Thursday, December 18, 2008

We wish you a Merry Christmas - and Snoopy does, too!

I just wanted to write a quick note to let everyone know that Snoopy has been progressing well. Tina and Dr. Murphy have decided that perhaps Dr. Fischer is a rather secondary character in Snoopy's rehabilitation and shouldn't be constantly queried unless Snoop has an astounding setback. Something we'd all rather not have happen. Dr. Murphy believes, since the x-rays continue to look good, that Snoopy's left hind leg and hip muscles are simply atrophied from the months of non-use, and we must re-build them slowly.

Tina and Niki are trying a new exercise regime for him (with Dr. Murphy's blessing). They "pony" him with the golf cart. Every day, they put a flake of hay in the back and Tina sits, holding the lead rope, while Niki drives around the large arena. Snoopy follows behind, eating. They speed up slightly for brief moments of trotting, then walk. They had built up to 20 minutes a day before the rains hit.

If you don't live in southern California, that last statement means nothing to you, but we have had two days of continual rain, and by "continual" I mean I didn't know the sky could contain that much water. The arenas are now, of course, completely soggy and unable to be traversed by man or beast. The rain is now gone for awhile, but if we don't get sunny skies and either warm temperatures or brisk winds, the ground will not dry very soon. This puts a crimp into the Snoopy rehab schedule.

Once it dries out, I'll take some pictures and post them. In the meantime, check out our Christmas picture for the latest look at Snoopy. Believe it or not, he was the best behaved animal in the shot!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Six months, a year... it's all the same to the vet

So much has happened in two months, and yet so little...

After Snoopy's bout of colic, he went back to exercise, and promptly started limping. The doctor was again called out, more x-rays were taken and we all held our breaths. Dr. Pollard said the plate and screws looked good, but we'd have to wait for Dr. Fischer to make the final call.

(Insert sound of crickets chirping.)

Dr. Fischer is, I'm sure, a wonderful surgeon. Unfortunately, he has the manners of a monkey. He's spoken to me exactly once, when he referred to Snoopy as "it". Not a warm, fuzzy feeling. Mostly, our communication is via Bridget (Dr. Murphy), who chases him down, x-rays in hand, and hounds him until he looks at the pictures and gives her a diagnosis. Bridget found out that Dr. Fischer wanted Snoopy to walk, on flat surfaces only, for 45 days. Then more x-rays.


In the meantime, Tina thought it would be a good idea to wear Snoopy down a little before trying to put him on the hot walker by tying him out to our Patience Tree. It's a large tree by the roundpen, where we tie the horses to teach them to stand still. Snoopy had other plans. He found the only large bolt sticking out of the roundpen and rubbed his neck. By rubbed, I mean he scraped himself up and down until he wore a big gash in his neck. Tina tried to butterfly it together, but it needed stitches, so the doctor was called again. This time, Dr. Wasserman came out - she's the one who inseminated Frostie. I call her the Fertility Goddess, which she really gets a kick out of. Four or five stitches and another vet bill later, and Snoopy was still walking on the hot walker, although we had given up on the Patience Tree. I must point out that no other horse before or since has managed to find that bolt and injure themselves. Only Snoopy could do that!

Snoopy managed to walk on the walker pretty quietly, until one Wednesday, when he decided enough was enough. I was just about to give a lesson, when I saw him rip himself off the hot walker. Fortunately, my student hadn't mounted the horse yet, so we waited while Niki caught my big, black baby. First, he galloped straight up the hill toward the paddocks. The workers, Umberto and Raoul, tried to corner him, but he escaped and started to run down the hill. Then, he saw Niki coming up the hill with a lead rope in her hand. He stopped so hard, he sat down and slid, like a reiner. All I could do was watch and think, "Not the foot! Not the foot!"

Amazingly, he was no worse for wear. We decided not to try the hot walker anymore, so now Snoopy goes to the top of the hill everyday and wanders around in the large pipe stall. He likes it, so he walks up and back pretty quietly.

When Dr. Fisher looked at his x-rays, he told Bridget that he's known horses to take a year to come back from this kind of injury. Back in April, he told us it would be a six month recovery. I guess he can't tell time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

If it ain't one thing, it's another

Via the miracle of Ace and lip chains, Snoopy has been hand-walked every day since the end of August. Dr. Pollard came out the first week of October and took more x-rays. He was very happy with the pictures - the plate was still straight, the screws still unbroken.

The following Tuesday, Snoopy had his first workout on the longe line. Tina didn't tell me she was going to do this, which was just as well. I wouldn't have been able to breathe for an hour, whether I was there to witness it or not. She called and told me what had happened after the fact.

First, Tina gave him a big fat dose of Ace (5 times the normal dose), then put him on the line in the bullpen. He acted like a typical 4-year old who's been standing in a stall for five months - trying to buck and kick and run. Which is not what she wanted him to do, so she decided to make him too interested in his surroundings to try to act like a crazy horse. She took him to the trail course and had him (still on the line) walking, then jogging, then loping over poles. By the end of it all, he was loping the wheel, both directions, until he had worked up a sweat. He loves the poles, and seemed to enjoy going over them, head down, looking for the next one.

Today, Tina repeated the exercise, except without the Ace. Snoopy was so good, she thought that she might try riding him tomorrow...

Then the other shoe dropped, so to speak.

When I went in to the ranch, I made up Snoopy's bag of A&M and garlic and walked to his stall. He was lying down, but got up and nosed around his goodies. I got my lesson gear ready, then went back to see him. He was lying down again. I expressed my concerns to Tina, who felt like being optimistic.

"No, he's okay. See, he's coming over to the stall door."

"But he's not trying to eat you." This has become the barometer for how Snoopy is feeling. If he's trying to eat you, he's healthy.

After the third time he laid down, Tina admitted he was trying to colic. She called Brigid Murphy, who scampered right out to stick tubing down Snoop's nose and pump him full of oil. He rebounded almost immediately, and was back to trying to nibble on everyone within reach.

Forget the fruit basket - I owe that woman a kidney.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Baby's first steps

For almost a week, I tried to get hold of Snoopy's surgeon, Dr. Fischer, to find out what he thought of Snoopy's x-rays, and what we should do next. Finally, darling Dr. Bridget Murphy came to my rescue. She printed out the x-rays, took them to the Chino Valley Equine Hospital, chased Dr. Fischer down and shoved the pix into his hands, then stood and waited for him to review them and give his recommendation.

I owe that woman a fruit basket. A chocolate-dipped fruit basket.

On a very humid, drippy, hotter than hell afternoon, Snoopy took his first hand-walk around the ranch grounds. That's Niki, one of my trainers, doing the honors. We made certain that there wasn't anything to distract him, like other horses, the tractor or its accessories, odd things lying in odd places, etc. The surgeon said we could walk him for 15 minutes, but Niki planned to just walk him a few times around the interior of the ranch. Nothing near the road, where trucks and other horses could startle him. Nothing near the neighbors, where the dogs or goats might make him jump. If we could have lined the path with mattresses, we would have.

I had joked with the staff at my dog's vet that Niki and I might look like the balloon walkers at the Macy's Parade, with Snoopy floating in the air like a helium version of himself. In actuality, he stayed quite grounded. For standing in his stall four months, he was a very good boy. There was no bucking, no rearing, no prancing, no dancing. Of course, some of you might notice that he was wearing a lip chain, but he was still good.

We gave him a dose of Ace about a half hour before this, but it didn't seem to work. He was still trying to nibble on the chain, the line, the halter, me... Niki wants to up the dose slightly tomorrow. She'd like to get him to a place where he's tranquil enough to be walked without needing the lip chain.

So the directions from Dr. Fischer were to walk him 15 minutes every day for 30 days, then take more x-rays. Aye-aye, Dr. Fischer.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Aren't I lucky?

Snoopy has now been standing in his stall for another 30 days (90 days total), trying to be good, but bored silly. I put a toy in his stall to try to amuse him, but mostly he wants company. He loves it when I go in and brush him, or take a wet cloth and a bucket and give him a sponge bath.

We do get him out of his stall to change his wrap, and he is using the leg very well now, putting his full weight on it and using his heel when he walks.

Last Friday, Dr. Pollard came and took x-rays of the leg. As he showed me how straight the plate is, that the screw heads are still flush against it and the screws are all unbroken, I realized what could have happened while we were waiting for things to heal.

I'm anxious to get Snoopy out of his stall for some hand walking, but the surgeon, Dr. Fischer, has to review the x-rays before he gives his okay, and he's on vacation FOR A MONTH. Yes, we should all be so lucky - must have been that surgery I paid for...

Dr. Murphy (aka my friend, Bridget) said that it's best for Snoop to stay in his stall and ensure the fracture is fully repaired before trying to walk him around. Which is fine, since Niki (the trainer) is not looking forward to trying to hand walk him. We think we'll need Ace, a stud chain, and two people, one on each side of him. It'll be Tina and Niki, since I'll be holding the video camera... ;-)

I'll try to post some pictures.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Did you miss me?

Did you even know I was gone?

My family and I took a cruise to Alaska. The picture above is the view from our balcony. It was a perfect cruise - great views, 24-hour grazing, and a bartender who always knew just what I needed.

While we were away, Snoopy got his cast off. Now he's wearing a thick leg wrap, but he's still confined to his stall for another month, after which we can start hand-walking him (hopefully). I'm hoping he's not spinning like a June bug on a string when we finally take him out for some exercise.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Now then, where were we?

Snoopy's home (again)! His leg is ever-so-much better. The cast sore is large, but nice and dry. If all goes well, he'll spend 2-3 weeks hanging out in his stall before he goes back to the hospital to get his cast either changed or taken off completely.

Right now, he's very bored. I put a toy in his stall, but he's not interested. He wants interaction, human and horse. My friend, Kip, gave me a funny visual of Snoopy - greeting the guys who clean his stall by throwing his front legs around their necks and hugging them, grateful tears in his eyes. Very funny!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

One step forward, twelve steps back

Snoopy's back in the hospital. *sigh*

We think that his run-in with the stall door aggravated a cast sore on his leg, causing it to seep. Since infection is to be avoided at all costs, Tina took him back to the hospital yesterday, where they cut a "window" in his cast to examine and treat the sore. Dr. Fisher wants to keep him a couple of days to make certain his cast will still keep his leg immobilized with a hole in it. If it does, he'll be sent back home, where hopefully he won't do some other boneheaded thing to put him back in the hospital. If the cast doesn't stay together...

Okay, I don't know what happens then. I'll try to hunt down the doctor today and get more answers.

The good news is that everybody at the hospital just loves Snoopy, even if he is, in their words, "a little mouthy." A little?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

He's home!

Snoopy finally came home yesterday, with a list of instructions on how to tell if there's something wrong with his cast. Dr. Hinton (I think that's her name - she has a German accent and it seems like everytime I say "Hinson" she says "Hinton" and everytime I say "Hinton" she says "Hinson") explained it all in great detail to Tina and me. It was quite a show, like the clash of the Titans; Tina trying to tell the doctor that she's got, like animal EMT training, and Dr. Hinton trying to tell Tina that she's obligated to explain everything, even if they're a freakin' doctor, and me standing in the middle of it all.

And now comes the part where we keep Snoopy in a stall for 6 weeks and keep him from being bored and feeling so good that he jumps around and re-injures the leg. I hung a toy (Jolly Ball-Apple Snack combo) from a chain and we're doing a little free-feeding of oat hay. He'll get a few alfalfa cubes, but not much. He needs the protein to help his bones knit together, but too much alfalfa will make him too fat and energetic.

I see Ace in our future.
With horses, it's always something.

See the photo from this morning's post? Pay attention to the bottom of the picture, in particular, the gap between the gate and the stall floor.

This afternoon, I walked past Snoopy as he lay, sleeping, in the soft hay. He woke up, stretched so that his cast was sticking out of the gap, then rose, jamming his injured foot in the opening. I immediately tried to get the chain unclipped to open the gate and free his foot. It was stuck.

Thus began a frenzied attempt on my part to free Snoopy, while he calmly pulled his leg to get it out of the trap. He finally bent the door and walked away.

Three-legged. Very three-legged. Oh-My-God-My-Horse-Is-Even-More-Broken three-legged.

Tina (my trainer) was out running errands. I called her, but she didn't answer. She never answers her phone. I'm considering having her cell phone physically installed somewhere on her body, and I don't think she'll like where she has to dial from.

I called Niki (my other trainer), who usually answers her phone. Not today. I called the hospital and got Dr. Brauer's voice mail. I left messages all over. Finally, I called Brigid Murphy, the vet who first looked at Snoop's leg. By this time, I was in tears, as I hate that feeling of abandonment.

Brigid came to my rescue. She drove over, looked Snoopy up and down, and suggested that we just watch him. After that, she went to the hospital and hunted down two surgeons, who agreed with her assessment.

In the meantime, Niki called back and told me to tell the guys at the ranch to take that f*&@!ing door off, Tina came home to tell me that she'll be watching Snoopy tonight, and I stopped wanting to weep uncontrollably.

Tonight, I'm having a Margarita. A big one.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Waiting, waiting, waiting...

Yesterday, Dr. Fisher said that Snoopy could come home today. Tina and I discussed his arrival, planned for putting straw in one of the stalls, etc.

Today, after chasing doctors by phone, Dr. Klohnen informed me that Snoopy was walking a little sore today, so they wanted to keep him an extra day or two to monitor him closely.

Okay, so I'm trying not to worry...

Monday, May 12, 2008

A brief update

It's been awhile since I posted, and people have been asking about Snoopy. He's doing really well, so well, in fact, that he's trying to eat anything and everyone who comes into his stall. And who can blame him for being bored? He's a four-year old who's been standing in a stall for a week. For those of you without horses, this is the equivalent of a 1000-lb teenager.

The latest update is that tomorrow Dr. Fisher will take Snoop's cast off, take some x-rays to see if everything's still holding up, then put another cast on. If the leg looks good, they'll send him home for about 10 days, then bring him back for another cast change.

The costs, of course, just keep coming. Tina just switched the stalls over from shavings to rice hulls (they're very cushy and the horses love them), but the vet would prefer Snoopy be bedded in straw, because he doesn't want small pieces of wood or rice down in the cast.

Not only would it increase the risk of infection, Snoopy can't get a coat hanger in there to scratch any itch!

BTW, we'll send out announcements for the cast signing party.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Speaking of horses and injuries -

Ironically, just as I'm so cautiously optimistic about Snoopy's progress, I read about the tragedy at the Derby on Saturday. Eight Belles broke both ankles and had to be euthanized. I'm not a vet by any means, but I think what she broke were her pasterns; in one article, the vet also mentioned her sesamoid bone, which is what Snoopy broke.

According to the research that Niki and I did about Snoopy's type of injury, broken pasterns and sesamoids were most common among thoroughbreds, and on their front legs. A lot of people have commented to Niki and Tina that they have had horses with these injuries, but the bone has been crushed, resulting in euthanasia.

In other words, we were lucky.

I have mixed feelings about horse racing. On the one hand, it's thrilling to watch. Having read all of the Black Stallion books as a child, I spent plenty of hours imagining myself on a speeding horse, flying around the track to victory.

On the other hand, it's just cruel. These horses are babies, for Pete's sake, they're only 3 years old. Yes, they're as big as tanks at 3, but their joints, their muscles, are all still growing. The pounding of slender hooves on the hard track takes its toll on all of them. Not to mention what some trainers will do to "get more speed" out of them. From diuretics to "make them lighter", to cattle prods to "urge them forward", don't ever think for a moment that trainers love their horses too much to hurt them.

"But they love to run," is the common response. Yes, race horses love to run. But we have bred them to love to run, the same way that we have bred certain dog breeds, like bulldogs, to love to bite things. Does that make it right?

I confess, when I was looking for a suitable stud for breeding Frostie, my mare, I studied bloodlines and temperment, so in a way, I meddled with Snoopy's birth as much as any race horse breeder. But, at the end of the day, have we really been fair to any of these animals by tampering with their family trees?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

He's ba-a-a-ack!

When I visited Snoopy yesterday, he was much perkier, altho not in a bad, stall-spinning way. He began trying to chew on me again, just like his old self. He's also getting used to the cast on his leg, half-swinging and half-dragging it to get around in his stall. There's a lovely view of the stable next door outside his window, and he seems to enjoy watching the jumping lessons.

I decided to bring a curry with me when I see him today to give me something to do, besides smack his nose and tell him to quit trying to eat me!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Day 3 of Snoopy's accident...

Day 1 of his recovery.

His surgery was very successful. I still haven't talked to the surgeon, but one of the vets who witnessed it said "everything came together" well.

I visited Snoop last night. He was alert, if wobbly from the anesthesia, and eating. He's got a big cast on his left hind leg - I'm hoping that, once he's feeling better, he doesn't try to eat the cast. He's such a land shark!

When he was in surgery yesterday, I tried to think about how the vet reassured me. It's an easy fix, a simple surgery, they do them all the time. But in the back of my head was the worry: anesthesia. Anesthesia is what screws things up.

Once I heard Snoop was in recovery, I suddenly discovered that my appetite had returned.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The beginning of a bad year

Yesterday was a bad, bad day.

I arrived at the ranch for my lesson, cranky as hell. My trainer, Tina, had called my cell phone to tell me that my lesson needed to be finished by 3 p.m. because she had a dog client coming in. This wouldn't have been a problem, except that I turned my cell phone on as I got into my car to go to the ranch - at 1:45. I didn't want to hurry, and I wanted to get a good lesson, since I was planning to show Snoopy for the first time ever this Saturday.

So I raced to the ranch, then ran around trying to get Snoopy ready and ridden before 3. I lunged him in the roundpen for 10 minutes, which wasn't enough, but I got on him anyway. It took less than once around the arena for him to throw a tantrum, so I got off and we went back to the roundpen for more running.

Niki (the other trainer) joined me, and together, we kept him racing around.

And then it happened. His back end started moving "funny." Niki thought he had just tweaked a muscle, so we slowed him to a trot, then a walk. But he didn't trot or walk it off. He just kept limping.

Dr. Bridget Murphy, a friend of Tina's, came out and looked him over. She thought he needed x-rays, but optimistically told me that it might be a weird abcess.

Yeah, right.

Chino Valley Equine Hospital is just down the street from the ranch, so Tina loaded Snoop in the trailer and took him for x-rays. I joined them a few minutes later, just in time to go into the examination room and look at the x-rays.

"See this line?" the good doctor asked, pointing to a white line across a bone. "He broke his pastern."

"What do you do for that?" I asked, hoping the answer wasn't, shoot him.

The doctor took out a model of a horse's foot and explained how they would open the leg up and fuse the joints with metal plates. He probably said a lot more, but my mind got stuck on "fuse the joints."

The upshot is that Snoopy is currently in surgery, he'll be on lay-up for 6 months, and I don't have to worry about whether I ride in the show on Saturday.