What a difference a year makes. As I write this, I am reminded of this actual date as I am once again packing for the American Academy Of Anti-Aging conference, which is held annually in Las Vegas and has beaconed our name for several years running. This year I am counting my blessings with each fold and not taking one step I take or that of my "Absolut" horse for granted, as the proverbial rug of life can get yanked out from under with a swift jerk that leaves a lasting whiplash- not to be soon forgotten.What a difference a year makes. As I write this, I am reminded of this actual date as I am once again packing for the American Academy Of Anti-Aging conference, which is held annually in Las Vegas and has beaconed our name for several years running. This year I am counting my blessings with each fold and not taking one step I take or that of my "Absolut" horse for granted, as the proverbial rug of life can get yanked out from under with a swift jerk that leaves a lasting whiplash- not to be soon forgotten.
What a difference a year makes. As I write this, I am reminded of this actual date as I am once again packing for the American Academy Of Anti-Aging conference, which is held annually in Las Vegas and has beaconed our name for several years running. This year I am counting my blessings with each fold and not taking one step I take or that of my "Absolut" horse for granted, as the proverbial rug of life can get yanked out from under with a swift jerk that leaves a lasting whiplash- not to be soon forgotten.
Upon our return last year, I whistled happy little Christmas tunes all the way out to the barn where Absolut, aka: Rodney was stabled. Usually when he heard my car drive in he would B-line it for the gate and give his pasture "underlings" the evil eye so he could get the "bait" first. I assumed he was just sunning himself until he both saw and heard me and didn’t even look up. This is important. Rodney always galloped up to the gate to greet me. Halter in hand I trudged through the snow to collect my horse. Even then he didn’t offer to walk to me. I had to actually put the halter on and lead him out of the pasture, which took 10 times longer than it ever did as each footfall was riddled with pain.
One of my friends saw this display, which was accompanied by tears, as I knew Rodney was in HUGE trouble. I even knew what it was which actually made it worse. A local vet was called who confirmed a severe case of laminitis and suspected the culprit as being secondary to the initial unsought of Peripheral Cushing’s disease. Bonus. NOT!
Great, how can my 11 year old super fit, Prix St. Georges horse have some kind of Cushing’s disease? Isn’t that generally reserved for rotund ponies that are in their waning years? Of course it isn’t. My horse manages to contract some semblance of a designer disease, which is potentially fatal and not necessarily well understood. The original rotation was 10, which I learned was not exactly favorable. Dr. Duane Fitzgerald of Thornwood Equine Veterinary clinic in Ada, Michigan advises me to consider laminitis or "Founder" as an immediate, critical emergency. The sooner the founder is caught, the better the chance the horse has of some type of recovery. It is definitely not a ‘wait & see’ situation. It’s a 9-1-1.
Look for the following signs: bi-lateral lameness in the front, warm pasterns, painful "look" in your horse’s demeanor, disinterest in food, or usual activities such as in Rodney’s case of NOT cantering out in the mornings.
Rodney’s farrier, Garry Stephens offers this advice: "The moment you even suspect founder, place your hand around the hoofhead and check for heat, then, check for a digital pulse between the twotendons, (above the fetlock). If either is amiss, take action immediately. Call your vet and if they can’t get there soon, then follow Debby’s lead. [When a previous mount, her pony Bailey Boy was beginning to founder and their were no vets to be found, she stood him in a sandy, cold creek]."
When Rodney’s initial trauma was discovered/diagnosed, he was in too much pain to be transported to Michigan State Large Animal Clinic so the local vet made him comfortable" with the Styrofoam pads, Bute and stall rest.
A couple of days later we were able to ship him to "State" where Dr. Frank Nickels and the " special forces" laminitis team treated him to their special tincture of "save the horse." Having worked with Dr. Nickels before afforded me an extra dose of confidence that I stood a chance of saving my buddy. When you get a horse that loves to trail ride, jump, hang-out, perform freestyles and upper level dressage movements you realize that their aren’t too many that fall into the same category so it leaves your breathing a little on the labored side with the possibility that you may never be the lucky dance partner that you once were.
I pulled out all the stops and had a little good luck, too. The National Association Of Farriers Convention was being held adjacent to where Rodney was stabled, so Dr. Nickels and his laminitis team, (complete with farrier, Jim Coutier) was able to get the latest of late in the founder/shoeing department. These fancy little "pumps" were fitted with hot pink pads, and "lift system" which looked like some type of "Barbie" shoes for horses. All of the latest protocols were put into place and followed to the letter during his two-month incarceration at State.
Rodney quickly became a favorite of the students, (who spoiled him with carrots and petting). His diet was drastically altered so even the carrots were a bit of a "no -no." Toward the end of the stay it became apparent that Rodney was turning a corner. State’s farrier offered me the following advice. "This is a nice horse. He can probably come back, at least to trail ride, IF you do everything right. Most people don’t have the patience to properly do the aftercare and end up losing their horses. Don’t be one of them."
Advice heeded, Jim Coultier, fabulous farrier! Rodney has been under the watchful eye of another vet clinic where he has been allowed to be a horse. (With a cow, and a bevy of girlfriend horses.) Jim would really like Garry Stephens, (a very sage and wise man who remembers shoeing my horses when I was in ponies) and was the final savior who suggested I find some low ground where Rodney could walk around on bare feet and reap the rewards of God’s green acres, sunshine, dew for his feet, and fresh air.
Enter Thornwood Vet Clinic, which luckily for me, is five short minutes from my house. This place was heaven on earth for Rodney and me! Two vets, (Dr. Leali lives on the property), their techs, and passersby checked in on him every day.
Four months into his convalescence Garry Stephens said it’s time to get some more films and go from there. Films looked great, blood work was back to normal and all tests were a go! Garry and Dr. Fitzgerald both gave Rodney the green light to go back to the walk work. Six weeks of light walking in a field then led to some short trot work and eventually, a little canter. Two months later he was fitted for some "regular" shoes, which made him even more comfortable than he was in his field of green in the au natural.
Garry was surprised at the positive growth of the feet and overall progress. Confession time. I had a little help! My anti-aging/physician husband suggested I put him on the best supplements for his immune system, along with soy, minerals, etc). Dr. Lauren DeRock from California suggested Transfer Factor for horses, which we already had in our cabinet for humans. Rodney went through two pails of that when I learned about a company called Figuerola Labs that also do human/horse products and feature a product called LaminaSaver.
Sparing no expense, I forged ahead with the supplements, the brushing, walking, specialists and daily visits. Lisa Payne, (my trainer from Florida) rode Rodney for a ‘disinterested third party" opinion in July. She also gave the green light to go back to work. Then, in October, Rodney’s exerciser friend, "Kate" who took up the slack for me two days a week, and Lisa both agreed that Rodney was a little "short" behind. This is when Dr. Weaver, the Vet/chiropractor/acupuncturist was drawn into the "save the Rodney recipe." Whew, it was just a hip out of alignment. Viola! Rodney felt so good after that I could barely hold him back.
Even though we were still spending 90 percent of the time bringing him back slowly I did get to try his fun gears. Fun they are, too. He still has it all: extensions, canter pirouettes, piaffe, and tempi changes. Christmas day I was treated to a string of one tempis. I will never take another day for granted with my horse friend and will forever be grateful to the wonderful professional’s, my many friends, and everyone who helped me help him. We are thrilled to ring in the New Year and yell across the field, "Heessssssssssssssssss back!"
Getting Rodney back has been one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life. It seems that my effervescence is so overflowing that everyone wants a turn on him. Even my "non-riding’ son’s curiosity was piqued. He asked me to take him for a spin on Rodney so I did with this advice, "Jordy, you know how your sport’s car is very ‘tight’ and Daddy’s car is kind of loose? Well, Rodney is like your car, meaning that everything you do, even the direction you look means something to him."
Any riding instructor would love their vocation if they had students like Jordy who listen to the directions, follow them and ride in a soft round manner even time one, in an open field, complete with a cow. Rodney even treated Jordy to his ‘reverse’ gear. I threw a leg over to showcase a couple of Rodney’s’ specialties–trot extensions and canter pirouettes. On the long walk back to the barn Jordy said, "Why does he trot faster than he canters?" To which I replied, "Because, thank God, HE CAN!"