Back in February, I was on my way to the airport to fly home from Florida to teach, when Krystal, who took care of my horses when I was in Virginia, called to tell me that Ella had gotten cast under a fence in turnout and really ripped a chunk of herself off the back of her inside hind fetlock. She and Eva, the owner of the farm, both thought it didn’t need veterinary attention, so they cleaned it and wrapped it and off I went to Virginia.
The next day, it looked, to quote my vet who’d been called to the scene, like “hamburger.” And the chaos began.
Not one day has Ella been lame on her hamburger leg, but it’s been a big, ugly wound since. It would close, then open. We’d put stuff on it, and it would get better, and then get worse. I’d ride with it wrapped, or unwrapped, neither really making a difference. Florida’s a pretty nasty place for wounds, so we just did our best ’til we got back home, where things seemed to be improving, until one morning I came in to find Ella’s leg and muzzle both covered in blood. She’d made a very valiant effort at chewing her leg clean off. Lovely.
Still sound, my vets here in Virginia, the amazing Drs. Chad and Stephanie Davis, declared that the leg was massively infected and needed surgery. Awesome. So surgery she had, to clean and debride the wound, and then to pull the skin around the area back over it to cover it up. She was a trouper, recovered beautifully, and was then stuck in her stall for four weeks. FOUR WEEKS. And I don’t mean stall rest for 23.5 hours a day with a brief handwalking. I mean 24 hours a day, in the stall.
At the four-week mark we concluded that, while things were healing well, they weren’t healing well enough, and so Ella got to go have a second surgery to take skin grafts from her tummy to put over the wound. Two more weeks in her stall. It should be known that Ella did not need one DROP of sedative during this period. From Grand Prix fit to stallbound with no drugs? She’s one amazing girl.
But oh, the look on her face when I rode her for the first time last week. Bliss!
The wound looks fabulous now – still hairless and a little oozy (ew), but completely covered with healthy pink skin. So we are, we hope, on the other side of this blasted thing, and back to life as (mostly) usual.
There’s still some creative bandaging going on while she’s in her stall, and she’s only back to work 3-4 days a week, with no turnout. All the restricted movement has been to try and prevent her from banging the one leg into the other. And it’s really not all that bad since I’d be bringing her back into work slowly anyway.
But that keeping-the-wound-covered business has been one heckofa project, as the photos show. Assistant trainer Allison and working student Molly have it down to a science.
One of the both trickiest and most exciting challenges was finding a boot to put over the leg while she works. The Drs. Davis wanted something soft on the inside, hard on the outside, and not that thick, out of fear that a thick boot would make the leg a bigger target to smash into should she travel close behind.
Enter my new friend Hunter at Equifit, who graciously sent me boots to try, and who is impressively unsqueamish about gross oozy leg photos. Equifit’s boots use a material called T-Foam, which is a memory foam-like material which absorbs 97 percent of shock and vibration under impact. Exactly what we were looking for! We finally settled on the EXP2, which is sturdy but light, and the hind boot (which is a low ankle boot) adjusts nicely to cover exactly the wound and nothing else, to minimize bulk.
So on we go! This all has certainly put a dent in our summer and fall plans, by which I mean it has completely destroyed my summer and fall plans, but that’s OK. Of all the ways to test the limits of my equine health insurance (and thank GOODNESS for that!), this is one that will, ultimately, not be even a small deal for her in the future, much less a big one. We dodged a bullet, really. While it was so much ado about a stupid wound, like some kind of Monty Python, Black Knight moment, this could have been SO much worse.
Back to business!