I found a hauler that met me at the farm early in the morning. The appointment was set for 10am, and the place in PA was about 2 hours away without traffic... Well, Philly is guaranteed traffic on a week day so we hoped for the best. I loaded Spyder into his HUGE box stall (1/3 of the whole trailer) where he had a chunk of hay and could move freely. He was super spoiled on the way up with all of the space.
I beat the trailer up there and checked in at the office upon arrival. I was told to wait by the trailer while they paged "the crew" because Spyder had arrived. A whole team came out to greet us and unloaded him for me. A resident vet was part of the mix, and she let me know that the vet we would be seeing was on her way. We went through an automatic garage door to the evaluation room. It looked a lot like a science lab, and had 2 stalls in each front corner of the room. The vet student did all of the vitals, his hoof test (in which he has incredible feet), and put Spyder in his holding stall. A volunteer was also there getting hours for vet applications and another employee that led him around all day. All of "the crew" was very, very nice!
They took Spyder out of the stall when the doctor arrived, and I got to tell his story. The doctor couldn't believe how great his feet were - yay standardbred feet! From there, they palpitated his fluid filled area to get an idea of what might be going on. They thought for sure that it was tendon or ligament, and wanted to get him over to the ultrasound department after doing the lameness evaluation. They took him outside, and Spyder saw his first cow! It was super scary and he acted like a fire breathing dragon for that and the huge garage door he was going in and out of all day. Even the 5th time (and sedated), the door was still scary. I didn't have to touch him for any of the evaluations, as they did everything! An employee trotted him up and down the driveway as well as on a circle to see his head bobbing madness. They were all puzzled because there was a lot of weird movement going on. From there, I was asked to get on...
I tacked up and we walked to the riding ring (but not before seeing the cow again). The indoor was BEAUTIFUL. There is all natural lighting and the best footing I have ever seen in a ring. I would trailer my horse to work to ride in there if that's where I worked! I rode, and they were baffled by his movement to the left. We got in some circus moves and funky steps, and they weren't quite sure if the area that was swollen would be causing that. My audience of 5 people made me nervous! They did mention he's not a bad mover when they could see him move without pain which was reassuring (for a standardbred... as everyone likes to add). I untacked and we went to ultrasound. I was so nervous for what they might find.
Spyder was a bit impatient for getting his leg shaved and standing in the standing stall for his ultrasound. He didn't like the gel they were putting on the instrument so sedatives eased his mood. He was right back to falling asleep while standing after some drugs. He behaved quite well for what I thought would be a total embarrassment. The ultrasound took a good hour and a half as they looked at everything! They could see all of the fluid, some thickening of ligaments, and a very, very small tear/area that had something going on. The fluid was a result of this area, and they couldn't believe the spot where the check ligament was injured. I ended up writing an e-mail to the vet to ask about this because I forgot to ask about the severity when I was there. It's a 30% injury to a small area that isn't common. This is where the "this area usually heals, but due to the nature of this injury, recovery is unknown." YIKES!
We went back to the prep area from the beginning of the day in between each move around the property, and this is where they did the block. After the block, they did some more w/t in hand and in the circles from earlier. Again, it was better, but not 100%. I got on, and it was a much better ride than earlier (and now I had a crew of 8 people because other students rotated in), but he still had issues to the left and resisted turning that way (weird side note: earlier he was tripping with the right front, with the block, he tripped on the left front). I had the option to get x-rays, but the doctor felt bad since I had already racked up quite the bill. I figured I was there, do it. I wanted to make sure there wasn't more in the area than the ultrasound could see, and his knee looked good once they got the images. There are no signs of arthritis, but they did see some kind of old injury. Interesting. I am glad that now I have a before on that knee in the event anything ever happens to that leg (for who knows how many times it's been a problem).
The solution? Stall rest and hand walking for controlled exercise for a minimum of 6 months. It usually takes up to a year to heal, but depending on the rest and exercise, it can take even longer. Ha, that'll happen with a horse that has a ton of muscle from training for long distance rides, one that just turned 7, and one that is out 24/7 because he loves to socialize and play. So is this good or bad news? I'm still not really sure. I'm going to schedule the follow-up ultrasound for mid-October to get an idea of the healing and go from there...
... to add another twist, the local vet isn't so sure of the diagnosis and thinks something was missed. Now, I'm lead to believe: 1) Is this what it really is? 2) Is there something else wrong? 3) What other vet can check it out? 4) What care instructions do I follow? Next post, I'll talk about how it's going so far.