Sunday, March 14, 2010

Patience is a virtue, and Murphy was a horseman...

Ok, at this point in the story you are aware that I leased a lovely mare, Sugar, for a year. Well, about 3 weeks into the lease i was pretty sure I was going to buy her ( C'mon, anyone could see that coming a mile away, big sucker/sap that I am.) I did have moments of sanity -- this was a huge financial commitment, as well as a huge commitment of time. She was 12 when I started leasing her, and although she had low mileage, neither of us was getting any younger. However, as she was sound as a drum the entire time I leased her, very low maintenance, and bombproof with my kids (and besides, let's face it, I was head over heels in love with her) I forked over the cash and made it official.

Those of you that know horses are laughing right now. Go ahead, you've earned it. As soon as the ink had dried on the check my big girl went lame. One misdiagnosis, a second opinion, an MRI (GULP!!!) and a couple of months later, and we were rehabbing a mild case of osteoarthritis. I'm not going into detail about the numerous farrier visits, vet visits, etc. Suffice to say it was months of handwalking, followed by a very conservative schedule of under-saddle rehab. 6 months after the initial onset of lameness, and we were cleared for business as usual.

Big sigh of relief, right? Nope. One week after being cleared for takeoff my big girl decided, for the first time in her life, to self motivate and went tear-assing around her field, cavorting and gyrating wildly, according to eyewitness accounts. One day later she was 3 legged lame. Another visit from my vet, another (GULP) MRI, and we have a bouncing baby bone bruise on her short pastern, which aggravated the bejeezus out of her osteoarthritis. Prognosis: Another several months of vacation, no turnout, and handwalking only.

Let's just say that during this time of extended vacation, my horse and I spent a lot of quality time together. Now, I am the type of person that gets as much or more enjoyment from grooming, and generally hanging out with my horse, as I do riding her. I can grab one of the gazillion horse books I own and park in her stall to read, happily letting her booger in my hair or just listening to her chow down on her hay.

However, quality time, rehab time, and a mountain of vet bills that would choke a billy goat occassionally get to one, and there were certainly times they got to me. Many thanks to my husband, barn friends, girlsfriends, COTH forum posters, vet, and the strangers on the street who listened to me wail and gnash my teeth and cry "Will she ever be sound again?? Have I just blown this money on a very large pasture pet?"

Probably the best thing I did during this time other than the IRAP therapy, was listen to the advice of my vet and send my mare off to camp, aka High Brass Farm rehab, in Pittstown NJ ( , where my aquaphobic mare (took us a year to get her in the river and we leapt over every puddle) learned to walk on a treamill that was filled with water.

My mare was happy there from the moment she walked off the trailer. Mostly because the food was good and continually on offer. Mike, co-owner with his wife Liz, is in constant possession of back pockets crammed with whole carrots, and all other pockets are crammed with carrot slices. His hands are always sidling into his pockets and coming out with goodies, and the horses look at him like he's God and Santa Claus rolled into one. By day two Sug would have done anything for Mike; swept his barn, done his taxes, even walked on that scary contraption of his.

After a month and a half of aquatherapy ( Walk Sugar, Walk Sugar, Good girl!) my vet came out to reassess her soundness, and as my big girl hightailed it around in half a foot of snow -- don't ask - pronounced Sug sound and moving the best she'd ever seen her go!

So, we're now back to walking her under saddle, but Dr. Gold has indicated that she'll be back to full work sooner due to the strength she's built up on the aquasizer. Have I learned about patience? Yes, but I'm still no saint in this department. Have I developed an even stronger relationship with my mare? Sure, although I'd say we were pretty close to start with.

I would like to recognize some of the cast of characters that helped put my Humpty Dumpty back together:

Dr. Sarah Gold, DVM (and, no doubt, card carrying shrink as well) from BW Furlong and Associates

Mike and Liz Merbler, Adon, Laurie, and Bob from High Brass Farm Equine Rehab

I'm going to try to post a video of Sug on the treadmill to this blog, here's hoping it'll happen, as I am a bit of a Luddite, technologically speaking!

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