Well, it's been a good run this summer with Saga. We jumped 3'3, we went XC schooling, we foxhunted this fall. We even managed a small show last month, where we took home the "Best Ex-Racehorse" award.
And now, it looks like his riding days are probably done.
It will be two weeks tomorrow when he came in with a slight swelling on his RF fetlock. There were no signs of injury, not a hair out of place, and I was headed out of town for the weekend, so MC and Fuzzypony dutifully cold-hosed while I was gone. The swelling went down, then came back, but he wasn't off. I got back from our trip, wrapped with ice, and poulticed. He was slightly off. Then, last Wednesday night, he was three-legged lame. I panicked and called Andrea, and fortunately she managed to talk me down off the ledge before I rushed him to the vet. I soaked his foot in Epsom salts and then packed it with Icthammol, cold-hosed and iced his leg, then poulticed it and wrapped his off leg with a standing wrap for support. The vet came out early the next day and poked and prodded and blocked and x-rayed...
... and found a whole lot of nothing. He was not positive to hoof testers, the rads were clean, and he sort-of blocked to the foot. He was actually only slightly lame, even without the block - a miraculous recovery for a horse who had been hopping around on three legs the night before. The vet headed out with instructions for stall rest and poulticing, since we thought it was most likely an abscess somewhere deep.
He was back the next day for a second look, saying that things just didn't add up. This time Saga was 3/5 lame. More poking and prodding, and nothing. More stall rest, poulticing, and this time some bute.
Monday Saga was not better, and I was starting to suspect something tendon or ligament related. I scheduled an ultrasound for Tuesday, this time with my favorite vet, the one who took are of Taran when he stepped on a nail. Saga was LAME LAME LAME - so bad it hurt to watch him. He also gave a positive response to palpation of the tendon under the fetlock, where the sesmoid bones are, and he was HOLY CRAP LAME when the fetlock was flexed. We busted out with the US expecting a giant gaping hole somewhere in some tendon under the fetlock... but 45 minutes later we had a whole lot of nothing. Not a damn thing, but a super-painful horse to show for it. We blocked the back of the foot and then the whole foot again, and he was slightly better, but all signs pointed to the fetlock. The vet wanted to do a final block of just the fetlock to see if we could pinpoint the injury, but I had to wait until today to do that.
And when we went to block the fetlock, massive amounts of synovial fluid came spurting out. Awesome. They caught it and it was nasty looking - yellow and cloudy. Definitely a bad sign. He went maybe 70% better after the block, even after the joint had been flexed. We opted to try another ultrasound, with a more powerful machine, and this time we found a lesion on the sesmodial ligament on the inside of the fetlock. Even better. I had to wait for the test results on the synovial fluid, but not surprisingly, they came back very bad - he had a 16,000 WBC count (should have been 500), and 85% nutracel (protein) count - should have been less than 20%.
So the bottom line is, he has a massive infection in his fetlock, AND he has a lesion on a ligament, AND he likely has something going on in his foot as well that we cannot see, based on the way he's blocking (DDFT suspected). The infection has been in there for 2 weeks now, so it's likely caused havoc in the joint - but of course we can't see that on x-ray or on ultrasound.
The prognosis is pretty sucky. I've opted to try to treat the infection with standing lavage (as opposed to surgery). The success rate with that is moderate, and we only get about 3 tries before it doesn't work any more. IF we get the infection under control, he needs at least a year out in the pasture to recover from the tendon and ligament issues. It's questionable as to how or if he'll come back from that, and of course it also depends on how much damage the infection has done to the fetlock joint. It's possible that he'll be sound enough to be ridden lightly, but it is highly unlikely he will ever jump or foxhunt again. He will also likely need steroid injections in that joint to keep him comfortable for the rest of his life.
If we don't get the infection under control... then there is really nothing else we can do, and he will be PTS.
In related news, Cash partied too hard (again) and is 3/5 lame on his RH. We suspect combined stifle/hock strain based on flexion and movement. The vet recommended that we just retire him, somewhere that he won't get pushed around by other horses (ahem-Reddums-and-Taran-ahem). Given his age (and that HE doesn't think he's injured!), that seems like the best course of action. My hope right now is that Cash and Saga can be retired together, since they're BFFs.
Horse ownership absolutely sucks sometimes, y'all. It just SUCKS.