The Post I Never Thought I’d Write

  • Here’s the big one! Move up to Training!
  • Increase strength in haunches through cavaletti work (2-3x/week)
  • Walk-Canter-Walk transitions
    • Lead changes
  • Completing a Second Level dressage test with a score over 63%
  • -new- Participate in at least one dressage clinic

Oh how much can change in a week.

After my long 20 minute walk warmup last Thursday, I picked up the trot and immediately alarm bells went off in my head. I hopped off and threw him on the lunge and saw this:

And my heart sank. I put him up in his stall with lots of scratches and good boy’s and called the vet.

Two days later we poured over him, palpating, assessing, flexing, talking. On the lunge he looked just the same, and when he couldn’t pick up the left lead after three different attempts, we had a discussion.

My vet looked me in the eye, and said she had to be unsentimental about his prognosis.

She knew my goals of Training level CT’s/Eventing, and bar that, of 2nd and 3rd level dressage. And she said he would never do what I wanted him to do.

For clarification, I asked- you mean he’ll never jump again?

“Sorry Britt, I don’t think so.”

And what about 2nd/3rd level dressage?

“Not without an obscene amount of maintenance.”

It turns out my almost-9 year old has a slew of issues. Beyond the front fetlock chip and subsequent arthritis, he also has mild neck arthritis, probable arthritis in his hind left fetlock, slight hock arthritis and now stifle issues that are in turn aggravating his SI area. In order to maintain him at the level of dressage competition I was aiming for, I would have to inject all of those areas. Which beyond being financially impossible to keep up, isn’t fair to him.

We’ve got a couple things to try first. He’s on 10 days of Previcox, and we’ll see if this anti-inflammatory can make him comfortable enough to stay in work. If not, we’ll look into Adequan and similar products, and consider injecting at least the stifle. If he can be made comfortable enough to be worked, and build up the muscle required to support his weak areas (the muscle loss from stall rest, etc likely being what has made these issues so obvious), then we’ll be in a better place. We could at least “putz around” as my vet said, trail riding and doing really basic ring work. But he has to be comfortable first.

As to our future, I am still trying to figure things out. I have a lot of questions. And luckily, Foster is not without fans. I’m hopeful that I can find a solution that works for both of us.

2016. Not the year of redemption after all.

Happy days, CHP, May 2014

Happy days, CHP, May 2014

Inside the Bandage

Last night I changed Foster’s bandage for the first time since he left the hospital, and marked another first in my horseperson belt of experiences. Getting the old bandage off was an absolute act of God, since my bandage scissors did didley-squat to get through all those layers. I resorted to using regular scissors, and still struggled, and will be getting myself a razor blade for the next time- now I understand why the surgeon used that approach. Silly me.

For others out there who are likewise uninitiated in the post-surgical wrapping of a fetlock, here is how you bandage a Fosterpants.

old bandage

Break a sweat getting old bandage off. Thank horse for neither mutilating you as you wage war on his appendage, and for standing like a statue as you search for angles that will allow you to cut into the bandage while not further injuring said horse or falling on your backside like a twit.

Post surgery fetlock

Admire one heavily shaved Frankenfoster foot.


Add small pile of gauze sponges over each surgical site. Try not to think about those surgical sites.

post surgery wrap

Wrap the ankle in cast padding to secure the gauze in place. Wonder if you have used enough cast padding. Check video of surgeon’s wrap, twice, to be sure.


Take thick sheet cotton and wrap the leg from knee to hoof, a la standing-wrap style. Worry over the fact that cotton does not roll onto the leg smoothly.


Add vet wrap, keeping everything nice and snug underneath. Have internal debate about “snug” versus “too-tight”. Finally remember that the surgeon said it’s tough to go too tight on vet wrap.


Roll on elastikon from top of bandage to bottom, attaching to the heel bulb for security. Loathe the fact that you use a whole roll each time, and these suckers cost almost $10 each. What are they made of, dreams and stardust?


End with a freshly bandaged, albeit somewhat lumpy looking Fosterpants.


Then try not to think about doing it all over again in another 2-3 days.

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.


Surgery Day and X-Ray Images

This morning Foster goes into surgery, and I will certainly post tomorrow about how it went. Until then, let’s take a look at the pesky bone chips themselves.


This is the first bone chip we discovered, and though it looks like it is located at the front of the fetlock, the x-ray doesn’t show depth, so surgery will show us exactly where it lies. Before going into surgery, the surgeon thought this was the one likely causing the most trauma, because you can see it is perfectly positioned to really tear up the cartilage in that joint. It may also be trying to form a cyst. Lovely.


The second chip is a bit tricker to spot. It’s back by the sesamoid bones, and here we are looking through the fetlock at a diagonal angle. For a better view of what the chip looks like, here is the other side of the fetlock compared to the bone chip.

Bone chip on the right

Bone chip on the right (click to enlarge)

On the left you can see that the edges of the bones are nice and smooth, whereas on the right, there’s a decent sized chunk missing from the lower piece, and some jaggedness to the upper. Very scientific terms here, but you get the idea. The surgeon theorizes that the chip in this area (top left of the circle) may be buried in the surrounding soft tissue, so it is not clear until we delve into it whether or not the chip is worth removing.

Without the flexion test (which we only did because of some slight lingering swelling) and subsequent x-rays, I would have had no idea these issues existed. For now Foster is “serviceably sound” (video below), but I have every hope that this surgery will allow him a greater chance of both being comfortable and add some longevity to his career.

Thanks again for your continued support and I hope I’ll have great news to share tomorrow!


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.


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!]

X-Ray Results and More

So, to recap where we left off last in the lameness chronicles. The bone scan helped us cross several items on the list, and after another lameness evaluation with blocking we were able to pinpoint the lameness primarily to the hind feet and suspected that negative palmar angles were making him sore.

Not Foster, but an example of a horse with negative palmar angle (back of line is down rather than up) compared to ground

Not Foster, but an example of a horse with negative palmar angle (back of line is down rather than up) compared to ground

This morning I am happy to say that the palmar angle theory was accurate, and the vet literally high-fived me when she saw them. It was really really great to have my farrier there in conjunction, and we can already see a difference in trotting him off in his new hind shoes- rocker shoes with magic cushion and a pad. Also good news, Foster has a lot of sole to work with which makesthe farrier’s job much easier in moving back the break-point and relieving the heels. He’ll be shod probably on a 5 week schedule and after 3 shoeing cycles we’ll x-ray again to make sure we’re still on the right track. Very happy that we have a plan and a solution already in play!

Getting shod

Getting shod

But I did say there was more…
So much more, and Foster was a patient boy throughout

So much more, and Foster was a patient boy throughout

The front right continues to come and go with swelling and the tiniest amount of heat, so we did a quick flexion test on the fetlock, which turned out to be positive.  Remember we’ve only been walking so I couldn’t say if he’s been lame on it recently or not. We went ahead and shot an x-ray on it to check it out. Turns out, Foster has bone chips in two different places in the fetlock, which she thinks is causing the lameness as well as his huge “windpuff” on that leg. Just to be doubly sure, we then blocked the fetlock joint and got an improvement, which helped rule out a suspensory issue versus the bone chips for causing the discomfort.
Creature wants more cookies instead of a bandage where we blocked the joint

Creature wants more cookies instead of a bandage where we blocked the joint

So, all in all, I’m glad we’re pretty certain there’s not a suspensory issue that we’re dealing with. However, it does look like Foster should have surgery if I want him to have a chance at a long career. Considering that he’s 8, it’s the option I’m exploring most right now. Surgery would mean probably a 3 month road back into work but ideally sets us up for success thereafter.
I’m hoping to make a decision this week regarding where we will go and when the surgery will happen. This is not the way I thought the morning would go, but I am grateful to still have some things to be grateful for.


Finally, News

Ok, so. Keeping in mind that my brain is absolutely mush from being at overcapacity, and the fact that I am enjoying what I feel is a rather deserved glass of wine at the moment, I am going to do my best to explain what we think is going on. Sorry in advance for the long post, though I promise this is the condensed version. You want a summary? Skip to the bottom.

[First things first- you remember Foster’s diary that I keep? That has been invaluable during this whole process, and if your type A-ness needs an outlet and you have an accident prone horse, I highly recommend it.]

The Bone Scan
Let’s start with the bone scan. The bone scan really frustrated me at first, in that the results seemed inconclusive to little-old-not-a-veterinarian-me. Basically, the areas that “lit up” (actual term: increased radiopharmaceutical uptake) were his hocks, slightly FL navicular area (which had me saying WTF- that’s the good leg), and slightly outside cannon bone HL. That troubled FR, and really lame HR? Nada.

But from the bone scan we were able to rule out anything really active in the FR, the stifles, and the SI area (which we thought would be the problem). The hocks, after getting 2 radiologists’ opinions, are likely bone edema/remodeling and though a source of discomfort, not likely to cause the acute lameness we are seeing.


The Lameness Exam
Fast forward 3 days to tonight’s vet appointment. We had chatted yesterday about the results, and were thinking probably suspensory issue in the RH but also the possibility (though small) of neurological disease such as EPM or Lyme. So the plan was to ultrasound the leg and/or do nerve blocks to pinpoint the lameness.

We trotted him up the concrete aisle and threw him on the lunge to get a baseline lameness, and saw that the RF seems to have resolved itself, and we were still looking at a definite RH, slight LH lameness. After much discussion, we decided to ultrasound the leg first and then nerve block after (not the typical way of doing things, but I was getting anxious). But first we would block the foot just in case, since that wouldn’t interfere with the ultrasound and we could rule it out if it didn’t improve.

And what do you know, it looked better. A lot better. Now knowing that the lameness was in the foot, we could consider 3 causes:

  • The palmar angle is too low and is making him extremely heel sore
  • Deep digital flexor tendon injury
  • Injury to any of the ligaments in and around the navicular bone

So we blocked the left hind foot, since that was also still showing lameness.

And that looked better, too.

More walking

More walking

In Summary
So, while we don’t have a definitive answer, we have a location(s) on the body to concentrate on. The vet thinks that the palmar angles in the hind feet are likely the key to all this, and so we will be doing X-Rays and having a discussion with my farrier a week and a half from now, basically as soon as we can squeeze him in. Ideally the X-Rays will confirm terrible palmar angles and we can begin with corrective shoeing to sort it out.

It may take as long as two shoeing cycles to allow Foster’s feet time to heel and react to the changes, in which time I can work him but must keep all concussion to his feet at a minimum- in other words, walk only. I can do whatever I want at the walk, which is great news to me, but trotting should be at a minimum and cantering and jumping are definitely out. If, after those 2 shoeing cycles, we bring him back in to work and he is no better or still lame, then we will have to look at getting an MRI done to determine soft tissue injury. I would also assume that if the X-Rays show awesome palmar angles, an MRI will be more quickly in our future.

I can’t tell you how relieved I am just to even know where the problem is, and even more so to be hopeful that it can be resolved with corrective shoeing. I’m actually hoping to see some pretty terrible x-rays at our next farrier appointment, and I’ll certainly be posting an update when I have it.

Until then- bring on the walk suggestions! What fun walk exercises can we do?

Pre-Vet Appointment Musings

I won’t lie, every time I think of what I might hear tonight I’m filled with a sense of dread, and yet I’m still looking forward to our appointment and desperately hoping to get answers. We’ll be testing for everything from neurological (not likely) to suspensory issues (much, much more likely) and right now the future seems like an uncertain fog looming in the very near distance.

Video of Foster from Tuesday, discussing the fluffy shavings at the vet school and trotting at the 1:20 mark:

I’ve been asked a couple times what I will do if he needs time off. Well, the obvious answer is that he’ll get time off. If that is the solution, then I will find a situation for him to heal that works best for the both of us and we will simply start over again when he’s ready. But if I’m honest, after losing the entire spring season to ulcers and having finally clawed our way back to progressing again in our training, this would be a most bitter pill to swallow.

I don’t know what I’m hoping to find, but I suppose it would be some small insignificant thing that will be mended quickly and quietly.

Hopefully a more clarifying post coming tomorrow. Thanks all for your continued support.


Back Home – Now what?

After going over paperwork for the release of two horses, sedating Foster’s barnmate to head off any mareish moments in the trailer, and loading both horses up, we finally got back to the barn safe and well, not quite sound, right around 7:30 last night.


Foster was so happy to be home, and his entire expression went from worried at the vet school to bright and perky as he tore into his nibble net in his stall. I lunged him to be sure he could get his sillies out in a controlled way (surprise: there were none) and see how he went. To me there’s still obvious issues with the right hind and slight HL but I’m struggling to see the FR of before. His hind legs are no longer resembling pool noodles, though the FR still has a little heat and puffiness.

After being entirely too clean for 3 days straight, of course this is his first response

After being entirely too clean for 3 days straight, of course this is his first response

I did get a rather rushed version of the results while I was there, but unfortunately felt like I didn’t get all my questions answered in the process. To me, they don’t add up, so I am waiting for the radiologist to speak with my vet, who will then hopefully explain how the bone scan results match what we are seeing. I hope.

Because of this, I won’t go into the details here today but will share more on Friday. We have our follow up vet appointment tomorrow afternoon, and I hope to put all this information into a palatable form at that time.


Waiting Game

I want to thank everyone who reached out to me, either via the blog or by phone, in support of Foster and his trip to the vet school. It means so much to me to know I’m not the only one who cares about a particular painted pony, and how much he is to me.

1379835_10200952080739491_1808850102_nRight now we’re playing the waiting game until the radiography specialist interprets the images, which I’m told could be later the afternoon or even tomorrow. And then, once we get those results, I’ll be speaking with my vet to determine a plan of action.


It’s an exercise in patience at the moment not to take to Dr. Google to see all that might be wrong with him, so I do hope I get that call sooner rather than later. I will certainly be providing an update on the blog once I have those results and a plan to go along with them.

Thanks again all, when I see Foster this evening I’ll be sure to tell him how loved he is!