themselves at some point, why do I put myself through so much exhaustion and heartbreak? In The Head and Not The Heart, our main character Alex goes through the same thought process we are all so familiar with when she and her lover-slash-boss Alexander experience not one but two terrible losses in their stable. Alex feels the sting of grief and despair, feeling empty and distant from her lover, her farm and the horses in her care. On a business trip to the Aqueduct track in New York City, Alex branches out, explores externally and internally, and asks herself, "Do I want a life without horses? And even if I did, could I live a life without horses?"

The novella is great. I personally felt that the first chapter felt different from the rest of the book - like the engine was being warmed and there wasn't as much flow - but once the second chapter began, everything flowed smoothly and I was pulled right in. The story is richly detailed, and it is clear the author is well-versed in all areas of the subject matter, from the leg movement of a potentially injured horse to the atmosphere of a Florida horse town to the interior of the Aqueduct barns. She knows these settings and she doesn't miss a detail. You can almost taste the grime of a side street in Brooklyn, and you can exactly picture what the old Claremont Riding Academy looked like even if you had no idea of what it once was. The author maintains her recurring theme of thinking with the head and not the heart - or vise versa - in the horse industry and in life throughout the duration of the book, a little ribbon of thought strongly sewing the entire story together. My favorite part of the story was the fact that the question of whether not the main character could live without horses or not was not predictable or clear throughout the story. Only in the last chapter do you find out whether or not she can. The story could have gone either way in the end, and I loved that. I have a feeling that if the entire last chapter was completely rewritten, it could still be just as good of an ending. As for what the answer to the question is, you'll have to wait and find out for yourself.

I look forward to the next book. If this is a debut novella, the stories can only get richer from here.

Read a bit more about the book here! The book is not yet available on paper, but you can get an ebook here as well!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

So what is next?

What do you do when it really hits you that your perfect dream event horse is not going to event again, jump again, or possibly even do any type of under saddle work at all again?

Well, if I want to ride and compete again - and I do - then it is time that I seriously consider a second horse.

This is NOT to say that this would be happening anytime in the relatively near future. I don't have the money for it at the moment and probably won't for a long while. Right now I am trying to establish a business and not starve to death in the process, so my energies - and my money - are going towards those two things pretty much exclusively. Depending on how my financial situation works out, I think a good and vague timeframe for this would be within a year.

This horse-buying situation is going to be different this time around compared to how I got my last three. Quincy was a freebie. Metro was purchased by my parents. Gogo was purchased with blood money from Metro's mortality insurance payout. (Well, ok, so maybe it's not that horrible but it still felt weird at the time. Metro died, we collected our mortality on him, and therefore had money to reinvest into another horse. Essentially, blood money.) This time, I am operating under my own financial steam only.

Which means there is no possible way on planet earth that I am going to be able to afford the kind of horse that I really want. It's just fact.

This in mind, I have to go about tailoring my search process carefully. I am not going to be able to spend an enormous chunk on a horse. I am not going to be able to buy a horse that is far enough away from me that I will need to fly to go see it, and will need to have it shipped from a distance. I will have to settle for something local, within reason, and not too expensive.

I also have not ruled out breeding Gogo at some point. And we are not getting into that discussion today! But it brought up a point that worried me - I more than likely will have no idea who my potential future horse's parents were, and if it's a cheap horse, it might be offspring from broken down old nags who somehow managed to produce something nice. If Gogo with her potential leg issue is not worthy of being a breeding animal despite all her other qualities, then how do I know I will be buying a horse with a history of family soundness or not if I don't know the dam or sire? The nicest horse I am ever going to be able to afford is one that will come directly out of her in the first place, but I can't guarantee baby's soundness. Neither can I guarantee anything's soundness at all, but I at least wish I knew where the horse had come from - i.e. did mommy or daddy have any sort of major soundness issues. This worries me.... a lot. Sound is as sound does, obviously - some of the most crooked-legged horses I've ever seen were the soundest, and some of the nicest horses on the planet earth just fell apart under their own steam for seemingly no obvious reason. I guess in life there are no guarantees.

When Metro had soundness issues, it was obvious why - he had glaringly bad comformational faults and weighed 1400lbs. With Gogo, it's a bit of a different story. Why did her crooked front legs hold up to everything I could throw at them, but her relatively correct hind legs didn't? Who knows. If I breed her, I don't know if baby will be sound. I don't know if this neverending injury isn't healing because of some sort of genetic component, or if it is just the crappiest luck ever.

Anyway, I digress. New horse, eventually.

In order to pick up something of a vaguely decent quality for a low price, I am going to have to a) first set a price, and then b) either buy the best I can in a very young horse, find a total diamond in the rough, or put up with some sort of issue in a nice horse that causes it to have a lower price. All of these things come with risk, but so does every horse buying adventure. I think I will know the right one when I find it.

I also have the option of rescuing something. I think this falls under the diamond in the rough category. If any of you so much as mentions the phrase OTTB I will be forced to make you drink liquefied brussel sprouts!

Secretly, very secretly, I kind of want to adopt a mustang. A cavalry remount one, you know... one that isn't a pony. But it's a bit of a silly pipe dream at the moment. Now THAT would be an awesome and fun project. Again though, that's a bit of a crap shoot.... how on earth would you ever know what you are going to end up with?

Technically, I guess it's ALL a bit of a silly pipe dream at the moment. A new horse won't be arriving in my life for a good long while, honestly. We'll just have to see what happens, and in the meantime, it's time to start brooding on what exactly I really and truly am hoping to find.

In other seriously unrelated news, have some awesome stop motion joy!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Harsh Reality of Turnout

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.

To play the complete pessimist, deep down in my heart I think I always knew this would happen when I put her on turnout. I said a year and a half ago that I felt that turnout was "archaic" for a horse with a tendon injury, and received quite a lot of commentary in response. 9 months ago, I retracted my statement and decided that I would turn her out 24/7 and see what kinds of healing powers nature had to offer my mare. Stall rest and controlled exercise brought her back magnificently, but she reinjured twice in the process. Something wasn't working, and so I tried the alternative.

But I had my doubts early on. I wrote here about the fact that turning out a fresh tendon injury is potentially asking for trouble, and wrestled with myself over the ethics of it all. Was it right to trap her in a stall and bubblewrap her in the hopes that her body would heal even though her mind would struggle? Or was it right to turn her out, allow her mind to be happy, and potentially cripple her in the process? The important excerpt is here:

November 26th, 2010: "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."

In my heart, I felt as though I just couldn't trap her in a stall any longer - what was I achieving if she was just going to reinjure in the end? And so, I turned her out.

At first, I believed in it. I believed that nature would take my sweet mare and heal her. I still believe that nature has healing powers that modern humans simply cannot replicate through our controlled settings and our medications. (Which is why I chose the barefoot thing as a career... I believe in the restorative powers of a body's natural process. Humans just can't do it better than nature can.) For a short while, a spark ignited in my heart - returning my horse to her naturalness would help her so much! That's the answer! She seemed pretty happy once she adjusted, and I settled in to allow nature do its thing.

She got sounder. She got lamer. She got sounder. She got fatter. She got lamer. She got sounder. She got fatter. Her feet changed. She got fatter. She got sounder. She got lamer.

Six months into it, I had hope. She wasn't fully sound but she looked pretty darn good to me. She hadn't come sound like she had during stall rest and controlled exercise (2 months into the first injury and again into the first reinjury, she was sound), but hey, nature takes time. Once at the clinic, however, she displayed pretty constant lameness on the right hind. Ultrasound showed that there was still tendon degeneration as well as a tendon sheath full of stringy, messy adhesions. It looked like a pot of spaghetti spilled inside of her tendon sheath. (Tasty, I know). There was also annular ligament involvement, more than ever before.

Her body was doing exactly what I had predicted it would do: "Likely, she'll build up an ugly bundle of disorganized scar tissue and heal herself." Heal, at this point, is a very subjective term. That's just what tendon injuries out in a field usually do.

We injected the tendon sheath with Kenalog and went on our way. The vet advised that we continue with turnout (as if I was considering anything else), since this was now considered a chronic injury, and that I sit on her and see what happened.

The leg went down after the injection. She blew an adhesion and went lame. The leg blew up again. She got sounder. Life went on.

At the new farm, I tried to sit on her again, and again, she went quite lame. The leg blew up again, in a very grotesque kind of way, and this time it stayed. The leg as of today:

It's probable that she has reinjured, or done a new injury, or keeps blowing continual adhesions, or something. There is lameness and swelling and there is no end in sight to this whole vicious cycle. If she stays in turnout, she continues to walk around on an injured limb, possibly injuring it further or causing strain to other parts of her body. But at this point, if she gets stalled, it will kill her. It didn't do her any favors before, and it's not going to do her any favors now.

This all basically boils down to this: I don't think I did her any favors physically when I turned her out. In fact, I may have completely doomed her soundness forever. Maybe that's being a little dramatic, but honestly, she's lamer now than she was before I turned her out 24/7, and the leg is now ugly and fat and full of adhesions when before it didn't have any. Before turnout, she was trim and muscular. Now, she is morbidly obese, and it is going to be next to impossible to get the weight off of her while she is unridable. (And the weight adds to her lameness, so it's a vicious circle). Before turnout, she has gorgeous, picture-perfect hooves. Now, I'm doing constant damage control due to all the changes they have gone through.

It's too late for stall rest now, and it would mentally wreck her. There's nothing I can do anymore except just keep her turned out and hope that she remains happy and relatively comfortable. At this point, I don't really have any hope that she'll return to any level of functional soundness. Trail pony someday, if I'm lucky. Maybe. We also have the option of cutting her annular ligament, which has been discussed all along and which I violently opposed up until now. That could possibly be a helpful last resort. Or, it could be a total disaster. Who knows?

It feels like Metro all over again. When he first went lame, I said to myself, "Well, he'll just max out at Training level in eventing, and that's ok." When his lameness progressed, it became, "Well, he'll make a super dressage horse." When he worsened, it became, "Well, he'll be a great trail horse." It wasn't long before it became, "Well, he'll be really nice to look at in a field." At the end of it all, when it was clear he wouldn't even be comfortable enough to hobble around in the pasture, it became, "Well.... this is the end."

I hope it doesn't come down to that. As long as she is walking around in comfort and is happy, we'll keep trying. But I'll do the right thing by my horse, if she tells me so. It's cruel to make a horse hobble around in a field in constant pain just for an owner's selfish emotional needs. I'm not that person and I'll never do that to her.

It's obviously not NEARLY that bad at this point. But honestly, having previously lost one in a similar slow downward spiral, I can't help but worry about it.

Oh, Gogo.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Magical Mystery Mare

Hmmmmm. Apparently Gogo has made it her mission to keep me completely and utterly confused at all times during this rehab. She's very nearly sound, despite the leg looking as ugly as ever. She's just as 'nearly' sound as she has been in the past few videos I've posted. We put her on the lunge this afternoon, and lo and behold she is no different than she has been - a few funny steps here and there if you look for them, but mostly pretty darn sound. Mare, you're KILLING me here! You are a perpetual mystery!

In other news, check out how much change there has been in her feet since pulling her off of the grass:

The photos are shot from different angles but you get the gist. First one was from about two or three weeks ago, second is from today. She was in need of a trim in the first photo (that was right after she fully exfoliated) and could probably stand for a touch-up in the second. Can't wait to see what we have when the new growth hits the ground... it's almost there!

I also, um.... may have shaved her four-inch mohawk off.

It was funny..... after I did it, I stepped back to look at her and went HOLY COW, she is NOT actually as morbidly obese as I thought she was! Instant Visual Weight Loss!
But, she is still pretty dang fat anyway..... check out the comparison photos of last August and this August:

Longtime readers will recall that this time last year, Gogo's rehab consisted of 30 minutes of loose rein walk, 20 minutes of walk work on the bit, 20 minutes of trotting, and 15 minutes of cantering, six days a week. She was stronger and fitter than ever.... hence that gorgeous top picture of her looking muscular and beautiful.

Annnnnnd the bottom picture.... she looks um...... fat. But I guess not as fat as I thought. But still pretty fat. Could that possibly be a topline from walking around so much on her own in the grazing postion for these past eight months? Could be.... but it's probably just a crest. (MAYBE there is some muscle under there. Impossible to tell.... she is just too fat.)

But I DO think she has lost a LITTLE bit of weight. How could she not? It's 95947282040959392 degrees out there every day! (Literally, this is almost 40 straight days of 100+ degree temps every day... and it hasn't rained here since May.)


Fat though she may be, you can't deny that she is still completely adorable:

One of our boarders is a long-time Trakehner breeder, and she raves about how gorgeous Gogo is and tells me every time she sees me that I should breed her. I WISH.

Sunday Success Stories

(Sunday Success Stories have returned to Eventing-A-Gogo! Each week, we feature a reader's own personal journey through overcoming difficulty and adversity, sometimes against all odds, and pulling through no matter what. These stories are about those who never gave up, and who made a difference in the life of an animal who just needed a little love and care in order to turn around and really bloom again. Send your success stories, past or present, to!)

This week's Sunday Success Story comes from Jess, who writes in to tell us: "I wanted to let you know a little about myself and my story with horses. I have a YouTube series called The Quest For Champion. I am currently training three rescue thoroughbreds, and I am documenting our progress. I've been told that they will never amount to anything but wasted time and money. They are all still very green, but we are training hard every day, and making excellent progress. You can really tell a huge difference in my boys. Just as you said, I plan on proving people wrong, and raising awareness about the wonderful horses that can be saved. I post up an new video each week, and mix fast paced eventing with awesome dubstep. I also do some dressage from time to time!" Without further ado, here is their story!

The Quest for Champion

My name is Jess, and I've been riding since I was seven years old. I've been showing for about five years now, and it's safe to say I'm hooked! I love all English riding, so I show in many disciplines with no particular favorite. Showing has become an addiction for me, I'm at every one I can get to. Throughout the years I've owned many wonderful horses, but I've never felt more fortunate to own a horse than I do now. Please allow me to explain.

I am the proud owner of not one, but three AMAZING rescue horses. I hate to think about it, but these guys were basically headed for slaughter when I found them. I saved my first horse back in 2007, His name is Lago, but I call him Gam. He was only two and a half years old, and had raced about ten times. He had some issues with fluid on his abdomen, and some other really scary stuff. We went through six months of treatment, and he recovered fully! We started our training shortly after, and had our first show in 2008. He's been going hard ever since. He's hands down the smartest horse I've ever had the pleasure of riding.

All three of my boys were in really bad shape when we met. Now they are healthy as can be, and are all currently showing with me. My goal with these guys is to take them from a bunch of "Racetrack rejects" to Champions of show. I want people to know that you don't need to have a thirty or forty thousand dollar horse to win shows. I'd like them to know that they can save a horse, and with enough love, time, and patience, anything is possible. I'd like to prove to all people that had negative things to say just how wrong they were. I was talking to a friend about all of this, and they brought up the idea of making a Youtube series. Something about the idea seemed like it was meant to be.

I made my first video in November 2010 and posted it to YouTube. This was actually Bay's first show with me! Since then, I have uploaded thirty four videos starring my boys. It's a way for me to look back, and see how far they progressed. I wish I had video when from when I first met them. It makes me sad to think of how skinny Bay was, or how Judge wouldn't stop trying to kiss me. Now they win ribbons, and do what many people said was impossible. The videos are not only is it a tool to gauge progression, but I've also been told that the videos are a great asset beginner riders.

I named my show The Quest For Champion. I wanted something that reflected the different personality's of the me and my boys. Something completely different from what anyone has seen before. It's shot in a really special way, to almost put you ON the horse and IN the show! You'll see what I mean! Your with me during every walk, trot, canter, and jump. Your with me through the refusals, and even the falls! It's really intense! I've even overcome my camera shyness and I intro every show, and share some crazy stories from behind the scenes. I upload a new video every Monday, and I'd would really love it if I could share the show with you and the readers. I was so ecstatic when I found your site. I think we may be kindred spirits. Much like Gogo, my boys event, and show barefoot :D

You can find my Youtube channel at:
I'm also on Facebook:

(Send your submissions and stories to! Gogo wants you to!)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Photo Adventure Fridays

This week's Photo Adventure....

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USA.
One of many stops on my cross-continental road trip in 2006. We rode mules through the park through all the crazy hoodoo rocks.... or rather, the bad riders rode mules, I rode a fantastic and well-trained little redheaded mare who was foot-perfect and had the lightest, sweetest mouth. Not all riding companies give the 'advanced' riders the crazy horses... some of them save the awesome horses that they don't want to be trashed for them instead!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Help with a name!

JenJ and I were having a discussion today about my (eventual, future) trimming business and we decided that the name I had picked out did not remotely suit the business, nor did it match the logo that I'd like to use for it. She mentioned to me that the name of her blog/farm came from a reader, and suggested I post my logo and ask my readers for business name ideas.

If you steal my logo though, I will hunt you down and sic my whale-mare on you!
(Note: the logo is a doodle, a hand design that needs a lot of finishing. So it's just an idea for now... any further suggestions are appreciated!)

I was thinking that it should potentially have something nautical as a name to go along with the compass rose theme - I grew up boating and still love it so it fits well. Or something travel/exciting/direction/adventure related... let your imaginations run wild!

Fat Camp Fail

Want to know how to induce lameness in your previously healing wubba-chubba mare? Say these four words to her: "You need Fat Camp."
She will then realize that she is about to go back to some sort of level of work, and she will understandably decide that she must take whatever precautionary measures that she must to ensure that this does not happen. Voila! Lameness.

I've had growing concerns over the past couple of months about the state of Gogo's enormity, as I've talked quite a lot about. The vet had told me in June after our checkup that I should get on and w/t/c her, but that plan failed pretty spectacularly. She seemed to bounce back well from that episode, but I wasn't really that convinced that she was going to be fine to do anything faster than a walk. I decided that I would start carefully, on August 1st, with a walk-only rehab program that would take me through two months, and at the end of it we would reevaluate and see if she was ready to trot.

Well. On Monday, I got to the barn early, and Gogo's RH looks kind of ugly. I opted to get on anyway, and do my scheduled 10 minutes of walk work. She felt fine at the walk, like she always does, but at the end of 10 minutes I just had to know how she felt at the trot.... whether or not the ugly leg meant anything.

Yep. Super lame. I should have known.

When I got off I cold-hosed her for 10 minutes, but it made no difference. Back in the barn, the leg looked worse than ever. Feeling defeated, I turned her back out again, only to watch her execute a beautiful prancing trot and decent looking canter on her way back out to her friends. It was hard to tell from my angle how lame she was, but she propped pretty hard with both hinds when she was slowing down, which is what she has historically done when lame behind.

At this point, I think riding is just a bad idea in general.

There's not really much I can do at this point. Being out in turnout might cripple her for life. But being in a stall at this point would kill her. I have more to write about this later. As for right now, well..... I dunno, really.

(Four inches of mohawk really does not help the Fatty Fat look on her.... I promise that she is not quite as morbidly obese as she appears in that picture. Even though she is terrifyingly gigantic.)