Leg Day (In More Ways Than One)

Monday was a great day!

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I woke up at 4:45am to head to the gym for leg day. I have a love/hate relationship with leg day. It makes me feel super strong, but the whole time my legs are just screaming. And then for the next two days I feel like a cripple.

IMG_1983My first appointment was for three sets of vaccines and a dental. I whipped through the vaccines pretty quickly with no issues, although the mom warned me that the horses could be a little jumpy. When we got to deworming them, however, that was another issue entirely. The first horse was fine, and took his dewormer easily. When I approached the second horse with the tube of dewormer, he whirled and sat back against the rope tying him to the fence.

After several attempts to restrain the horse to administer the dewormer, with various degrees of reaction from the horse, I asked the mom to hold the dewormer tube and I took the horse out to the middle of the pasture by himself. We started with just placing my hand on his nose. He resisted, tossing his head and trying to move away from me. Initially he was attempting to bolt away from me, but I had a short hold on the lead rope so he couldn’t go anywhere. As soon as he dropped his head and stopped moving his feet, I took my hand off his nose. We probably repeated this process ten times before he would accept me placing my hand on his nose with no head tossing or moving away.

This worked because as soon as the horse was doing what I wanted him to do, I took the “pressure” away, which is his reward. The pressure, in this horse’s case, was my hand resting on the bridge of his nose. Once he was accepting the hand on the nose, I worked on getting him to allow the hand on the nose with my other hand on the side of his face. Initially he was terrified of my second hand going anywhere near his mouth, even with my hand empty. I finally got him to accept my left hand over his nose and right hand rubbing the side of his nose/mouth. Then I took the dewormer from the mom. As soon as he saw it we had to start from square one with the hand on the nose. This time, however, it only took about three tries before he would happily accept the hand on the nose. I then started rubbing the side of his face with the dewormer tube. This took a while. I started on his cheek and slowly worked my way down his face until he would let me rub it on the side of his nose and mouth.

Once I was sure he was happy with that step, I knew I could get the dewormer in him. At this point I had been working with the horse for about 20 minutes, and I needed to get going. If this had been my personal horse, I would have gotten her to accept me sticking the tube in her mouth, and would have conditioned her with treats – every time you accept the tube in the mouth, you get a cookie. Since this was not my horse and I was running out of time, I told the mom that I could get the dewormer in but it would probably completely undo all of the work I had just done. He was going to feel tricked.

I put my hand on his nose, and lightning fast stuck the tube in his mouth and dewormed him. He was not thrilled, but was surprisingly not terrible. He didn’t try to bolt, which was an improvement. I left the empty tube with the owner to work with the horse so that in the future maybe he will learn that deworming is not a terrifying experience.

My next appointment was for lameness evaluations and joint injections (if needed) at a local therapy center. We evaluated four horses, most of whom had been seen several times before by my practice. Three of them were pretty straight forward, they had already been diagnosed with arthritis in particular joints, their gait evaluation by me correlated with their historical findings, and I injected the appropriate joints – two pasterns (ringbone); stifles, hocks and a fetlock on a very elderly horse; and hocks on a middle aged horse who is just now needing some therapy. The fourth horse historically has had his left hock and right front fetlock injected, due to arthritis and a cyst in his fetlock joint. The hock was still doing ok, but the trainer was complaining that the horse was limping in the front.

When I evaluated the horse’s lameness, he was very obviously lame on the left front, even though the trainer said it was usually the right that bothers him. Flexing the left front limb resulted in a worsening of the lameness. We decided to use a local anesthetic to desensitize, or “block”, the horse from the pastern joint down, to determine if the lameness was likely due to a problem in his foot or likely in his fetlock similar to his right front.

The block worked beautifully. I wish I had videoed before and after, it was so perfect. The left front went completely sound and the right front became obviously lame (note: the right was always lame, but because the left was so bad it masked the fact that the right was painful as well). We decided to inject the horse’s coffin joint on the left and the right front fetlock again. This horse also had abnormal hoof conformation on the left front, which is very likely the root of the problem with that limb.

Okay, that’s probably more than enough information for you guys for today! I’ll be back soon with more updates from work this week!

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