Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

Last week I visited the glorious land of California for a creative professional conference, and while I thought traveling alone would lead to some much needed gym time and blog post writing, it ended up that I pretended I was way cooler than I actually am and spent that time out on the town.

At Adobe MAX!

At Adobe MAX!

So, sorry for the radio silence. I do want to share some of my LA experiences, but that’s for another post!

For now, I want to share a certain spotted pony update.

Foster received his first of 3-4 IRAP injections on Friday. IRAP is a process that includes taking blood from the horse, and using a centrifuge, spinning it down to plasma that is rich with a protein suited to reducing inflammation common to degenerative joint disease, and then re-injecting that plasma back into the affected joint.

In order to avoid the drama that came with our HA injection, Foster was thoroughly knocked out for the procedure. Homeboy was pretty much zombified, and I’m not sure that he even felt his legs, much less the actual injection. So while he came to, the vet and I chatted about a recovery plan.

Before our appointment I had been allowed to build him up to 15 minutes of hand walking, followed by icing and as much grazing as possible. Unfortunately with my sudden trip, I only got him up to 10 minutes, and so worried about setting him back in his plan.

Luckily that appears not to be the case. Assuming the ground will dry out a bit, I am pleased to report that in the next couple days Foster will start a limited turnout routine(!). His mini-paddock will only be about the size of two stalls combined, but at least he will be outside with grass and a bit more space to move around. And then shortly after, I get to climb aboard for tack-walking, starting at 5 minutes and building.

Even though this situation will likely last another month, I can’t tell you how relieved I am to feel like the end is in sight. The last two months (yes two months- can you believe it) have just flown by, but nonetheless I know Foster and I will both be relieved to start returning to normalcy and activity soon!

The Recovery Plan Changes

Sorry for the unexpected radio silence last week. Any instagram stalking would reveal that I went on vacation, and a dead computer with its charger 4 hours away meant that blogging was impossible. Whoops.

Other than a half day spent with an old teammate (seriously, loving all the time recently with old dressage team pals!) spent tracking down and answering my questions about the local wild horses (details coming), it was a thoroughly non-horsey week.

More casting wrap on the still-pink pony leg

More casting wrap on the still-pink pony leg

After returning Thursday, I’ve been spending each day checking on Foster. He got his sutures removed on the 3rd, and unfortunately that appointment wasn’t without a bit of drama. While the sutures looked good, and taking them out was uneventful, getting his scheduled HA injection into the joint was a bit of a fiasco. 3 sticks with a needle and two doses of sedative later we had it done, but this then had to be followed by another week of bandaging nonsense.

With his revised post-HA-injection wrap

With his revised post-HA-injection wrap

The other piece of news from that particular appointment came in the form of a schedule change to Foster’s recovery program. Whereas originally we were to start handwalking after the HA injection, now we have to wait an additional 2 weeks. Until then we are allowed to handgraze for 30-45 minutes (versus the original 15 minute limit), but no movement other than the gradual mozying from one patch of grass to another.

Thankful to see scabs- no more bandaging!

Thankful to see scabs- no more bandaging!

So on the 23rd of this month, we start walking for a whole 4 minutes, until a follow-up appointment for his first IRAP injection and fall shots. At that time we will re-evaluate and hopefully start adding time. I guess this makes sense in hindsight that we wouldn’t just start out at 15-20 minutes of walking, but I suppose my hopefulness to get back to work blinded me from the realities of recovery.

Wednesday we will be through our first month of stall rest, and already I am feeling antsy and ready to get back in the saddle. With the recovery process being slower than anticipated, it’s been a test of patience for myself and definitely for my somehow-still-behaving horse. But with luck, taking things slowly will mean a healthier, sounder horse with a bright future ahead of him. Here’s hoping!

Post Surgery News

I definitely feel like another title for this post could be The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but we’ll get into that shortly.

The best news in the world is that he is standing on all 4 legs, and came out of anesthesia, albeit a little too eagerly, but intact (bar a small rub on his eyelid). When I got that call yesterday morning, that’s all I had ears for.

Foster checking out his diggs at the hospital

Foster checking out his diggs at the hospital

The Surgery
Backing up a bit- before surgery itself, the surgeon wanted a few more radiographs of the fetlock as well as the ultrasound the soft tissue in the area to determine if there is any damage to the suspensory. The good news is the suspensory ligament looks good, but because of something seen on the scope, she will also be ultrasounding the collateral ligaments as well today. Hopefully nothing, but it’s good to check.

In surgery itself, they were able to take out the bone chip that was associated with the cyst (good), but the cyst itself was out of reach (bad) unless we wanted to crack the joint open like a walnut (not happening). That cyst is now pretty much the bane of Foster’s current existence, as they were able to confirm that has caused a fairly significant scoreline in the surrounding cartilage and will eventually (likely) become a situation where little-to-none cartilage remains.

The site of the surgery

The site of the surgery

The Recovery and Treatment
The schedule for the next few months looks as follows:

  • Two weeks strict stall rest with 15 minute grazing sessions
  • Stitches are removed, joint is injected with HA
    • He can now start being handwalked for 15-20 minutes
  • 4 weeks post surgery: Tildren or OsPhos drip (also could happen post-IRAP)
    • anyone have experience with either of these??
  • 6 weeks post surgery: Start IRAP injections
    • 3 separate injections on a weekly schedule
  • 8 weeks post surgery: limited turnout (must be quiet, no running)
    • Introduce tack walking
  • 12 weeks post surgery: slowly introducing trot sets until back in full work (instructions to follow the Pony Club manual)
Getting his vitals checked post-surgery

Getting his vitals checked post-surgery

The Prognosis
AKA- what does my horse’s future looks like? Well, in some ways it’s a pretty big question mark. Only time will tell how the cyst will develop. If the following treatment is able to stop it in its tracks right now, great. If it continues to develop and tear up the cartilage, his future as a sporthorse looks somewhat bleak. Worse case scenario he loses about 10% of the cartilage in the joint.

As far as the main doctor there thinks (side note: he also assisted in the surgery; I was thrilled since everyone and the internet sings his praises- awesome!), he could likely continue a career as a low level eventer for some time (though how long we won’t know). Low level being defined at Novice/Training horse trials, and Prelim Combined Training (dressage + stadium only) events. This is great, because Preliminary CT’s have only ever been my goal with this horse, or really any horse.

What limits Foster is obviously concussion to his joint, so lots of galloping, jumping great heights or lots of tall cross country drops are not recommended. No one can guarantee a time frame for eventing, and it was made clear to me that if he can’t event (due to being uncomfortable) there is no reason why he couldn’t become either a dressage horse or a show hunter (Dr’s words). This is fine news with me, since my plan was always to eventually focus on dressage with him and hopefully pursue that bronze medal and beyond.

Likely, we will always be looking at some kind of maintenance with the fetlock, probably in the form of IRAP injections. And as far as the future goes, only time and Foster will tell us that.

 

To Tryon We Go

Truthfully, I’ve been feeling fairly breathless since Monday evening, like someone has punched me in the gut and I can’t catch my breath again, even though I don’t feel mentally upset. Maybe it’s the result of emailing my trainers and giving them the news that we’re out of commission pretty much for the rest of the year. Maybe it’s deleting all those competitions off my calendar. Maybe I just need a glass of wine.

Rainbow

No related photos, so you get rainbow pics from last night. Yay, happy thoughts.

I’ve decided to take Foster to a clinic down in Tryon, North Carolina, about a four hour haul. It’s been something I’ve been mulling over ever since getting the results, and a matter of convenience versus my gut. See, the vet school that did Foster’s bone scan also does surgeries like this, but unfortunately several stories of miscommunication and misdiagnoses have reached my ears just in the last week and makes me reluctant to submit Foster to their care for surgery. The vet school is 30 minutes away, but my gut just wants him to go somewhere else.

rainbow Foster

When I related my wariness to my vet, she stated that “it’s usually the ones with that proceed with a bad gut feeling that something happens to”. Enough said- the vet school is officially jinxed in my mind, and we’ll be going elsewhere.

rainbow Foster 2

There are other bonuses to traveling to Tryon. For one, I plan on making on my old dressage teammate and friend, B, go to dinner with me. I’ll also try to make time to finally see the fancy Tryon International Equestrian Center. And more randomly, my brother will be in town to say hello to.

So, one week from today Foster will go under the knife, and we will take the first step on our journey back to greatness.

[PS- I’m sorry for not responding to comments yet but I’ve read them all and am truly grateful for the support and kind words. Especially love hearing about success stories! Keep ’em coming!]