Monday, July 26, 2010

One Step Forward, Five Steps Back

I apologize for missing my post on Sunday. It’s the first regular post day I’ve missed since they blog started. I was busy all weekend and just ran out of steam by the time I arrived home last night.

Gailey had a small cut on her leg on Saturday. It just so happened the vet was coming out to see another horse, so I snagged him to look at my mare, too. This was a different vet from the one who’s been treating her for cellulites, but he has treated her various lamenesses over the years since she was three years old.

He just shook his head at the big leg and told me it was what it was. He agreed with the other vet that it probably would never get any smaller. Too much damage was done to the lymphatic system. I told him my worries regarding her getting cellulites again and my fears I might lose her. He is a pretty straightforward guy and tells it like it is. He nodded his head in agreement and said I most likely would have to put her down.

Even more concerning to him was how much her fetlocks have dropped in the past year. Gailey has these long pasterns which make her very comfortable to ride. The downside is her suspensories are stretching to the point where the fetlock on the big leg is almost hitting the ground when she moves. Here’s how the conversation went:

“Should I keep doing dressage with her, or would it prolong her life by taking her home and just trail riding her?” I asked, staring at my big mare who means the world to me.

“It doesn’t really matter at this stage of the game. You might as well use her as long as she’s comfortable.” He heaves a big sigh and just stares at those hind legs of hers.

“Any guesses how much longer that might be?” I don’t really want to hear this answer.

“Oh, maybe another year or so. When she lies down and can’t get back up, you’ll know it’s time. Right now, she’s unusually sound considering the problems she’s got going on in those back legs.”

At this point, my heart drops to my feet, and I feel sick to my stomach. Even the rejection I received from a publisher when I got home didn’t make a blip on my radar as I pondered my current situation. Somehow, publisher rejections lose their power when contemplating the mortality of a dear friend and partner who has been a huge part of that person’s life for the past 12 years.

I can’t imagine life without my big red-headed mare.

I can’t imagine life without horses. I’ve had horses since I graduated from college with the exception of one or two years back in my twenties. Yet, buying a new horse is not in the cards for me anytime in the future. We just put a big addition onto our house so our money is tied up in that, not in a new horse. Not only could I never replace Gailey in personality, but I surely couldn’t afford to replace her right now with a comparable horse. I’m not sure I want to ride dressage if I can’t ride a horse that moves as well as she does. I’ve done dressage on horses not built for dressage. It was a constant struggle for me and them. I’m not sure I want to go there again. Gailey has never been the easiest horse to ride, but she’s been the most comfortable. I think you’ve all heard the quote from a doctor friend of mine: “If you would have sold me your horse, I could have ridden right up until the day I went into labor.” That’s how comfortable she is. The price you pay for comfort is in those stretched suspensories and sinking fetlocks.
Gailey in 2004

Gailey, taken today
So I took a few pictures today and compared them with pictures from 2004. Maybe it's wishful thinking on my part, but I don't see a huge difference. What do you guys think?

I know I’m worrying about something that has yet to happen. So I guess I need to concentrate on enjoying the good times we have left while she’s happy, healthy, and sound. I’m even contemplating a trip to the ocean with the group at the barn.

That beach ride will make for an interesting subject for another blog post.

Happy Trails, Jami


Anonymous said...

Hey Jami:
I'm by no means an expert or anything but I was surprised when the caption indicated that 6 years had passed from the first photo to the second! I'm with you on this one, there just does not seem to be a big difference.
Hold each day precious and don't waste your time worrying about Gailey's time. She is not worried and horses have a wonderful way of staying in the present. Maybe we should too because none of us really knows when it's over.

Linda Benson said...

Jami - I so totally relate to your post. And even though that particular vet was straightforward, I wouldn't let his words get to you. Gailey might last for several years as a riding horse, and many more as a pasture pet. His opinion is only one opinion. Your mare seems to be beating the odds as it is, so think a good thought and just keep riding and enjoying her. I wish you many more good years with her.

Jami Davenport said...


You know, you're right. Horses, like all animals, live in the present. They don't worry about tomorrow. I shouldn't either because it's out of my control.

What I can do is everything in my power to keep her sound and healthy.

Thanks for reminding me of that.

Jami Davenport said...

Linda, you, too, are right. I'm feeling better about it all today.

I'm anxious to get back in the saddle. I haven't been able to ride for over a week because I cut my finger pretty bad and can't bend it enough to hold the reins.

Anonymous said...

The left looks a little lower in the second photo. My mare Maisie has always had long, sloping pasterns - good farrier work has helped a bit as she has more heel now and supports herself better. She had one serious (9 mos. of rehab) rear suspensory injury on the right rear when I got her 8 years ago, and has been having some trouble with the left since. I've decided it's my job to keep her sound and happy as long as possible, even if that means I can't do as much with her as I like - I no longer jump her and take it easy on the flatwork. I also find Sports Medicine Boots for support help somewhat. Good luck!

Shanster said...

I don't see a very big difference either. I'm with mommyrides and Linda... know that there is the possibility and it would happen whether you use her or not. Ride her, keep her comfy and happy.

I can identify with your feelings and losing the work, relationship and partnership of 12 years. It is not a light thing at all.

Hang in there and enjoy your beautiful red-head.

The best of luck with everything, keeping you and Gailey in my thoughts!

Francesca Prescott said...

Jami: I'm echoing others here, but this sounds like the perfect opportunity to make an effort to live in the present, and to make the most of every single moment you have with Gailey. Her legs don't look great, but then...neither do mine...and they work fine! As Mommyrides said, horses live in the present. I kind of envy them!

Nevertheless, of course I can relate. The idea of having to replace Kwintus worries me, both on an emotional level as well as on a financial level. But why worry about the distant future when anything could happen in the next few seconds? (easy to say, I know! I'm the first to worry about...well, everything I can possibly worry about!)

Just enjoy yourself and your horse. S*** happens. Someone I know recently had her Grand Prix horse poked through the foot with a pitchfork. It was an accident, of course. The horse nearly died from the infection, but the vets managed to save it. But will it be able to compete again? Will it be able to compete at Grand Prix level? Nobody knows. But the horse certainly isn't bothered about such "trivialities".

I wish you many more years with your lovely mare. And I'm sending you lots of love and hugs, too.

Jami Davenport said...

Hey, guys, thanks so much for the feedback.

BTW, the left hind is the "big leg" anyway so I would expect it to look like it dropped more. Even considering that, I didn't think she looked too bad.

I'm going to try to take it one day at a time. Tomorrow, I'm back in the saddle.