Freedom has been remarkably sound over the 12 years that I’ve owned him. Yes, I brought him home in early 2005, thinking that I would foster him for just a few months. He was a skinny, nervous horse that didn’t have much idea of how to be a riding horse.
Freedom came off the track with an apical sesamoid fracture that had been rehabbed. However, it turns out that SI pain is pretty typical for racehorses.
This problem really is the number one [issue], as every ex-racehorse has damage to the ligaments in this area.
The fact that Freedom showed no SI problems until last year is impressive. As a TB he’s officially now 19 and it’s very possible that he’s having some other joint pain as well. Overall he’s quite a balanced horse who has managed to use his body correctly and keep himself sound. He had 28 starts as a racehorse, retiring when he was six.
We haven’t given up. In between the snowflakes I’m still working on conditioning for both mind and body, waiting until the footing is good enough for the next lameness exam and hoping he’ll feel better in the spring.
On Monday Freedom had his SI joints injected. If you have a phobia of needles this is not a procedure that you want to watch. The needle the vet used was 8″ long! The vets used ultrasound to guide the placement of the needle. He had both sides injected (the right was much more sensitive than the left, hence his reluctance to pick up/hold the left lead canter).
The second part of his treatment was mesotherapy. This involves injecting the vet’s “secret sauce” using small needles that penetrate shallowly into the interdermal layer of the skin that stimulates the mesoderm (the middle layer of the skin). Mesotherapy is a more recent addition to treatments here in the US but has been used extensively in France for more than 30 years. Mesotherapy helps stop the pain spasm cycle, so for a horse like Freedom, who had pain from the SI joint, it can help relax the muscles in conjunction with the joint injection.
Did it work? I’ll find out in a few days. He needs to have five days off before I can start him back with a light hack. Stay tuned!
Sacroiliac problems in horses can be difficult to diagnose because they are often intermittent and don’t display as a “typical” lameness that can be seen at all gaits. Common signs are loss of performance, loss of propulsion, and difficulty with the canter.
That describes what’s been going on with Freedom to a “T”. When I thought about it, the days when he’s felt very sound are the ones were we did very little canter work.
In fact, with 20/20 hindsight, I suspect that this problem started last fall when he had the abscess from hell. He had issues with the canter then but I chalked them up to the huge abscess . . . then he got ridden lightly through the winter and spring (very little cantering) and he felt mostly fine.
The vet explained that it is not uncommon among former race horses as they have wear and tear on the joint from galloping — and Freedom is 18.
The next step is to have his SI joints injected (he is much sorer on the right side than the left). This will involve a trip to the clinic and the use of a very long needle (see the video below). The vet says they generally see a very good response to this type of injection so I”m optimistic that he’ll be feeling back to normal soon.
Freedom is a confirmed cribber. He came to me as a cribber and even with 24 hour turnout, free choice hay, lots of grass and a cribbing collar, he will crib.
Over the past few months he’s pulled a few posts out of the fence line and generally made a nuisance of himself. As an experiment, the owners of the barn installed his own personal cribbing post, a post where he can’t cause any damage to the rest of the fence.
Of course, convincing him to use it? You’ve heard the story about leading a horse to water? To make it more appealing, I’ve been installing electric fencing to keep him off the actual fence line. Finally, when he had his collar off this week, he honed in on that target fence. Look at the expression on his face! If he were a human, he’d be a chain smoker.
You might ask why I’m not trying to completely stop his cribbing. The problem is that this type of OCD behavior won’t just go away . . . it will be replaced by something else. Let’s face it, for whatever reason (most likely a strong genetic predisposition) Freedom needs an outlet. With a cribbing collar he doesn’t crib to the point of obsession — he’s not one of those horses that would rather crib than eat — and as long as he doesn’t bring down the fencing he can go wild.
Freedom is feeling better now but on Sunday, he gave me a bit of a scare.
I’d taken Zelda out for a ride. He looked fine when I arrived; he’d galloped up to the fence and begged for some extra hay. But, when I got back, he was just not right. You know what I mean — you come out to the pasture and your horse is standing funny or has an odd expression on his face, or is just not looking like himself.
In Freedom’s case, he was standing with his back to me, slightly tucked up and his tail was held to one side. I pulled him out of the paddock and he started to clench his tail down hard.
He didn’t look colic-y, but he didn’t look right either.
A quick call to the vet confirmed my suspicion that Banamine was required. My vet also suggested some milk of magnesia, as Freedom’s muscles were very tight.
Thankfully, he responded well and twenty minutes later, he looked noticeably better.
I’m still not sure what made him feel off — my guess was the big temperature swing we had here. It was 93 on Saturday and just 61 degrees on Sunday. It’s possible he also ran a bit when Zelda and I were out, although he wasn’t hot when I got back.
I’m just glad his body language was so clear and direct — and that I had Banamine on hand.
Lily, the white horse abandoned at the New Holland auctions in March has been adopted by comedian Jon Stewart and his wife Tracey, who are opening an animal sanctuary in New Jersey. It’s a happy ending for the elderly mare who was found after the auction closed tied to a post, covered in paint stains, suffering from uveitis in both eyes, and severely malnourished.
Lily has raised considerably awareness of the plight of abandoned horses. Her story hit the national news when it was reported that she had been shot more than a hundred times with a paintball gun.
Thanks to surveillance cameras, the man who left her there was identified as Phillip Price of East Providence, RI. Price was subsequently convicted of three counts of animal cruelty a single count of dealing and handling animals without a license, and a single count of importing animals without an interstate health certificate. He was ordered to pay $3,056 in fines and $10,178 towards Lily’s care and recovery.
Lily was treated at the New Bolton Animal Hospital where one of her eyes was removed; she has regained 80% of he sight in the other eye. Then she won the adoption lottery when she was adopted by the Stewarts.
However, the story isn’t quite over.
Lily’s original owner was recently found. Doreen Weston, who owns Smoke Hollow Farm, claims that the horse “might” have been hers and that the paint was from birthday parties, not paint ball. She says she owned a white Arabian horse that she used for riding lessons and birthday parties, where children used the horse as a canvas for finger paints.
Weston explained to reporters that Lily was 35 years old and that she had given the horse to Price when her health deteriorated because she “assumed” he would have it euthanized. Right. After you own a horse for 15+ years, you ship it off to a horse dealer. She claims that Price told her that he “had a place he could take her” and that she thought he meant a retirement facility. Right again. That’s exactly what dealers do — spend their own money to humanely euthanize a horse, or place an old sick horse in a retirement home.
Even worse, Weston is claiming it might not even be her horse because the Vets at New Bolton described Lily as an Arabian/Appaloosa mix, while Lily is just an Arabian.
“I have doubts this is my horse,” she said. “If it is, somebody is making a big mistake in their evaluation.”
Sure, there are lots of 30 year old gray mares dumped at New Holland that are covered in paint, have uveitis and dental problems. Your horse’s doppelganger just happened to be dumped at New Holland by the same dealer that you gave your elderly school horse. A horse that was still covered in paint from the last party she worked for you. A horse that looks remarkably like one pictured on your website.
“I consider myself a respectable horse person and animal lover,” Weston said.
Shame on you Doreen Weston. That horse deserved better and no thanks to you, she had a soft landing.
Last summer and into the fall, Freedom had an abscess that lasted and lasted. He was slightly off for some time and then terribly lame. Eventually the vet drained it at his toe, and then it also traveled up through the hoof and out through his coronary band.
The remains of that abscess are still with us. The damaged part of his hoof has grown out and now the hole, left by the abscess, is just at the point where it will threaten his hoof wall integrity and potentially make him sore.
With the benefit of hind sight, I realize I should have started him on a hoof supplement last fall with the goal of accelerating this hoof growth. Silly me. He’s on one now, so I’ll just have to wait and see. My farrier and I are already discussing strategies for keeping him comfortable. Glue on shoes may be on his horizon.
Have any of you dealt with the aftermath of a terrible abscess? How did you handle it?