Sunday, January 16, 2011


Our Little Gracie - It Is What We Do

In these past few weeks, we have put 2010 behind us. We have each, in our own private ways, tucked the memories and the tears of that year away. We have stood tall, taken a deep breath, and exhaled long and slowly. We have lifted our faces to the skies and closed our eyes. To hope. To pray. To wish. To imagine the year ahead. Please, we prayed, let it be a year of good works. A year of smiles and hugs. And a year of healing. Please. Let 2011 be a good year.

With hesitation, fear, and hope, I dropped the horse trailer onto the truck early this past Wednesday morning. Everyone was hooked and enjoying their breakfast. The sun was rising and the air seemed as though it may actually be a decent today. Maybe in the teens today? What a grand relief that would be!

I began unhooking everyone and hugging them. I hadn't slept well and I was apprehensive and a bit on edge. Today I would take one of The Herd to see
Dr. Anne at the U of M Equine Center. And I was nervous. What would be the diagnosis? The prognosis? What decisions would need to be made today?
And where would the strength to make those decisions come from?

Gracie innocently stood in her stall. Grateful for the brushing I had given her
this morning and for the clean, winter blankets I had dressed her in. She soon
decided it was time to rest and so snuggled in the shavings. Oh well, so much
for a clean Gracie!

She obediently came with me as I took her out the front door of the barn and into the trailer. But once in the trailer, Unit called to her. Spirit called to her. Miss April called to her. And she called back! At the top of her lungs, Gracie called to all of them from the trailer. She may be little but her voice is mighty!

Our ride into the U of M was slow and gentle. And I know I was irritating to the people who had to pass me as I rode in the right lane. But I had Gracie in the back and I would not risk her. Not on those tender little feet of hers. And especially with her being so tiny in that big trailer.

Once inside the doors of the U of M, we dropped the winter blankets and tiny, thin little Gracie was oooh'd and aaah's over by the students. Exclamations of how cute she was flooded the air. Melissa came over and hugged me, making a comment that Gracie was not the typical patient that I brought to the U!

Her weight was 418. Gracie is down about 50 pounds since the Gala. A symptom, we now think, of her level of discomfort with her sore front feet and even possibly a response to the prolonged use of bute to help her manage that pain.
We moved her to a stall and the exam proceeded.

She was listened to, felt all over, her feet were lifted and all kinds of numbers were recorded. How as her manure? Was she wobbly on her feet? Did I see her falling? How long since her last seizure? Dr. Draper was there and, honestly, that made me nervous. Neurological ailments were Dr. Draper's specialty.

Dr. Vallberg came in and suggested a Vitamin B supplement. An eye pressure test was completed and it was decided that further neurological examination really wasn't possible with the tenderness of her feet.

X-rays of all four feet were taken with two x-rays of each front foot taken - one from the side and one from the back. (The x-rays are shown at the bottom of this blog.) I moved the truck and trailer while the x-rays were being taken. Afterward, I was once again standing in the hallway while a procedure was performed. Knowing my tendencies, some of Laddee's technicians appeared to talk with me and share their cheese lunch with me. Thank you. Very much.

It seems silly to be so worried about sore feet, but I also knew that sore feet can be so severe that there are no options. I also know that blood work can give us liver and kidney readings that mean a shortness to life. I also know that the feet cannot perform or legs cannot move because something is wrong in the brain.

And then there is the dementia thing to talk about. Why does Gracie "get stuck" next to the board fence in the summer? Why does she "get stuck" between the round bale and the gate? Why does she "get stuck" standing out in the open?
Why does she just not remember how to turn around?

There were no clear answers to these questions. Blood work has not yet been returned so we don't know if there are any readings to give us any clues. Many of us hope - and pray - her tendency to become lost and "stuck" is just an issue of lowered mobility.

Her x-rays showed us toes on both front feet that have rotated downward. Why? We don't know that answer. Could it have been the seizure? Probably not since that was several years ago and her tenderness seems to be only in the last 12 - 18 months. Toe rotation can come from moldy hay, from a reaction to stress, from a reaction to a fever or illness. None of these occurrences seem probable, but somehow Gracie sustained an insult to her system and that insult manifested itself in the rotation of her toes.

Can we treat Gracie and help her recover. Yes!

Nothing in the tests showed Dr. Anne that Gracie was far enough in trouble to even consider end-of-life. It would be a long journey, she told me, but then she smiled and reassured me that it could be managed and Gracie could return to the pasture with careful cares for the next few months.

So, what do we need to do?

We need to manage her pain with a non-steroidal pain medicine.
We have moved her to the Equioxx paste which is a once daily dosage. Every morning, before I present her with her hot mash, she receives her pain medicine.

We need to treat and then prevent further ulcers in the lining of her stomach.
We have added a product called UlcerGard to her routine. Once daily, she receives a dosage of medicine to help heal what we think are ulcers in her stomach and then, after those are healed, to prevent more ulcers for as long as she is on the Equioxx. Every evening, before I present her with her hot mash, she receives her ulcer medicine.

We need to have our Specialized Farrier work on her hooves.
The x-rays of her feet have been forwarded to him and he has said, "Looked at
x-rays and can see I have a lot of hoof to work with. GREAT ! Lots of heel to come off and not to worry about sole thickness. There appears to be some remodeling of the toe of the coffin bone but not bad. We need to get a warm day and maybe even soak her hooves in warm water for about 15 minutes to soften them up so she doesn't feel the pressure of me cutting on them so much. I think we can do a lot to help her."
How fortunate we are to have this talented man in our corner!

We need to cushion her feet until her hooves have been reformed to relieve the pressure of the rotated toe.
Right now, until her hooves are trimmed the first time, we have 2" styrofoam insulation duct taped to her front feet. Her feet will form the insulation to their shape and this will reduce the pressure of hard earth pressing on her sore toes.

We need to purchase Soft-Ride Orthotic Gel Comfort Boots for her to wear long term.
They are boots that will come off when she is in her box stall with the padded floor and then be put on again when she is ready to go out into the pasture. Why the boots? I believe the best way I can explain them to you is to ask you - wouldn't you want slippers on your feet before you were asked to walk barefoot on gravel? Gracie's feet will remain that sensitive, so asking her to walk "barefoot" isn't kind or humane. So, boots it is!

We need to purchase Cleantrax, a solution to soak her feet in immediately after her trims.
This product will work to reduce the bacteria in her feet and promote healing. Taking only thirty minutes per hoof, it is a small effort to help her feet remain healthy.

We need to find a Vitamin B/Thiamin paste additive to add to her diet.
Vitamin B is a great appetite stimulant and Gracie needs to add some weight
back on her frame. Now. Her spine is visible as are all of her ribs. Fifty pounds
off of a four hundred pound animal is excessive weight loss in only a little
over two months.

We need to find feeds that are high fat that she will eat.
Right now, I make a hot mash for her twice a day and she is starting to take a liking to it. The mash is soaked beet pulp, SafeChoice feed, Releve feed, and cut up apples topped off with a cup of apple juice. Regardless if she finds this appealing or not, if her stomach has ulcers she will eat a few bites and then stop. So we need to watch for symptoms of ulcers healing and her appetite increasing or of her continued lack of interest in food.

We need to keep Gracie in her stall until her pain level is reduced.
This means she has a floor of 8" of clean shavings on the floor for two reasons:
to keep the pressure off of her feet when she stands and to reduce the chances
of sores on her body from the blankets and the pressure from her lying down so much.

Every day, her blankets are removed and her body is brushed and checked for signs of pressure. Her blankets are replaced and she receives her daily dosage of hugs and kisses. And paste medicines. And hot mash. And every day her shavings are cleaned with her stall completely emptied and brand new shavings put down at least once every week.

We need to proceed with the neurological exam, when we can.
When Gracie is 2 to 3 trims into this process, she will return to the U of M for follow-up x-rays and the neurological exam. It is important, we feel, that we proceed with the neurological exam to try to understand her tendency to get "lost" and get "stuck". So when we are in the muddy season, we will bring her back to Dr. Anne and Dr. Draper and see if there is something misfiring in her little brain.

For now, though, we are focused on supporting her and allowing her to find a way to heal her body. Gracie seems content in her stall and is warm under her blankets. She eats maybe a cup of her mash each feeding and I watch eagerly to see if one of these times she will eat a bit more. Her leftovers are fed to Liz-Beth who appreciates the hot beet pulp flavored with apples. But Gracie needs to eat.

She receives fresh hay in a blue barrel twice daily in addition to the round bale in her stall. Her water is tracked and her bucket is refilled twice daily. I'm actually thinking of hanging another heated bucket in her stall with apple juice flavored water in it. Anything to get her water intake increased!

Once again, Refuge Farms is expending its resources in support of a Sanctuary Horse. Once again, we are investing money and time and energy into a horse that many would discard or refuse to treat. Gracie's feet will never be sound again. She will always have tender front feet. So, many would ask, why treat her?

We treat Gracie for the same reasons that we treated Laddee. And Handsome. And for the same reasons that we continue to treat Miss April. Because we can, through medicines and treatment and energy and time, give Gracie a good quality of life. She can eat grass this summer and sleep in the sun. She can feel the warm spring rains on her withers. And she can scratch with Handsome or Appaloosa Mare or whomever she pals with.

But mainly, we treat Gracie because we promised we would. Because it is what we do. Does it cost money? Yup. Does it take time? Yup. Will it be easy? Not necessarily. Will it work? Only time will tell us. Will it get to the point that Gracie will give up? Maybe. But until then, we will support her, help her, and treat her.

Very simply, we treat Gracie because it is what we do.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd and Little Gracie

Right Front Side X-Ray

Left Front Side X-Ray

Right Rear Side X-Ray

Left Rear Side X-Ray

Right Front X-Ray - Back

Left Front X-Ray - Back

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?