Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How to Outsmart a Morgan

The problem: He doesn’t like having his booted feet messed with. He’s been tied in the aisle with his mash bucket the last few times it’s been done. He knows this. He’s not fooled and not inclined to stand still for it any more.

What’s a poor human to do? The left boot needs removal, reaming out, replacement, this fine evening. What’s to be done?

Use guile. Guile and trickery. Guile and misdirection and trickery. Not to mention flattery and shameless sucking up to.

So the mighty Morgan, with Ben safely back in his stall for moral support, is led out, tied in the aisle (single tie facing his stall; on cross-ties he’s too likely to surge forward toward the exit), and allowed to sniff the grooming box sitting on the upended shavings bag nearby him. The wily human scratches his neck – just SO – then picks up a brush and begins going over him – just SO – and the mighty Morgan relaxes.

The wily human asks him quietly to pick up his right front, touches the boot lightly when he complies, and puts it back down. The MM is praised. The WH brushes her way down his side to his hindquarters. She quietly asks him to pick up his right hind, touches the hoof, and puts it back down, praising the MM. Around to the left hind; repeat. Brushing, brushing, brushing up to the left front. The WH brushes down his leg, quickly but calmly undoes the Velcro, then asks the MM to pick up his foot.

Success! The foot comes up briefly; the boot’s stripped off; the mass accumulation of shavings gets shaken and scrubbed out; the pad gets a dusting of Gold Bond powder. Then it’s time to get it back on the much-praised MM.

The return does not go as smoothly as the removal; it appears the MM finds it insufficiently comfortable to stand on one forefoot for very long, and communicates this fact by snatching his foot free and snapping it back onto the floor. It takes several swift but calm and careful attempts until – voila! – the foot’s inserted exactly where it should be and the hoof’s back flat on the mat. Quickly, quickly: Close the two understraps; praise softly; close the two overstraps; praise softly and wait while the MM frets about a bit, just a bit; then pull into place the rubber-band-like keepers over the strap ends, and it’s done.

The MM gets bountiful praise, enjoys a thorough face-brushing, and is put back into his stall to enjoy his supper. The WH tidies up and goes home to enjoy her own.

The MM can’t be bullied. But he can be bamboozled.

More Booty Goodness

The morning report:

Sigh.... As if this weren’t costing me enough already....

Just got off the phone with a very friendly, helpful rep for Soft-Ride, who spent almost half an hour cheerfully chatting with me about the boots – their care and fit primarily, although we wandered off topic more than once.

I asked about care: how often to remove for cleaning, how to care for, that sort of thing. Turns out the recommendation is initially, for the first week or so with a horse wearing them 24/7, to take them off twice a day for removing and rinsing off the pad, cleaning gunk out of the boots, and to check the heel bulbs for signs of chafing. Oh, and be sure to put the correct pad back into the same boot, and put the correct boot back on the same hoof. Oh, great. Let’s hope Commander gets blase about standing still for the whole thing real fast.

We turned to fit, since I thought the boots he’s wearing now might be a bit too small. Yep, the rep thought from my description that, while he was doing fine in them at the moment, as his hoof grew out we’d have problems. So I’ve ordered a new pair, the next size larger. Hey, I’ve already sunk more than a grand in vet bills into Commander during this episode; what’s another couple of hundred bucks? (sob) At least I can return the unused laminitis orthotics from the first pair for a credit.

Oh, hey – look at the time (11:40). I’d better head over to the barn for the midday chores, see how the mighty Morgan is doing after his first night in booties. More later.


More later:

Good and not-so-good news.

The good – all right, let’s just go ahead and say the GREAT news is that Commander is amazingly comfortable in those boots.

Walking out freely comfortable. Bending his knees like a regular horse when he walks comfortable.

So comfortable that, after hand-walking him in the driveway for several minutes and seeing how well he did, I actually put him out with Ben in the run-in and its adjoining dry lot for about 45 minutes while I did stalls. Where he picked at the scattered pathetic nubbins of grass available, groomed with Ben, puttered about looking as if nothing was wrong with him, and for the most of it hung out in the run-in alternating munching hay and Ben-grooming. He walked back in as comfortably as he walked out.

The not-so-good news: He’s still being a pig about having his feet handled. With his bucket of beet pulp mash hanging in the aisle to occupy him, I was able to get his right boot off, wiped down, cleaned out, Gold Bond powder dusted, and back on, but by the time I tried to take off the left he was escalating into antsy, too antsy to get it done.

Okay, so he had distractions: He’d just come in, leaving Ben behind, and Ben was bellowing for his lost love; a truck and horse trailer were parked outside the barn and a strange horse had just gotten hosed down out there; I slid the barn door shut but even so he could still hear Ben yelling; it was all too much and he would not stand still or let me handle his left foot. I gave it up after a few minutes and put him back in his afternoon stall.

I’ll try to do the left foot again tonight, when Ben’s in and things are quieter. This is a continuing nightmare in so many ways, but seeing him look so at ease, for the first time in ages, is making it worth all the cost and struggle.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Booted - yet another tediously longwinded recital

The Soft-Ride boots came yesterday and today they went on Commander.

What a simple little declaration. So straightforward. So easy-sounding. So matter-of-fact.

So far removed from the reality.

Oh, the boots came on schedule, and they look sturdy and well-constructed, with easy to understand and use fasteners – all hail Velcro! Just in time, too, since Commander’s left pad was inching out of position, creeping forward on his foot despite the entire roll of Elastikon securing it. So, with the vet scheduled to arrive around 11:00, it looked like we were in business.

Hitch the first: The vet had an emergency call, a fracture, and didn’t even make it to the barn till after 2:00.

Fine. Such is the nature of waiting for the vet. He’s there – “he” being Derek Cavatorta, a young fellow (at least from the perspective of my 63 years), recently joined the practice, who’d been riding along with Helen and seen Commander when she x-rayed him. Good tidings: He thought the mighty Morgan looked better today than when he’d last seen him. Bad tidings: Those lovely expensive laminitis orthotics I’d bought extra for the boots? Helen thinks they’re a bit too hard for Commander and wanted to use the same kind of pads he’s been on. Good tidings: the hockey pucks fit perfectly into the boots, and the Soft-Ride company is known for working with its customers so hopefully I can return the orthotics for a refund.

We took Commander out into the aisle and I held him while Derek, with some assistance from Vicky the vet tech, removed the left wrapped-on pad and

Whoa. Let’s rewind that.

Hitch the second: Derek began trying to get the pad off. He didn’t have bandage scissors with him; his regular scissors refused to cut easily; the ends he freed and pulled on ripped off in small segments; the Elastikon clung on like a demented limpet; it was struggle struggle struggle till at last the thing ripped free. Getting the boot on wasn’t too hard, and the mighty Morgan seemed comfortable in it.

The mighty annoyed and increasingly impatient Morgan seemed comfortable in it, all right – comfortable enough, and pissed off enough at the whole process that as soon as the thing was secured he surged forward, determined to charge out of the barn to freedom! Away from the hassle! Freedom! GRASS! The three of us just barely managed to wrestle him to a stop at the very edge of the exit.

We got him turned back and decided to do the other foot in his stall. By now Commander had decided that Derek was the Spawn of Satan and he wasn’t having any more of this jerk messing with his feet, hell no! We hadn’t given him a sedative to start with; we decided we’d better; the sharp-eyed needle-phobe spotted the dread implement in Derek’s hand, and hooeee, it was charge around the stall rodeo time. I love Commander, and I love his spirit, but dammit! When he decides he’s had enough, when he gets pissed off at being asked to do something, he turns into a monster of defiance. Even with a dose of sedative finally aboard, it took ages and some narrow escapes from the vet and myself being body-slammed through the stall walls before Derek got the second pad off.

By this point the somewhat woozy but still angrily defiant Morgan was standing with me holding his head in the corner, no longer hurling himself in circles around the stall but continuing the fight by pawing furiously whenever Derek approached his hoof, before and after the wrap-and-pad removal. “Put that second boot on me? Ha! No way in Hades!” I’ll give the vet credit: He’d already had a rough day before he got to me; he patiently and calmly kept trying to do what he had to do despite Commander’s best efforts to thwart him; but by this time he could have offered Commander a cookie and the Morgan would have flung it back in his face.

So I suggested that Vicky hold Commander while I tried to put the second boot on. I wasn’t too thrilled about putting my head and hands down into the thrashing-leg region of my horse, but it was clear this was our only hope at this point. So Vicky took the lead rope and schmoozed with Commander, who had yet to put her into the Spawn of Satan category, while I coaxed him into picking his foot up high enough to fit his hoof into the boot without triggering another bout of angry flailing.

Did it! And went to fasten it.

Hitch the whatever-it-is-by-now: The boot seemed a bit small. Oh, with a bit of tweaking I got it fastened; with a bit more tweaking I tightened it somewhat; Commander walked out on it in apparent comfort; it seemed securely in position for the half-hour or so afterwards I observed him; but we’ll see if it continues to work or whether I’ll need to get the next size up for that foot.

I’ll say this about those boots: If he could charge around the stall like that with one boot on his worse foot, they must be making him mighty comfortable all right. I just hope he behaves a lot better for me when I take them off for cleaning.

I also hope they’re still on and in proper position when I go back to the barn in a few hours for evening chores.

At least by now I’ve stopped shaking.


The evening update:

So far, so good.

At bedcheck Commander was still booted and still comfortable. I led him out onto the driveway and he moved in what seems to be the new normal mode for him: Stiff-kneed but long-strided and moving briskly, eager to keep going till the mosquitoes drove us back inside. He took one ouchy step on the right turn into his stall but other than that he did fine.

I had him out into the barn aisle again to undo and reset his right boot because I thought it originally went on just a skootch off-center. Distracted by his bucket of evening beet pulp hanging from the wall, he stood for me more or less quietly.

More or less, well, yeah; every time I picked up his foot he did flap it about, and it took several tries to get the hoof correctly back into the boot. But I did it, and got the flaps Velcroed back in place, without too much trouble. I must hope that, as we keep doing this over time, he’ll come to accept it as no more annoying than having his feet picked out, and stop the foot-flapping. Still, it was reassuring to be able to handle this alone.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Another Commander Update

So it’s been a while since my last update on the mighty Morgan and the mighty mountain of trouble he’s in. What’s up? How’s he doing?

He’s holding his own. He continues hobbled but undaunted, padding about stiffly on his pads but upheaded, greedy for goodies, and as smugly convinced of his own high worth as ever. His coat shines; his ears are pricked; he’s hugely interested in everything going on around him, at least if there’s not food in front of him to seize his attention.

On Wednesday, Commander got his feet trimmed and measured for his Soft-Ride boots, his last chance at getting comfortable enough to go on for whatever the long term turns out to be. He behaved like a perfect gentleman for my farrier through the whole thing, but then, Ken's very good with my horses, calm and gentle, and they like him and trust him. Ken wrapped the pads back on when we were done and I gave Commander a dose of Banamine even though he seemed unfazed by the whole thing.

I chose not to do any hand-walking at all, other than stall-shuttling, after the Wednesday work on him. I stuck to that through Friday, but yesterday and today I’ve taken him for tiny outside jaunts, and I mean like a few dozen yards outside the barn. He loves it, gets eager as soon as he’s turned that way, and despite it clearly being less comfortable for him on the hardpacked stonedust/gravel of the driveway, he relishes these small adventures – especially when he can yank my arm off and grab a mouthful of greenery. I hesitate to expand this till he’s in the boots, given how unforgiving the ground is.

Commander was perhaps slightly less comfortable overall on Thursday, with one or two ouchy steps as I led him between stalls, but truthfully, it’s hard to tell whether he’s really worse or better when I’m hovering over each step looking for Signs and Portents. Overall between midweek and today, Sunday, I’d say he’s maintaining at a baseline of stiff-legged but unhesitating to move when asked; more freedom of movement as he moves; and really really big strides when there’s FOOD! at the end of them. He can turn without much trouble in either direction as long as he’s free to choose the arc and pace of it. I can tell from the shavings on his coat and the stains on his flank that he does lie down, but he’s always on his feet when I arrive. I guess it was a good idea not to show him his x-rays, huh?

The boots and laminitis orthotics were ordered Wednesday evening. I hope to get them Monday and get Commander into them ASAP, allowing for the fact I’m going to want the vet there for the first fitting, to help me get the pads off, to make sure the fit is right, and – please, please not – to repad and rewrap Commander if the fit isn’t right and I have to exchange the Soft-Rides.

Meanwhile, Ben gets put out at midday and brought back in at dusk, and seems happy with the arrangement; Commander's fine with it too, and there's no more of the desolate hollering they indulged in the first few times I cruelly wrenched them apart. Ben has full freedom of the square paddock, with its well-eaten-down grass, and as of midweek the gate to the first field, ungrazed and unmowed all summer, has been open to him. He does go out there now and then, but the paddock appears to offer tastier grazing -- go figure! -- and besides, it's a much shorter distance from there to the shelter of the run-in, with its waiting well-stuffed haybag, when the flying pests get to be too much for the sensitive Thoroughbred.

I bring Ben over to Commander's stall when I lead him back in to let them sniff noses through the chainlink stallfront. I look forward to the time when I can turn them out together again. Oh, what a frenzy of mutual grooming there'll be then!


Monday, August 20, 2012

New x-rays. You don't want to look.

And you can't right now, because I haven't had jpegs of them emailed to me yet.

You won't like them when you do see them. I'll be updating this post later tonight with more details and hopefully the images themselves.

Boots and pads are the only hope left now, and it's a thin one, as thin as the sole between coffin bone and death. But Commander isn’t giving up yet, not near it, and so I will not give up on him.


Update, as promised:

Still haven’t received the x-rays to share, but the gist is this:

The tip of the coffin bone hasn’t gone through the sole but it is frighteningly close, and worse in the left foot.* The side walls of the hooves are pulling away, pushed farther out by any weight-bearing while offering no support forward of the quarters. Commander needs to have the unhinged part of the walls resected and the toes cut back; then we can measure him to get a proper fit for his boots and pads. Any kind of shoeing is useless at this point; there’s simply nothing there to nail to. In the meantime, he is surprisingly comfortable on his hockey pucks, greedy for food as ever, and full of his usual attitude.

The current story starts with Sunday midday, when I arrived to find Commander had pulled off his left taped-on pad. I tried to put it back on myself. Problem the first: the thing had been secured with an entire roll of Elastikon and I couldn’t, with a dull X-Acto knife and equally dull scissors, get all of the tape off the mashed-down (and stinky, hoo-boy stinky) pad. I finally hacked the sides away and tried to put it back in place with duct tape. Problem the second: Duct-tape it back? Expect it to stay snugly in place? Hahahahahahaha (sob).

So I called the vet and arranged for yet another Sunday emergency visit. Just as well; it took me, the vet, and the vet’s assistant to get the mighty – and mighty pissed off at all the examination, standing on one foot for hoof testing, fiddling with his feet and willya just leave me alone! – Morgan into new pads. Commander wound up getting a hit of dormosedan and blissing out enough for us to succeed. It was no fun, very much no fun, but it at least reassured me that I wasn’t entirely a loser for not being able to pad him up by myself.

Today’s vet was Helen Noble, instead of Commander’s usual vet, Kelly Butterworth. Kelly, alas, has been sidelined by an injury, to wit, a horse stomping on her hand and mashing a finger. Yeesh indeed. Helen absorbed what history I could give her, what observations she made; asked me to email her the x-rays from last weekend; and departed.

I sent her the x-rays last night and this morning heard back that Commander’s shoes had blocked a clear view of the coffin bone tips in last week’s x-rays; she wanted to do a fresh set now that he’s in nonradiopaque pads. So off to the barn we all went, and we had more fun with an annoyed Morgan, who saw no point in standing still with his feet up on wooden blocks just so; not until another little dose of dormosedan calmed him down. I got to wear the lead apron while holding his lead rope and be grateful that it wasn’t 90+ degrees and swampy humid. We took (well, they took and I stood there face to face with a muddled Morgan) both lateral and front-to-back x-rays.

When it was done and Commander was tucked away in his afternoon stall to come out of his drug haze and hoover some hay, we looked at the results.

Ugh. Maybe it’s just as well you don’t have to see what I saw.

I called my farrier – and actually got him, not his answering service, for a wonder – filled him in and handed the phone to Helen so she could tell him exactly what needs doing. He’ll be coming Wednesday morning to trim as required, measure Commander for the pads, then get him repadded. I have new pads and two rolls of Elastikon on hand, plus a ready-filled syringe of IM dormosedan, just in case. Commander’s a very good boy for farriery, but this foot-wrapping thing? Not so much.

Oh, helpful hint on Elastikon (probably applicable to any such tape): Before wrapping with it, find a person (like, say, the horse owner) willing to hold the outer edge of the roll firmly by the corners, then slowly back away, keeping the tape taut and straight as you unroll it. At the far end of the roll (we’re a good ten-plus feet apart in the barn aisle by now), begin loosely rolling the tape back up. This makes the subsequent wrap-wrap-wrap unrolling a helluva lot easier and quicker.

*Worse in his left foot? But it’s turning to the right that bothers him much more. What gives? Helen says it’s how the foot is weighted in a turn that explains it; the longer he has to have that right foot picked up, with all his weight swivelling on the left, the more it hurts, so he lurches through it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Keep walking! he says

How’s Commander doing with short ventures outside?

Amazingly well. Today, twice at midday I walked him away from the barn and along the driveway half the length of the nearby red pole barn, probably 60 feet, and he marched along, head high, drinking it all in. At suppertime I led him its full length once, walking briskly, and if it weren’t for the mosquitoes annoying us both I think he’d have liked to keep going instead of turning back.

Commander moved well, long-strided, head up, clearly enjoying himself; again chose to step down every time onto his right foot; again had no trouble stepping back up into the barn; while still more straight-legged in his walking than I’d like (and perhaps some of that is due to maneuvering those thick salad-plate-size pads strapped to his feet), was moving with more vigor and freedom than one would have thought possible less than a week ago.

The mighty Morgan got to spend the entire afternoon in Counterpoint’s airy, bright (even on a cloudy day like today) and two-windowed stall, while Ben got to have the afternoon out, the first hour of it on the grassed paddock where he grazed the nubbins single-mindedly. When I brought Ben his midday beet-pulp mash I thought it best to lock him off the grass, let his system adjust to the greenery slowly, so for the rest of his time out he had to content himself with demolishing a well-stuffed haybag’s worth of hay.

Commander appears to like his afternoon stall very much. He spent some of his time arranging the place to his liking, trudging ruts in shavings here, establishing his toilet there, and mowing through an armload of hay; he also rubbernecked at both windows, the one overlooking his buddies in the run-in and the other looking out over the fields.

This is good. This new routine will be healthier physically and mentally for both boys, and I will try to expand the walking as long as Commander tolerates it.

Monday Commander gets his feet checked, his pads rewrapped, and measurements taken for the Soft-Ride boots. Will we be able to move him on to turnout? The hard surfaces of the run-in and environs remain a concern, but there are possibilities for fencing off most of the paddock while leaving a corridor to a soft-dirt-floored room in the back of the run-in structure; we’ll worry about doing that when it’s time.

I begin to nourish tiny buds of hope.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thursday and Friday:

I may well be fooling myself, desperately seeing what I want to see, but I did think that Commander looked a little bit – a very little bit – better on Thursday, especially in the evening (and why not, since it was only six hours since his midday two grams of bute?) in terms of moving with less stiffness in front. Don’t even think about asking him to turn tightly to his right; but he can walk in a large leftward circle without much difficulty. In fact, if I have him out in the barn aisle and need to turn him in the other direction, I lead him into whatever stall he’s facing (huge stalls; 12x12 at least) and make a loop to get him reoriented in maximum comfort.

Thursday evening, I had Commander out in the aisle for a good grooming session, with him tied facing a Smartcart to work on the hay in it while I worked on him. He indulged in his usual Smartcart feeding frenzy: burrowing into the hay down to the bottom of the cart, viciously flinging aside anything that was less than the best, scattering hay, even whole flakes all over the aisle; I was torn between "Gah, will you STOP that, you greedy monster?!?" and gladness to see him his usual attitudinal self. When I was done, instead of trying to make the tight turn in the aisle to get him back in his stall, I led him outside for a wide loop in the driveway.

Be darned if he didn't move out eagerly toward daylight. There's a six-inch step down to get out. Commander examined it, chose which foot to put down (his left), and stepped out without much difficulty, made the large turning loop (leftward) with no trouble, and hurled his head down to the stubby grass on the upslope back to the barn. I let him have a few mouthfuls, then twitched the leadrope, and he came back into captivity without fuss and with a surprisingly free (though still stiff) stride, having no trouble at all stepping back up into the barn.

In a conversation on Thursday, my vet recommended the Soft-Ride boots for Commander. They sound very promising, but holy guacamole, they’re expensive! It would be around $300 to fit Commander with them, including their founder orthotic pad.

A number of posters on horse forums had good things to say about Cavallo boots – about half the cost of the Soft-Ride, but would they be as effective?

Of course, if Commander is no better in a couple of weeks, this may all be academic anyway.

I'll update this post after I see Commander today.


Update, Friday evening:

Yesterday I thought Commander looked slightly (sliiiiiightly) better but worried that I was fooling myself. Today I do think he is a bit (just a bit) improved. When he chooses to (when there’s something in it for him), he can take large forward strides. Just don’t ask him to turn to the right, at least not in anything other than a great shallow arc, certainly no tight turns, please. Arcing left is far more comfortable for him, and that’s how I bend him whenever possible.

I’ve had a lot of supportive and helpful conversations, messages, emails from friends, and I am deeply grateful. Lots of advice, too, of course; and I absorb it all and apply what seems to be helpful for this particular horse in this particular place. Trouble is, of course, if you ask ten people what to do about founder, you’ll get back a baker’s dozen different answers. Which makes sense, when you think about it, since the disease itself is still so poorly understood, emerges from a complex brew of factors, and responds (or not) to a confusing and sometimes contradictory slew of treatments.

One point that’s been made is the need to get the blood circulating in those hooves, to help the growth of new hoof wall and sole. I do have Commander on isoxsuprine, but exercise is the best blood pump for a horse’s feet. On the other hand, too much activity when the laminitis is hot risks damaging the already tenuous connections in there; in any case, asking a horse to move when every step is painful is just plain cruel. The mighty Morgan’s stall is huge, fortunately; deeply bedded in twice-daily-picked shavings; and he does putter around in it. Since he went onto stall rest I’ve restricted his exercise to walking across the barn aisle into a spare stall, parking him there for cleaning (and yes, he does putter around then too), and bringing him back.

Yesterday's big adventure outside the barn encouraged me to consider a cautious expansion of his exercise, ever mindful of the fact that the ground outside the barn is unforgivingly dry and hard. I decided last night, if he looked no worse for wear today, I'd at least continue the loop-de-loop outings.

Today I was unavoidably late for the midday visit, so Commander’s last dose of bute had been at least 17 hours before I arrived. How’d he look? As good as last night, which is to say, cruddy but not entirely dire. He spent most of the next hour in Counterpoint’s two-windowed stall, noshing on hay or looking out the windows, but twice I took him out of the barn for the same sort of loop as last evening; and I did the same with him at today’s evening visit. Every time, he stepped right out, eager for the adventure, and today chose to step down onto his right foot – with a bit of a wince upon landing but not nearly the flinch he’d have shown a few days ago. And it was his decision, too; I paused at the step and let him pick which foot to use.

Commander was happy, especially on the grassy bits adjoining the driveway; he about yanked my arm off diving for mouthfuls. I actually led him in a double loop a time or two, just to expand the exercise. Going back inside, he took big strides. Clearly he enjoyed it, and I think it loosened him up a bit.

I don’t want to overdo things and set him back, so I will watch him fiercely and enlarge his out time gingerly. He’s scheduled for a vet visit to have his feet checked and pads rewrapped on Monday; if the signs are “GO” we will measure him for the Soft-Ride boots, get him into them, and see if that improves him enough to start putting him out for careful increments of turnout. That, of course, presents its own set of difficulties: The run-in structure is concrete-floored with partial mat covering; the apron in front of it is concrete; and the area to the side of the apron is hardpacked dirt and stone dust, almost as hard as the concrete. The paddock off the run-in would be ideal, still firm ground but not as tough on his feet, but he will go to his knees to reach under the fence to get grass, and we can’t have that. Heck, I’m not sure he should even have the grazed-to-nubbins grass inside the paddock; that alone might be too much for his fragile system. Then, too, we’re also in bug-stomping season, when the boys tend to huddle together inside the run-in, not moving other than to swish tails, stomp feet, and groom each other.

So it may come down to hand-walking. Lots and lots of hand-walking. Oh, well, maybe I’ll shed a few pounds.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Downward Spiral

Sunday, August 12:

When I got to the barn at midday, Commander was lying down. He’s NEVER lying down at midday in his stall; he’s always up to greet me and get a handful of treats. When he did get up he looked awful, gimping stiff-legged and favoring his right front. Still, he wanted his palmful of grain (plus Previcox), and when I left his door partway open while taking down his water buckets, he tried to sneak out behind my back. He was able to walk slowly across the aisle so I could park him in the opposite stall while I cleaned his, and he did eat there, and move about some to look out the windows. I have seen him worse, but not by much.

On the vet’s recommendation I gave him 2 grams of bute in his midday mash, went home to grab lunch and my CDs of Commander’s previous radiology studies, then returned to the barn for x-rays. Alas, they confirmed my fears: he’s had more rotation in both feet. The coffin bone in the 2011 films was in alignment or nearly so with the bones above in both feet; in today’s x-rays both feet show further downward tipping, out of alignment. The vet said it could have been one episode of rotation or a gradual process, there’s no way to tell, and we are where we are regardless.

Now what? Commander still has a thin amount of sole between coffin bone and doom; the vet said he was actually looking better clinically than his films would suggest; he’s still got spirit and appetite. I’ll consult with his regular vet this coming week to see what possible shoeing changes might help; in the short term we’ll probably pull his shoes and wrap in place the hockey-puck-like dense foam pads that gave him a lot of relief in his first (with me) founder episode; keep him on stall rest and bute; and see where we go from here.

I wish it were better news.

Here, by the way, are the x-rays; first from May of last year:

Photobucket Photobucket

And the new ones:

Photobucket Photobucket

Wednesday, August 15:

Commander looked very good when I saw him Monday evening, a couple of hours after the vet had changed him from shoes to the wrap-on pads: moving well, eager to move, and looking for treats.

Alas, he wasn’t as good on Tuesday as he was the night before. Presumably the Banamine or whatever she gave him when she put him into the foam pads had worn off by 10:30ish when I got there. He wasn’t as bad as before he got his hockey pucks, but he’d regressed somewhat in comfort. Still his attitudinal self, still with a greedy appetite, still eager to look out the windows of Counterpoint’s stall when I moved him in there for mucking his swamp, but you could tell that moving was uncomfortable.

As I’d discussed with his vet, I gave him one bute at lunch (around 11:30), to see how that would carry him till evening. At 7:30 p.m. he was about the same comfortwise, appetitewise, and attitudewise. He got two grams of bute in his evening mash and I left him greedily guzzling it down.

I plan to give him two grams for lunch as well as supper today, Wednesday, and we’ll see how he does with that.

Ben, meanwhile, got to go out while I was mucking and had a good half hour at least at midday, which he spent hanging out in the run-in chatting with the white boys. Commander handled the separation without too much distress. Ben went out again at 7:30. He spent about five minutes romping in the square paddock, then came back to the gate and started screaming to come in – mosquitoes, skeeters, flying ravening MONSTERS were attacking him. He really, really hates bugs, in fact at both midday and evening he didn’t want to leave the barn to begin with. So I don’t feel quite so bad about him being shut inside. Long term, of course, it’s a problem.

I’m looking into the pads/boots combination the vet mentioned to me. Online proponents of the system say it works wonders, but then, they would, wouldn’t they? Might be just what Commander needs; might be throwing my money away for nothing. I’m cautious because so far the boot-and-pad proponents I’ve found are also barefoot trim advocates, and there are some real fruitloops in that world. My vet’s not a fruitloop, though; she’s not likely to steer me towards some woowoo fad.

Here’s one true believer, for what it’s worth:

So, we’ll see how Commander does, whether there’s anything else we can figure out to bring him back. But if he can’t become securely comfortable, I will not make him go on and on till he’s outright miserable. Better to let him out of this life while he’s still taking some joy in it, rather than wait till the spark leaves his eyes entirely.

And now, it’s time to go to the barn for the midday pillow-plumping and maw-stuffing. Let us hope it reveals an uptick in Commander’s wellbeing. Update when I return, or when I can bear to talk about it, depending.

Update, Wednesday evening:

No better. No worse. Leaving me to continue wrestling with the Decision.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Not-so-good news on Commander

Well, so much for getting my hopes up.

Commander looked good for maybe five days after his shoeing. Then he began to look ever so slightly not quite as good. Nothing dramatic, just a creeping stiffness of movement in front over the next few days.

Yesterday he was definitely stiffer and not all that eager to go out for the usual overnight turnout, though he was happy enough to spend his usual ten minutes or so on the grazed-to-nubbins paddock before being closed into the dry lot. Still chipper, though, and with his usual greedy appetite.

Today at midday he was worse – straight-legged moving in front when he had to turn, didn’t want to step outside the barn onto the graveled drive, with an occasional stumble on his right front. Still standing square, not in classic founder position, still no heat I could find in either foot, no bounding pulse, still bright-eyed and looking for food, but not wanting to move more than he had to.

I added a gram of bute to his midday dose of Previcox, bedded his stall thickly, and left, fingers crossed. Came back for evening chores, with no intention to put the boys out overnight even if Commander looked much improved; better to give those feet a few days and nights’ rest from standing on the hard outdoor surfaces, stomping at flies and mosquitoes on hardpacked dirt or matted concrete.

He looked worse when I arrived. Still no heat or elevated pulse, still standing square, not sweating or shaking, as I’ve seen him in the worst episodes of laminitis, but when I opened his stall door he didn’t even turn to come to me at first, just kept staring out his window – and this is a horse who, when he’s feeling great, will plow impatiently over you to get out of his stall for turnout.

I called and talked to the vet on duty, discussed what’s been going on and what I was seeing, and on her advice gave him another gram of bute. He tore into the beet-pulp mash laced with it, so his appetite is still keen; I’ll take that as a good sign. If he’s not looking a lot better tomorrow we’ll probably do x-rays to see what’s going on in there. In any case, he (and buddy Ben, poor boy) will be spending the next few days on strict stall rest.

I wish I had better news to report. It’s true, Commander has looked this bad before and bounced back, but this rollercoaster is heartbreaking. Still, as long as he’s bright-eyed and enjoying life, I’ll keep trying to keep him comfortable and happy.

Oh, and while he was parked over in Cholla’s vacant stall this evening, waiting for me to muck, re-hay, and re-water-bucket his own, he took the opportunity to scratch his butt on Cholla’s corner feed tub, a maneuver he loves to engage in whenever he gets the chance. If that’s high up on his priorities even now, that’s got to be a good sign, surely?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Good News on Commander

Commander’s been looking ouchy over the last week or so, increasingly uncomfortable in front, especially on the right, actually taking occasional stumbling steps on that hoof on the gravel drive. I was worried: Had he rotated or dropped more?

Yesterday Ken came to shoe the boys. Having told him what was up, I watched him do Commander. For both front feet, the mighty Morgan was completely unflinching (heck, half-mast-eyed, he was so relaxed) as Ken nipped and trimmed, no matter how much pressure was put on the foot. Commander stood comfortably square on bare feet waiting for the shoes to be put back on; in fact, at one point he even shifted his weight to his right front to dabble-paw with his left. Yup, he put his weight over onto the bad bare foot!

Ken said his feet looked good and he saw no signs of trouble brewing. He theorized that as the foot grew out between shoeings the buildup of the sole against the unyielding shoe and pad gradually put pressure on the foot – like us humans wearing shoes that fit fine when we put them on in the morning, but by day’s end, with swollen feet, we can’t wait to get them off. He said the founder shoeing requires a balancing act between giving the foot enough support and confining it too much.

Commander went back into his stall moving way better than he came out, pivoting on his forehand easily. He led out to turnout that evening moving freely, too. I’m eager to see how he looks when I go over there for the midday feeding.

The plan: Monitor how he does, see if there’s a pattern to his good and bad times, if it ties to his shoeing schedule. If so, we’ll cut him back to every five weeks instead of every six and see if that takes care of it.

This is so encouraging! If this is what’s going on, it means that Faith, the neighbor girl who sometimes comes to ride him, will be able to get on him again, once the greenheads are gone – heck, even I may be able to ride him again! And I’d thought that was never to be. Hurrah!