Follow Chaco’s journey as we work towards removing three bone chips from his stifle region from a two year old injury.
When I picked him up at Albuquerque Downs racetrack a year ago, I felt unsure about my decision to take on another horse, but then I saw him. I walked up to him, put my hands to his nose, and he took a big whiff. I lowered my head towards his, and all the nervousness and doubts vanished; I fell in love.
I asked about his previous injuries, and I was told he had hurt a fetlock and broken a rib in a fall during a race; however, he is fine now. To be honest with you, I would have taken him home no matter what. I looked into his eyes, and I could see that he needed something different. I could give that to him back home where he could be a horse, live like a horse, graze like a horse, and play like a horse. For the past year he has done all of the above with gusto. Around here we call him Chaco.
Last week on our year anniversary, I walked him to the paddock when he suddenly took an off step. Three more steps later he couldn’t walk on all four legs. Panic went through every ounce of my being. I recently lost my beloved thoroughbred Shandoka, so seeing Chaco like this, made my heart come to an abrupt halt. Slowly, we limped back to the barn (it took us about 15 minutes to walk 30 feet), where I put him in a small run. By the end of the day, he could walk a bit better.
A few days later we went to the vet where he was diagnosed with three bone chips in his stifle. It is an old injury, because the bone that these chips came off of healed. We can’t tell where they came from, and they migrated away from the bone. Back in 2016, Chaco was brought up along the inside during a horse race. His other races showed he preferred to go on the outside away from any trouble and traffic, but this day he was on the inside where he ran into trouble. Heels clipped and he went straight down with a horse falling over him. Initially, I was told he had a broken rib, but after finding out about the chips, I learned they suspected he also broke his pelvis that day. My theory is a horse kicked him in his stifle before falling over him creating these chips.
One of my options is to let him go on like this, get injections and put him on bute. I am passionately against injections, and the last thing I want him on is bute. Bute is an anti-inflammatory that masks pain. It is the reason why a lot of horses will keep running with a broken leg on the racetrack. It also causes ulcers, and it causes colic. I just lost a horse to colic, and I will do everything I can to not watch another horse die that way. Chaco, I believe, had ulcers, which at least 90% of racehorses have from being kept in a stall for 22 to 23 hours a day. When I brought him home, I treated the ulcers herbally, and he now cleans his bucket every day. Recently, he put on seventy five pounds. Bute will bring the ulcers back, the weight will come off, and he will be in pain in a whole other way all the time.
Joint injections can cost $65 to $250 per joint monthly. Joint injections can cause a deterioration of articular cartilage, joint infections, joint inflammation, corticosteroid induced laminitis (life threatening condition), and it may not even work! You can see why injections do not thrill me at all as an option.
What gets me every time I think about this is that he raced for a full year with these chips, and he worked a year with me never complaining. He gives 150% during our trail rides and training sessions each and every time. A friend of mine who competes in show jumping asked me if he’s real bucky or balks at doing work. He never has. Never. I think he’s hurt this entire time, but he put my desires and safety ahead of his pain out of concern for me. He wants to please me, so he ignored his pain, which the thought of breaks my heart.
I’ve thought about not getting the surgery, doing the injections, but what if we are on the trail ten miles or even one mile out, and he goes dead lame again? Trying to get him back to the trailer could be next to impossible. I could let him be a pasture horse for the rest of his life not doing injections or anything, but he went this lame after being on the pasture. My mind wanders to the day it started to rain, and we galloped lap after lap in it. His stride was long and strong, his breath was rhythmic. Our bodies moved together going from steps to suspension where we flew threw the air. When we finished, we were both soaked, but together we were on Cloud 9. I can’t take that away from him.
When the swelling is gone, you can see where the chips are, and yes, the swelling goes up and down every day.
This is how he stands most of the day to find comfort and relieve the pain.
Now it’s time to put his well-being ahead of everything and get him sound and healthy. The other option for him is arthroscopic surgery to remove the bone chips. He will be completely sound, 100% in two to three months after the surgery. He won’t need bute or injections. He will be able to play and run with Harley (his buddy), go out on the trail, and gallop with me in the rain pain free. He deserves this, because he loves all of these things.
Problem is Bill and I can’t afford it right now. We recently had to fix something on our home that turned out to be a bigger problem than originally expected. We can pay for all of the post-surgery exams, but paying for the surgery as well is simply more than we can do right now. I want to be transparent on everything. The cost of the surgery will be $2500. The reason why I am asking for $2,900 in donations is to cover the costs of what Paypal will take out. I chose Paypal instead of GoFundMe, because more of your money will go towards the surgery. Also, you do not have to have a paypal account to donate. You can use your credit card or debit card. Every day I will update how close to our goal we are here on this blog and also on Facebook. Also, in a few days, I hope to figure out how to raffle a painting of mine, and sell some giclee prints and another original painting of mine on this site. I will make an announcement when I get that set up, and all the funds for those sales, except for shipping costs, will go towards the surgery.
If you choose to donate, I promise to continue the transparency by posting regularly on this blog. I will share with you everything we go through, so you can see how every single dollar is going to his health, healing and well-being.
I promise you he will never end up on the track again. He will live out the rest of his days with me. A friend said I should post my goals for him post surgery. Here they are:
- Love him forever
- Maintain his happiness, health, and well being
- Go out on the trail, and let him see the world.
- Hopefully develop him into an ambassador on the Western Slope of Colorado for Off Track Thoroughbreds. Over 10,000 thoroughbreds are sent to the slaughterhouses in Canada from the United States each year. He can show people how versatile OTTB’s can be, so maybe we can save some lives.
- Enter into some competitive trail riding competitions, pole competitions, and maybe some equitation work to show how smart and talented thoroughbreds are.
- Possibly work with kids as a therapy horse
- Let him run and play
If you have any questions about the surgery, please feel free to email me at Contact. I will be more than happy to answer anything. I know that I’m asking for a lot, but I wouldn’t ask if he didn’t need this. He has given his heart to all of the humans in his life. Lots of times horses with this type of pain can get mean. When he hurts, all he wants me to do is hold his head and love on him. He wants to play when he feels better, and he is missing going out and working together. I want to give back to him, if at all possible, what he has given to me. If you wish to donate to the cost of his surgery, please click on the Paypal button below, and donate whatever you wish. Bill, Chaco, Harley, our five dogs, and myself thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being part of Chaco’s Journey.
10/8/18 Between this and my FB charity, we raised $275. Tomorrow thanks to everyone, I’m calling to get the pre-op appointment scheduled.
As of today, 10/9, we have raised $900. As of 10/15, we’ve raised $1,100. We also scheduled the surgery for 10/23. Thank you from all of my heart.
“You don’t throw a whole life away just because he’s banged up a little.”
Tom Smith, trainer for Seabiscuit