Facebook reminded me of this picture the other day. I don't take regular conformation shots, mostly because neither of my horses will stand still. If I am messing with the camera, they always walk towards me, so any conformation shots I do get are of a moving horse looking for treats.
I don't see a lot of changes to Izzy's outline except for maybe in the neck. There is one thing that I am delighted to see changed though and that is his left hind leg. When I first bought Izzy, he suffered a pretty nasty laceration to the leg while at a trainer's barn. It was a long, long process to get it to heal. He still has a thin scar, but the wound site is clean and tight now.
When I shared the first conformation photo, I added this comment, "that hind leg looks terrible (left hind). I am hoping that the lumpiness of the wound eventually goes away." Two years later, you can hardly see it.
Sometime after Izzy's leg was more or less healed, someone suggested I work on the scar by applying Vitamin E oil. For a few weeks, I applied a small bit each day, but when nothing dramatic happened, I fell off the routine and only applied it when I remembered, which has become several times a week. Even so, I do think it has helped the scar to shrink. And if the shrinkage is just natural and would have happened anyway, at least I didn't do it any harm.
While I was using the vitamin E oil on Izzy's scar, I discovered that it works really well on a variety of skin blemishes. Izzy gets a mild form of "scratches" on his lower legs. You've probably seen them yourself. They start out as a tiny scab that you can pick off with a sharp fingernail, but if you let them go too long, they get rather big and a lot harder to pick off.
Since I had the Vitamin E oil, I started rubbing a small bit on the scabs each day. In no time at all, the scab was soft enough to pick off. Once the skin was scab-free, I continued to dab on the oil each day until the skin looked healthy and hair started to return.
I also found that it works great on hock and hip sores. Izzy's are now mostly gone, thanks to the Vitamin E oil, but Speedy just started a new hock sore the other day.
One caveat: oil doesn't look good on gray horses. In fact, it make wounds look worse initially, so don't be surprised if people start pointing out all of your horse's booboos to you. I've also read that you should use caution if applying it to the face or other areas that get a lot of sunlight as the horse could get a sunburn.
To apply, I simply snip off the tip of the capsule with a pair of scissors and gently squeeze a bit onto my finger. I then dab it wherever I see dry or damaged skin. It helps to loosen crusted on dirt, like in the photo of Speedy's hock, and seems to promote healthier skin. If I apply it for several days in a row, hock sores disappear quickly and healthy skin is left behind.
As far as price, I know I paid no more than ten bucks for a bottle of 100 capsules. If the wounds are all small, I can treat all four legs with one capsule. I know Vitamin E oil also comes in a liquid, but the capsules seemed cleaner without so much cross-contamination.
Since this bottle is almost out, I replaced it with coconut oil which is touted as having anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Coconut oil also contains Vitamin E which is an antioxidant. It came in a glass jar, so I poured about half of it into an empty plastic container. I left half at home in the refrigerator and took the other half to the barn.
I actually like the coconut oil better. It's thinner and lighter and seems to absorb without as much oily residue. And even though I bought the refined version, which is supposed to remove the odor and taste of coconut, both of my boys were very interested in the jar and eager to get a closer look.
While there isn't much clinical evidence supporting the health benefits of Vitamin E and coconut oil, I saw benefits of using the Vitamin E. And since both oils are fairly cheap and won't do any harm, I am keeping them as a go-to for minor wounds and skin ailments.
What's your experience with using oils on your horse's skin?
On this day last year, I brought Izzy home from the trainer who was supposed to give him a green bean "refresher" course. Instead, he came home with a gigantic gash in his hind leg. That's an old story that you can read by clicking here (you'll have to go through a lot of previous posts to start from the beginning).
When I unwrapped the wound that very first time, I was more horrified than I have ever been in my life. I had never actually seen a wound that deep on a horse before. For a brief moment, I wondered if he could even live through it. I seriously wondered if he would have to be put down. It truly looked as though half of his leg had been ripped away from his body, and this was four days after the initial injury.
In case you're relatively new to my blog, here's the photo from the day I first saw it (prepare yourself as it is quite graphic).
I have a wonderful vet. He's quite knowledgeable when it comes to sport horses, and he recognizes that in order to perform at the highest levels, they often require very specialized care. He is also an excellent field vet with decades of experience. He knows that cutting edge isn't always better, and that tried and true, get in up to your elbows treatments are often what is called for.
For Izzy, he laid out an initial ten-week treatment plan that called for old fashioned pressure bandages and frequent debridement of the wound to remove the over-granulated tissue, otherwise known as proud flesh. To hear it now, ten-weeks would have been a gift, but last January, ten weeks sounded like a death sentence. How was I ever going to make it through ten weeks? BWAHAHAHAHA - insert maniacal laugh here.
It took ten weeks all right, and then a few more. In all, I wrote at least twenty-five posts detailing Izzy's recovery process. And now, here we are - exactly 365 days later. To be honest I've kind of forgotten about the wound lately. The last time I blogged about it was right after Christmas. Over the past few weeks, I've just brushed it off and checked for any splitting or filling.
On Friday afternoon, we had a little bit of late afternoon sunlight, so I snapped a few pictures hoping to get one that shows that the wound has finally, finally knit all the way closed and is now hardened with scar tissue.
Most of my friends say that I did an incredible job helping this wound to heal. I don't know if that's true or not. I didn't do anything special or particularly time consuming other than wrap every other day for a very long time ... months and months. And even when it seemed as though it had healed, but then it burst open, I wrapped it again every other day. And when it finally looked like it had really healed for reals, but then it cracked open again, I wrapped it every other day for several more months.
If that's an incredible job, well okay, then I did an incredible job. I don't look at it that way though. All I saw was a horse that needed his leg wrapped - a lot, and so I did.
Want to see it again? Here's the before and after with about 150 bandage jobs in between. Maybe more.
A Mexican friend of mine has the perfect Spanish idiom ... ésta arroz se coció. The English translation is "this rice is cooked." I think something gets a little lost in the translation. Let's try this one - stick a fork in it 'cause it's DONE!
I've got a bunch of little things to share that aren't enough to warrant their own blog posts, so I present 5 mini posts:
Speedy's eye has healed up quite nicely, although it took longer for the swelling to go down than I had thought it would. In all, it took almost two weeks to heal up completely. This photo was taken one week after he had banged it on something. I had just picked off the scab, but the swelling was almost entirely gone.
Izzy's wound is doing really great. After several applications of New Skin covered with two layers of loosely wrapped Vet Wrap, he is now going sans wrap. That wasn't my plan yet, but one day last week I forgot to wrap it when I left for the day.
I had been taking the bandage off when I arrived so that his leg would have several hours with no bandage. This was all done in an effort to reteach the leg's circulatory system to function without the pressure of a bandage. The last few times that I've removed the bandage too soon, the leg has filled, cracking the skin back open.
I am happy to report that when I showed up the next morning, the leg was clean and tight with no filling. I will admit that my heart skipped a few beats when I first saw it unwrapped, but apparently, the time was right.
I know it looks a bit fugly right now, but that's just the New Skin you're seeing. It looks and smells exactly like clear nail polish, and it's super sticky. I am not sure how long it takes to wear off, but I've pretty much left it alone other than running a brush over it to knock off any flaking skin or dried on "stuff." We might finally be getting to the end ...
Since I wrote this ... Izzy scraped the wound, but it's just minor. Sheesh!
I detest dealing with my horses' manes. Tails I can do, manes I hate. Izzy's mane is particularly unruly because it won't stay on one side, and it's really thick. I hate pulling, and I don't think he's a fan of it either. I used the scissors.
Yes, I can see that it looks like crap, but I don't care. At least it's half as short as it was. Judge me if you'd like, but then come over and fix it. I like the taste of humble pie, and I'll even pay you to serve it up.
I am not sure if you've heard the news, but it has started raining in California! It rained "so much" that I opted NOT to ride in the arena on Tuesday. It probably would have been okay, but it was an "Izzy Day" which means that things could have gotten wild and crazy, and I didn't want to tear up the footing.
It rained the night I dismantled my dressage court, but since it has been so dry, the footing was actually perfect the next day. I rode both horses and found that riding without the dressage court in place might be a good thing for a while.
With Izzy, I had a lot more room to "fix" the canter before running into the fence. It's also easier for him to canter a 30-meter circle and then spiral down to 20-meters and even 15-meters. The same is true for Speedy. With so much room, I can leg yield as long as I need to before I feel it's good enough to change the bend and go the other way.
Normally, I can only water the area that is my dressage court, but since the rain is doing the whole space, I can now ride anywhere I want, dust free. It will also keep the footing from getting tore up by riding in a larger space.
Come on El Niño - let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!
It's been at least a month since Izzy has been ridden out of the arena. Since the footing was questionable on Tuesday, I opted for a neighborhood hack. He was so good, mostly. The first obstacle is that little hill with the puddle in front of it that has given us trouble - no problem. And the puddle was even gigantic thanks to the rain.
He stepped into it without even hesitating. Once he was was in, he stopped, looked down, looked around, and then climbed up the hill without another thought.
The second real obstacle is passing by our barn. Nothing. He stopped to poop (very loosely), but then he walked on. Most days I have to get after him with the whip. Nope.
The third obstacle is the stretch of dirt road behind Laurel's property. This was the only place he got naughty. He jigged, flung his head. danced, pranced, and basically acted like an idiot. I just kept changing the bend and pushing him up to the contact. I thought passage the whole time. Not that he did, but if he wanted to be a jerk, I figured he could work hard.
Once we turned the corner, the tension started leaking out, and he relaxed much sooner than he usually does. I was so pleased with how much progress he has made over the past couple of months.
So much is in the little things, isn't it? If I wait around for BIG changes, I'll always be disappointed. It's important to be grateful for all of the little battles we win.
My Five Things - small on their own, but put together, they show definite progress!
Operation New Skin is well underway and appears to be going smoothly.
If you'll remember, my concern has been about the wound cracking back open due to swelling. Unfortunately, this worry is based on experience. We've made it nearly this far several times only to have the wound crack open once the pressure of the bandage has been removed.
On Wednesday, I used a last application of Biozide Gel with a cotton bandage covered with Vet Wrap. When I rewrapped on Friday, I switched to New Skin with two layers of Vet wrap and no cotton. The skin looked tight enough to risk reducing the amount of bandaging material. On Sunday, I undid the Vet Wrap and was pleased to see that the wound was still knit together with no swelling.
Before I rode on Monday, I removed the Vet Wrap completely, and used my DSB boots for the ride. When I took them off, the leg looked perfectly fine. I painted on more New Skin and again covered it with a layer of Vet Wrap.
Knock on wood here, but it seems as though we might finally be out of the woods and free sailing. I hope. The next hurdle will be to skip the Vet Wrap layer without any swelling. I won't try that until next week. I'll keep you posted.
I know I am being overly cautious, but I am not taking any chances!
I am still wrapping Izzy's leg with the mini bandage, but it finally occurred to me this week that I should probably stop using the white lotion. White lotion is a lead acetate product that serves as an irritant to the skin which prevents over granulation. Since there is no longer a hole in his leg and the skin has epithilialized, I should probably stop irritating it.
I don't feel comfortable going completely bandage free though, so I have switched out the white lotion in favor of a small smear of Biozide Gel, an antibacterial and antifungal goo.
Way back in the beginning, when this whole thing started, Biozide Gel was Dr. Tolley's wound dressing of choice. When the tissue began to over-granulate, or develop proud flesh, we had to switch to the white lotion. Now that proud flesh is no longer an issue, my plan is to use the Biozide Gel with a loose bandage for a week or so.
If all looks well on Sunday, I am going to paint the very center of the scar with a liquid bandage, but I need to wean the leg off the bandage. Even though the current bandage is not a pressure bandage, I've learned that even the slightest pressure needs to be removed gradually. Instead of using both the cotton layer and the Vet Wrap, I am going to omit the cotton and wrap the Vet Wrap as loosely as I can, changing it out every other day.
If that looks good after a week, I'll try to leave the Vet Wrap off for several hours and re-wrap each day. I'll be on Christmas vacation by that time so I'll be at the barn for longer periods each day. Hopefully I'll be able to see any swelling before it becomes a problem.
I'll keep you posted!
I know I said I was done with updates, but the wound didn't finish up as I had hoped. Bleck.
If you're new here, Izzy sustained a pretty massive laceration in January while under the care of a trainer. You can read the first and second posts here. The rest of the posts can be found by visiting "Izzy's Leg" in my posts by topic.
It's not that there is, or was, anything horrible going on with it, it just won't finish healing. I am starting to feel hopeful however, as the wound has made a giant leap forward of late.
I wish I had pictures, but I got so irritated that I sort of stuck my head in the sand and rationalized that if I quit taking photos, the situation would resolve itself. I guess that's sort of what happened.
Once I quit wrapping it the last time (early September), that tiny little bit that had a tiny little scab didn't just dry up and go away. It got bigger week by week until there was a small hole in his leg. And then this weird bump started to grow which was accompanied by an oily discharge when squeezed.
Oh for the love of God! That was all I could say day after day. Now what?!?!?!
I watched that little bump grow and fester and just kept my head in the sand. It wasn't particularly painful, anyone will flinch if you poke them hard enough, and it wasn't changing colors or developing an odor, so I just left it. Until I couldn't stand it anymore.
In late October, I started wrapping it again with the white lotion, but I made the wrap as simple and pressure-free as possible. I soaked a tiny strip of Telfa pad with white lotion and wrapped it in place with a thin piece of cotton roll to hold the Telfa pad over the wound. I topped that with two to three layers of Vetwrap to keep everything in place. I changed the bandage every other day as before.
When I took the horses in to see Dr. Tolley for vaccinations and fecals in early November, I showed him Izzy's leg and asked him what to do next. As I mentioned in that post, Dr. Tolley thought it looked fine and encouraged me to stick with it. He also recommended using a liquid bandage once I take this bandage off. The part that I hadn't shared before is that Dr. Tolley had a possible explanation for the slow healing.
He suggested that there might have been a foreign body, such as a bone fragment, lodged in the center of the wound that was preventing it from healing completely. Given the way it has behaved over the past two months, I am pretty sure that diagnosis holds water.
I took the photo on the left a few days before Thanksgiving. It actually looked better in person. The scab was paper thin and for the first time, it looked knit together. I took the photo on the right a few days after Thanksgiving. Notice that there is only new pink skin and no scab!
Up until this point, there has always been the slightest gap in the center of the scab. I am going to continue wrapping it until there is no scab and the skin looks like the rest of the scar. And even then, I might bandage for another week after that before I apply the liquid bandage (which I have ready and waiting).
I've been teasing myself lately about my impatience. This first happened on January 6, 2015. Wouldn't it be fitting if January 6, 2016 turns out to be the day it's officially "healed?" I won't be at all surprised if it takes another 6 weeks for that skin to really heal tightly.
If I had known last January that the trainer's prediction of "10 days" was going to be a year... But I didn't, which was probably for the best!
Before we left for Phoenix this past weekend, I wrote a blog post about taking both boys to the vet for vaccinations. I didn't realize how many people have been following Izzy's leg wound story and recent lameness. Based on some of your comments, there are some out there who are a bit worried. I guess I need to fill in some blanks.
First off, Speedy is happy and well. He is not thrilled with all of the recent leg yield work, but he is kicking some serious butt at the canter transitions. At Second Level Test 1, you have to do a simple change of lead through walk on a serpentine. I am desperate to get to that test, so I am schooling that particular movement to the best of our ability.
Right now, in my short court, he can do the change of lead through trot on centerline. This means we canter to the quarter line, make the change of lead at centerline and canter around the half circle to the next quarter line where we do a quick downward transition to trot. We do a change of lead on centerline again and canter the next half circle to C or A where we start over.
Since it's a short court, my half circles are only about 15-meters. Even so, Speedy can still get the lead change on the centerline every. single. time. The dude rocks it. The simple change is coming.
Izzy is also happy and well. The soreness, whether from a bruise or not, seems to be healed completely. Late last week I was finally able to get in several schooling rides that included walk, trot, and canter. I didn't feel a single mis-step. The rides weren't exactly pretty, but we spiraled down to the far end in the trot in both directions and did a bit of canter work.
Chemaine will be here this coming weekend for Casual Clinic #3, so we will have plenty to work on.
As far as his leg wound, it really doesn't look bad at all. I am just frustrated that I am still dealing with it. I want to be addressing the scarring, not the wound itself. There is still a teeny tiny part that doesn't want to close over completely.
Sorry for the poor photo, but by the time I get to the barn, the light is pretty bad. You can see the little part that I am talking about. It's the circular area right in the middle. It has a little scab on it, which I am hoping is a real scab this time and not just the cap to proud flesh.
Over the past two months, the scab had been closing over the top, but proud flesh was growing underneath. I would pick the scab off only to find over-granulated tissue underneath. Right now, this scab seems right, so I am leaving everything alone.
So there you have it - two healthy horses. They're both getting ridden regularly, and everyone is fit, healthy, and happy.
Alright. This should be my last update on Izzy's leg. It seems to have healed over completely although if you look really closely at the center of the wound, you can see a tiny area that has a scab that should probably be picked off. I am done with scab picking though, so it can just dry up and fall off on its own.
There is zero swelling anymore and he's sound as a dollar (and has been since day one). Now all that's left is for the scar to shrink and fade away. Many of you have recommended a variety of oils or treatments to help reduce the scar, but I've hesitated until I was certain that the wound was closed completely. As of the end of August, I feel confident that this puppy is done.
This has been a very long process, all of which started with a phone call on January 6, 2015. I first saw the laceration on January 10th wherein I immediately placed a call to my fabulous vet, Dr. John Tolley of Bakersfield Vet Hospital. When he saw the wound, he shook his head in disgust at the treatment vet's care and later diagnosis. The treatment vet claimed it would heal in ten days. This has been the longest "ten days" in the history of the world!
Over the past eight months, I regularly photographed the healing process. For the first five or six months, I took a photograph each time I re-wrapped the wound, which was every other day for four months. Let's just say that I have a lot of photos! In the early months the wound showed rapid changes from one week to the next. Here's an example.
Towards the end of the healing process, the skin took much longer to knit together, or epithelialize. I was slower to take photos during that period as the changes were almost impossible to see.
In early April, the wound looked nearly closed, and my vet gave the okay to remove the pressure bandage. That night, the leg swelled up enormously, tearing the skin open which set us on a course of frustration. Each time I removed the bandage for a day or two, the leg would re-swell, tearing open the wound again.
Throughout the summer, I began reducing the size of the bandage and eliminated much of the padding while also wrapping it looser and looser. Eventually, the bandage put about as much pressure on the leg as a sock. I then weaned the leg of even that bit of pressure by removing the bandage for several hours a day. Eventually I was able to wrap for 24 hours and then leave the bandage off for 24 hours.
Ultimately, I removed the bandage completely and let the leg's circulatory system struggle to re-establish its equilibrium, much to Izzy's and my relief. That was in early August. I continue to pick at it now and then, but like I said earlier, I am kind of over the scab-picking thing. Now, I use a jelly scrubber on it each day to remove any dead pieces of skin or loose scabs. He's not sensitive to the touch, and the skin is thick and hard. At this stage, the skin is tough enough that I don't even use polos or leg wraps anymore when I ride.
Over the past eight months, I've been adding photos to a slide show. It's just over three minutes long and includes a remake of Jim Croce's "You Don't Mess Around With Jim," sung by Josh Turner. The first dozen photos are a bit graphic, so if you're squeamish, peek through your fingers for those.
And with that, here's a time lapsed video of Izzy's leg laceration from start to finish.
Izzy's leg is still attached to his body. It also still has a tiny hole in it. The hole has closed and opened several times due to the nature of wounds. While a bandage was obviously necessary to aid in the healing process, it ultimately has proven to be a detriment in the later stages of healing.
Each time I would phase out the bandage, the leg would swell, stretching the skin until it burst open. Once the wound was small enough, I quit bandaging. We are now dealing with a very small area that is struggling to close, but I am pretty sure that once it closes this time, it will stay closed.
There are just things on which I would rather not become an expert. Bandaging a large laceration on an equally large equine would be one of them!
I was a bit discouraged when I shared the last update. All I could think was this thing is never going to heal. I am definitely encouraged now. It's so close to be completely epithelialized, and since I haven't wrapped it in weeks, there is no more swelling and no chance of the wound bursting back open.
I've included 8 photos in the slide show, one for each month of healing. The photos were all shot almost exactly 30 days apart with the exception of the June photo. I was on vacation and forgot to get a photo before I left.
It's almost finished ...