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When you own a heartbreaker...

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    When you own a heartbreaker...

    At the end of 2014, I decided to venture back into horse ownership. It took a few months, but the first one I went to see ended up being the one. He was adorable, cheap, young, full of potential, and his (very reputable) PPE vet told me that I had found a diamond in the rough.

    I enjoyed about 6 months of riding and falling completely in love with him before he came up lame. We chased it with ultrasounds, x-rays, injections, rest, and many vet appointments before we were able to determine through the process of elimination that it was most likely a collateral ligament (coffin joint). I opted not to have an MRI and to put him on stall rest and slowly bring him back.

    He ended up being out for a year before we started to bring him back under saddle. We were very slow and he stayed sound! I was able to ride him for almost a year but in a lot of ways it was like starting from scratch as he behaved like a complete fool for SO long.

    One day, over last summer, he came up lame again. This time, it was in his other front leg. My vet was confident that it was another collateral ligament and wanted to MRI. At this point, I was ready to throw him in a field and be done. He's got a great personality so I would still enjoy grooming him and hanging out. A family member stepped in, though, and there were countless vet visits, an MRI (which flagged ALL the collateral ligaments, some mild navicular changes, arthritis, and a ddft injury), PRP treatment, rest, rehab, and training. He had been cleared to return to full work (with no corners/circles) and felt amazing.

    And then, this past week, he's become ever so slightly short strided on that injured leg. We're off to another vet next week, but at this point, I don't have the emotional energy to go through another rollercoaster. It's been 4 years. I've only been able to ride him for less than half of that. I fear that he's just a heartbreaker. The kind of horse that oozes talent but won't stay sound.

    I also feel extreme guilt. It feels like if I could just give him all the expensive treatments and constant vet, chiropractor, acupuncture, etc. appointments that he would be fine. He has made many fans, and I sometimes wonder if I shouldn't try and give him to someone who is more financially capable of providing him that care than I am.

    When you have a heartbreaker, when do you say "enough" and how do you come to terms with not doing more? I am so tired of all of the heartache, financial strain, and stress. I just need a little vent and a bit of camaraderie right now.
    Jen

    #2
    While I have no advise or words of wisdom for you, I can certainly understand your frustration. Owning a horse can be rewarding, wonderful and stressful at the same time. It costs a lot to keep a horse healthy and happy then when there are endless health or lameness issues, it can really strain and stretch us financially and emotionally. I had a wonderful horse that, in the 17 years I had him, cost me a small fortune in colic calls. It not only took a toll on me financially, as each vet call could cost anywhere from $250 - 600 each time. Then, as he aged, it was hock injections. With this horse, I became an emotional wreck. When I had my own barn, I felt I needed to go out and check him constantly. Then I sold my place and moved out of state for DH's job and boarded him. Every time my my phone rang, I would panic, expecting it to be a call from the barn manager telling me he was colicing. Yet, I loved him so much that I never considered selling him. I ended up having to put him down for a bone infection and I miss him dearly but not the stress.

    Comment


      #3
      What breed is he? Are there genetic issues at play, like the degenerative ligament disease in warmbloods?

      Comment


        #4
        I have been in your shoes. Shopped all over for a very nice dressage mare. A year into our relationship, she had a stifle injury. Injections, 30 days off, SLOW return to work. 6 months later withers swelled like a football, xrays showed "irregularities in the spinous processes" ie she somehow banged those withers hard against something...That took 8 weeks and towards the end of that, colon displacement requiring surgery. 9 months later another displacement, different direction, surgery again. Then a nasty bout of enteritis. Periodic mild (tubing and banamine) colic events, likely due to adhesions. Never able to get her back to decent level of fitness. The end for me was possible degenerative disease - suspensory problems in both hinds. She is now retired and will stay there until she is no longer comfortable.

        It about did me in emotionally and cost a bundle. The stress and the panic every time the phone rang at an odd hour. I have now detached myself from her emotionally.She is basically the equivalent of DNR - if local vet cant get her straightened out at the barn, she is done. There is only so much you can do. I know the guilt, the options are limited, so you have to take a deep breath, draw your line and let go.

        I was lucky to find another horse - first I part leased him and then bought him. That helped enormously.

        I feel for you - it sucks.

        Comment

          Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
          What breed is he? Are there genetic issues at play, like the degenerative ligament disease in warmbloods?
          We think he's an Appendix, but he's actually a mystery. It's absolutely possible that he could be part warmblood. Degenerative ligament disease is a very interesting possibility.
          Jen

          Comment


            #6
            I'm with you OP. I saved my pennies and bought a very very well bred warmblood baby at 6 months old. He's 6 now, and so far he has:

            1. Gelding surgery went wrong - trip to hospital
            2. Shoulder injury at age 1
            3. LF injury (multiple soft tissues affected) at age 2: 6 months stall/rehab
            4. Diagnosed with PSSM and shivers at age 2
            5. Been fighting allergies since he arrived from the breeder (shots, antihistamines, diet changes etc)
            6. Another LF injury - I'm 5 months into rehab and he's still unsound

            His insurance paid for itself multiple times over, but this last injury is excluded. So no MRI this time. He's basically worth nothing at this stage, will never be the jumper I hoped, but I can't sell him due to his issues. It is indeed a massive heartbreak, as he is the sweetest and most trainable horse ever! I continue to pay the insurance in case he drops dead and I can recoup my losses - how sad is that?

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by badthingy View Post
              and I sometimes wonder if I shouldn't try and give him to someone who is more financially capable of providing him that care than I am.
              Yes.

              Truly, if you can find someone who will have unlimited funds to provide all the extra cares, and who would take him, don't hesitate to give him away.

              You will be relieved thinking that you've done everything you could do.

              Financially and emotionally, I feel you deserve a break.

              If he was mine I would first, try to give him away. Second, would put to retirement if pasture sound, or third, euthanised.

              I wouldn't go through the hassle of a 3rd rehab if my finances weren't at the top.
              ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

              Originally posted by LauraKY
              I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.

              Comment


                #8
                I would hesitate to give him away on a promise or hope that someone would continue to pay for him.

                If OP isn't in a position to retire to pasture under her ownership and control, I'd strongly consider euthanizing him rather than risking what might happen to him once he moves down the road with all his ongoing soundness issues.

                Just my opinion.
                Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; John Gilliespie Magee, Jr

                Comment

                  Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by Where'sMyWhite View Post
                  I would hesitate to give him away on a promise or hope that someone would continue to pay for him.

                  If OP isn't in a position to retire to pasture under her ownership and control, I'd strongly consider euthanizing him rather than risking what might happen to him once he moves down the road with all his ongoing soundness issues.

                  Just my opinion.
                  This is my exact fear with going that route! They may be happy and willing to pour that money into his care now. But if the cycle continues and they get fed up, I worry what could happen. It's a catch 22 in my mind that I've been really struggling with- even before this most recent bout of lameness.

                  & to be clear: He's absolutely fine to live out the rest of his life on field board as an early retiree on my dime. I can only afford one but that was the gamble I took when I bought.

                  Jen

                  Comment


                    #10
                    My first horse had navicular and was eventually diagnosed with DSLD. She is still with me but permanently retired for the last ten years. When I get a horse with a major permanent unsoundness, it is cheaper for me to just retire the horse. I do not do expensive treatments. I am not rich. All their needs are met- they have food, shelter, love, and basic veterinary care. I will maintain them on pain meds, if necessary.

                    I cannot afford colic surgery, nor would i be willing to do that. My friends horse died despite everyone's best efforts and a week at the equine hospital. Another friend went above and beyond trying to save the eye of one of her horses- one week of care at the equine hospital and the horse still lost its eye. I may consider surgery, but only if it is something with a high level of success.
                    ???
                    I see nothing wrong with retiring a horse with a permanent disability. A friend of mine gave her old horse away to an RV community. The horse has a ten acre pasture and visitors coming on a daily basis to give him treats- that is a pretty sweet retirement! Most of my neighbors in this area have old horses that they never ride, so i believe you can find a good retirement home depending on where you live. My friend does frequently check on her old horse and would take him back if anything changes...My old mare is very near the end so she will stay here til she passes.

                    Why spend thousands on vet bills, if you can afford to retire the horse and buy a healthy one?

                    ?????

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Would trail riding be an option for either of you? Would he be ok for that? Would you enjoy that?

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Or maybe giving him to someone that would only occasionally bop around on him but he would be pasture puff for the most part. And I mean someone that you would see often and have them check in with you. Or maybe a lesson program where he would be in light work and maybe not used so often. I feel for you - poor guy.
                        "Cats aren't clean; they're covered with cat spit."
                        - John S Nichols (1745-1846,writer/printer)

                        Don't come for me - I didn't send for you.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Enough is when you don't have the mental energy to continue. Enough is when the money required is chasing the maybe. Enough is entirely your call.

                          I had one too. Off and on NQR. Eventually retired at age 12. We noodled around on trails, but it was on his terms as far as how comfortable he was doing any given thing on any given day. The day we went to pain management was hard and I had a very strong feeling of knowing he wouldn't make it to 20. He was 18 when I euthanized him.

                          Let it go if you've had enough, and let yourself mourn the might have beens. You are giving up your hopes and dreams of the things you could have done even if you still have the horse. I dreamed of riding my horse on the cross country phase at a local horse trials - and woke up crying because it could never happen. Those hopes and dreams make it harder to say enough.

                          You have my sympathy.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I have one too. Retired at age 12. Going to put down this year.

                            I had a feeling for a long time something was NQR. I found myself struggling to have motivation to ride last year because there was a voice whispering in the back of my head that something was off. Diagnosed with coffin joint arthritis last summer. Tried Pentosan and Previcox. Gave him some time off in fall and brought back to work in December. Still seemed NQR. Injected both coffin joints in January. Had one really good ride and the next one felt like crap again. I got off and while untacking, the voice in my head said, it's time to cut your losses.

                            He's always had kind of a weird thing in his neck and on/off back pain. The back pain came back and I decided I was done trying to diagnose/rehab/consider custom saddles for a horse with bilateral coffin joint arthritis. I suspect cervical arthritis to some extent.

                            Mine live at home and although pasture retirement is an option, he's too high maintenance. I can only afford so much for the horses and I just can't justify spending the money over the next 15-20 years to keep him comfortable. Plus, I know without work, he's a jerk to his pasture mates and hard to deal with. Too risky to give away. There are worse things than a painless death and I'd rather know he's gone than worrying someone isn't taking care of him.

                            We can all only do so much - emotionally and financially. I would never judge someone for making the decision to 'give up'.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              If you can only afford one, life is too short to sink years of it tied to a pasture ornament you cannot and will not be able to ride. Just my practical two cents (and experience having wasted far too much time and money on a similar horse!). You owe this horse nothing more than kindness while you decide to keep him and a pleasant end when you decide to go that route.

                              there's no need to shout it from the rooftops, either, should you make that choice. there will always be judgmental people out there who think you are evil for not selling your soul to the devil to pay for all the top therapies for an old lame horse. These people tend to have more money than sense.

                              Comment


                                #16
                                Really doubt anybody would take his as a giveaway and spend thousands on diagnostics and treatment. Even if he's a giveaway as a pasture puff, if something goes wrong with the folks who take him? Likeusing some examples from my own experience, divorce, job loss, cheap pasture boarding option evaporates, serous injury getting T boned by a drunk fleeing police, cancer diagnosis and treatment and in one case, sudden death at age 48. Sh*t happens.

                                What happens to the unusable horse if they are forced to get rid of him and are too sick, hurt or broke to spend time finding the right home? Answer is often the Auction. Nobody intends it but that's where they end up.

                                Never had too much trouble with mine BUT always bought broke and going soundly in intended job. Not necessarily good at that job mind you, just broke and in work showing promise that could be developed. Was lucky too but, IMO, if they have been in regular work for long enough to get well broke, like a year, they usually aren't going to break easily. I bought exactly one unstarted, minimum white APHA 2 year old and that thing was sound for about 6 months, enough to WTC etc, but then somehow hurt her shoulder and was off more then on for the next 2 years. Lived on Bute ( all we had back then)

                                Then DH , who was a widower with two young kids, lost a good paying job which devolved into having to chose between using the money I made for paying board or rent/food. Got behind in board, BO was very nice about it but gave me 60 days or he'd haul her to the auction. Sold her with full disclosure for the back board amount to a gal who did get 3 very nice APHA and Open Barrel Racers by the stud I recommended out of her, Mare was euthed at age 8 as shoulder continued to get worse.

                                And don't blame yourself. If you found it earlier it would not have helped a thing. There's no majikal treatment for the kind of soft tissue injuries he's got and he's got them in both fronts so that sounds like something else is very wrong allowing this. It's NOTyour fault.

                                Sorry this happened to you, those of us who have had enough horses have experienced similar and usually had to make the most difficult choice for the well being of the horse.
                                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  I hope you will give yourself a break about not putting more money into diagnostics/treatment. It sounds like you've actually done quite a lot, and it doesn't sound like more money would change the outcome. It is really hard when they have the dream temperament, dream physical ability, but don't stay sound. I've been through it a few times now, as have friends, and I sometimes wonder how anyone is out there riding and competing.

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    I have one of these although he has had more issues of just being sore somewhere hard to find versus lame, making it even harder. The second of two bigger lameness issues sealed some bahavioral things that just escalated as we tried to unwind the rest of his body from that (the lameness itself was quite easy to resolve). He was the worst to rehab and made himself worse before he started to get better. I didn't have a lot of help at the time (not for lack of trying), and he now associates me with all things bad when I'm in the saddle. On the ground, he is very sweet and maybe a little too attached to me.

                                    He is a jerk though to be around when he doesn't have a job, so the problem has been finding him a job and keeping him happy enough doing it. Right now he is fine with 100% trainer rides (finally found a pro willing to help who is a good fit). I am a very competent rider and really enjoy this horse when he's not doing airs above the ground and I've taught him all the good stuff he knows, and so this breaks my heart.

                                    I thankfully have moved up some in my career since this all started so I can afford this much pro help, but I also want another horse to ease the heartache, and sometimes I wonder if this is wise. I'm looking now for a very specific horse which is hard to find (that will pass a PPE anyway, it seems). But man, I love my horse and I just want to ride him. I knew he was quirky and difficult, but with the injuries and arthritis and sensitivity to everything, it just took a bad turn with this horse.

                                    Even if he is just now too much horse for me, I do not trust trying to find him another home. He is not exactly kid friendly, and what pro will take on this fragile of a body? I have put a few other riders on him lately, and he's been fine. Better than I expected actually. He is a terror for me most days. Until I wait him out and he gives up the fight, and then he's a good horse. But I'm sick of the rodeo. I guess I'd rather put him in the ground myself than deal with the guilt of what might happen with someone else. I don't know that I'd go through heroic measures for him in the future. For a long while there was no possibility of a second horse and I still felt I couldn't rehome him. I'm working my butt off to try to find and afford the right next horse. And when I go ride something else for a while that is sane, it does seem to help me get along better with horse #1 too. Maybe I get less defensive myself.

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      OP, if he's comfy in pasture and you can afford it, that's what I would do.

                                      I wouldn't free lease or give him away as you really, IMO, loose control of his future. Yeah, in theory the free lease he's still yours but if you peruse all the topics here at COTH, how many times do we read of a free lease where the horse has disappeared?

                                      I think you've done due diligence to research and identify his problem. It's really ok to stop the money drain.

                                      I also personally believe that there are things worse than death. Horses live in the now, not the future; they don't wait breathlessly for spring like we do.

                                      {{OP}} as you make this journey.
                                      Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; John Gilliespie Magee, Jr

                                      Comment

                                        Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by Nezzy View Post
                                        Would trail riding be an option for either of you? Would he be ok for that? Would you enjoy that?
                                        I would be ok with trail riding, if he gets cleared to at least do that. He isn't brave enough to go out on his own, but he does enjoy trails when he has a buddy and maybe I can convince him to become braver.

                                        I've already adjusted my dreams with him and have accepted that he's never going to get me around 3 foot courses. At this point, I'd just be happy to be able to ride him at all.
                                        Jen

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