Friday, December 23, 2011

Never A Dull Moment

No matter how long you've been around horses, you've never seen it all. And just when you think you've seen it all, some horse will catch wind of your ego and set out to prove your wrong.

Well, I can now check Giant Scary Lump-on-Side That Grows At An Alarming Rate off of my "Things Seen List." Poor little Tiffany just can not catch a break--as if Cushings, founder, and arthritis weren't enough, she had to go and develop a basketball-sized lump on her side (and give me a few grey hairs in the process, I'm sure!).

A little over a month ago, I was grooming Tiff and felt a medium-ish hard lump on her right flank. I remember telling Judy that I wasn't sure if it was some kind of sting/bite or a fat lump or what, but we would need to keep an eye on it. For several weeks, I saw no change in it. Then about two weeks ago it looked like it had a little scratch on it, almost like it had been lanced. And over the next few days, it shrank until it was almost non-existent.

But Monday night I pulled her sheet off and went, "Hhhhmmm, that thing is back and bigger than ever." I called Judy and left her a message to give her a heads-up--I said it certainly wasn't an emergency situation, but Dr. F should probably look at it in the next few days.

Well, Tuesday evening I peeked into Tiff's stall and my eyes just about popped out of my head. I could see a massive lump under her fly sheet. I pulled it back to find this:

I immediately called Judy (who was down in the Keys with her family for her dad's birthday) and started texting her the pics. Of course, she said she would call Dr. F and get back to me as soon as she heard from him. In the meantime, I slathered a whole bunch of epsom sat poultice on the lump and took Tiff out to graze. She seemed completely fine apart from the massive growth--she had eaten all her dinner and happily munched away on grass as soon as I put her out. 

Within a few minutes, Dr. F called Judy and told her it didn't sound like an emergency and he would be out to see Tiff first thing in the morning. Wednesday, Judy got a call bright and early--Dr. F told her that his best guess was Tiff had been either bitten by a spider or stung by a scorpion, and it eventually got infected. He drained about 15 ccs of fluid out of the area and gave her a shot of antibiotics. He also left a tube of Surpass for us to rub on the lump daily and some antibiotic packets to sprinkle on her dinner for 6 days.

Well, Friday night it looked like this:

Apparently, the fluid is draining down to her belly (???). I told Judy I didn't think it was an emergency, but she called Dr. F just in case. He will be out to see her tomorrow morning (Christmas Eve), so please keep your fingers crossed for her. According to the barn owner, Tiff has been spending more time lying down the past few days, which is not a good sign. She's been eating voraciously and chipper as usual, and happily goes out in the evening to eat grass, which is promising. But. Judy and I found three more little hard lumps on her left side tonight. What are the odds of four spider bites/scorpion stings?

Send some positive vibes our way, please! This mare has been through so much and she really deserves a break.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Girl With A Rasp...

...will always have much to do at my barn. :-) Take, for instance, Lucy:

This sweet girl is an 8-year-old Quarter Horse who foundered back in September(ish?). Luckily, it was caught very early and Lucy received standard protocol care--she stood in a giant tub of ice water for several days in order to lessen the damage done to her hooves, and was put on IV DMSO (some of the worst-smelling stuff ever invented). It was found that her laminitic attack was brought on by Insulin Resistance, so her diet was given a drastic overhaul.

On October 7th, the farrier came out to drill Lucie's front hooves into clogs. About two days later, one of the other boarders said to me, "Have you seen Lucy's back hooves? They're ridiculously long--can you rasp them?" Of course, I told her I'd get on it right away, so I grabbed my trusty rasp and gloves and pulled Lucy out of her stall. Imagine my shock when I laid my eyes on these hooves:

Right Hind Before

Left Hind Before

This hoof has such a bad case of thrush that the frog had rotted halfway off

Obviously, those hooves were in need of some major work. I did what I could with my trusty rasp, taking the toes way back and lowering the walls. Her bars were so overgrown that I was also rasping them while I took the walls down.

Right Hind After

Left Hind After

Yes, those hooves are still miles too long, but it's a huge improvement. Hey, it takes a LONG time to get rid of that much hoof wall when all you're working with is a rasp! Luckily, I was able to cajole Candy into knocking Lucy's walls back a few weeks later. But it was Lucy's front hooves that I really wanted Candy to start working her magic on--I couldn't actually see them because of the hoof casts, but I was unfortunately quite familiar with Farrier X's work and was worried that he would transform Lucy's hooves into nightmarish zombie hooves like he did to Tiff.  Again, I had to just bite my tongue and wait for the right opportunity to present itself; but I knew that I would eventually get Candy on the case and those clogs off of Lucy's hooves.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sass Is Back

A certain little Mustang mare has been getting herself into all kinds of mischief lately--she roams the property, taunting the other horses and teasing them into squealing/kicking frenzies. She rips her halter off in the trees, hides behind every larger-than-Tiff object she can find, and once even took a short stroll out the gate and down the road. The cookies on her stall have twice been broken into and devoured, and if her feed bucket is empty you can be sure it will soon be banged against the wall repeatedly and with much zeal. If she thinks it's past time for her daily "spa appointment," she parks herself on the washrack and glares at me--I swear one of these days she will start tapping her toe and rolling her eyes.

Yep. I think the sass is back. ;-)

For the past month, Tiffany has been trimmed once a week, and with each trim she has grown more comfortable and exponentially more feisty. She's spending less time lying down and more time walking around grazing and being a horse. Her legs no longer shake, she can stand on her painful left front for longer and longer periods, and she can truck around at a fast walk with just a hint of a hitch in her stride. Best of all, she's happy--sometimes I think that mare is smiling at me. And when she sees Candy, she lights up and nickers happily.

Friday Dec 2nd was Tiffany's fourth trim. It marked the end of her first month of rehab AND *drumroll, please* was the official photo shoot for her calendar girl debut. Yes, our sweet Tiff is going to be featured in the Cavallo 2012 calendar! I have been beyond impressed with Cavallo for their kindness and generosity. As someone who regards large companies as evil, money-grubbing, soul-less empires, I was floored to find out that Cavallo was donating a brand-new pair of Sport Boots and two sets of gel pads for Tiff. They really went out on a limb to help her out and have been a class act all the way. So, THANK YOU, CAVALLO!

Tiff's Cavallo Sport Boots
(after a solid week of use)

Tiff's pre-mani/pedi White Lightning soak

Left Front After

Remember the giant flare that used to be on the medial side of this hoof?
 Only one month later and it's nearly gone

Right Front After

The area of separation that had previously exposed live laminae is closing up nicely,
thanks to White Lightning soaks & icthamol

 Right Hind After

Left Hind After

That video was shot immediately after her trim and I must have watched it at least a dozen times already. I always knew Candy was good, but I have been continually amazed at how quickly she's turning Tiff's hooves (and her whole life) around. The progress that mare has made in one month is astounding. But Candy and my work is far from over, and not just concerning Tiff--we've already got our next Laminitis Rehab Case in our sights. Candy is putting together another information packet and I'm preparing for round two of the Friendly Gnat Game. :-) Because why settle for one sassy previously foundered mare when you can have TWO sassy previously foundered mares?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Farewell, My Sweet Girl

There's a huge Husky-shaped hole in my heart. On Wednesday morning, I had to say goodbye to my Sasha girl.

Last year on November 23rd, my vet told me that I had a year until Sasha's hip fell apart--there wasn't anything that could be done to save it. And on Wednesday, exactly one year to the date, that prophecy came true.

Tuesday night, I took Sasha for her walk around 11:00 and she was pulling me like a sled in the Iditarod, as usual. We got back home and she was her normal happy-go-lucky self--pawing me for attention, begging for treats, and smiling her big wolf-puppy smile. I let her out around 1:00 am, then gave her a Rimadyl, Glycoflex III, Prilosec, and chicken jerky treat when she came in a few minutes later. Finally satisfied, she laid down on the tile floor next to the wine cooler, her usual late evening cool-down spot, and took a nice long nap.

Around 3:30 am, I called her to come to bed. She didn't come--nothing new, as she had a definite mule-like stubborn streak. I called several more times and still nothing. Then I heard her cry and my heart dropped.

Instantly, I just knew. And while I spent a few minutes trying to convince myself that maybe she was just a bit sore, deep down I knew it was time. She tried several more times to get up, and after the second time she was screaming in pain. I've never heard a dog scream before and I hope it's something I'll never hear again. I pulled some clothes on, grabbed her hip X-rays, and somehow managed to pick her up and carry her to the car.

I'm thankful that I had those X-rays, as it meant Sasha wasn't subjected to a long, drawn-out physical examination, consultation with the vet, etc. I just wanted to take her pain away as fast as possible. Luckily, the vet on call was very understanding; in fact, although they usually don't allow owners to stay while the IV is being put in, he asked me to stay with Sasha and comfort her. For that, I'm extremely grateful--I stayed by my girl's side every second until the very end. I looked into those gorgeous blue eyes and rubbed her ears and told her that everything was going to be okay, and she peacefully slipped away.

It kills me that I couldn't fix her. It kills me that she was a young, healthy dog brimming with life, and yet her body fell apart because her previous owners didn't do right by her. It kills me that I only got a year and 8 months with her.

And yet, as hard as it was to lose her, I would do it all over in a heartbeat. That year and 8 months were perfect--Sasha was a special dog and I'm lucky for every second that I had with her. She was a sweetheart, brimming with personality. Literally everyone who walked into my house fell head-over-heels in love with her--probably because that girl was all heart. In fact, on Wednesday morning the vet asked me why I had brought her in then, what was different. I said, "She couldn't get up." He seemed confused and asked, "But hasn't she not been able to walk the whole time you've had her?" Based on her X-rays, he said he would not expect her to be able to walk. And yet, that dog would tear around the yard like a bat out of hell, wrestle with other dogs, and play like a puppy. She could jump up on my bed, crawl onto the couch and armchairs (usually to get into someone's lap), and hop in and out of the car. And she did all that without a whimper or cry or limp, and always with a smile on her face.

I know that letting her go was the kindest thing I could do for her. But that certainly doesn't make it any easier. I miss her big, goofy, happy self nudging me to get out of bed, greeting me at the door like she hadn't seen me in a year, lying next to the treat cabinet giving me the "I'm starving" look, and pawing me for belly rubs. I miss her annoying-yet-endearing car ride antics of hopping in the front seat and then constantly changing the radio station, unclipping my seat belt, putting the car in neutral, and completely blocking the rear view mirror with her giant wolf head. I miss waking up in the morning and looking over my bed to see her lying upside-down with her eyes rolled back in her head and her tongue lolling out of her mouth. I miss every single white and grey and black hair on her body and those piercing blue eyes.

Sweet dreams, little love. You will be sorely missed, but I'm sure we'll meet again.

*Everyone, please hug your puppies today.*

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Game Plan

All four of Tiff's hooves have been set firmly on the road to recovery. She is looking brighter and more feisty with each day and is even starting to get a bit of her bitchy alpha-mare personality back. When Salem stopped by her stall to visit the other night, Tiff pinned her ears back and nipped at him--a great sign! And in order to fully restore Tiff to her former alpha self, Candy has laid out a thorough plan for Tiff's rehab. It goes as follows:
  • X-rays: During the consultation, Candy asked Judy to see all previous rads in order to establish where Tiff's rotation had been and where it was currently. When Judy replied that no rads had been pulled, Candy and I both had to pick our jaws up off the floor! Candy told her,"We need X-rays of this horse's front hooves. ASAP." Luckily, Judy was able to get ahold of Dr. F immediately and he came out the next day to shoot the films; we reviewed them last week (I will get them up as soon as I can figure out a way to scan them). In a few months, we'll pull another set to reevaluate.
  • White Lightning soaks every other day--this is to kill all the fungus/bacteria/etc. in Tiff's hooves, tighten the laminae/wall connection, and soften all the retained sole/bar that needs to come off 

Tiff enjoying her WL soak (we put Cavallo gel pads in the dry sacks
to give her a bit more comfort during her soaks)
  • Oral arnica & calendula three times per day--this will promote healing from the inside
  • Cavallo boots and gel pads worn 24/7 to provide cushioning and keep Tiff as comfy as possible while her hooves are being rehabilitated
  • Hoof trims once a week--there is a LOT of extra hoof that needs to come off, but taking it all at once would cause Tiff to be in a great deal of pain; making small, frequent changes will help her heal both quickly and comfortably. We've got three trims out of the way already and Tiff has improved exponentially each time. (I can NOT say enough good things about Cheryl Henderson's HoofPrint Trim; or my trimmer Candy Giordano, who applies it to perfection!)
  • Diluted Lysol sprays every other day (on non-White Lightning days) in order to keep hoof funk at bay. We also use this solution to clean out Tiff's Cavallo boots every day
  • Arnica Gel applied to the soles every day--this helps alleviate some of Tiff's discomfort and promotes healing of  bruising
  • Icthamol applied to the large area of separation on the RF hoof (where live laminae is exposed) every day to pull out any infection and close up the wound
  • Gold Bond Medicated Powder dusted into the boots every day to absorb excess moisture and discourage hoof rot
Simple enough, right? ;-) I swear, Tiffany now has more "product" than the most snotty, self-obsessed prima donna. Just getting everything set up for her daily spa treatments takes at least 15 minutes of schleping armfuls of stuff out to the washrack. No joke, EVERYTHING in the following pic is for Tiff:

On the far rack: freshly laundered fly sheet and fly mask
On the near rack: Alushield, bandage scissors, rolled cotton, Lanacaine wound spray, fly spray,
brush, hoofpick, Ace bandages, Vetrap, dry sacks, bath towel
On the ground: vinegar, White Lightning, icthamol, Gold Bond, arnica gel, gel heel inserts, plastic Rubbermaid containers

The other essential ingredients to Tiff's recovery: lots of love/TLC, positive attitudes, movement, movement, and more movement. They're all free, and they're all absolute musts. And with all the positive energy being showered on Tiff from near and far, I *know* that we will restore her to all her former alpha-bitch mare glory. :-) 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Zombie Hooves

They're scary. They're ugly as sin. And they're slowly being brought back to life. Zombie hooooves!

At Tiff's last Farrier trim on Oct. 7th, her shoes had been pulled, her front hooves had been basically chopped in half, and she was padded with dental impression material and wrapped with Elastikon. While I felt it was 1/4 of a step in the right direction, I could see that Tiff didn't feel any better--because the trim was not done in a way to make her hoof balanced and comfortable.You can pad up a hoof with the most squishy, high-tech, cutting-edge material known to man, but it isn't going to make a lick of difference to the horse's comfort if the trim is incorrect.

So, when Judy asked Candy to take over Tiffany's hoofcare, I was ecstatic--literally jumping up and down and squealing like a school-girl giddy. Finally, after months of feeling powerless to help Tiff, I had managed to ensure her recovery. I'm so grateful that Judy was willing to go out on a limb and try something completely different. There are many people who would have either given up or been too closed-minded to listen to the hippy weird-o barn girl and strike out onto a new, uncharted path. I'm also extremely thankful that I had a knowledgeable, highly skilled, passionate trimmer to explain things so clearly to Judy and convince her to take a leap of faith. As Candy later remarked, "You served me up on a silver platter."

Since Judy had been brave enough to leap in with both feet, Candy wasted no time--she had another trim appointment at a barn around the corner, but afterwards she came straight back in order to get started on Tiff. As she cut through the dirty mummy-linen wrappings on Tiff's hooves, we all wondered exactly what horrors we would find under there.

Right Front Before

Note the extremely long heel. Oh, and the giant chunks taken out of the wall. ;-)

Yep, that's a Mummy Hoof  pre-de-wrapping/trim ^^^

Right Front After

Much better! The heel has been lowered significantly and moved towards the back of the hoof, where it belongs

Here, you can see how thrushy and "rotten" these hooves are. When the wrappings were taken off,
we all took a step back because the hoof smelled like a mostly-rotten corpse. Yep, Zombie Hooves!

The place Candy is pointing to with her hoof knife is an area of separation so bad that you can see the live laminae

Left Front Before

Yes, these hooves had been trimmed one month prior; and the farrier had left this giant flare--why?!?

No, this photo and the next two were not taken at a weird angle--that
huge flare on the medial side makes the whole hoof  look twisted

Left Front After

This is Tiff's most painful hoof--as you can see, she's reluctant to put weight on it

Wow--it's actually hoof-shaped!

Lots of bruising

Tiff's spiffy red temporary Cavallo Simple boots--these are at least two sizes too big
(hence the padding & Vetrap), but they're a loaner pair she'll use until her new Sport Boots arrive

What Farrier failed to do in nine months, Candy managed to accomplish in one trim--Tiff walked away from that washrack much easier and more comfortably than she had walked onto it. And later that evening, I came back to the barn and Tiff was still standing. She had been up since 12:30 in the afternoon and didn't lie down until after 8:00 pm, whereas before she would spend the better part of the day lying down. Over the next few days, she started finishing all her feed and whinnying for more, instead of  barely eating half of her ration and then lying down. Most importantly, the life and spark came back into her eyes; she finally wanted to live again.

Here's a video of Tiff that I took the night after her trim:

As you can see, she certainly isn't cured. She has a long road ahead of her and it's going to take months of hard work to get her sound.. But at least now she's headed in the right direction. (And, yes, I backed into a poll and made a weird squealing sound in the video. I'm quite graceful. ;-D)

And here's a video from one week after the trim:

There's really no way I can express how completely overjoyed I am. To know that I played a part in saving this sweet mare and making her life better...well, it's a bit overwhelming. And while there's still much work to be done for Tiff, I've already got my eye set on my next target. There's a whole legion of zombie hooves out there and I'm ready to fight. Farrier, prepare to lose another client.