Midlife Crisis: The adventures of a thirtysomething first-time horse owner

This week, Amanda Smith comes face-t0-face with one of the hardest lessons a horse owner must learn: Horses are innately self-destructive.

From Amanda:

I was planning on announcing to the world (well, OK, just HN) in this week’s Crisis Column that Wonderful Husband had agreed to sending Alfie to a trainer for a month to get a bit of boot camp spit and polish on him, but alas, that is not the case. As it is so many times with horses, no matter who you are or what type of riding you do, another day, another Crisis….

Sunday afternoon I had a GREAT ride on Alfie yesterday. Better than he’s been in months (I think the warmer weather and 20-hour a day turn out is a major factor!). My boy totally came to work. I was very pleased with him, and beginning to wonder if I should even send him off to boot camp. I headed home around 4 p.m. and was about five miles from the barn when I got a call from our assistant barn manager, Kim. She had just received a call from a boarder who was at the barn and saw Alfie and his best buddy Liam get into a big scuffle. She was kind enough to get Alfie out of the pasture and in to his stall, and then called Kim since she didn’t have my number. Kim was on her way for evening feed, so I turned back around and met her back at the barn.

We (slowly) got Alfie out of his stall; he was clearly in a lot of pain and was nearly three-legged lame. Then we found the nice big, deep gash on the back of his right front leg, about three inches above his fetlock. Not good. My heart sank. It was bleeding pretty profusely, but the back of the leg was so swollen it looked like it could have possibly been a bowed tendon as well as the gash. I was more than a little freaked out, and immediately sent my husband a text:

Please come to barn. Alfie may have really hurt himself. Vet on the way.

My amazing, wonderful husband pulled up to the barn about 15 minutes later, and stayed with me for over an hour and a half. He just held Alfie’s lead rope and scratched his forelock, which Alfie loves, and finds relaxing. Thank god for amazing men! We cold-hosed the leg for about 45 minutes waiting for the vet, and by the time she got there the swelling had gone down quite a bit, which is good. But the vet was still a little suspicious.

To get a much better look (since Alfie is your typical over-sensitive TB) the vet sedated my poor horse, who got shaved, poked and prodded.  The vet said she doesn’t think there’s anything more than superficial damage, thank GOD, but she’s a little concerned about how close the wound is to the tendon sheath. She then flushed the wound with a full liter of betadine and sterile water (and a sterile IV line, etc.) and wrapped everything up.  She was very happy we jumped on the injury immediately and kept it nice and clean, so that’s good. Silver lining, right?

Prescribed course of action: Stall rest for 3-5 days at least. He’ll also be on injectable antibiotics for a few days, and then probably switch to oral, along with bute. The vet is going to come out to flush the wound Monday and Tuesday, too, so she can verify that everything is looking good and the tendon sheath is staying clean and healthy. Then we’ll see where things are. She said she may ultrasound it just to make sure everything is in fact superficial. Fingers crossed.

This is the first major injury I’ve had to deal with for my horse so I was just a liiiiiitle freaked out. Not from blood or anything like that, but from what on earth this kind of injury could mean for me and my horse, long term and short. I managed to hold my $h!t together until I got home and then I started bawling. If it had required surgery I don’t know what I’d have done; I don’t have insurance on Alfie (though rethinking that about now), my pockets aren’t that deep (hullo, non-profit job!) and he’s just not the kind of horse that would do well on lengthy stall rest. All those what-if thoughts and emotions bubbled up to the surface when I finally pulled in the driveway around 8 p.m. Sunday night. When I walked in the house, my husband thought something terrible had happened after he left the barn! Poor guy. He gave me a big hug and told me everything was going to be just fine.  Now we just wait and see….

Fast forward 24-hrs… Just returned from the barn, and the vet was very pleased to see how much the wound had begun to close, and how much better Alfie is walking, although still very lame. She flushed the wound again, and will do so again tomorrow (Tuesday). Then we leave it wrapped to minimize the risk of anything getting in there (right now everything touching that wound is sterile, sterile, sterile!) and on Monday she’ll come out again to ultrasound to make 100% sure there is no damage to the tendon.

Obviously at this point my month of boot camp for Alfie is on hold… and will be until (1) Alfie’s cleared for that kind of workload and (2) my back account recovers. And I’m just crushed!! Why on earth, on the verge of sending Alfie off for training, does this happen?! I mean….really? Really? I have been saving for this since December, and making all kinds of plans surrounding Alfie’s training. But… man plans and God laughs, and there is nothing I can do about it except focus on getting my horse well. For now, I may not have a “ride” but I am so thankful that my horse is OK, that I have awesome barn managers and fellow boarders, kick-ass friends who call, text and email me to make sure Alfie and I are holding up, and… as I mentioned before, an awesome husband.

I’ll keep you posted HN!

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