Alternate title: What Not To Do When You Have an Injured Horse
My appointment at Tryon was at 10 AM, and lasted until about noon. Bette came to hang out with me, then we left P with some hay at the hospital and grabbed some lunch, then went to go check out the rehab place next door (which ultimately ended up being a hard no at $128/day). Tryon is a 2 hour haul for me, so I ended up finally getting home at 5 PM.
Those 7 hours were, for the most part, quite zen for me. While I definitely shed a couple of tears upon first hearing the diagnosis, talking to Bette, to the vets, and to Trainer B for sure helped a lot. The vet sounded very optimistic and Trainer B has been through similar injuries with horses. Neither made any mention of this being career-ending (provided P doesn’t escape and tear around like a maniac). It was all going to be ok.
So I get home at 5. By 5:01 I made my first mistake- Google. By 5:01:05 I made the most fatal mistake anyone can: clicking on a Chronicle of the Horse thread. NEVER DO THIS. COTH is the equine equivalent of WebMD.
But once I was in, I couldn’t stop…I finally ended up involuntarily passing out around SIX AM, after ELEVEN STRAIGHT HOURS OF GOOGLING & COTH-ING.
Now what did I do in those 11 hours? Let me tell you.
- I read that front limbs have a great chance of recovery. If the injury is in the hind, you’re SOL. No exceptions EVER.
- I read that once a horse is injured there, they will DEFINITELY reinjure it and will NEVER recover.
- I read that horses who have this injury should NEVER be jumped again under ANY circumstances.
- I read that only the STUPIDEST of stupid people would EVER ride a horse who has EVER had this type of injury.
- I read that there’s absolutely NO WAY a horse can recover in less than 18 months from something like this. Better give it 5 years to be on the safe side. 10 if you actually care about your horse.
- I read that if they sustain this injury in one leg they will DEFINITELY injure their other leg in a similar fashion due to compensation.
- I read that the ONLY treatment for something like this to have even the SLIGHTEST chance of recovery is for them to have a surgery called fasciotomy. And then I became incredibly angry at the vets for not even having the decency to MENTION this to me. Clearly they assumed I was a pauper and didn’t care for my horse in the least bit. CLEARLY.
Despair kicked in around 1 AM or so. I was tempted to drown my sorrows in a bottle of red wine and the huge bag of M&Ms that Husband so thoughtfully had waiting for me, but no…my horse needed me to think clearly. Eating and sleeping would be selfish.
It was clear to me by then (yes, I was sober) that my horse’s riding career was over. So I looked for retirement farms (FYI there’s a nice one in VA, if anyone is looking), searched for local land for sale so I could have a place for P, and redid our household budget 1,000,000 ways to see how I could fund a second horse.
You’re probably thinking I stopped there, but you’d be wrong. As I was also convinced that P was in immeasurable pain as well, and obvi would be for the rest of his life, I may or may not have memorized my equine mortality insurance plan in looking to see how humane euthanasia worked.
Poor Husband woke around 4 AM (probably to the sound of me sobbing) and said to stop with the internet and get some sleep. I snarled something about him hating P, I believe, and he fell back asleep. Damn patriarchy. I was sure he was HAPPY P’s life was essentially (or literally, depending on which scenario I was convinced of at the time) over.
By 6 AM I had a list of retirement farms to contact about pricing/amenities, some land that I was going to call realtors about, had quotes for run-in shelters to place on said land, and had rehearsed how I was going to
accuse ask the vet of not offering up the only procedure that could possibly work to save my horse’s life. It was a very productive night.
Let me tell you about the vet I saw, real quick. He’s been with Tryon Equine Hospital for the past 18 years, and owned it for the last 10 years. He’s trained at New Bolton and was Chief of Staff at Univ. of GA Hospital. His wife is an eventer, as well as an FEI vet for dressage/eventing and is the selector vet for the Canadian event team. The 2 of them are literally overseeing all the FEI vets for WEG.
So, uhhh, pretty qualified, right? Which is why I went there to begin with. But by 6 AM that next morning, I was convinced they were hacks and had some sort of conspiracy against my horse and I. Ya know, all rational things.
Tryon opened at 8 AM, so I gave them until 8:03 before calling because I’m considerate like that. I explained to the receptionist that I had been there yesterday and had a few questions, then left my number for one of the vets to call me back.
Then I put down my phone and stared at it. That never fails.
When they hadn’t called back by 8:05, I lost it. It was obvious they didn’t care that I was going to have to put P down. They probably didn’t even like horses AT ALL.
My makeup had been cried off by now, and half of it was all over my work clothes. My contacts were blurry from all the tears and Husband suggested perhaps I stay home rather than go into the office. I had actual work that needed to be done though, but luckily had my computer at home with me. So I opened up my computer to get said work done, and within 5 minutes found myself with no less than 2 dozen tabs on suspensory injuries open.
I declined breakfast, and Husband tried to gently close my computer lid which only prompted me to grab it and yell, “I HAVE WORK TO DO,” to which he replied, “But….you’re not doing that…” which only caused yet another sobbing fit. I had already accepted the vets didn’t care about my horse’s life, but now my HUSBAND was trying to prevent me from learning all I could so I could make informed decisions about the care of my horse?
By 10:30 AM I had taken to not only cursing the vets and my husband, but also their respective parents. What kind of parents raise people to be so hateful of horses and their loving owners? WHAT DID HORSES EVER DO TO YOU, KAREN?!
By the time the phone rang at 1:14 PM, I was blind from blurry contacts, looked like I had pink eye, my lips and cheeks were swollen and puffy, my nose hurt from blowing it so much, I was surrounded by wads of tissue, and I had a broken toe nail from when I lunged for my ringing phone 15 minutes earlier (which was a STUPID telemarketer who will probably never call anyone else again).
I started with my legitimate questions, first. I needed those answered before going in for the kill.
Me: You said he needed to be hand-walked/tack-walked every day. How long?
Vet: About 20 minutes would be good, no more than 30 minutes for now.
Me: After talking to the insurance company, I’ve decided to do the shockwave but Tryon Hospital is 2 hours away from me. Can any of the vets from your mobile division in Charlotte do it?
Vet: Yes, of course. The receptionist up front can schedule that for you. We’re all on one system so the mobile vets will have access to Pilgrim’s records.
Me (because I couldn’t help myself): Do you really think Pilgrim has a chance at fully recovering?
Vet: Yes, as long as you stick to the rehab plan. Some people just turn their horses out for whatever reason and the ligament doesn’t get the chance to heal properly. Resting it lets it heal while controlled exercise will help the fibers heal in the right direction and minimize scar tissue. We’ve had hundreds of cases similar to Pilgrim’s, and most return to their former jobs at the level they were previously working at. The ones that don’t are the ones that further injure themselves during rehab.
Me: Why wasn’t surgery brought up as an option?
Vet (after long pause): What surgery?
Me (thinking, “Aha! I KNEW you had no idea what you were doing!”): Fasciotomy.
Vet: Oh, Pilgrim isn’t a candidate for that surgery because he doesn’t need it. There’s a small amount of edema (swelling), but it isn’t cutting off any circulation or causing any pain, and will subside with healing. The shockwave should help it go away faster, as well.
So, my friends, learn from my mistakes and NEVER EVER EVER Google or COTH your horse’s symptoms or diagnosis.
And that is the story of my meltdown.