Tuesday, September 08, 2009

FRUSTRATION! And relief... And, how am I gonna do all this???

When I let the horses out into the pasture this morning at 7:30, the Little Lady was limping.  

Not good.  This is what we've all been worried about for years.  Maybe you don't know this, but that left hind leg has always been a source of concern, because when she was a yearling, it was broken.  BROKEN.  We forked out the money back then to that leg x-rayed , and sure enough, it was cracked.  By then we'd ALL completely fallen for this tiny cute sweet big-eyed blinky baby.  The crack was right down into the fetlock joint and was getting ready to be a future arthritis problem.  

Nothing could be done but stall rest, and 10 minutes twice each day of hand-walking.  Glenn the vet couldn't make any promises about her condition.  He told us he could never tell us that she'd be sound, even if she appeared to be fine.  We might end up with a really cute lawn ornament.  A much loved little lawn ornament.

So, we did it.  Or I should say, my parents did it, because I lived too far away.  The entire family had a decision to make: if we put the time into this little horse, we make a commitment to keeping her for her lifetime.  No strenuous riding, no barrel racing, no jumping, no breeding.  Watch her weight, and be prepared to get into an arthritis management program at some point in her life.  Never sell her, because we couldn't trust anyone else to get it, and give her the care she needs.  Above all, know that when she is in pain, and we can't make her comfortable anymore, we put her out of her misery.  Scary, eh?  

She healed up.  A year later, she was a new horse.  She was muscular and fit. She didn't limp.  Glenn the vet was impressed.  You could say he was amazed.

Occasionally over the years, she'd look a little stiff if the weather took a cold turn.  Heck, so do I.  She always got over it.  We marveled regularly at how great she's doing, how awesome she is, and how glad we are that we put the work into saving her.

Then this morning, she's all limpy.  

They came into the corral after lunch and she was not putting any weight on it.  At all.  She was walking on three legs and dragging the fourth.  

I dropped everything, left my mother to do the work we'd planned together, and wrapped up the Little Lady's hind legs.  I put both horses in the barn to keep Phoenix from moving her around.  The horses both looked at me like I was nuts, because it's the middle of the afternoon, and this isn't when they get their grain, and can they please go back out?  The barn cats had those cool faces like, "So where's our kibble at?"  

We got in the car and dashed off to get the kids from school.  I was thinking about the stuff I wasn't getting done in the house, and thinking about a horse who will not be used for lessons now, and that maybe this is my wake up call.  Maybe she'll be okay but I can't push her too hard.  Maybe it's my fault for riding her almost every day for over two weeks.  Then I got into the What Ifs and that was too awful to say out loud. 

Back home again, I wrapped her legs with some cold lotion.  Then they blasted out to the pasture like their tails were on fire, and guess what?  SHE CAN RUN ON THREE LEGS.  Forehead slap.

I called the vet and left a message.

After supper I talked to Cindy the vet.  She said she'd come out in the morning, and told me to check the cold lotion jar, to see if it's allowed to stay on overnight.  She told to pick out her hooves real good.  If she's got a stone in there or something, it could affect the weight bearing and then irritate that old injury.

I was feeling a little frazzled by this time, and relieved that Mom happened to have the day off work, and she did the cooking today.  If I'd been alone, we'd be eating crackers and cheese for dinner.  Keeping horses in the barn overnight is a lot more labour intensive than keeping them in the corral for the night.  I threw down a couple hay bales, topped up the water buckets, and brought the horses in.  Fed the cats too, not that they needed it, judging by the pile of feathers in the aisle.

I undid the mare's legs and checked for swelling.  All okay.  I got out the nasty old polo bandages and wrapped her up again, making sure I got under the fetlock for support.  

I was putting stuff away in the tack room when I remembered Cindy's point about the hoof pick.  I wrestled Copper's leg up again - she was losing her good natured co-operation by this time - and dug the hoof pick into the cleft.  It stopped.  It stuck on something.  

Uh oh.

I felt around with my fingers and found...



Felt a little dizzy, folks.  It was right up in there, vertically.  

I'm so fanatical about picking up every nail and bit of junk that works its way to the surface of this old barnyard.  And yet.  

So, I got some iodine to squirt on the underside of her hoof, and a square or gauze with some duct tape to stick it on, and made a funny lookin' little booty around her hoof to keep the dirt out until morning when the vet gets here.  

I'm thinking now, maybe she's not permanently arthritic.  Yet.  Maybe it's not the old leg injury acting up - I mean, you'd limp too if you had a NAIL IN YOUR HOOF, right?  

Okay, so it's not so terribly horribly bad, other than the poor girl having a RUSTY PIECE OF METAL IN HER.  Which I pulled out and disinfected and wrapped and holy crap how long does a tetanus shot last???

Poor sweet little mare... she always gets it.  Cut her forehead in June, has to have baby-bum-cream on her little pink muzzle to avoid sunburn, got mudcrack this summer and had the have yellow goop on her pastern to get rid of the scabs, has super sensitive skin and hates being brushed when she's in heat, and also HAD A BROKEN LEG WHEN SHE WAS A BABY.  

I am really, really tired, folks.  I have to do all that laundry I didn't do this afternoon when I was wrapping legs.  Have to go to bed.  My hair is frizzy with humidity and sweat and that bath I had this morning has been totally negated.

How am I going to do this - take care of two horses, make a living with them, when I haven't even gotten my coaching insurance stitched up and therefore haven't gotten any solid gigs out here yet, and still be there for my kids, maintain a long-distance relationship with my husband (I don't recommend this by the way) and feed people, take my dog for a run outside along the hay field, clean the cat's litter box, sweep floors, write novels (which I am taking a break from this month, geez) and like, be me, and sleep?  And have a bath at least once a week?  

I mean, people do this, right?  People who DON'T live with Mom?  

At least I might have a bus stop for the kids, so I only have to drive 5 minutes instead of a half hour to get them to school.

I can do this, right?

I hope my little mare is feeling better in the morning.  When I left her, she was munching  hay like she always hangs in the barn with her legs wrapped up and one hoof encased in duct tape.  It's cool, baby.  Totally normal.  Leave the barn door open, eh?  The breeze is nice...


Sydney said...

A nail head is deff better than bad limping arthritis. I would get her tetanus shot done. I get Indigo's done once a year (Shes my magical maiming horse) and when she gets bad injuries. Sometimes more than once a year.

Angela said...

Poor little mare- nail punctures are terrible, I hope she's ok! Some suggestions from my Legs Hooves and Farrier class; Flush it with loads of betadine and saline. Wrap her hoof in a baby diaper and secure it with duck tape to keep it clean. Treat her with antibiotics aggressively. Take her temperature 2x a day to monitor infection and check her leg and hoof for heat. Have a vet check it, if the nail went into the joint they occasionally have to be euthanized. Put pads on her feet for 6 weeks.

Kerri said...

Yes you can do this. It's all about establishing a new routine, everyone finding their place and rhythm and you'll get your coaching insurance, the horses will be ready and the riders waiting. You're sooooo close, Heidi!

hayseed said...

It's awful when our animals get hurt/injured. Hope your little mare will be fine. I agree, it's all about new routines and everyone finding their place. We all have our overwhelmed days (lots of them, actually). Probably magnified by all these transitions-for sure you can do it Heidi, hang in there!

lopinon4 said...

Do we have an update on how your little mare is doing? :)

RuckusButt said...

Heidi, you CAN do this. What's that saying about the best things in life are the ones we have to work for, or something like that? It will be really hard at times for sure but one day fairly soon you will have everything the way it should be.

I know the long distance thing sucks big time. My husband is away for most of the summer every year. Often he is in such remote locations that there is no communication at all. Sometimes that is actually less frustrating than talking on the phone for months! This year was especially hard because he left 4 days after we moved into our new house. It was a LOT to adjust to and it was all I could do to get myself to work and the animals cared for. Oh, and something always happens to one of the animals, pretty much without fail. Murphy's law, I guess.

My point? You will get through it, though it won't always be fun. On the other side you will feel pretty good about toughing it out. And crackers and cheese is not the worst thing to eat for dinner now and then, you know. Throw in some grapes (fresh or fermented, your pick!) and you've got a lovely rustic French meal, lol.

Heidi Willis said...

I was so surprised when I got to the end of this and you were asking, "I can do this, right?"

Because the answer is staring you right in the face. YES!!!!

You DID IT! You faced a sick horse, and you not only nursed her, you figured out what was wrong and you FIXED it!!

You should be jumping for joy right now! Your kids got to school and back, y'all had something to eat (which you all together would have figured out even if your mom wasn't right there with you), and the little lady is not permanently disabled.


So maybe it's not over yet. Maybe each day blends into the one before and drags it's sorry problems with it, but girl - you are doing it. Each day.

Don't forget to celebrate all those little victories. Because each one of them matter.

Paul Tee said...

Heidi: As I was reading, fully caught up in the crisis, I couldn't help but notice how well written the story was. You gave us the backstory, showed why you cared (so we could) and swept us along with the unfolding crisis. By the climax I was holding my breath. It is nice you could leave us with a good ending. Something acute is lot better than something chronic.

Good for you--good for the Little Lady. I hope this episode gets into the book of stories you are thinking about.

Coffeypot said...

Would it be better to pull the shoe and doctor the wound then put a shoe back on?

Heidi the Hick said...

Hey... It's 11 pm the next night, and I spent an hour in the barn wrapping up her dainty little legs, putting all the first aid stuff away, sweeping up, cooing and cuddling that sad lil horse, while the other horse wondered what the heck he has to do to get some attention around here.

Had the vet out for about an hour.

He pared out the wound and stuck a poultice on it. It's basically a wet epsom salt type paste (smells like A535) then wrapped her hoof in... a diaper. (Angela wins!) Then he wrapped it in Vetrap, then a sticky gauze around the fetlock to keep the dirt out.

By this time Copper was SICK AND TIRED OF BEING FUSSED WITH. I had to squeeze her top lip to get her to hold still for him. He felt sorry for her, she's been through so much. When I see her in the morning I'll duct tape it to keep the whole thing together.

I forgot to check her temp tonight, but I put some cold lotion on her leg before I wrapped it. She seemed to be in good sorts, although a little dozy from the needles she got this afternoon.

Tomorrow I wrap her in polos before sending her out, as well as check her temp and tape up that little diaper-hoof-booty. Then tomorrow evening I give her a penicillin shot. (I'd rather give her a needle than try to feed her the medicine. She's a picky eater. Seriously.)

I'm tired.

But the news is good- it's just an injury, it's not permanent. Regardless, I'm going to start her on an arthritis management program. This was a little wake up call for me.

And in response:

Coffeypot - she actually doesn't have shoes. She's never had them because she doesn't do any walking on pavement or hard gravel. She's got tough little feet but uh, that's nothing when faced with a darn nail eh?

Paul, I gotta say, I wasn't thinking that when I wrote this, but thank you - I didn't even think it was book worthy. Hmmm.

Heidi. Whenever I lose touch with reality, you turn me around and show me where it is. Those little victories in life get lost so easily but they count! And she's not permanently disabled!!! That's worth celebrating - also we did not starve here in the house!

Ruckus, I want to thank you for sharing because even though I know other couples have had to sort of live apart, I feel lonely about it. And oh my gosh, it never occurred to me that grapes can count as one of the food groups. Good to know!

Lopin- she's in her stall, slightly subdued, wrapped up like a present and eating only the grain that wasn't touched by Bute powder!

Hayseed, doesn't it figure that I'd have a hurt animal now, when I'm trying to get things together? This is life - stuff like this can happen despite my good intentions. I'm hanging in!!

Kerri- You are right. I'll have a handful of insurance quotes soon, I've got one sound horse right now, and people are starting to hear about this. Yes, close, yes!

Angela, your classes are incredible. I can't think of any other program as thorough as the one you're in. You are going to be so ready to take on the horse biz!!

Sydney, my ol' Champ was like that. (Arabian? Sees a nail sticking out of the fence 2 acres away and throws self at it?)

Ah tetanus, a horse owner's good friend.

Most of all, my dears, I am thankful that I am here to deal with this.

mugwump said...

A little input from a single mom who raised her daughter while supporting us with my paltry (very)horse training and riding lesson earnings?

One thing at a time.

Melt downs are allowed.


Mine were

1. Sick children come first (mine or clients)
2. Sick Horses next (see above)
3. Dinner next
4. Laundry dead last.
5. Hot showers before bed every day, no matter what.I learned to sleep with wet hair.

You're kids will love to tell people what you do for a living. Your coolness factor will help you through a lot of mucky stalls.

You get to smell horses and hay every day.

Every time you're riding on a beautiful day or have a major break through in a lesson, step back and remember this is why you do this.

Writing can still be a priority. When you are weathered out or doctoring yet another sick child or horse, that's when you get to write. It works. I promise.

I hope I'm not imposing.

lopinon4 said...

I'm so glad Mugs came to leave a comment! She always has the right words! :) Hats off to you, Heidi. You are braver than SO many women juggling what you are juggling. You deserve major "props" for keeping it together like you do.

Heidi the Hick said...

Mugwump, you may impose anytime!!! That is such awesome advice, I think I should print it out and tape it to the barn wall. I"m serious. Thank you.

Tonight I leaned on my mare's shoulder, told her I'm doing all this stuff to her so she'll heal up and feel better, and I ran my hand over her soft coat... it was weird, like I felt sad for her pain but still, thankful that I could be here for her. And when I got into the house, it was late - my girl was in her jammies, my boy was in bed. I still got my good night hugs.

She's been telling people at school what I do and to my delight, the kids say COOOL. They'd tell kids their dad's a recording engineer and of course that was cool - now I'm cool too!

Of course neither parents make enough... I have yet to make a dime since coming out here... but like you said, one thing at a time.

Thanks for the props, Lopin' because sometimes it feels good to hear that some people think I have it together!

Heidi the Hick said...

One more thing before I turn in for the night:

My LIttle Lady is doing much better. Still limping but not as much, and she's feeling good enough to go blasting across the field with her boyfriend. Can't believe how fast she is, even on 3 legs...

She gets her legs wrapped twice each day, gets the hoof booty changed once, and gets a needle at bedtime. Tonight they're back in teh corral for the night, instead of looking mournfully out the back door of the barn.

I think she's gonna be okay, folks.