Late on Thursday afternoon, Dr. Groover and the Neurology team referred the case to the Surgical Department. The biggest break in our case was the really bad attitude Vince had developed in the preceding weeks. Always a little head shy, he had become down right unsociable. Not even AJ was immune to his poor view on life. His behavior was more irritated than would come from pure EPM, I was informed.
Vince had lameness issues.
When he was purchased in July of 2011 from Florida his feet were not in great shape. They were bruised, dry and he was almost walking on his heels. Since then we have been slowly balancing his feet. But when he moved, ever so gradually it became apparent there was something going wrong. The Surgical team repeated all the trotting motions the Neurology team had performed but they added another component - flexation.
First the front legs and then the back were pulled and tucked and after each time, the tech would trot him down the lane, stop at the end and return. With the front legs no amount of flexing or pulling made a difference. But as soon as they came to the back legs it was a completely different story.
The resident, whose name I will not attempt to spell because it was Italian and I never got it right, believed the problem was in the hocks. As the owner of one horse with bad hocks, from a first career as a reining horse, my immediate response was, "Are you sure?" She assured me the final decision would come from the head of the Surgical department, who name I will not attempt to spell because it was strange and I never got it right. To confirm the decision a block would be injected into Vince's hock to measure the difference in pain when trotting.
More needles! But first we had to have our hocks washed to make sure no dirt could get into the injection site. While the cleaning portion wasn't too bad, they did have to sneak a calming shot into my boy to prevent their heads from getting caved in. Waiting for the block to take hold, the Surgical head came in from his afternoon classes.
The entire parade moved outside. Between the techs, the residents, the students and us there were about forty-eleven people watching my gelding trot back and forth. After three strides, the Surgical head proclaims, "It's not the hocks, it's the suspensory ligament." So back we go into the procedure room for another shot. (Did I mention there was still blood on the floor?)
After waiting inside everyone then troops back outside for another trotting session. Another down and back and Dr. Surgical Head announces that his problem moved from the left leg to the right. Amazing - my horse is so talented. Now the call is to sonogram the suspensory ligaments in the back legs. This means more sedation and a shave for each back leg.
To make a long story short (I know, too late!), we discovered three things:
1) - Vince has a lesion on his left suspensory ligament.
2) - His right ligament is inflamed.
3) - My horse can snore and drool while on drugs.
The lesion on the ligament is not new. It can be caused by repetitive off-balance motion, especially at high speeds. Vince is a jumper. They are prone to these injuries. It is treatable. Vince received a PRP injection. PRP stands for Platelet Rich Plasma. Basically they took Vince's blood, again, and spun it inside a centrifuge to separate the platelets. These are injected into the injured ligament to promote healing. It is very successful, though he might not be as enthusiastic about jumping all the time anymore.
Both horses spent the night, as the procedure was done on Friday morning before all the vets had to go either teach or be in class. After dinner at Ruby Tuesday's and a good night's sleep we awoke and drove back out to the Large Animal Hospital. Vince was just coming out of his sedation haze when we entered the barn. Connor had been wonderful, even feeling safe enough to lay down and sleep overnight.
With clouded skies and too warm temperatures we loaded, paid the bill and left. We ran into rain around the state line which at times was so hard you couldn't see the road in front of the car. Closer to Atlanta the sun came out and the ground dried up and at long last we were back at Blue Skies.
I confess to a large sigh of relief that our worst fears were not confirmed, but there is still a long road to rehab and recovery. For the next 30 days Vince is on stall rest with hand walking. Then we go back to Auburn for a recheck and further instructions. We could tell he already was feeling better because he was cribbing again and his sweet goofy attitude was back today. It was nice to see.
EPM is a horrible illness, and I learned so much I didn't know before. While he does not have an active case I feel for those who are going through the pain and frustration of this disease. I wholeheartedly recommend Auburn University Large Animal Teaching Hospital and its staff. The entire experience, from initial phone call through the on-site process was excellent. At times I felt frustrated, with the trotting and the shots, but most of that is the teaching aspect of the hospital. And no outrageous expense.
On a different but related note - Sneaky is going strong. The swelling to the butt and sheath are still there, but he is hanging in there. He gets walked a little every day, just to assess his movement. We take off his blanket, check the swelling, see how much he ate and how much he drank along with his poop and pee levels, which are still good. So that leaves Sneaky and Vince, two good friends, in slow motion rehab.
While originally this was going to be about Vince and EPM, I have decided to continue this blog. Sneaky and Vince still have a long road to walk and they enjoy being the subject of their own blog. Every person who owns a horse is never amazed when something out of the blue happens. I hope that we can help others who are treating their own brave and loyal companions. You aren't alone, although sometimes it feels that way. We all share the pain.