photo by
Tales of Taco the Wonder Horse and his ammy rider on their way to a Training Three Day

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Taco's Treatment... and mine (thanks Doc!)

I've covered many miles since my last blog post: a conference and visit with family in New England, a trip to Lexington with Taco and Carol, and most recently a trip to Atlanta to pick up a temporary addition to the Team Taco family.

I hated to leave town while Taco was in the acute stage of his injury, but I had committed to a conference for work nearly a year earlier.  So off I went, leaving Taco in the capable hands of Amy, Kate, and Terri.  Amy iced his leg twice a day with a cold pack that we kept in the fridge that Terri generously brought to the barn.  She kept the leg wrapped when it wasn't being iced, and also did (and continues to do!) Taco's extra stall cleanings.  She also met Dr. Tammy Perkins, our rehab specialist who came to treat the tendon with a laser while I was away.  Terri brought an extra little fridge (with a freezer!) for the ice pack, and took Taco on what she calls his "walking picnics" (hand grazing with a good bit of walking) each day.  Kate took him on short hand walks at feeding time late in the day, and also does some of the extra stall cleanings when Amy is away.  It truly takes a village and I was lucky to have these three devoted friends helping us out!

Immediately after I returned last week, Taco, Carol, the dogs, and I climbed into my rig and made the 4.5-hour trip up to Lexington, Kentucky, to the Sport Horse program at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute.  We went for a consultation with Dr. Duncan Peters, the same vet who volunteered at last fall's Midsouth T3D.  Dr. Peters did a brief lameness exam (news flash: Taco was still lame) and then brought him into the climate-controlled procedure room for an ultrasound.  To my dismay, the lesion in Taco's superficial digital flexor tendon was even bigger: almost 30% as opposed to the 5% that it was on Dr. Tony's ultrasound ten days earlier.  Dr. Peters explained that it is quite common for tendon injuries to grow as damage continues after the first insult.  I am very grateful to Amy for icing that tendon twice a day! In better news, he confirmed that there is no damage to the suspensory in that leg, putting my mind to rest.

Dr. Peters then outlined our options, and we decided to treat the tendon in two ways: with Platelet-Rich Plasma and stem cell therapy that will be grown from his bone marrow.  Both of these are in addition to the rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications,  and controlled exercise that are part of the traditional treatment for a tendon injury.  Dr. Peters extracted some bone marrow from Taco's sternum, a process for which Taco was sedated and given local anaesthetic, and it has been sent off to the laboratory at Cornell to grow the culture.  It will be sent back after a total of 3-4 weeks, and then we will all make the trek back up to Hagyard again so that the treatments can be injected into the injured tendon.  Taco's prognosis is good, according to Dr. Peters, but it will not be until the end of this year or the beginning of 2012 than he will be back in full work. 

Feeling verrrry sleepy for his procedure...

So, in the meantime, Taco is still hand-grazing.  I bought him an Uncle Jimmy's Hangin' Ball, which he consumed in less than a week, and I am trying to keep him to a routine of grooming and walking.  Amy has put up a small pen for him that has grass for now and allows him to spend time outside without being able to run. 

This view is becoming extremely familiar to me

Unfortunately, during the time that I have been working on this blog post, we have encountered a few potholes in to the road to recovery.  First, the skin just above the tendon injury blistered and developed a sore.  It's needed careful wrapping that doesn't put too much pressure on that spot but keeps it protected.  Next, he stepped on a nest of yellowjackets at the end of our evening grazing session yesterday.  He was grazing happily, and then started frantically stomping that left hind... the one with the injury.  I saw an insect flying around that leg and thought it was a bot fly at first.  But then a yellowjacket landed on my arm and I realized what had happened.  We beat a hasty retreat back to the barn, where he stood on three legs and dangled the left hind miserably, barely allowing me to touch it.  And the front of his leg, the side with the three-year-old scarring on it, had a pink raw spot where one of the scars was.  Oy, vey.  Icing and wound cream and oral tri-dex ensued... and several hours later it was clear from the swelling that he'd been stung on the inside of his ankle and possibly on the front of the cannon bone.

We hit the third pothole this morning.  The sting swelling seemed to have gone down, so I was feeling better. We grazed and then I groomed him and led him into his stall.  Now, every pony clubber knows to turn around once she's led a horse into a stall, so that the horse's head points toward the door.  I did not do this.  As is my habit, I led Taco over to his hay corner and removed his halter there.  He then spooked at a white milk jug that I'd placed in his stall as a toy, wheeled, and clattered down the barn aisle and outside.  I had a brief, cruel moment of hope that he would let me catch him when he paused to greet some pastured horses.  But it was not to be, and soon he zoomed to the top of the largest pasture on the farm.  I followed, swearing copiously.  I got within 15-20 feet of him and off he went again, back to the bottom of the field, where I'd had the presence of mind to latch the gate.  One more brief run and then I caught him, to my relief. 

Is the tendon damaged even more than before?  I don't know.  I did not see any additional swelling or feel additional heat.  I did a couple of icings, and Surpassed the whole thing, and wrapped it.  We'll see what we have tomorrow morning, and I will call our vets to let them know about this development and ask whether I should do anything else.  And does anyone have ideas for alleviating stall rest boredom?

All of this has been admittedly stressful, and my usual way of handling stress is to ride.  Since Taco will not be able to be ridden at all for much of this summer, and when he does return to work, he will only be able to walk for at least the first month, I was horseless.  Fortunately, my friends have come to the rescue again with offers of horses to ride.  Eventually it worked out for me to borrow another horse from Annika, Taco's past owner.

Meet Doc.

(sorry about the dust on the lens)

He's a plain bay, ten-year old OTTB (off track Thoroughbred) who is the sweetest soul.  He was temporarily down in Atlanta with Team Taco friend Lynda, and he needed to get back to Michigan, and we all thought it would be wonderful if he stopped off in Tennessee to keep me company for a little while.  He arrived on Wednesday, and so far we've done some easy flatwork and hacking with Terri and Truman.  He is lots of fun.  I'm so grateful to Annika for lending him to me-- he is a bright spot of fun in what have been a few weeks of roller-coaster riding.

The bay boys together again


Frizzle said...

Rollercoaster indeed! Taco seems hellbent on giving you a heart attack, lol.
Have you ever seen an Amazing Graze? It's a giant...well, thing, that you can put horse cookies, alfalfa cubes, carrots etc. in and the horse has to roll it around the ground in order to get them out. It does look a little, um, "naughty" ;-) but it's great for horses on stall-rest, as it definitely keeps them busy for a while. I believe they sell them at Valley Vet.
Best of luck! It sounds like Taco is getting the best care possible, so I'm sure he'll be all healed up in no time.

Melissa-ParadigmFarms said...

Goodness you have been on a rollercoaster. Here's to smooth sailing for Team Taco!