A horse isn’t meant to put all of his weight on three legs. Compensation for an injury wears everything else out in their body, and no matter what you do to try and ease the compensation, it is a battle you can’t win. You tread water at the same place for a long time until you hit a slide down a hill you’ve been trying to avoid. Once you find the plateau, you tread water again until you get sucked down another slide, where you tread water as long as you can while eyeing the next slide hoping you can keep it as far away as possible. You desperately try to find answers staying up late at night Googling everything you can, writing to the most prominent vets in the country, and reading any new studies released only to realize you are on the precipice of another slide downward.
Stifle injuries are complicated. There is no magic surgery to fix a stifle. You can’t fuse it, because it is a high motion joint, and once the cartilage is gone, it is gone. Nothing out there regenerates it.
Chaco, as I mentioned in my last blog, went down in a race. He was brought up on the inside along the rail. All of his other races he went wide away from all of the traffic. He had a big stride. This time on the inside he clipped heels, went down, and two other horses went over him. One kicked his stifle breaking some of the bone off into big chunks. His pelvis was fractured along with a rib. He recovered and raced two months later winning his first race back.
Unfortunately, they never removed the bone chunks. (For the record, they were not chips. They were the size of your adult, front teeth.) Instead they blistered him probably so his muscles and tendons wouldn’t rub against the bone chunks. He raced for a year, and those chunks worked their damage on the femorotibial joint in his stifle. When I adopted him, we had them removed, but the damage was severe. I was told that he would never be truly sound, and each day was on borrowed time.
I created med pens trying to restrict Chaco’s movements while allowing him to be surrounded by his friends and be out in the sunshine he so loved. It might be close to 100, and he would sunbathe. After all of those years in a stall, he was a devout sun worshipper. If I tried to confine him in a stall, he often crow hopped until I let him back out into the sun.
I gave him shots in his neck each week of glucosamine and pentosan once a week, which at first really helped. After a year, their ability to help faded and faded.
We literally spent thousands of dollars on his leg each year trying to keep him sound…trying to ease his need to compensate.
I tried different injections such as IRAP, ProStride, which never worked. After one horrible winter, I found out that Noltrex was finally available in the US. He got that, and it was like a miracle. He went from being severely lame to being able to walk with ease. I have a ridiculous amount of pictures of Chacoi resting his left leg after that injection. He finally was able to give his left hindleg a break.
I made him a promise that I would never let him get like that again. If he did, I would do right by him.
After his last Noltrex injection a month ago, I noticed it wasn’t helping him. He was a yo-yo in how he would do from day to day. I tried everything and then he slipped. After that, the story is between Chaco and I, but I did right by him. He was done. He was tired. He wouldn’t even try to play with the horses anymore.
That last morning, Wiz wouldn’t go up to the pasture with the other horses. He stayed with Chaco….standing by his side.
I hoped he would die from anything else but from his racing injury. No matter how hard I fought, I couldn’t give him that. I had to put down a completely healthy horse, because of his leg. If your horse has chips in those legs, get them out immediately. Don’t wait for them to cause your horse to be lame, because if you do, it is too late. If they would have removed them immediately while he was racing, a simple $3k surgery, Chaco would still be alive today. Get those chips out!
Compensation for an injury is a huge price for a horse when prolonged. He compensated for six years, one of which he raced. I’m not going to share what it was like for us the last two weeks. That is between us. All I will say is he changed. He knew. I knew.
I stayed with him long past his last agonal breath. I’ve been fighting to keep him alive for five years. How do you stop fighting? How do you let that fight go when it is part of your daily routine.
I asked my horse Shandoka who always looked after him to give me a sign that Chaco was with him. Shandoka’s name meant Storm Bringer. Even though rain wasn’t supposed to start until 8 hours later, a storm gathered around us. It started to rain lightly, and then the clouds opened up forming a circle above us with the brightest sunlight pouring through as it continued to rain. Probably to anyone looking our way, they saw a rainbow.
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A few days before all of this I had to scrub out Chaco’s water tank. He loved to help me. He stood next to me, and whenever I stirred up the water for the water pump, he would stir it and splash me. He then would take a long slurp. When horses hold water in their mouths, their tongue will stick out a bit. While I was scrubbing, he would put his tongue on the back of my neck and let the water dribble out all over me. Each and every time I scrubbed the tank he did this, and he got a kick out of it each time. This is the horse I will remember….not his leg problems…but how my Gentle Giant loved to play…how he loved life.
Chaco’s Jockey Club name was Lesis More. There was nothing “Less” about him. He was everything.
I want to thank everyone that supported him in some way. You know who you are. We great appreciate you. I will be offline for awhile as I try to help my other boys get through this.