A Lost Year

I’ve been putting off this post for awhile since everything has been so up in the air over the last four months. Right after my last post, Boss came in with a swollen hock and a small puncture wound. I called the vet out to treat him, and she administered what I, and other vets I’ve since consulted with, considered an appropriate treatment plan of steroids and antibiotics to bring down the cellulitis he’d developed in his hind leg.

The swelling went down over 48 hours, but by Monday July 12, it was clear he’d foundered in both front feet. I called the vet out again, and got the same one who’d seen Oh So when he’d come in neurologic. She diagnosed him with laminitis, and we think the steroids caused it. It’s a one in a million chance of something with dex in it causing this reaction, especially in a young, healthy, thin Thoroughbred, and that mistake has cost me thousands of dollars, riding time, my horse’s health and well-being and my mental health.

I can’t really blame the vet because he wasn’t overdosed (although maybe he would have been fine with just an antibiotic and no steroid. Lesson learned), and there’s no way they would admit they did anything wrong, so I’m stuck with the consequences.

We tried stall rest for about 2 weeks until he got so upset he jumped out of his Dutch door, then out of his small paddock, but thankfully a friend offered to take him for rehab at a reduced price. Unfortunately she’s an hour and a half away, but she’s been taking good care of him, and he has a nice big stall and lots of hand grazing time.

We got a farrier from my old practice, Woodside Equine Clinic, to come out to fit him for some special (expensive) clogs that are drilled into his foot then glued in place with heel wedges to hold his coffin bone in a comfortable position. He wore those for about 8 weeks, but about 6 weeks in, he got very lame up front.

Until then, I’d been honestly wondering if I wanted to continue with any of this. Laminitis is a horrible disease that he’ll have to live with the rest of his life, and I’ll have to manage. I barely had 2 months with him and was starting to connect with him, but who knows if we would even be a good match in the future or if he’d like eventing? His entire future and resale value and ability is now in question. From what I’ve read, steroid-induced founders can recover and be just fine compared to those caused by predisposition or metabolic issues. We haven’t tested him for metabolic issues yet, but will eventually.

At the time, I was still unsure if I even wanted to start over with a new horse after the tragedy with Oh So, and this was just too much to bear. I cried for a week and could barely function when it first happened, then when he got very lame 6 weeks in, I started making arrangements. He has a mortality policy, so I thought it might be best to just let him go and start over again, and my vets stood by me, but couldn’t get out to see him for a week, so we gave him bute and waited.

Then he blew an abscess.

So that was that, and then he was walking better. We had him checked at 8 weeks, and the vet was pleasantly surprised at the amount of hoof growth, so decided to keep the shoes on a bit longer. At that point, insurance had told me if he could be pasture sound, they wouldn’t pay out, so I felt like I owed it to him to keep trying, even though this situation as brought my entire life and everything I know crashing down.

I’ve been fortunate to always have a horse to ride, even when one was injured, and now I have no horse of my own to compete and train on, which has been the focus of nearly every day of my life since I was a kid. For better or worse, horses are it for me and my life with them is what makes me whole.

Boss has his recheck last week and got a new set of clogs to wear for another 8-10 weeks. At the beginning of all of this, the vet estimated I wouldn’t be riding him for a year, which makes me sick to even think about. I truly hope he’s wrong. This entire year has turned out to be a lost one. People keep telling me to be positive, but I can’t find one thing that’s been positive that’s happened this year. The hits just keep coming and the progress is slow.

Unfortunately he can’t be turned out because of how high the shoes are, but he is allowed to start walking under saddle for some mental and physical exercise. My friend has ridden him a few times, and I’ll start trying soon and with lots of Ace. He was quite sore after having the shoes changed last week. but otherwise has been very lively while hand walking and seems to be striding out OK. We may try a small paddock with him on sedatives to see if he can handle it.

The whole ordeal is just so unfair, to him especially. He was a happy, healthy young horse with a bright future, and I feel like I’ve let him, his former connections and my parents who bought him down, and it’s entirely out of my control. I should have just said no to the vet when she asked if it was OK to give him the steroids and if he was prone to founder. How was I to know when I’d only had him 2 months? If he does come back, every day will be a question of if or when he’ll have a relapse, and I think it will be difficult to try to sell a horse with this condition. I was just starting to get excited about him after our first dressage and jumping lessons.

For now, I’m seeing him a couple of times a week and trying to catch rides on horses wherever I can, but I feel like I’m floating with no anchor. Just drifting and waiting for the tide to change. Without horses and being at the barn and showing and taking lessons, I’ve lost touch with people who were in my circle, and I feel left out while everyone else seems to be thriving. I need my own horse and that partnership and bond to feel whole Right now there’s a part of me missing, and I don’t know when I’ll get it back. This has been the worst year of my life, and I hope things will start turning around soon.

4 thoughts on “A Lost Year

  1. Onlyjoolzandhorses

    A very similar thing happened to my lovely event and team chase horse. He had steroids injected for stifle lameness. This triggered an extreme case of founder as unbeknownst to us he had asymptomatic cushings. He was 13. My world came crashing down. I was in denial. Its a horrible disease. He had a lot of treatment and tbh it wrecked me physically and psychologically. It is so distressing and a laminitis horse is extremely labour intensive to care for. I started riding him again but eventually the laminitis returned and he was pts. With hindsight I would have has him pts sooner. Box rest and pain is no life for a horse however much you love him. I feel so sorry for your situation 😞

  2. Niamh O'Connell

    I’m so sorry you’ve been going through all of this. I lost all this year with my horse also, partially due to a puncture wound (that the surgeon thought might have been a broken radius). I will say that once he got through the worst of it and the stall rest, we put him on trazadone for small paddock turnout and under saddle rehab and it helped SO much! Way better feeling that dealing with ace. Sending you lots and lots of good vibes. FWIW, have a good cry, throw things, get mad…allow yourself to live in that for as long as you need to. Life has a way of kicking us when we are down, but you’ll find your way to the other side. xoxo.

    1. Thanks. We just took one set of heel wedges out, so once his tendons have a chance to stretch again we’ll try riding, hopefully by next week. The hardest part of all of this is that I haven’t found a horse to ride regularly, so I’m slowly going crazy. If I had something to keep me distracted and do lessons on, I’d probably feel a little better. But most of the horses I’m being offered are ones who haven’t been ridden in years or very expensive leases, and I just don’t want to take that risk.

      1. Niamh O'Connell

        I wish you were closer to me in PA! You’d have an endless supply to ride! Please keep us posted about the progress:)

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