We’re pleased to be bringing you the first entries of our International Equestrian Blogging Contest. Remember, you can still enter as long as all three of your blogs are submitted by September 30. You can find full rules here.

The Steps We Take, by Kaity Clark

I mentioned last week that the hyaluronic acid injections didn’t seem to have made much of a difference for Leo; after 4-6 days, he should have been looking better, and he wasn’t.  I attempted to contact my vet, and then proceeded to spend the next week playing phone tag. I spent a good deal of time researching Leo’s options, staring at my budget, e-mailing (and hearing back from!!) Dr. Ramey, and trying not to dwell on the fact that my horse may never jump again.

You know how when your horse has a problem, you should typically never Google said problem because you will probably end up driving yourself crazy with worry/convincing yourself that your horse is probably going to be broken forever? Well. With a bone cyst, the things you see on Google are, unfortunately, pretty realistic. From the articles in veterinary journals that I have read to the threads on CotH to the conversations I’ve had with my original vet, the reality of my situation remains the same – there truly isn’t very much to be done.

It is relatively rare for a horse to have a bone cyst in the cannon bone; typically they manifest in the stifles.  It is pretty rare for a horse over the age of four to have a bone cyst at all, and it is extremely rare for a horse of Leo’s age with a history of soundness to become acutely lame due to a bone cyst that, in all likelihood, has been there for most of his life.  The options moving forward, therefore, either have low success rates (surgery in a horse of Leo’s age has roughly a 35% chance of success) or are highly experimental and somewhat controversial (OSPHOS, for example, is only approved for use in navicular horses but MAY help a horse with bone cyst), and all are extremely expensive ($3k+ for surgery, ~$450 a shot for OSPHOS).

From my conversations with professionals and my own readings, I came up with two ideas for cost-effective things that fall into the ‘might at least be worth a try’ category: shoes with pour-in gel pads and Equioxx. Initially, the idea behind the gel pads was that they potentially could prolong the life of the injections by providing some impact protection – although the injections do not seem to have worked, my farrier already had the stuff to do the pads and it wasn’t going to hurt anything to go ahead and give them a shot.

The Equioxx idea came up during a conversation that I had with my vet yesterday – bute has not seemed to make much of a difference in Leo’s pain level, and if he’s going to be retired I at least want him to be comfortable enough to be able to trot around in the pasture on occasion. Since Equioxx works on different receptors than bute, and Leo does have the beginnings of osteoarthritis in his fetlock joint, the vet agreed that it was worth a try. Thankfully I was able to get some samples without buying an entire bottle, so Leo started that today and will be on it until Friday to see if it helps.

My lameness vet, Dr. K, is being pretty realistic with me – the fact that the injections don’t seem to have helped with Leo’s soundness is not good, and aside from the minor things that I can do to make him more comfortable, there aren’t really any options left. Just OSPHOS, which requires two injections, may not work, and is ridiculously expensive. I don’t have the money to keep pouring into this horse; in the last two months alone, I’ve spent more than what I paid for him on vet bills trying to figure out what was wrong and then trying to fix it. I am not, unfortunately, in a financial situation where I can shell out even more money for experimental treatments. His former owner put it this way – “I don’t think it would make a difference even if you had a million dollars to spare in this situation” – and sadly, that seems to be true. Leo is pasture sound, and I am doing what I can to make sure that he stays comfortable. We’re moving him home on August 1, and plan to keep him regardless of what his prognosis is; as long as he is comfortable and happy, he has a place with us.

With time, there is a small chance that someday he could come in sound – the one constant throughout all of this is that time is the most important thing we can give him. I know that part of me will never stop hoping for that day.