A Horse with Excellent Timing

 Posted by on 8 June 2009 at 1:16 pm  Animals, Personal
Jun 082009

My mare Tara has done me a solid.

Over the past few years, I’ve struggled to keep Tara sound enough to ride. She is pretty old at 26, and she was ridden hard as a polo pony in her youth. Consequently, she has various arthritic ailments. This fall, for example, she developed problems in her stifles that I was able to fix with a higher-protein diet, exercise, hind shoes and pads, and bute. (The stifle is the knee-like joint high on the hind leg.) The diet and exercise helped her put on much-needed muscle, while the hind shoes elevated the heels for a better joint angle. The bute — think aspirin for horses — decreased the inflammation in the joint.

Early this winter, she must have slipped and fallen on ice, as she suddenly came up lame all over — in her stifles, her back, and particularly the tendons in both front legs. My vet described her pain in those tendons — she would pull back and grunt hard when he squeezed them — as some of the worst he’d seen. He prescribed rest and lots of bute, up to two grams per day. So that’s what I’ve done for the past six months — without much hope that she’d ever be sound enough to ride again. I figured that she was at the end of her useful life, and that she’d be nothing more than the stable mate of the new horse I’d get after the barn is built. I thought she’d recover enough to be comfortable, but nothing more. I wasn’t too happy about that: despite her occasional freak-outs, Tara has been a great horse for me.

Happily, a few weeks ago, I was delighted to see that she was trotting normally in the pasture. So I trotted her out in the ring a bit, and she was still fine. (Sometimes a horse will look sound in the pasture due to excitement about something. So one has to do a controlled test.) Her back was still a bit sore, but nothing like it had been. So I scheduled an appointment with the vet, so that he could take a look, to see what might be done next. However, by the time he came on Friday, her back was basically completely fine: we could not get her to flinch. He was pretty surprised, I think. He said that I could and should start riding her again — lots of walking and bending, then some trotting. Basically, I’ll need to start her very slow and gently.

I can’t possibly convey how happy I am about this news! Just the week after I finish my dissertation, my beloved but seemingly hopelessly lame horse recovers! Hooray!

Thanks, Tara!

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