After a nerve-wracking weekend thinking of all the horrible things that the vet COULD find in Saga's follow-up checkup - up to and including fractured sesamoid bones - I was pretty much prepared to have to put him down. He'd have good days when I thought he was getting better, and then bad days when, even with the splint on, he was limping horribly. I really felt like he wasn't getting better consistently, and he was starting to go bonkers in his stall, even with Cash up in the barn to keep him company.
We xrayed Saga for the fourth time in 6 weeks... and finally, we saw something. There are arthritic changes in the fetlock joint, as one would expect with the massive infection in the joint a month ago. These changes will probably continue to get worse over time, but they can be managed with steroid injections.
Unfortunately, the other thing we saw was a bone lesion on the pastern, just under the fetlock joint. Oddly enough, Cash has ALSO a bone lesion on his left hock, just under the joint where the suspensory connects. This is what sidelined him from jumping all those years ago, and also what eventually caused me to retire him from all but light dressage work. Basically the lesion will reattach with rest, but as soon as there is enough motion in the area, the lesion will reappear. For Cash, the breaking point was any collection or extension work, which basically limited him to Training Level dressage movements. Of course, the fetlock is a much more mobile joint than the hock, which means it's likely that the healing/reinjury cycle will be constant. One wrong step, or even a moment of trotting, may be enough to exacerbate Saga's bone lesion. Time will tell.
There's also the lesion on the sesamoid ligament that we have to worry about too, so pretty much we're looking at three problems together - on top of the joint infection, which we've managed to take care of. Taken together, these are career-ending, and it's extremely likely (because of the bone lesion) that Saga will never be rideable again. My vet does think that he will be pasture sound in a month or two, so there is some hope for that.
We're taking it one day at a time. We've weaned him off the splint, and he's going out in the barn with Cash during the day. The two of them hang out and eat hay, and pick on each other a little bit (it's very cute). Saga is standing with weight on both front feet now, pretty constantly. He'll take a few steps that look almost normal, then he'll take one where it's obvious something is horribly wrong. He only makes left-hand turns, where the injured right leg is on the outside. I've seen him try to go right, and he literally has to hop around (like a canter pirouette) to do it. He cannot trot, although he really seems to want to at times. He's still wearing standing wraps pretty much all the time, but we're going to start to wean him off of those as well, and the bute. Whether or not he will ever get any better than this only time will tell, but as long as he continues to improve we're going to give him the chance.
I've starting thinking about horse shopping again, but to be honest, my heart really isn't in it. I have two broken horses, and although neither one of them got hurt while doing something riding-related, I still feel responsible. How is it that people keep horses sound and eventing at 16+, I have absolutely no idea. Plus, the thought of starting over is hard. Saga and I were really starting to form a solid team, a good partnership... and now that's gone.
Go hug your horses, y'all.