Saving Stash Part V Recovery & Update
by Holly Peterson
As far as surgeries go, his could not have gone more smoothly. From start to finish, Stash cooperated with the plan for his treatment. Now we needed to get him home and start his recovery, which posed a whole new set of challenges.
With the keratoma removed, he was already walking more comfortably. The truly hard part was about to begin; recovering a young energetic OTTB who detested being locked in a stall, in the middle of winter while trying to keep his foot dry until the hole grew out with no indoor. Yeah, I thought getting him to surgery was going to be tough.
The biggest issue was going to be the restriction on outside time. Stash wasn’t just a young energetic OTTB, he was a young energetic OTTB that had serious issues being in a stall too long. Shortly after bringing him home, we found that he had a pretty serious weaving issue. One particularly cold spell his first winter with us, he actually ripped apart part of his stall with his teeth he was so anxious about being in. We’ve successfully managed this issue, however the management program included ample turnout time.
Surgery all done, we headed home. On the way home, it wasn’t the bandage changes and wound care I was worried about, it was how to keep him happy until he could go outside again. He seemed happy enough to be home, settled into his stall for the night surrounded by his horsey buddies. I knew he’d be fine for the first night, as it was part of his normal routine. It wasn’t going to be an issue until the next morning when everyone else went outside. It was a ridiculously warm December with temperatures in the 50’s. With the previous days rain; muddy- no way to even hand walk him unless it was in the barn.
Since he didn’t need to be on strict stall rest, the first day I tried closing off the other stalls and allowed him to wander the barn. Great plan except he managed to get into the hay and pretty well trash the barn from one end to the other with poo. Not to mention he couldn’t see his friends so all he did was pace. We needed a new plan.
Extra gates! I had extra gates out behind the barn. We used three of them to create a small ‘runout’ in the barn. We blocked off a two stall section(about 24’) and put the third gate across the main entrance to the barn. He now had space to walk, could see his friends and get some fresh air while keeping his hoof dry.
I’d like to say this solved the problem, and it did work pretty well for awhile. But lets be honest, any of us would go a little stir crazy in this situation. Yep- lost his mind. Despite the fact that he had room to move, that we were handling him regularly to change his hoof wrap, he couldn’t handle the seclusion of being without his buddies. Thankfully things finally froze and we got some snow. He was able to get a few hours outside everyday. His peace of mind was worth a few extra bandage changes to keep his surgical site dry.
The easiest part of all this was caring for the wound and his bandage changes. Since the wound itself didn’t actually hurt to flush and clean, he was an absolute angel baby. I kept a picture record from the very beginning. Not only could I see the changes in the hole itself, I could clearly see the progress of his hoof growth and see the hole moving down the hoof wall as he grew out. I was able to use these photos to send regular updates to his vet and surgeon.
December 8th , 2 days post-op, was his first of many bandage changes. Everything looked pink and healthy.
By January 29, the hole was already really close to the ground, it had grown out much faster than I had expected. It was healing really well. I knew it wouldn’t be much longer before he’d be able to go back outside full time. That time couldn’t come too soon- for all of us.
March 19, the hole had finally grown down enough that the thinner lower edge of the hole had broke off. It was time for shoes to help support his hoof while the rest of the hole grew out. The plus side to putting shoes on was that his toe clip partially covered the hole, we were able to pack it and turn him out! We found the driest paddock possible and booted him out. Can we say happy pony?
April- Four months and 10 days post surgery, barely fit, we decided to attend a dressage clinic. It was more for me than him, but he was an absolute star-baby. With all his issues, I’d never taken him off farm before. It was then that I started to think he may have more potential than just a lesson plug.
July- Seven months post surgery, He’s back at work in the lesson and Summer Program, carting kids though the program with the same calm demeanor that helped save him in the first place.
August 14, Eight months and eight days post surgery, he’s jumping 2’6” during the Advanced Summer Program.
November 13, Eleven months and seven days post surgery, he’s now been in consistent work for the first time since owning him. He’s starting to develop as a riding horse and a real pleasure to ride.
One year post surgery, he’s being leased by a young rider. They do hunt seat, bareback, dabble in bridle-less work and have a lot of fun together.
One Year and four months post surgery, he has gone back into full training with me and we have started taking lessons with the two Grand Prix trainers we met at the dressage clinic, this same month one year ago. He’s showing potential as a dressage horse and working hard to balance earning his keep in the lesson program while advancing in his own training.
Stash still has issues; he needs regular chiropractic work, he’s a diva about his feet and needs shoes all around, will throw said shoes more than any other horse on the farm, and can in general be a dork that will hurt himself on air. However, he’s a sweet and loving boy that has stolen our hearts and continues to prove to us every day that what we went through was completely worth it.