My blog, as with everything to do with my personality, has only two modes: obsession and procrastination. I’ve put off writing this post for a long time, but I might as well face up and rip off the band-aid.

Pearl’s lame. Not like “eh, maybe she just tweaked something” lame. Like, hella lame oh god it hurts to watch lame.

A timeline:

Monday 11/4: We had an awesome, ass-kicking, goal-setting lesson. More on that later, but I suppose it’s not really relevant anymore. But we had A Plan. [note to self: don’t make Plans.]

Wednesday 11/6: Sue was supposed to have her lesson; I was riding Prior. Sue picks up the trot. Christy says “Hey Natalie, good thing you’re here, because your horse is lame…” Yup, good and lame on the right front. Felt legs and RF is hot and squishy. She was sound enough at the walk that walking wasn’t going to hurt her, so Sue kept on walking. Decide on routine of stall rest, wraps, hand/tackwalking for a bit.

Monday 11/11: Hey guess what she’s still lame isn’t that completely shocking.

Saturday 11/16: Shoes reset. Had Joe run hoof testers on that foot just to eliminate the “maybe it’s just an abscess….” hope against hope. Heat in that foot but no reaction to hoof testers.

Watch mare go; call clinic to set up appointment.

Friday 11/22: Appointment at clinic. Looks better than before but not great still.


Predictably, horse is THRILLED because she thinks she gets to go back to work hey why are you making me stop no I’d like to keep going please

X-ray foot.


The good news: thanks to Joe’s awesome work, her foot looks a lot better on the inside

June on the left, November on the right. She’ll always be a crooked little thing just because of her wonky leg confo, but what we were looking to correct was the tilt of her coffin bone. Also, she’s got better sole depth too.

Prognosis/instructions: start her back lightly (to keep her getting too stiff from her neck thingie) and see if she gets better or worse. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t the former.


Scan 1

Sunday 11/24: Start back to work/turnout regimen.

rehab notes

So, yeah. Worse. And she was fairly sound on straight lines before, so being noticeably off there does not bode well.

Wednesday 12/4: Put her on the lunge to see exactly how bad in comparison. There are few* things (*including but not limited to phone calls that go like “Hi I’m Detective So-and-So from [Swore-you’d-never-go-back-there] County, I need to speak to you about the death of [Person-you-love-more-than-any-other-human-being-on-the-planet]”) that make your heart/stomach/every organ you have drop quite like watching your horse in pain.

Make another phone call to clinic; they can’t get her in for another week and a half. Proceed to beat self up about anything and everything you can possibly think of.

Thursday 12/19: Back to the clinic. Mazel Tov to me on my very first solo trailer excursion: no passenger even, no one to help me load.


In case you can’t read super-subtle facial expressions, that says “NOT THIS PLACE AGAIN DAMMIT.”

Took video of the exam this time. First part is straight off the trailer, second part is after a palmar digital nerve block. So, blocked out lower than the original injury– so probably not the “same thing,” but since we’re not 110% certain what the “thing” was in the first place, no way to say they’re not related.

Mare is really, really lame. Do more x-rays…they’re not pretty, but they’re what would be expected in an older horse of unknown past workload. And no significant changes from either previous visit, so not likely that whatever is making her this lame is bone-related. Do an ultrasound because if you’re going to accrue debt might as well make it good and massive.


Inconclusive again– basically, she’s got some old soft tissue damage/scarring, but it’s comparable to her other leg so probably not the source of acute lameness. So, whatever is causing the problem is deep enough inside her foot it’d only be detectable by MRI…which at $2.5k+ is just Not An Option.

Inject coffin joint and navicular bursa for shits and giggles on the off chance that it could be causing part of her discomfort, and if it makes her 0.0000001% more comfortable then it’s worth it.

Veterinary science is so fucking cool

Veterinary science is so fucking cool

Prognosis/instructions: Wait and see, basically. Assuming it’s a soft tissue injury, would take 3-6 months to heal. So 6 months of zero work, because if I bring her back any sooner than the maximum healing time, no matter if she “looks sound” before that…I will not forgive myself if I make her lame again.

Scan 3

Scan 4

Six months. Six months is such an odd recurring theme in my life. For a chunk of time that seems so short, a lot can happen in six months. Six months ago, we got our original diagnosis/prognosis of “six months to heal”– at the time, I figured that by now, we’d be back to full normal work load, jumping, maybe showing, the whole shebang. Six months before that, we were in horsey heaven and I thought we were set for life.

So I really have zero clue what the next 6 months holds for us. Everywhere I turn, I can only see ways to blame myself. If we hadn’t had to move barns…if I’d just given her time off after the first injury instead of keeping her in light work…if I could afford to keep her at a barn with better footing…if I had given her another month off after the November appointment to see if she continued along the improvement trajectory…if if if, then maybe we wouldn’t be where we are now. I could play this game all day: If this all happened while we were still at Barn P, would it be less terrifyingly stressful? (Yes.) If she were rideable right now, would getting through Another Winter be less I-can’t-get-out-of-bed daunting? (Probably.) And I know that all the what-ifs mean nothing, but one thing is very clear: my horse is godawful lame. I’d hesitate to even declare her “pasture sound” at this point. She’s a good 2/5 or 3/5 at the trot, and on the border between just short and head-bobbing at the walk. That does not spell good. She’s had over a month now with no work, and has shown no improvement. If she hasn’t improved in another 6 months…I will face a tough decision, and I know what my answer will be. People tease me for being such a pessimist, always looking for the worst case scenario– but everything about our past year has been one worst case scenario after another, and I see no reason why I should count on this one to be any different.

On the less-dark side: If you can’t be at an ideal place, surround yourself with ideal people. Christy, Sarah, and Prior’s mom have all been wonderful with offering up extra saddle time for me. Poor Christy didn’t know what she was getting herself into when a simple “Hey, do you want to ride Austin?” turned into a full-blown “I just want to ride myyyy pony” meltdown…but she and Liam fixed it better. We had a good week or so of “too cold to ride” weather, so that took away some of the sting of “I can’t ride.” And as crazy as horse people are, they do stick together when the going gets tough. Last week was a flurry of everyone pitching in to fill water buckets, soak mash, supervise indoor turnout, pull wraps, give cookies, and it does make me feel a little less like the world is solely a dark and horrible place.

I am working on alternate living arrangements for Pearl during her Time Off– I can’t keep her on stall board at the current barn without a shareboarder to offset costs, and I can’t kick her out on pasture board now that she hasn’t grown a winter coat. A fellow boarder is moving her retiree to her parents’ farm and is graciously allowing me to move Pearl there once they get set up with hay– but as luck would have it, said retiree is in Pearl’s turnout group already and she is a huge jackass to him…she tends to be “second from bottom” in herd situations, meaning most of the boys either ignore her or think she’s pretty, the mares beat up on her, and she finds some elderly infirm gelding to take it out on. One of the many occasions in which you really wish you could explain things to them in English. So in case it doesn’t work out there, I need to have other options lined up.

As for riding time, I will continue to take what’s thrown my way, and try to quell the “but it’s not MY horse” brattiness. I had hoped to be able to offer up a formal shareboard arrangement on Prior, but between a couple months of paying for full stall board, paying off our rather extensive yet not entirely conclusive vet bill, and her new “probably more for owner’s mental than horse’s physical health” fancy schmancy supplement it would be a poor financial decision on my part. Which is probably just as well really… I assume the girl who shareboarded her last summer will want to do so again this coming summer, and I really need to quit falling in love with other people’s ponies.

Case in point.

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5 Responses to Setback

  1. I deeply and acutely know what you are going through and the way it feels when your heart drops out of your body watching your horse trot off in pain. My mare injured her collateral ligament in her left front hoof and a ligament just below her fetlock as diagnosed by MRI in August 2012. It has been a long haul but very recently she is improving in leaps and bounds. See these posts for info:

    I highly recommend trying the Cur-OST supplements, and I wish I had started them sooner. My mare jogged as soundly as she has in over a year the other night. You can watch the (short) video here:

    Best wishes, and I will be following your subsequent posts and thinking positively for you!

    • nataliecmine says:

      Thank you both for the well wishes! CC, thanks for sharing your story…good to hear that although it’s a very long haul, there are success stories out there. Off to the Google machine to research Cur-OST…

  2. Hannah says:

    I’m really sorry you guys are going through this. I hope something improves ASAP.

  3. Going through those what-if scenarios is gut wrenching and awful, but ultimately, it’s a good thing. I spent months going through those and when the time came to actually address them, I’d already worked out what needed to be done and there wasn’t a lot of second guessing left to do.

    So sorry. You’re right–it makes winter unbearable, even more than it already is.

  4. Oh wow. That’s rather heartrending to read 😦 I have seen some very long rehabs turn out well, so hopefully that will be your story too. Fingers crossed for you both.

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