I think it is time that you all get an update on my beloved buffalo.
This has been the year of maladies for Ax—earlier this year he sliced his mouth open which resulted in some minor stressing, an unexpected (and perfectly timed) vet visit, and some time off, and now we are approaching week four of stall rest due to a mystery lameness that has my vets stumped.
We have to rewind a bit to start. On November 18th I noticed that Ax felt weird under saddle at the walk, but chalked it up to him being dumb in turnout and the dropped temperatures making him stiff…until we trotted. A slightly head-bobbing lameness of the right front quickly brought our ride to a halt and me to confusion as there was no heat, swelling, or reactions to palpation. Hoping a little rest would do the trick, I wrapped his legs to be safe and put him away for the night with instructions for a half day of stall rest the next few days.
Unfortunately, my vet was in Texas with an undetermined date to return, and although I’m not one to call the vet right away—I’m typically a “give it a bit” kind of person—when there was no improvement four days later, I was getting worried. I went home for Thanksgiving hoping that it would resolve itself and with my amazing barn owner promising to update me if he appeared to be worsening. That Sunday I woke up to a text from my friend who works at the barn that he was severely unsound at the walk, shifting weight, and toeing out.
After a panicked call to my parents and the after hours vet that was covering for mine, I was off to SmartPak (the only tack shop open the weekend after Thanksgiving!) for everything you’d need for an abscess. A few other boarders had suggested an abscess as well, so I wasn’t surprised that the vet thought so too, except he had never had any issues with them in the four years I’ve had him. I rationalized it by remembering the rocky hunter pace we went on in October and thought maybe a stone bruise had started to fester. A few hours later my tack trunk was stocked with Animalintex Poultice Pads, Epsom Salt Poultice, Epsom Salts, Duct Tape, diapers, and a billion things of vet wrap, and I was setting my alarm for 6 A.M. to go soak his hoof before work.
I was praising the horse gods the next day when my vet called to say that she would be back on the 29th and could see him then. Sadly, my happiness didn’t last long. Long story short, she referred us to the closest animal hospital, Tufts, for x-rays of his shoulder to check for a potential fracture after she noticed some muscle atrophy in his chest and above his elbow, and I cried. Correction: I sobbed.
And of course, that Friday Ax came off the trailer at Tufts much more comfortable and only as off as he was when this all started. I promised the vet that he really was three-legged the day before, not the 2.5/5 that he looked like at that moment. A set of x-rays of his shoulder and elbow, blocking from his hoof to his shoulder, and an ultrasound later, she was as stumped as we all were and sent him home on stall rest for a week with a recommendation to return for a bone scan if he doesn’t progress. As I was mentally preparing to invest in a bone scan of the front half of my horse, he came out almost completely sound and free of head-bobbing on December 6th, five days after the Tufts appointment, putting the scan on hold.
Now, we are 27 days away from the first sign of lameness and his chest muscle is slowly returning, he is much more comfortable (thought still hating being in restricted areas), and he has trotted out sound for the past week. He is only allowed to go out in a teeny tiny area outside and is limited to walking and light trotting on the lunge.
Because we don’t know what caused this mystery lameness, and because it took a sudden turn for the worse with no reasoning, we are taking this slowly—very, very, slowly. My vet is amazing and has been prescribing a regimen for him via text, saving me more vet bills, and I’ve got an amazing chiropractor/acupuncturist coming out the day after Christmas to put his body back in the right place and get his opinion on the whole thing. I am hesitant to say we are in the clear, so right now, we aren’t looking to get back under saddle until early 2018.
I learned two important things from all of this: 1) trust your gut even if it goes against your usual feelings, and 2) insure your horse, kids. I wouldn’t have been able to do all of the diagnostic testing without insurance and I sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to handle it all without my parents and José.
And that is the update on Ax.