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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Action (or rather non-action!) Plan

Typically after I've decided one of my horses is NQR, or has an apparent injury, I go through the same stages.
  • Panic mode, cannot think rationally, feel like throwing up. (I know, dramatic. I allow my self exactly 30-60 seconds to feel this way, and then get my head screwed on straight).
  • Rationalizing. This is the "how did it happen" stage. Again, I've whittled this down to 30 minutes or less during the first couple of days. I try to move this further down the process where it's actually useful to analyze what went wrong and whether there's a preventative.
  • Self doubt - maybe I didn't feel what I thought I felt? Maybe it's not that bad? This can last a couple of hours, or at least until I get on the Internet and hear a bunch of horror stories. This when I start considering whether to get the vet involved.
  • Overdrive - by now I have heard the horror stories, I'm imagining worse case scenario, AND I'm feeling guilty because I cannot/will not afford to throw every diagnostic tool available at the problem.
And now we come to the crux of every horse owner's life. When to bring in the vet and how much to pay?
Because, let's face it - at least in my life - I have a finite amount of money and resources.
Some might say that if you can't afford a vet for medical issues you can't afford a horse.
Whenever I'm faced with a situation where I'm trying to decide whether a vet visit is warranted, I cringe, thinking someone is going to throw this statement at me. Because I AM willing to spend the money - if my horse is colicking, I call the vet. Period. I don't mess around, I do not give it banamine, I call the vet. If I suspect a bowed tendon or suspensory problem, I call the vet. I want to get a base line on it as fast as possible.
But there are other areas that are grey. Grey Areas that I don't necessarily think that a vet call is always warranted. Sure, it would be nice, but I don't think being able to "afford" a vet, involves calling it out for every issue. On the flip side, I don't think you have to be able to afford colic surgery or stem cell transplants to be a responsible horse owner.
It's a fine line to walk between calling the vet early while the issue is small and manageable (and affordable!), and not wasting your money on issues that area that will resolve on their own.
In my opinion, being able to afford a horse, and a medical bills associated, means: (and this is deeply personal so I realize every one's list is going to look a bit different)
  • Being able to pay for a horse being euthanized and the body disposed.
  • Being able to pay for traumatic injury such as stitches, antibiotics
  • Being able to pay for initial colic evaluation and treatment, including fluids if necessary
  • Being able to pay for a lameness exam for a horse that is habitually lame, or a grade 2 or worse.
  • Vaccinations and wormings as recommended by the vet
  • Any prescriptions or medications etc. recommended to the vet
  • Being able to pay for any follow up visits once the vet determines there's an issue.
One of my main reasons for not getting a second horse when Minx died was because I looked at the books and realized that taking care of 3 bows and 2 colics (and an euthanasia) in 18 months stretched me thin. Very very thin. And if I'm in doubt that I could take care of the medical issues for 2 horses, than I'm not getting another one.
Keeping the above in mind, I've made my decision regarding Farley's occasional NQR funky hind stepping:
  • She will get 3 days of bute
  • She will have 3 days of rest
  • She will have an easy day to see if I feel it again
  • If everything feels fine, we will continue with very easy work for 1-2 weeks (I can't justify resting her for this time - because of the facilities, resting is equal to stall rest, which I don't think is necessary).
  • After 2 weeks, we will start regular work again.
I will call the vet if:
  • Nothing has improved after the 3 days of rest and bute
  • If it comes back during the easy 1-2 weeks of work in any degree
  • If it comes back after going back to regular work in any degree.
Would I like to take her to the vet right away and soothe my gerbil-like darting mind?
Is it a good use of my resources?
I'm not sure.
Do I have the resources to take her to the vet if I need to?
Thank you everyone for commenting. Especially you that are vets, or soon to be vets! I understand where you coming from, I really do. I worked at a clinic for a couple of years and had a lot done during that time period that I wouldn't normally, just because I had access to the clinic resources. However, I'm reluctant to take a horse that isn't lame on the ground, or in the saddle - except for a few funny strides *sometimes* under saddle and do nerve blocks, x-rays, ultrasounds etc. I think when I'm at the vet (I'm going in Feb to check teeth, assuming everything goes well in the next week and she gets over whatever *this* is) I'll ask about chiropractors in my area and see what they think.
It will be nice once I'm a vet and how access to more resources for a situation like this!
Comment Follow up:
OntheBit - how do you see how many people are subscribed in Google reader?
JB - Yep, that site is blocked too!


  1. Have you called your vet to just talk about what is going on? Thats free and it might ease your mind a little!

  2. Heh, I got curious about your reply to OTB. Click on "show details" to the right of "Mark all as read" "Refresh" etc.

    No words of wisdom re: Farley. I'd probably do the same thing - wait it out, bring her back into work slowly, and only go to the vet if you can say there's definitely something NQR.

  3. I would do the same, if the problem re-occurs then I would be tracking down a good lameness vet.
    Unfortunately, I have run into problems when we were racing horses that were just too intermittent to get a good diagnosis on. At one point, after several on again off again, very very slight NQR episodes they finally told me to take him home and work him fairly hard, we weren't getting anywhere and he actually needed to be more "off" to do more diagnoses!
    On the other hand, I've definately learned to trust my gut instincts, I kept seeing the slightest little misstep in our last filly, but so slight that I questioned whether I really saw it at all. She was training great and was entered to run on Tue., my trainer called Sat. and said she wanted to x-ray her knees, she galloped great but, again, had taken one little misstep on the hotwalker.
    I said of course and met her at the track the next day- we xrayed and she had a crack in her knee, and old injury that had never healed and I'm sure now that is what I had been seeing months earlier when I had her at the house.
    Sorry, to go on and on, lameness issues are something that I unfortunately have way too much experience with!
    I agree with your evaluations of what is reasonable for a person to expect to pay for when owning a horse too.
    Karen W.

  4. I'm with you, Mel: Lamenesses (especially NQR intermittant) are so frustrating!

    I am a huge believer in chiro, though. Look around, find a good one.

    Also: I have learned (hard way, natch) that a mis-aligned horse can make me chiropractically "out" after 50 miles...and also that if I ride 50 miles when I am chiropractically out I can change the horse's alignment. That was with the Toad--hopefully, Fiddle will be more skeletally secure.

    But it's something to investigate: is your horse NQR because YOU need to see the chiro? If so, it's a relatively cheap fix.

  5. Hey Mel, this is the first blog i have read, Post-Finals (yea, its an event for me) and now that i can breathe i am sad to hear this :(

    This was a similar situation after sassy was kicked. We went to the vet, and he did a ultra-sound on the area to make sure nothing was torn or swollen. We had a lameness exam, and all that came out of it was "give it some time, and then check her again". Now it wasn't what i wanted to hear, but it was nice to have the reassurance that she hadn't damaged any structures.

    Sorry for that random tangent, just got me thinking about vet's and when to bring them into the picture :)


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