To say I’ve struggled with this blog entry would be an understatement.
The vet showed up as expected on Saturday, and as expected, Copper was a colossal pain in the rear. His fear of needles combined with stall rest brain is not a fun combination in case anyone is curious. Also, can someone please explain to me why the ONE horse I have with a vet/needle phobia is the one who has required the most vet work?
Before I go any further, I feel like there is some disclosure needed about my vet. Despite living in the middle-of-no-where-country-Virginia and there being a massive amount of “livestock” vets at the ready, my vet is a tried and true equine vet in addition to working on other large animals. Trust me that there is a huge difference in how he approaches things even when compared to other vets at the same practice, but who predominantly work on cattle. His knowledge is expansive, and, not to reveal his age, but he has been in the industry longer than any blogger that I know has been alive. His memory is sharp and he has definitely been there and done that.
So when he palpated Copper and prodded him with hoof testers at length before asking me what my goals were with my horse, I knew we were headed down a road I wasn’t ready to travel. He had already watched him walk and trot through the barn at this point. He’d asked when the lameness started, and I’d answered that I’d noticed a few bad steps here and there in January/February, but that I’d credited it to the ground being frozen and hard to walk on. I also reminded him that Copper had been sore in his front left back in the spring of 2016 and he nodded. Special shoes had fixed the soreness in 2016, but it wasn’t nearly this bad in 2016, it was more of a subtle NQR. This year the lameness has fluctuated between his front feet, and, the day of the appointment, the right front was the more obvious of the two.
My vet told me that performing the xrays was something that he was still willing to try to do, but that he could confidently diagnose him with lesions on the navicular bones in both front feet without them. He then said “some horses in his condition can be made sound enough to be light trail horses…” and I was unable to stop the tears from that point on.
I swear that in spite of his crazy, Copper could feel my emotions and calmed after this, though I’m sure it helped that the vet was done touching him and that we were just standing and talking.
So the conversation moved to what we can do to get him sound enough to get him out of the barn and back into the pasture where he has some quality of life. While Copper seems to enjoy barn life, he also enjoys mental stimulation, and there are only so many carrot stretches I can teach him in the barn to keep him engaged.
The plan for now is to switch up his shoes and to try Natural Balance wedges, but set “full” so that they are wider than his hooves from the first nail hole back in order to allow his heels to expand throughout the course of wearing that set of shoes. The vet has also put some anti-inflammatories (isoxsuprine) in the mail for me to start Copper on immediately. After we see how these help him, we may try coffin joint injections.
My vet reiterated that these were the conservative routes to take financially and I think the thought there is that we’re just trying to get him comfortable enough to be a pasture ornament at this point. He said that 50% of the horses that he’s seen MRI’d in Copper’s condition have had adhesions, and that managing his pain was the best we could do in that situation outside of a neurectomy.
At this point I’m not considering a neurectomy or further diagnostics. If it were just the one foot, I’d be interested in looking closer to see if there was an actual injury that is causing the pain instead of navicular changes, but since both of his feet are in very similar conditions, I’m going to trust my vet’s opinion and follow his advice and see how things develop.
Obviously this isn’t the news anyone wants to hear about their horse, let alone their 11 year old gelding who should be in the prime of his life. Copper has the most training of any horse I’ve ever owned as well as the most natural athletic ability. Nothing has ever been hard for him to learn or execute under saddle, I just haven’t been the skilled rider that is able to bring out his greatness. I’ve seen many others make him look like the high quality horse that he is, and the knowledge of his potential just makes all this that much more heart breaking.
This is all particularly frustrating because for the last few years I’ve been waiting for “the right time” to put him in training and to try dressage lessons. The right time wasn’t when I was in college until 2011, or when I was planning my wedding/remodeling a foreclosure in 2012. It wasn’t until 2014 that I was able to send him to a reining trainer to get him going again (sans shenanigans) and then I used him lightly in 2015/2016 when we were struggling with his weight and trying to get a handle on the lameness issues that ended up being mostly Lyme disease. With Joey in the picture last year, I just focused on treating Copper for Lyme disease and allowing him to be a horse and gain back his condition after the Lyme pulled him down so low. And now, in 2018, navicular.
Many people have touted to me how manageable navicular is, and that he could still come sound. My perspective at this point is to prepare myself for his retirement at 11 and to take any soundness past pasture sound as a blessing instead of hoping for him to magically become (and maintain…) riding soundness only to be disappointed later. To prepare for the worst (well, second worst…) and embrace anything extra we are given.
Luckily I’m in the position where I have plenty of land on which to keep horses and I’m not in a situation where I board and can only afford one horse. Paige is going to have to step up and be “all activities” horse from here on out instead of just trail horse, at least until Joey is of age to participate in more activities.
So that’s the state of things right now as far as Copper is concerned. If anyone has any interesting links on navicular or experiences to share with me, I’m interested, but trying to be realistic and not get my hopes up at the same time.