Saturday, May 2, 2009

Missy's Springtime Misadventure

Once the snow clears from the meadows, the horses’ spirits seem to lift. Surrounded by open space, they often turn loose and run freely, filled with the pleasure of movement and a sense of play. They may also socialize, visiting across fence lines: yearlings saying hello to two-year olds and mares saying hello to the geldings. In the exuberance of springtime, sometimes the excitement of greeting and meeting or in the flirtation between young fillies and colts, a horse can put a hoof in a wire or back up into another horse and get kicked in the middle of springtime play. Unfortunately, Missy, a two-year old palomino filly, recently flirted with Hustler, a yearling colt, from across the fence with more than just springtime exuberance.

As Pete and Dawn went out to spread manure, Dawn, our renter and Missy’s owner, spotted Missy near the fence line across from the yearlings with what looked like blood on her hind legs. Dawn approached carefully but with the sense of urgency a parent might display when finding their child injured. Dawn found Missy with smooth wire wrapped around her hind legs in a figure-eight. Both legs were lacerated, the left hind suffering a gaping wound which appeared to be a severed extensor tendon. Dawn grabbed a halter out of the Gator and remained with Missy; Pete went for the truck and trailer, and then called me to take Missy and Dawn into the veterinary hospital.

Watching Missy negotiate the horse trailer for the first time in her life after such a serious injury, I understood why Dawn cared for Missy so much. A horse, who in crisis, remains calm and cooperative and loads without hurting herself further, is worth a million dollars. Missy demonstrated a good mind and perhaps an instinct for survival in allowing us to help her.

Ever so carefully, we transported Missy to the vet’s. Once there, she stood quietly, and allowed Dr. Mike Gotchey to treat the extensor tendon laceration just below her hock in her left hind and thankfully, just a laceration on her right hind leg also just below the hock.

Dr. Gotchey explained there are a number of ways to treat a severed extensor tendon partly determined by the disposition of the horse. In most cases, it is very difficult to actually re-attach the tendon because one end usually draws too far up into limb. So, on some horses he sutures the wound and casts it and with others he simply cleans the laceration, then wraps and casts it because a restless horse usually ends up rupturing the sutures anyway. As the wound heals, the tendon groove granulates, scar tissue forms where the tendon once was, and over time a functioning artificial connection is created between both ends of the tendon. Truly a miracle.

Missy proved to be a good candidate for suturing and casting because of her calm disposition and sound mind as she stood for treatment. She also demonstrated it when she loaded into the trailer and calmly swung her casted left hind leg up and around as she stepped into the trailer. At that point, Dr. Gotchey said, “Now that’s a sign for a good prognosis. Some horses would fight loading and ruin the sutures and, or cast.”

Missy looks to be doing well. Now stalled in the barn, she will be kept quiet for 7-10 days when Dr. Gotchey will come out and take the cast off and treat the wound. He’ll then cut the cast in half and use it to support the next phase in Missy’s recuperation. Dawn will keep Missy stalled for three months providing her with hay, a feed supplement to aid healing, and companionship until she can be free to move in a larger stall area. Dr. Gotchey believes her prognosis is very good and that she’ll be able to perform in whatever way Dawn wishes: whether it’s on the trail or in the arena.

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