The more complicated answer is to the question, "What's he doing there, and why do you stress out about it when you should be sleeping?" And that answer is, of course, a LONG one! (Not so EZ anymore, are you, horse??!)
I, his loving but very absent parent, am far, far away in Wyoming, and it was never the plan to take advantage of the kindness of my family to care for my horse, but it is the reality!
The decisionWhen my plan developed to move full-time to Wyoming, work at the Equitours office, and move in with my personal Carhartt boyfriend, I decided that Senor Dollar would do best in a new home.
|I'm Equitours famous|
Of course, the perfect home in my mind meant me, but just not me. I put together fliers, studied the anatomy of an appealing horse ad, and posted on all sorts of horsey sale sites, sent emails left and right.
Finally, after no real promising leads and the summer and my departure fast approaching, I decided to board him on consignment at a wonderful barn nearby. Kait specializes in thoroughbreds and is in the business of business of buying and selling and thus has far better connections than I ever could hope to alone. Plus, her barn is super well run and adorable, with nice happy big grassy fields.
|View to the arena from the barn|
|EZ in his own fancy stall|
|Look how cute they jump! (space bar won't actually play...)|
Even a small student rode him and it kills me with cuteness: dying of cuteness
Then weird disaster struck.
EZ came in from turn out groaning in discomfort. Kait called to see if I was used to having a groaning horse, but I was as perplexed as she was. We thought maybe he needed a sheath cleaning since it had been about a year since dear, sweet, sheath cleaning pro Cathleen had done so at Indian Pond Farm. So I sudsed it up and we left him inside for the night. He had seemed to be enjoying his stall and was usually sprawled out snoring, something I had noticed since he never seemed to be laying down at home, but that was in the field so maybe he liked having his own personal shavings? It seemed in retrospect that he probably just wasn't feeling so hot. Maybe that was even why he was so laid back with his little student when he can sometimes decide to FREAK OUT? Anyway, now the odyssey of discovering why he wasn't feeling so hot began.
1) sheath needs to be cleaned/gassy? Kait and I hand-walked him, thinking after the sheath cleaning didn't solve things, maybe he was somehow gassy? He was still eating, drinking and pooping, but was obviously uncomfortable, especially when turning or when asked to trot.
|Hand-walking? When in doubt?|
2) allergies/heaves? She got worried when he had a bad case of the sweats one evening and called in the vet, whose best guess was heaves. Since he was being stabled regularly for the first time, this made some sense. However, the vet couldn't trigger a full heaves attack, he wasn't belly breathing and there was no nasal discharge or coughing. We left him outside for a few days, and I even got up on him for a gentle walk outside. He groaned going downhill and when I asked him to stretch to his hip after riding, as I always do, and it just didn't seem purely respiratory related.
3) sore tissue? Another vet came out and did a full check over. She agreed it didn't seem like heaves, and her best bet was some sort of deep tissue soreness in his back. Even though he wasn't tender to the touch anywhere in his back, it was the only thing she could come up with, barring something internal, for which she took blood to test.
4) something internal!? Blood work revealed something was up. His fibrinogen levels were way high, meaning there was some sort of infection.
At this point there were ultrasounds which were inconclusive, and further blood testing, which were as well. I had to leave for WY when things were totally up in the air, but I knew Kait would take good care of him, and I hoped it would be a short lived illness and then he could go back on the market to his new happy home. Gotta think wishfully, right?
On bute and antibiotics, EZ didn't really improve. Kait was worried that his appetite was dropping off and he was losing weight. Being so far away made me feel even more helpless. After many conversations with the vet, we decided that the best option would be for him to go to Tufts Veterinary Hospital for more extensive diagnostics, because, for realsies, nobody in our hood had a clue what was going on. His colon looked maybe swollen? Then better? We hoped we would get some clarity if we brought out the big guns.
Keep in mind that all these decisions are being made on my end pretty much up on this big mountain.
|I always look super wistful when considering the future of my horse...|
It is the only place with service on the ranch, so during the one hour break from wrangling for lunch, I am hauling my tush up here to talk to Kait, or to vets, or to other emotional supporters.
The day he is at Tufts I try to keep in touch with Kait, driving a four wheeler back and forth to try to consult with Tufts vets and home vets and Kait.
Finally, a tiny bit of something is found. Nothing conclusive, because that would be way too EZ, but one ultrasounder with a super special ultrasound sees something on EZ's stomach. A little...something. Nothing more than that is known, other than there's something.
The vets want to keep him overnight and scope his stomach the next day. It might be ulcers, it might be a tumor. Room and board at a fancy vet hospital is not cheap though, and part of my stress is of course the hundreds and hundreds of bucks that had already been spent on attempted diagnostics and medications. We decide that although the local vet's scope isn't as fancy, it will probably do the job, and Kait takes him home. My local vet was happy that EZ made the trip and that the fancy ultrasounds corroborated the shadow of something she couldn't catch on her own ultrasounds.
Scoping though, tells us nothing. Only that there are no ulcers, no tumors. Only odd thing is that there's some foodstuff in there, which means that he must be digesting super slow since he was kept of feed for the scoping purpose.
So, it seems that the stomach thing is on the outside lining of his gut, a little pocket of infection...or something.
After two more months on heavy-duty antibiotics at Kait's, in October EZ was symptom-free. He was back to being fat and sassy and Kait was sure he wanted to be ridden again. But, upon retesting his blood levels, his fibrinogen levels were still much too high.
This was a rather heartbreaking moment. I had been clinging to the hope that paying for diagnostics, hard core antibiotics, and board in Kait's conscientious care would mean a quick recovery and departure to new and happy place. Now it was clear that he was not cured. More than that, it was more questionable that he would be. I had a blubbery morning on the phone with the vet and with Kait and we decided to send him home to Indian Pond Farm. Off of meds, we would see how long he stayed symptom free and go from there.
Guilt, guilt, guilt. Feeling guilty that I wasn't there to help with the diagnostic process and his care, and now I was feeling guilty that I might be sending him home to my parents to deal with his possible decline and end-of-the-road. Cathleen of course was there daily, feeding and cleaning, and mom made a habit to check on him and be familiar with his normal behavior so she could tell if things were off. We really had no idea what we were dealing with; perhaps he would live happily as a pasture pet for weeks, months, years. Perhaps he could even be ridden again. Perhaps symptoms would reoccur, with no real antidote. The vet's best guess at this point was "hardware disease," common in cows but rare in horses, when a foreign object is ingested and wreaks havoc. Horses are usually more discriminating, but EZ is a piggy, and who knows. Surgery would be the only other option as meds weren't working, and did not have a good prognosis.
But the body does amazing things, the vet reminded me. When I was home in December for Christmas, EZ remained happy and healthy. I asked the vet if it was worth doing more blood tests to see where his fibrinogen level was, but she thought that while it would be very interesting to see what was going on in the inside while he seemed so good from the outside, we wouldn't really change treatment. If things seem to working, don't change them, and give him a full year of recuperation.
The next step
Nothing has changed since then; he continues to be bossy and seemingly healthy, benefiting from a life of leisure in the pasture, challenging Cathleen and mom's thoughtful care with his sass.
This does not mean that I do not stop worrying, oooooooh no, I've got to try to look into the future and determine the results of his blood tests in the spring, and what they will mean and what he will do. Remain in retirement as an abandoned mama's boy at home? Be put back to work either home or in WY? How will I pay? Would he even like WY?
So for now, I try to take deep breaths and tell myself we will cross all those bridges when we come to them, with the help and guidance of everyone I rant to on this issue. The body does amazing things, and things work out as they should. Right?