Last Friday I walked in to the barn to find something that no horse owner ever wants, a lame horse. Gen was head bobbing lame, barely able to put any weight on his left front leg, his bad leg. I was near tears when I looked down and saw his tendon swollen up, convinced that he bowed his tendon again. I called my vet, who could hear the strain in my voice, and agreed to hang around the barn until he had finished up with his other appointments for the day.
Gen has been retired for a decade and I am really grateful to have had so much extra time with him. I was upset about him having potentially injured himself again, but in the few hours it took for the vet to get there I had already decided that if it was a bowed tendon I at least owed Gen the chance for him to try and heal himself. I had vowed that no matter what the news was from the vet, I would give Gen a month to get better as long as he stayed at the same level of lameness and did not get worse. Adding extra stress to all this is the fact that it is nearly time for my trip to Alaska, so I would potentially be leaving Gen for a week during his time of need. My husband could clearly sense the stress in my texts and decided to come to the barn after work to check on “his son” in person. I am just never okay when Gen isn’t okay, something that everyone who knows me can tell you!
As soon as the vet got there and saw me walk Gen out, he went back to his car and brought back a ton of hoof equipment. I pointed to the leg, wanting to know where the ultra sound machine was, convinced it was the worst case scenario, when my vet quietly bent down, touched Gen’s foot and I watched Gen nearly sit down he was in so much pain. For the first time all day I felt like I could breath again! My hubby was laughing at my panicky self for overreacting, and I was laughing with him! It was a hoof issue! After some poking and prodding (where Gen actually reared up on his hind end enough that both my feet came off the ground) it was clear the pain was in the heel, but other then the fact that his heel was soft we didn’t have a ton to go on. My vet cut off Gen’s hoofwear (a cool almost cast like thing he gets to help save his toes when he incessantly stomps at bugs) and started treating his foot like it was an infection. Already Gen was walking a little better so the advice was to treat it like he had a foot infection and turn him out for a few hours in the hopes of getting the swelling down in his leg.
Gen enjoying a roll Saturday night, listen to those groans of joy!
I was happy over night, slept like a baby, but that all came crashing down when I got to the barn on Saturday morning, Gen was now lame on both fronts. The vet came out again, looked at his now tree trunk sized leg, and poked around again. He felt the same way about his leg as he had the day before, that it was not causing Gen pain, but that his feet were hurting. He told me to treat both front feet now for a possible infection. I got to work soaking, drying, medicating, etc and did that twice on Saturday, staying all morning and coming back before bed. Gen had gotten an injection of pain meds and seemed to be feeling better so I was feeling better about things and watched him at night peacefully grazing after I turned him out. Yes, he was hurting, but maybe moving around a little would make him stock up less and help him feel better.
When I got there bright and early on Sunday morning, Gen was dead lame again, leg still the size of a tree trunk, and he was barely moving in his field, pointing his bad foot as he refused to put weight on it. I did cry at that moment, convinced that it had been his leg all along and that I had done terrible damage by not treating the tendon injury from the get go, I know my horse better then the vet. I snapped a picture of how terrible his leg looked and texted it to the vet, along with letting him know that my horse was barely putting weight on his leg and was head bobbing badly when I walked him. My vet is a very patient guy and instead of grumping at me for bothering him, he told me to go ahead and treat the tendon as though it were injured, but not to stop treating the feet at this point either. We figured we would give him another day of clearing up his hoof infection in the hopes that would help before he came back out.
I spent the morning soaking and treating each hoof in addition to carefully cold hosing, wrapping and taking care of his bad leg. Gen was officially put on stall rest, and I could tell right away he was feeling pretty crappy because normally he makes a fuss being put in pony jail, but Sunday he was almost enjoying to be stuck inside. When I got there Monday morning and he was just as bad as the day before, I knew I needed the vet out again. I had to work so I was at the barn by 5:45 am, and waited to call until 8:00 when I got to work. He said he would be there in a few hours and I spent the day worrying.
When I got the call from the vet in the afternoon I was shaking, afraid of the news, especially when he said that he decided to ultrasound Gen after the nerve block left him with more questions then answers. When he told me Gen’s tendon looked like swiss cheese, I let out a huge breath I didn’t even realize I was holding. While a tendon filled with holes might not sound like a good thing, that is perfectly normal for my Gen! The vet laughed at my relief and admitted he had been a little nervous himself, but had been thrilled with what he saw, which is as healthy a leg as Gen can have.
So while it is great news that he didn’t suffer another tendon injury, it still means that Gen is my special boy. If it was a hoof issue, the nerve block should have stopped his limping. If it was a tendon issue, there should be a noticeable area where it was pulled, or even a hole where Gen’s body made the tendon disappear in an ultrasound. As of today, Gen is letting me touch his heel and all over his hoof without protesting, but he is still very, very lame and reluctant to put weight on his left front. He is slightly better this morning, walking further for a good patch of grass today compared to yesterday where he barely made it out of the barn.
Gen as of Monday evening and his level of lameness.
Since we aren’t sure what it is, I am going to keep treating for the hoof, keeping his heel dry and infection free, and keep treating the tendon, taking off the cool cast he got on yesterday and doing the standard cold hose, poultice and wrapping routine. He will be on stall rest with 2 times a day hand grazing for either 20 min, or for as long as he can be quiet for, whichever one is longer and he is getting bute now as well. This could be one of those things that we will just never really know what happened.
As long as he gets better I am happy. I love my Gen so much, he is me if I were a horse! I will keep you all posted on his progress, hopefully with less wordy posts then this one!
I know this is just me being crazy, so if you are still reading this post I have to tell you something that makes me sound like a but job. The day before Gen got hurt I told him that I was leaving soon for a cruise and that I needed him to be a good boy because I was going to be away for a whole week and he wasn’t going to have a “nanny” to come and give him extra love, he was going to have to be a big boy. I swear he speaks English and was like, “I am no peasant horse who just gets normal board care, I refuse this arrangement and will now do something to garner daily attention so I can be dotted on when you are away”. My Mexican General really is one of a kind! I am just hoping his spoiled self is all healed up soon so I can worry a little bit less about my pony!