It is kind of a long video with cheesy music, but you get the drift. At first I was terrified that it was something neurological. He wouldn’t walk straight and seemed a bit drunk. It wasn’t until I got him in his stall and ran my hands all over him that I found this:
Super, duper, giant fat stifle.
I texted the video to my vet and my trainer and both agreed (independently) that Sterling had most likely gotten kicked HARD in his stifle. Trainer recommended DMSO on it and vet recommended DMSO plus hydrotherapy twice a day as well as stall rest. Blargh. I was relieved to at least find an injury rather than something disease related.
Thankfully we have a well, otherwise this would be one expensive water bill!
Well, after a couple weeks of DMSO, hydrotherapy and stall rest the swelling just wasn’t going down so the vet came by this week to look at it and devise a plan. After looking it over he offered two options. Option 1 we could either put him back in work (he isn’t visibly lame anymore) and see if it goes down, but the risk there is that the swelling actually gets worse and results in permanent fluid build up on his stifle. Not very desirable. Option 2 was to lance the swelling and drain it. Gross, but probably better to get rid of the fluid. We went with Option 2. Sadly I don’t have any media from the lancing and draining, but suffice it to say it was gross. A mix of pale yellow liquid and blood. I hope you aren’t eating when you read this! Sterling was sedated and the area was numbed for the procedure so it went easily. Of course this is when Vet advised that I’m going to have to continue hydrotherapy AND try to squeeze fluid out of the newly cut hole for as long as the hole remains open. Sweet, and I don’t get the advantage of sedative and numbing.
More hydrotherapy after the stifle was lanced and drained. I bet half a gallon of liquid came out. Ew.
Vet advised that we may need to lance and drain it again after a few days. We are on Day 3 of hydrotherapy followed by squeezing the area to get fluid out. I enlist Boot City to help when he’s around since he has much stronger hands and Sterling can be a handful for stuff like this. I can’t imagine it feels good to have someone trying to squeeze a bunch of fluid out of a hole in your leg that is trying to heal. There seems to be a new spot with a smaller buildup up fluid, but overall the swelling has gone down. Sterling is mostly just angry that he’s on stall rest again and cries for his friends when they get turned out. Hopefully this works and we will be back to riding by early July.
Last Sunday was an eventful day for me, one with a LOT of happiness. I rode Coco for the first time and she was a dream! I also rode Sterling that morning, after a failed attempt at a trail ride the day before, and I rode Jaguar that evening. Since Sterling was now 100% a failed trail rider I would need to get Jaguar legged up for the remaining trail rides with my hunt friends for the summer. Riding an old horse cold turkey on long trail rides is not nice. They need many more rides to be fit enough to work on an ongoing basis. When I rode Jaguar something was off. He wasn’t lame, but there was a hitch in his gitalong that didn’t feel right. We only walked and trotted and I took him over a few low cavallettis, but I could feel something weird with his hind end movement. The right side had a bigger jerk to the movement and the left side was much softer. Had I been a betting person I would have guessed he was off on his right leg.
Fast forward to Tuesday. Sterling needed a shot so I thought I would have my vet look over Jaguar while he was there. I made an appointment for Tuesday afternoon when I was returning from a work trip. My thought was that Jaguar was going to start needing some kind of joint injections, a pain management regimen for arthritis, or something similar to one of those options. He’s no spring chicken being 23 years young. He definitely is showing his age more than he had a year or two ago, but he had a fantastic hunt season and I love riding him on trail rides because he’ll do most anything I ask of him. My vet called early in the afternoon that he was already near my house so I told him to just go ahead and stop over even though I wouldn’t be home. He’d call me when he was finishing up.
This phone call has affected me far more than I would have dreamed it would. There isn’t really a name for what is wrong with Jaguar’s left hind leg, but there is something decidedly wrong with it. My vet thought for sure I would be able to tell him of a very specific event in which Jaguar had injured his left hind gaskin a few years ago and it was just now showing the full symptoms of what age and injuries combined will do to an animal’s mobility. The thing is, Jaguar has never ever been lame. Ever. Never had a hoof abcess. Never a pulled shoe that caused an issue. And never an acute injury requiring him to come out of work at all. Until now. My vet has diagnosed Jaguar with an injury to his left hind gaskin where it meets his hamstring and his stifle that will most likely not respond to any type of treatment and will require him to be in full retirement. No more riding Jaguar.
Jaguar and I at the Summer Slide in Denver in July of 1998. Just before we showed at the AQHYA World Championships in Reining
We are going to try a bute regimen for a few days to see if that might cut the pain a little bit. It will be promising if it does, but my vet sounded pretty skeptical of it working. The reality of it is that I will probably never be able to ride Jaguar again. He will now get his 100% deserved retirement.
Showing in reining at the MetraPark in Billings, Montana sometime between 1996 and 1998
I always thought that I’d know when I had my last ride on Jaguar. There would be some episode. Some illness. Some tangible reason when I would know that this was it. Not some vague nondescript injury that really isn’t that bad, but bad enough that it can’t be fixed and he can’t be ridden. I’m grateful that he’s otherwise healthy and I still have him, but I’m absolutely heartbroken that our partnership under saddle is done. No more fox hunts. No more trail rides. No more torturing him while I post without irons. As much of a mess as I am about this news I can’t even imagine how bad I’ll be when he dies. Until then, I’m going to enjoy every second we have together. He’s going to embark on his retirement with a weight loss program and focus on being the best damn pasture ornament there ever was.
Riding at a family reunion with my youngest cousin (who is in college now, this photo makes me feel really old).