Light at the End of the Tunnel?

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Another eight weeks, another ultrasound. And I have to admit I was feeling pretty dispirited approaching this one. Forrest had received his first in a series of three stifle injections, had been progressing really quite well. And then, two weeks before Dr. Gillis’ visit, while eating his breakfast in his penitentiary--aka, rehab paddock--he slung his hook-over bucket off the fence rail, which spooked him, then wheeled around and double barreled the fence post. And, naturally, it was his injured left hind that took most of the karate chop.

Did I mention he’s on long term sedation? Yes, Reserpine in buffered form (so as not to have projectile diarrhea, to help take off the edge on these crisp, autumn mornings).

I immediately brought him in, gave him bute and a cold hose. But within two hours, his stifle began to show a tendency toward ‘upward fixation,’ in that he couldn’t take a step out of his stall without it being locked. Upon contacting Dr. Gillis, I was told to apply a ribbon of Voltaren gel to the site, 20 minutes before tacking up, for three days, to determine if Forrest was simply sore or if he had truly re-injured himself. With my husband filming, I began the suggested couple of minutes trot. Not only was he very short behind, he let me know, in the strongest possible terms, he wasn’t happy.

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I apologized, asked him to walk the rest of the way around (so that he wouldn’t learn that I would jump off if he decided to leap), then hopped off and led him back to the barn. I sent the video to Dr. G, who confirmed, yes, he’s lame, and said to just walk until his next appointment.

In my heart, I always have hope. But his stifle continued to stick until two days before his subsequent ultrasound. I had made the decision that, should he show a significant injury, I would nurse him back, but then retire him. I wasn’t about to just stick him out in a field where he would tear around and cause himself potential catastrophic harm, but I would give up the fight. It would be a real shame, but sometimes things don’t work out the way you hope and we’ve all learned that with horses, at one time or another.

I have to say that both Dr. Gillis and myself were open mouthed when his ultrasound showed healing in every view: "left femorotibial joint medial chronic synovitis, mildly less effusive. Left medial collateral ligament desmitis, moderate, generalized from origin to insertion is healing. Left medial patellar ligament desmitis, moderate, chronic from origin to insertion is healing normal. Medial and lateral menisci moderate fiber damage is healing (this is a HUGE deal); frayed fibers appear slightly flattened. Left quadriceps mild fiber damage at insertion on the patella IS healed.”

Dr. Gillis stood with her probe in one hand, her other, typing in the measurements on her lap top, and said, “He has defied all logic.” Was it God? Was it the injections? Was it his GLC5500Rx joint supplement or his Mg12? The solid rehab for the six weeks before he nailed the post?

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Yes.

The treatment plan continues ... "to confine Forrest to an area where he can only walk, for turn out. Continue the series of injections into the medial and lateral femorotibial joints, walk for 20 minutes, then trot for five, then walk for 10 on five alternate days per week. Then in two weeks, add another five minute trot set."

Today we had our second trot since his ultrasound and, my job, as his rider, is not to push him to be forward and active, but allow him to dictate the pace, and it’s OK if he’s behind the leg. It’s OK if he’s not tracking up. We’re in healing mode, not in schooling mode. But what is very important is that I do my best to ride every step he takes dead straight. He’s been wanting, understandably, to carry all his weight on the right side of his body, to protect his left hind. So now I simply make sure that left hind is stepping true and I’m keeping him absolutely straight in the shoulders. That I can do.

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Eleven months and counting. Man, do I loathe rehab. I loathe the explosions and the set backs and the heartbreak. But now we can both see a light. And as long as Forrest doesn’t spook at it, we’ve got a real chance.

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