So I’ve had my first major injury.
Which is in part why I haven’t posted in such a while, because the injury and dealing with it took so much out of me, not really physically but emotionally and mentally.
Kiko followed two of the younger Nokota horses over an electric fence into a boggy area that was closed off since it was just that, boggy. No one was there so we can’t say what happened but in the beginning of September, I get a call when I was at the state fair from my big hearted barn owner saying “Kiko’s hurt, I think you have to come out and see him like…now.”
Totally panicked I rode the fair bus to the parking station and my wonderful husband who couldn’t give a flying shit about horses drove me and my sister way down from St. Paul to Prior Lake to see my boy…he looked bad.
He wouldn’t put any weight on his left front leg and it was swollen up to about 4 times the girth of the regular size.
To make a long story shorter, my barn owner put him on bute and we established it was not a break, he had some ligament or tendon damage based on the swelling and heat we were feeling off the site and the feel of the bone under palpitation.
I’ve freaked out before and ordered a vet and have gotten screwed in the process, they gave me some “hoof strengthener” snake oil basically when it was just a reaction to clover that went away shortly after the symptoms occurred. So I tried really hard NOT to react although I was panicked inside.
I had to say to myself repeatedly and call my friends often to get assurance:
It’s a common injury
There’s really not much a vet can do about it since you have to sit and wait to see the extent
Wild horses recover from this all the time
Horses can heal themselves just as well as humans can.
I’ve seen wild horses recover from conditions such as this on their own, So I made the unpopular decision to NOT stall my horse since I know if he feels pent up, he WILL kick the boards which could further injure him, I wouldn’t confine him in a small area because he couldn’t move (since we don’t have stalls anyway) because he will just jump the line. and because of the fact I believe “motion is lotion”,
I told my barn owner, again against popular treatment to stop the bute after a week. He seemed to be weighting it even though it was gingerly and I asked her to stop the meds because I wanted HIM to regulate his movement himself, because he was running down the fence line since he was cut off from the other horses and totally ignoring that he had another horse in his pasture. I told her I wanted him to feel the pain since he was fine weighting the leg so he could decide what was too much for that leg, so he could decide his limitations.
BOY, did I receive a lot of flack for that….not to my face of course just from friends telling friends who would tell me.
It was slow progress at first….painstakingly slow, agonizing….wondering if I’d ever be able to ride my horse again kind of slow….but the progress came.
I decided to deal with it in a scientific manner instead of emotional since I was BROKEN emotionally…I know horses now, I’ve had many experiences on other horses, I’ve trained wild horses, I’ve met and dealt with many horses and I KNOW my horse is special…YA, I know EVERYONE says that about their horse but they are talking about timelines, I’ve dealt with dozens of horses all the while having Kiko to come home to and even though I can appreciate every horse I’ve ever worked with, my boy is so far above and beyond even the “best” horses people have introduced me to not because he’s mine and I need to deal with him but truly because he is the best most bombproof horse that hasn’t lost his personality because he’s been raised naturally (left alone till he was 5 in a mixed herd) and taught right being raised in natural horsemanship (at first Parelli and then later with me Jack Lieser Horsemanship). So the personality is still there on his sleeve and he tries his heart out for me just because we have a connection….I was broken because I was afraid facing the facts that he could never recover, he may never be able to be ridden again factually speaking. My partner could have been forever damaged….It’s a reality most of us can’t face.
I made a decision, if he couldn’t be ridden again, I was still going to keep him. I can’t in good conscious toss away my faithful and abnormally close partner just because he had something wrong with him.
I started measuring his leg every time I was out, at first…that was daily, then it was a few times a week then it was weekly, slowly the inflammation went down. I still never had him stalled, never had him confined, he had full mobility, the only thing I did was wrap his leg in a sea scrub salt the vet gave me. I’d spread the goop on him, cover it in saran wrap, then cotton batting I got from fleet farm that I would dip in water and then heat up in the microwave, then vet wrap him, I’d start in the middle then wrap UPWARDS, most people want to push it out the hoof but the amazing vet we have said sure, you can do that if you want to deal with abcesses, it’s better to wrap up, so the fluid moves up the knee to the body and let the body disperse the fluid naturally and non painfully to the horse. It would stay on for about 4 hours than be taken off overnight.
The leg would swell up overnight when he wasn’t using it, but during the day, you could see the measurements getting smaller so the movement he did in the day was obviously helping his situation!
In one month which actually felt like NINE, the amazing vet said he was ready for gentle work in straight lines at the walk since the hoof acts like a pump and would work the excess built up fluid out of his body….it did (my horse IS barefoot which is important to remark since a shoe would interfere with this type of treatment) a bare hoof allows the natural flex and compression that happens that acts like a pump to shoot the blood back up the leg.
The more work we did, the less swelling he had. I’m talking REALLY light work, walk mostly on straight lines, light trotting when he was showing no signs of pain. We were at the full 12 feet of the line if we went in a circle because the one thing my vet warned me about was with this type of injury most people assume the injury is healed until they ask for something complicated and then bam! It’s back.
So month 1 to 2 we did very light work that caused visually no stress to my boy. Month 2……
Well, both the vet, the osteopath and the barefoot trimmer I use and her mentor said I should start riding him again…bareback of course to eliminate any weight that I could.
I was scared but I put the bareback pad on him one day, made sure he knew what I was doing and when he showed no signs of resistance, I got on….
He was fine! So totally fine he wanted to walk off and do something right away, he was asking me should we go this way? Should we try the rail? Should we do a shoulder in? Maybe a haunches out?…..I just thought Oh my lord I love my horse, he is f*ing amazing.
So we rode a little, the next day we rode a little longer…then longer after that.
I posted my progress on facebook and per my friends MORE criticism! Even though the progress! Even though he wasn’t showing any signs of pain!!!!
Today, I rode for an hour…no signs of pain, there was a 1/2 inch of swelling when we started, there was less than a 1/4th of an inch when we were done. He was happy as a clam after I got off with no physical signs of discomfort.
This injury normally from what you can read up on takes 6+ months of recovery before you can ride. BUT, because I never stalled or confined him, because I let him regulate what he thought he could do or couldn’t do based on what he felt and because I trusted him and his natural healing capabilities, I’m able to ride him in only 2 months from injury.
I’m having the osteopath come out because he’s kind of hingy feeling in his knee, when she fixes that, I think he will be ready for a trail ride…not that I’d suggest that for others as soon as I’m doing it. I’d suggest the treatment 100% but just because Kiko is who he is and has so little spook in him, I think we will be trail riding within the month!
I’ve learned so much from this injury and honestly the best advice I could give anyone going through a tendon or ligament injury is exactly what I’ve stated before, help with a painkiller in the first few days but DO NOT restrict the movement or mobility…if you restrict that, you are dealing with a whole lot of stretching and conditioning issues that can set you behind, let the horse feel the pain after the acute period so they are able to regulate and determine how much is too much for them and know when they have over done it ( I know it’s hard, but trust them to know) . Trust that the horse will know the difference and that their bodies WILL heal an injury naturally. When there’s no signs of pain, direct the movement in straight lines to encourage the pump action. Make sure you aren’t doing too much but push them just enough to get the movement strong enough to start being able to work in directions in very small increments towards doing what you naturally do with your horse so you can build strength yet not tweak the injury until it’s fully recovered from.