Saturday, November 1, 2014

Feeling the itch...

Sometimes I wonder if I'm just prolonging his pain.

He's not the same. I see it in the way he moves, in the slightest change of gait. His movement--once fluid and free--is stiff and forced.

There was a time when his spirit ran high, when I swore he moved like the wind; proud and with exuberance. He doesn't anymore. Not much anyway. Instead he prefers to stand and take it easy. And he gets winded easily. Quickly. Too quickly.

I know he's older now. Turned 19 last May. In human years that's about 65. Retirement age.

Thing is I'm not ready to retire him. I haven't reached that place yet. Even though he has.

Last month, Dr. Dave the vet advised me that Duke's trail riding days are over.  Time to close that door. For the past month I've struggled with those words. Duke loves trail rides and being kept to arena work will never set well with him. But there's the stumbling and therein lies the problem. He always stumbles, every time I ride him. At the walk, the trot and at the lope...dangerous combination.

So I took him in for an examination and x-rays. I needed answers... yet feared what I would come to know.  And so I prepared myself. That was a hard day emotionally.

A week before I had Mark the farrier pull his shoes. No point keeping those on since trail rides are out. It was then we noticed the stress rings on both front hooves, and the deformation of the coronet hair and hoof. Mark commented something was going on inside the hoof, but recommended waiting a week to allow Duke's sole to harden up before taking him to the clinic, lest the tenderness of his newly trimmed barefoot hooves throw or skew the lameness exams.

I waited a week. Wondering...

Duke & I before visiting Dr. Dave. October 2014
The day came and I cried all the way to the barn, steeling myself in preparation for the worse while hoping for the best. Was I taking him for his last trailer ride? No...not yet, I'm not ready and it's too soon.  Exams and x-rays for the next two hours and I had answers. He stumbles because his heels are sore, so rather than land on his heel (the natural way) he lands on his toe and this causes the stumbling. So he's in pain? Dr. Dave likened it to having a small pebble in my shoe. You feel it, but you get used to it. Duke, he explained, has adjusted.

Horses are that way. They adjust, come what may.  What is it Buck Brannaman's foster mom always says..."Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not get bent out of shape."

The x-rays calmed my worse fears, the internal hoof structure appeared sound. No rotation of the coffin bone and it hasn't moved since the last x-rays three years ago, and it's an improvement since the baseline x-rays 6 years ago. So, we are doing everything right in managing the laminitis. That was the good news.
Duke as we waited for the x-rays.

On the other hand, the bad news is the arthritis in both his fetlocks is worse than three years ago. So, between the heel pain and the arthritis, moving is painful.

How I wish he could tell me how much pain he feels. I search his face for cues, and search the internet for information on reading a horse to determine how much pain is present. I don't want him to be in prolonged pain. Miserable. Dave prescribed a dose of Bute (phenylbutazone, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID) every day for two weeks to help. It's a short term solution for a long term problem though. Other things I can do is keep his weight down, and put him on a joint supplement. Last spring I put Duke and AJ on Omega Field's Omega Horseshine (which contains healthy joint promoting omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9 fats), plus other beneficial natural ingredients.

Additionally I started him on a joint supplement, Next Level by Farnam. He's responding very well to the supplement. Moving so much better and freely. He still gets winded easily, and always coughs when he starts trotting or cantering. We take it easy, with the knowledge that doing nothing will never suit him.


7/2/2015 Duke and I have ventured into the world of equestrian drill, and we both love it. We practice locally once a week. And participated in two parades. His movement is more fluid, he loves the parades, and drill suits us both. We are thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

Our first parade. May 2015.