I know many riders have the vet come to their barn, but since I've never boarded at a trainer-run barn, I've always found it easier to just haul my boys down to Bakersfield Vet Hospital. It's only about a 20 minute drive, they have a nice, airy bay for working on teeth and doing other exams, and it saves me the ranch call fee.
Since I've only had Sydney for three years, we don't know if he has ever been vaccinated for Strangles. Giving the vaccine to a horse with no history of the disease can be dangerous. If he has already had it, he could have a very serious reaction to the vaccine, so we did some blood work to check his titers. Based on the numbers we get back, we'll either forgo the vaccine, give him one dose, or vaccinate him with a follow up booster.
I do fecal counts to check for worm eggs twice or a year. None of my horses ever test positive, but that's not entirely due to our cleaning practices. It's so dry and hot here that fly eggs don't have much of a chance for survival. Even so, I was glad the tests came back negative. Both horses will get their dewormer this weekend. Even though they always test negative, I still administer the dewormer in case of encysted worms.
We've been following that plan religiously:
- Hand walking for 45 days (he was walked 44 of the 45 days)
- Walking under saddle for 45 days (we're at day 27 of that 45 and he's been ridden at least 15 times)
Next on the list would be to add 1-minute trot intervals for 30 days, followed by adding 2-minute trot intervals for the next 30 days, and finally adding some canter for the final 30 days. Dr. Judy also recommended a re-check at 60 days.
A "normal" wear and tear ligament injury would normally begin with intermittent lameness with some days showing improvement until the horse was consistently lame. Speedy's injury was sudden with no heat or swelling. And while it came and went for a few weeks, he was either completely lame or completely sound, never in between.
Dr. Tolley was not critical of Dr. Judy's initial diagnosis (collateral ligament, bone bruise, or abscess). Without the MRI (and even with it we might not have known for sure), Dr. Judy really just took a best guess and then treated Speedy accordingly. Two months later, it seems as though we have a best case scenario, which Dr. Judy also hoped for.
The good news? Dr. Tolley has cleared Speedy to return to work! He even did a flexion test which Speedy passed with flying colors. I'm still going to be somewhat conservative, meaning I am not going to go out tomorrow and do a full schooling ride. And since he has felt a bit puny from his injections, he needs a few more days of walking until he's completely recovered. I'm going to work out a revised mini-version of Dr. Judy's plan that introduces the trot and canter over several weeks. Even though he may be sound, Speedy has certainly lost some fitness.
I feel quite comfortable with this plan. I am pretty careful with the health of my horses and would never jeopardize their soundness to suit my own purposes. My worry has been that Speedy's weight (he's put on a few pounds) and lack of an energy outlet are going to cause an entirely different problem. Tubby horses are prone to laminitis, diabetic issues, and other diseases. Bored horses are not only destructive to property, but they tend to hurt themselves as they try to alleviate their boredom.
While "round," Speedy has not yet reached a worrisome weight nor has he caused himself any harm, but those things have been on my radar. Now that he has been cleared to get back to work, I won't need to worry about secondary injuries caused by inactivity.
We might even salvage this show season yet!