Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Young Boys

After the adults got their injections, we moved on to the youngsters. I'm not sure if I ever communicated on the blog that last year I noticed that one of Flashy's knees did not look right. In fact, it had never looked right. It looked like it had a much larger 'openness' in the knee carpels compared to the other one and he always had a little bump on it. The bump was soft to the touch. I had my CO vet visually look at it several times and he always just said 'It's fine. He's sound right?'. I'd reply, 'Yes, he's sound, but that still doesn't look right.' and he would reply...'It's fine. He'll grow out of it'. Weeeelllll...

No, he didn't. In fact, after Flashy had been turned out on pasture for awhile, I noticed a small band of puffiness across that gap, so I finally demanded my vet x-ray it. Come to find out, Flashy had a small bone spur on the end of his cannon bone, that was pushing the lower knee carpels out of alignment. Also, come to find out, this is a common problem with prematurely born foals. Technically, they are born before the ends of their large bones have a chance to harden and in many cases, the 'soft spot' doesn't harden properly, it begins to calcify creating an inoperable bone spur.

At the time, My CO vet gave me an extremely poor prognosis for Flashy. He basically told me Flashy would be totally lame by the time he was 5 and useless shortly thereafter. As you can imagine, I was not very happy to hear that. The only recommendation given was to limit his exercise and keep him on a low calcium diet.


Never one to shy away from a challenge, I started reading and researching bone spurs. I already kept my horses on grass hay, so there was no change there. I also, started feeding Flashy a bit of oats with Lampley's A-Z, Lampley's Bone Repair, 20,000mg of MSM per feeding (for inflammation) and 5,000mg of glucosamine. I fed that 2x's a day and every morning I duck taped a Back On Track knee wrap over the knee. The little sucker always managed to get it off, but he did leave it alone as long as he was eating, so it was on for at least an hour every day. Very quickly that band of puffiness over his knee began to dissipate. At first it would be gone and then be back by evening. Then it graduated to being gone until the next morning and after a month or so, it was totally gone.

I limited Flashy's exercise as much as humanely possible. He's a low energy colt, but still a colt, so every few days I'd put him out. At first it was just by himself, but he actually ran the fence more being alone than he did when I put Ruger out with him, so I started putting them out together. They would run and play, but quickly settled down. I figured as long as he wasn't showing any inflammation in that knee he was within his limits. It helped tremendously that I always put him up in his own stall every night and being the extremely sensible colt he has been since day one...he was very good about laying down and sleeping for long periods of time. Rest is always, always beneficial.

Outside of that, all I could do was hope and pray that this program would arrest the growth of the bone spur and as Flashy grew, the spur would protrude up into the carpels less, allowing them to relax back down into position. I knew that knee would never be 'perfect', but I felt like there was lots of hope that the disturbance would be minimal and he would be able to have a functional life.

Any hope of making him a barrel horse was totally dead. Even if the knee improved dramatically, there was just no way it would ever be able to handle the torque of turning barrels. Surprisingly that wasn't as heartbreaking as I thought it would be. Personally, I have never viewed Flashy as a barrel horse. I have always thought of him as a future steer wrestling horse, calf or rope horse. I know that is what Brian was really shooting for when he bred for him and I think he would have been pleased to know that is exactly what came out. All along, it has always been my goal to get Flashy into the hands of people that would appreciate his particular skill set.

This is Flashy's maternal uncle...and to be quite honest...the similarity in looks between the two is startling. Same color and the exact same head. He and his owner are racking up some pretty impressive wins. Here's the link to an article about them....Streaking King Dandy.

Another of Flashy's famous breathern from his maternal line is this mare...

I've talked about Blake Knowles incredible mare, Shesa Fabulous several times over the years. Not too long ago, they were featured in America's Horse.

Kind of ironic that both horses are ridden by guys named Blake. LOL. I said, I knew Flashy's future as a barrel horse would be non-existent, but I knew if I could just get that knee to settle down while Flashy finished growing and those bones 'set' with minimal disturbance, he would still be capable of having a career coming out of the box.

All of the time and effort I put into that is paying off!!

This time Flashy's x-rays show that the spur was arrested and the bones did settle down. Not perfectly. I knew they wouldn't do that. But he's a good 50% better than he was a year ago. Even the vet agreed with me that if he continued on this path and the knee is taken care of, he could have a good, long career. Unfortunately, I cannot find the previous x-ray, but this was his recent one...

The vet recommended continuing the diet and supplements I have him on, and we also started Flashy on Polyglycol. He will get a shot of that every month and it will help lubricate the joint and keep the inflammation at bay. I was given the go ahead to start Flashy under saddle and I am allowed to work him over ground poles every few days to help keep mobility in the knee. Obviously, at this point, I will just have to keep paying attention to the knee and adjust his work accordingly. I have every intention of keeping his work light because I have a whole year before he'll even be marketable.

Now, about Ruger...

Back when Ruger was a right about the time I was getting ready to wean him...He somehow managed to bust his knee wide open. I have no idea how exactly he did it...because it was like that when I went to feed that morning, but I can only surmise that he was running in from pasture and tripped in the irrigation return line and fell forward. I thought his leg was broken and I was crying when I called my vet. I just knew he was going to have to put that gorgeous colt down.

By the time we got Ruger in, he was stepping on the leg again and the vet moved it this way and that way. Said it wasn't broken and simply stitched him up and bandaged the leg. It took a long time for the swelling to go down on that knee. It was huge for a long, long time. I asked my vet several times if he thought we should x-ray it and again it was the, 'Is he sound?'...Yes, he's sound...'It's fine'. Eventually that winter the swelling did go down, although there was always a bit of thickness above the knee. Ruger was totally sound though and never seemed to experience any pain or discomfort when I would manipulate the leg.

It was well into his yearling year when that thickness started to feel hard and occasionally, after Ruger had played hard or been out for several days, I could see the slightest bit of shortness in his step and he did not want me to manipulate the leg. When the vet castrated him in the fall, he flexed the leg and told me that Ruger had merely broke the bursa sack above his knee. It might bother him when he got old, but as long as he was used, it would be fine. I've had horses with burst bursa sacks and I knew the vet's words to be true, so I grimaced at the defect and considered myself lucky that was the worst that had happened.

Let me tell you, by this time I was actually thinking the knee incident was a pretty lucky break. If Ruger hadn't bashed his knee, I would have sold him as a weanling and I know I would have regretted that for a long, long time. Defects don't bother me too much and I sure wasn't going to take a huge hit on his price tag because of it.

I think it was in January or February that I started noticing a slight catch when I would lift Ruger's leg to clean out or trim his feet and not long after, I started hearing some grinding in there. He still wasn't lame, although I could tell there were days when it bothered him. I knew I should get him x-rayed, but by that point I was kind of over my vet and knew I would be moving horses to Arizona. I figured I would just get Ruger x--rayed down here. By the time I got everyone moved, the catch had turned into a real catch and loud popping noise and the grinding was horrific to hear. I knew I needed to get Ruger x-rayed before I ever tried to start him under saddle.


It would seem that Ruger did do some damage to his growth plate above the knee and it is experiencing some bone remodeling...

You can see the kind of sharp point coming off the bone above the knee. That is where the tendon/ligament comes down and inserts into the knee. It is kind of a serious thing and the vet definitely was concerned about it, but...It is something that time will 'most likely' heal and smooth out. Bones are constantly remodeling. According to the vet today, every 7 years you have totally new bones. I had no idea it was that short of time period. Damaged bones remodel with rougher, jagged in this case, edges. As the new bone matures, it will (or should) smooth out. Given Ruger's age, the prognosis is good. It's just going to take time. We are going to start him on Osphos in October and see if that does not help speed up the process a little bit. The vet did say that there is no clinical trials using Osphos for incidents like this, but field application has shown it to have some beneficial results.

The vet recommended not attempting to start riding Ruger at this time and most definitely avoid doing anything with him that would require him to repetitively lift that leg higher than absolutely necessary. So no pole work, up and down hills or rough country. The primary reason is, he does not want the rough bone to damage the tendons/ligaments that attach at the knee. He did say that if I wanted to start saddling him and doing some ground driving that is fine. Keep the lessons short and ice the knee afterward. I will probably try to do some of that. Ruger is a huge colt and is already getting stout. I cannot imagine waiting until next year to start him from scratch. I don't think he will mind being saddled too much. I'll just have to work on the cinching up a little at a time so he doesn't have a major bucking fit.

So that takes care of all of the vet work for awhile.


TeresaA said...

Oh dear. Babies are not for the faint of heart. I love how much care you take with them.

Shirley said...

Sounds like you should trust your instincts instead of that first vet. Would it have made a difference for Ruger?
That's interesting about the bones renewing every 7 years- I had no idea they did that at all.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

I'm not sure Shirley. Hypothetically, if I had known there were hairline fractures in his growth plate (which is what I suspect happened), I would have put him on the same Bone Repair (equivalent to Equi-Bone) that I had Flashy on. I did not feed that particular supplement to Ruger until after I had felt that lump above his knee harden. That is when I realized there was some calcification going on and started adding Bone Repair to his supplement routine as well. Also, I would have been using the BOT knee boot on him from a much earlier standpoint. Those measures would have most likely helped prevent the calcification from lumping up on the bone...or at least minimized it.

Now, it is just a waiting game. The way this vet explained it is, bones are constantly rebuilding themselves. As time goes on, the rough edges from the calcification will breakdown and dissipate. Given the right 'environment' (lower calcium, higher phosphorous intake), the new bone will be smoother. Calcification happens when the bone has a weak spot and latches on to extra calcium to heal and protect that spot...but then fails to stop unnecessary calcium from building up. The process is most easily recognized when a horse pops a splint. People used to freak out when that happened, but now we realize that it happens due to stress on a particular point of the cannon bone and over time the lump goes away. The only thing with splints is we usually do not change the horses diet because it is a middle-of-a-large bone location, the body typically stops laying calcium down on it's own. It is not as 'conscious' of when to stop when the problem is in small bones or at the end of large bones. Those locations (knees, hocks, fetlocks) have movement to them and the body gets 'stuck' continuing to lay down calcium to protect the spot. That is why the diet has to be changed so drastically when the problem is in one of those locations. You have to basically deprive the body of extra calcium, and up the phosphorous level dramatically so it stops laying the excess down. The thing is, you have to catch the problem very early in the process. In Flashy's case, I did not catch it early enough to stop it from disrupting his carpels. Almost no one does in cases like his because you'd literally have to catch it within the first 3 months of birth, even though the problem doesn't usually present until their yearling year.

Oh, and believe me, I have learned my lesson about going with my gut. X-rays are so inexpensive and easy to obtain now, a person is just silly to 'wait and see'. Once a horse is actually lame...It's too late.