"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Lily's Halloween Costume

She wanted to be War Horse.
Warning: There is absolutely nothing funny or cute about this post, and if you're at all squeamish, be careful. There will be another warning before the truly awful photos.

I have a new sweet schedule in a different department of my veterinary hospital (bye-bye ER! Not gonna miss your gloom and doom!) that now allows me to work regular daytime hours like a normal human being. I got out of work a little early yesterday afternoon and headed for the barn to feed the girls. They were moved into a new, larger field with less horses. It's currently only Lily, Gracie, Mecca (the gentle older TB that welcomed them to the herd when we first moved to this barn) and EZ, a small semi-retired QH mare who is also as sweet as they come. They were together in the previous field and they all know and love one another. Gracie and Lily are the leaders. Note: no one has shoes in this herd and I have never, ever seen them antagonize one another. Not even pinned ears.

It was a beautiful early evening, with the sun having just disappeared behind the hills but with still enough light to bring out the reds and oranges of the almost-peak fall colors of the trees. The air was on the nippy side with the incoming dusk, so I slipped into a sweater, called out to the girls (they were grazing at the bottom of their pasture's hill) and went to set up their grain.

For the first time in a while, they didn't meet me at the gate. I walked out into the field with Lily's halter only, deciding to bring her in first since she gets more grain and eats slower.

I had the opportunity to think this was the best view ever. It just didn't last very long.
It was so beautiful out. Lily saw me and started to walk over to me. Except the stripe on her face looked funny. It wasn't one straight line...it was wider in one section and curled up towards the bottom of the stripe. What the...? Is that something stuck to her face?

I couldn't initially comprehend what I was seeing but as she calmly walked up to me with pricked ears, I saw that her stripe was curled up into a flap of skin on the bridge of her nose.

The wider white patch on her face was not skin.

Lily heard that Georgia O'Keeffe is my favorite artist ever and decided she wanted to emulate one of the paintings in my favorite series of hers for Halloween:

Georgia O'Keeffe's "Horse Skull with White Rose"
Most people are familiar with her paintings of flowers.
My favorite paintings of hers are the skulls and the mountains of New Mexico.






"Hi Mom!"

Now. There is very little that I am squeamish about when it comes to wounds. Wounds was one of my favorite things to work with on ER. The more massive and tricky and gory, the better: it was extremely satisfying to clip and clean and do the initial handiwork to help put the (heavily sedated!) animal back together.

Major head trauma, the kind where skull and brain are exposed or crushed, are one of the areas where I start to draw a line. I hated hit-by-cars with crushing head injuries because I couldn't even look at them. They were the one kind of injury that could make me cry on sight.

So my horse is standing in front of me with her face split open and I look at the exposed bone and the little curl of skin underneath it that basically has my favorite marking of hers on it, my mind a blank white slate. A wave of exhaustion swept over me, and suddenly all I wanted to do in this world was to turn around and walk away. Just walk away from it all, crawl into a hole and sleep until it's over. And this makes me a really horrible person, but after all we've been through with this horse this year (a lot of which I haven't bothered blogging about), the first thoughts that I was finally able to put into words in my head were, "Is there any way on earth that I could manage this on my own? Even better: is there any way that I could just ignore it and have it heal by itself?" I was deadpan and emotionless. Of course I knew the correct answer to both of those questions.

Surprisingly, she had no swelling around the wound. The blood was long dry and so was part of the curled-up skin flap. She was breathing fine; no rasping noises. No blood/discharge coming from her nose. And she seemed to not be painful at all. She just stood there all bright-eyed looking at me. Which is why these thoughts crossed my mind to begin with: the mare seemed to be completely unaware of the fact that part of her skull was exposed.

The answer to both questions, of course, is "No." Exposed bone = emergency vet call, always, always, ALWAYS.

She let me put her rope halter on without issue, and I tied it up loosely so it wouldn't touch the wound at all, and took her over to her mash. I wanted to see how her appetite was. She came with me happily and dug into her food, still acting as if there was absolutely nothing wrong with her at all.

I walked back out to the field to get Gracie while dialing my vet's phone number to contact their emergency operator. Yup: it was after hours again.

Dr. L, my main vet, was thankfully the one on call which is a relief because she actually lives in Frederick too. She called me directly within 15 minutes of me talking to the operator and I told her what was happening. She was at home; she said she'd be right over.

I let the girls finish their meals, turned Gracie back out and walked Lily down to the barn to wait for Dr. L to arrive.

I did nothing for the wound because trying to hose off her face would have simply upset her and made her head shy. And I didn't want to flush water into her nasal cavity if she did have a skull fracture. Because that's the shit you worry about with this type of injury. I gave no bute because I would have needed to syringe it to her, which would have involved me touching her face to get the syringe in her mouth. I put her in a stall with hay and sat in my car right by the barn entry where I could clearly see Lily, with the heat turned up waiting for my vet to arrive.

I'm going to be brutally honest with you guys, and feel free to judge if you want but if you have anything negative to say, just keep it to yourself. I do a fantastic job of beating myself up enough as it is already; I don't need help with that. I am beyond the point of caring if anyone wants to see me as scum or not and I really, really need to vent my extreme frustrations right now. Sitting in my car waiting, the only emotion I could find in myself was anger. I was fuming. I was angry at this horse for managing to injure herself again at one of the safest properties I have ever boarded at. Like, there are no trees in that freaking pasture. There is only a run-in shed and there are no sharp corners nor exposed nails in the shed: maintenance at this farm is top notch. I was angry that I had to call the vet out on emergency again in just over 4 months. I was angry at the mere thought of going weeks without proper sleep again to manage yet another wound during the workweek. I was angry at all of the added expenses when we were just starting to recover from the last series of unfortunate events. And I was angry at myself for feeling angry over a situation I had no control of. I know she doesn't do this shit on purpose. But why does this horse have no sense of self-preservation? WHY? I am not new to horse ownership by any means. I have owned EIGHT horses during my lifetime. The only two with which I constantly, constantly have had issues have been the two Thoroughbreds. I have ridden dozens and dozens of OTTBs throughout my 26 years of riding & training and I never met a single one that wouldn't periodically have serious issues that involved thousands of dollars to fix. You don't see the major problems you see in OTTBs in so many other breeds out there. I've boarded and worked at Paso and Western barns and knew many a horse of other breeds that went their entire lifetimes without ever suffering serious lamenesses or GI problems.

After my one and only OTTB back in PR who was PLAGUED with health problems that only strengthened my already pre-existing notions about TBs and their medical issues, I vowed to never own another straight TB again. 6 out of the 8 horses I've owned have had NO major medical problems (as in, requiring emergency vet visits) during years and years of ownership (yes Rhythm was neurological. But it didn't require an emergency visit; once diagnosed he was simply retired as a companion horse 8 months into owning him. Get this: the rescue had labelled him as a TB cross). I owned Lucero from weanling until the day he died at age 21. The only issue he EVER had in 2 decades with him was being sore from being nail-quicked on a front hoof from a shoeing job. Once. That was IT. I walked into owning Lily thinking she would be better because she was thought to be a TB cross, though everyone that meets her agrees she looks like a straight TB and the DNA test confirmed it. And for a while, I thought maybe just the possibility of blood from another breed would prevent what I call "The Thoroughbred Jinx." But 4 years into owning her, she has had more problems requiring more vet visits than all of my other horses put together. Which only continues to solidify my impression that The Thoroughbred Jinx is real.

(And yes: I know and realize there a people out there whose horses are far more injury-prone than mine, who end up with career-ending injuries while still in their prime. I know this. But I just needed to vent, okay?)

My vet arrived, I brought Lily out of the stall, she was heavily sedated and Dr. L got to work on the wound, flushing and cleaning and inspecting.

Guess what? Lily fractured her skull.

Wound as seen from above. See the curled-up skin flap? The super-white section of the wound is where she actually shaved off the top layer of bone from her nose. The fracture is right where the blood is pooling in the bottom left corner of the wound; it still had skin attached to it which is a good thing. The fracture didn't go all the way through and the bone was indented but not displaced. My vet said it didn't change anything about what we will do to manage the wound right now but we'll have to monitor the wound closely to make sure the cracked bone doesn't die. If the cracked bone does die, Lily will require surgery to remove the bone fragment from the top of her nasal cavity. It will be a few weeks before we know what's going to happen.
Half stitched up. She was on butorphanol and 2 doses of Dormosedan IV to keep her from reacting to the suturing. She also had Banamine IV for the inflammation and a local block with lidocaine.
All stitched up and wound cleaned again.
She was getting more swollen by the minute due to having her head hanging down from the whopping doses of sedatives. She was sounding quite congested by the time we were done.
Bandage with heavy padding over the wound, brown gauze and Elastikon over it.
I honestly kind of wanted to leave her in a stall and my BO had offered it when I told her what had happened (I saw her while waiting for the vet. Btw: there had been a constant influx of people into that pasture during the entire day for one reason or another. Lily managed to injure herself when no one was there to see the wound), but I wasn't going to bring Gracie in to keep her company and given how this horse is, if she wanted to really get into trouble with the bandage, she would do it just as easily in the stall as she would in the field. At least in the field she wouldn't give herself an ulcer. So with my vet's approval, she went back out into the field after giving her her first dose of SMZs.

So how do I think she did this to herself? Part of my job has been to try to figure out how dogs injure themselves when we have big trauma cases. Kind of like Dexter with his blood splatter analysis. I can tell you right now that this was most certainly NOT a kick. She whacked herself good with something pointy and hard, with a sudden upwards motion of her head. There are only 2 objects like this in the field: the tops of some of the fence posts have wooden squares with pointy corners. And also, there are a couple of large wooden mangers for feeding hay in the winter that also have pointy corners. I suspect she was eating next to one of these fence posts or the mangers, something startled her, and she jerked her head up, thoroughly slicing her skin off and with enough force to fracture her nose.

Like so. I didn't go around looking for her blood and hair afterwards because by then it was nearly 10:00 pm and pitch dark in the field.
The bandage is supposed to stay on for 10 days; I don't need to change it unless it becomes soaked. She is supposed to get antibiotics twice a day for 10 days. In 10 days we'll see where we're at with Lily's thinkity-box.

"Yay more exclusions for her insurance!" said no horse person ever.


Prayers, please? That she keep the bandage on and that this heals smoothly and easily. Please?


  1. Blogger hates me and ate my comment. Long story short I feel your pain and I've been there(kinda). Houston had to get stitches 4-5 times in a little over a year and it was super irritating. I was beyond frustrated towards the end and so was my wallet. Hopefully she heals quickly and smoothly.

    Also another blogger dealt with something similar awhile back. It didn't look as bad as this but I've also seen another horse that did something worse. He lived with a drain from the wound for awhile. http://tbeventer.blogspot.com/2015/05/safety-first-children.html?m=1

  2. I have never heard of the TB Jinx, but now that you say it I can look back at friends and other boarders who had a TB that always seemed to be hurt. Miss Lily is giving you a rough time this year and you had every right to be angry, frustrated and to have thoughts of crawling off somewhere. You can only handle so much at one time. Hugs, thoughts and prayers coming at you from SC.


    I've got the party decor setup for the party we discussed earlier. Let's boogie down now...


    I've got the party decor setup for the party we discussed earlier. Let's boogie down now...

  5. Oh my effing god. I don't know who has the worse luck, you or the mare. Because you own the mare and pay the bills and, thinking back to that little mowing-over incident with Gracie, I'm thinking it's you. It is absolutely shitty that something like this happened, period, and worse still that it happened so recently after another devastating injury. I have all the feels for you. I pray to Poseidon that it does not become a sequestrum, that all the little bits and pieces remain happy and healthy and fuse back together like little bones and tissues should.

    Also, your TB Jinx makes me think of the Lucky dog curse. Have to wonder for a second if we've just bred the sense of self-preservation out of these horses.

    1. You are absolutely right about the Lucky dog curse.

      It's allllllll Lily. It is not me at all. If in 26 years of involvement with horses in every way: training, riding, owning, instructing, in 3 different disciplines, I only ended up in the ER *once* because of the Gracie accident...I think that has to be some sort of record. I stopped jumping because I got tired of being afraid of falling, because I was always assigned the horses no one else could ride because I could get them to jump. It just stopped being fun. But during 17 years of riding the jumpers competitively from 2'6" to 4' in height, I never once was injured despite so many falls I lost count eons ago. During 11 years of owning a stallion, I was never injured.

      It's all this horse. Lily. Or maybe it's just us together: we're not supposed to be together. Because every. single. year. that I have owned her, something has happened: in 2011, both hind legs blew up and she developed a massive body-wide fungal infection that took weeks of treatment to resolve. In 2012, she ended up with the puncture wound on her left hind. In 2013, she sustained her annular ligament injury that required 4 months of rehab. In 2014, she developed severe sole bruising in the spring to the point where I thought she was having a laminitic attack, and later at the end of the year she cut herself on barbed wire. This year, it was the impalement with the freaking screw and now smashing her skull. If you notice, each year her problems have gotten worse. What's going to happen is that she will die from her next injury next year.

      Hence my decision to pass her on to someone else if I can get her through this one. For both of our sakes', she cannot be my horse anymore.

      Thank you for the prayers Beka. <3 I know you've had a rough year too. :(

  6. Prayers for you and Lily! And I don't think anyone in their right mind would blame you for the thoughts that run through your head - I know I often think things that I know are selfish, wrong, and/or irrational. What matters is not that these things go through your head, it's what you actually do in the situation. I pray that she heals quickly and completely, and that she starts taking better care of herself.

    1. And I just realized that the above comment could probably be taken the completely wrong way...Know that no one here is judging you, even if you decide that you and Lily must part ways.

    2. Not taken wrong at all! :) I completely understood what you meant. Thank you Melissa! <3

  7. My heart literally clenched when I saw the first picture.......sigh. After going through my first emergency vet visit with Quest last month, I feel SO frustrated along with you right now. Ugh.

  8. The TB Jinx is real. I rode a TB much like Lily - she'd set back and break things until I tied her hard enough, she broke one girl's arm and one lady's nose, and she was eventually euthanized due to a pasture injury. You know I'm shopping, and I won't even look at Anglo Arabs because I'm wary of them too from experience.

    When you mentioned "There are no trees" I remembered a friend of mine who lost her horse because he disemboweled himself on a tree stump while playing in his field. Trees should not kill horses!

    Praying to God for you and Lily.

    1. "Disemboweled himself on a tree stump"...OMG.

      I sometimes wonder how these animals still exist, seriously.

  9. Oh, Saiph...The TB jinx is most certainly real and it is why I passed on a lovely Percheron/TB cross when horse shopping many, many years ago. Lily has so many amazing qualities, but her capacity to injure herself is gut-wrenching. I understand why you got angry and there is no judgment from me:) I sincerely hope that Lily recovers and if you ever need anything, I'm just 2 hours away.

  10. i'm so sorry Saiph.... ugh you have really been through the wringer lately! don't beat yourself up about being angry about it - that's a very natural reaction (and sometimes is preferable to despair, imo).... my fingers are crossed for you that she heals with zero complications! :(

  11. I completely understand your reaction, especially after just having to go through another major medical trauma. Lots of healing vibes sent your way. Hopefully this is the easiest recovery ever.

  12. Oh NO!!!

    Poor Lilly!!!

    I totally feel your pain on the OTTB injury prone... I am living it right now!!!

  13. oh no! And I had just written my own two-vet-visits-in-one-week blog! Lily wins though, she really did a number on herself. How very scary!

    And I can totally relate to the being mad about the whole situation/at the horse/at the bill/ etc. I was signing the vet bill and thinking how can I ever catch up and even think about expensive competitions when this shit comes along? It doesn't help that I had just bought tickets for an event I have waited years to go to, and I was just thinking "Seriously, you had to do this NOW!?"

    But I will wish Lily a speedy recovery, though you may need to dress her like a mummy for Halloween just to find something good/funny about the situation.

  14. Ugh, I'm so sorry. You've had such a hard time this summer and this is NOT helping! Hoping for fast healing and no dying bone.

  15. GAHHH nooo Lily noooo! Your Dexter reference did make me chuckle, but the rest of it was no. I do believe in the thoroughbred jinx. Fingers and toes crossed for good and easy healing. At least you don't have to work in the ER anymore, right?

  16. I can definitely relate to the anger and frustration!! I wanted to strangle Griffin after he hurt another leg AGAIN this fall romping around in the pasture AGAIN. He's just supposed to be an old man who spends his time in the pasture lazily dozing off...
    Unfortunately, they never seem to read our memos on what they should and shouldn't do!
    I'm sending lots of thoughts and prayers your way for an uneventful recovery for Lily!! ♡♡

  17. Thoroughbreds are unfortunately very high maintenance horses. I swear they bred the survival instinct right out of them.

  18. Omg I'm so sorry! When I saw the first photo I immediately thought "Oh no! Not again!" The TB Jinx is definitely real. My sister works with ottbs and they get themselves into the most ridiculous situations. Like the first day my brother brought home his new ottb and he reared up in cross ties and split his head wide open on the barn roof. (Then my sisters mare did the exact same thing in the trailer when they brought her home!) For the same reason I also will probably never own a Welsh Cob. My mom has had EIGHT of them diagnosed with moon blindness or ulcers/cataracts and/or other eye problems. But anyway. Prayers for you and Lily...I'm so sorry you are going through this yet again. I understand your frustration - I truly do. (And on that note, thank heavens she is insured!)

    1. That is *crazy* about the Welsh Cobs! I had no idea they were prone to eye issues.

      Thank God for the insurance yes!

      How bad is it that I'm on a first-name basis with my insurance person, who remembers both me and my horse's problems?

  19. Oh, what the effing effity eff. I am so unbelievably pissed and heartbroken for you. God damn it.

    I have been in exactly the spot you were in. The logical brain knows what you have to do - call the vet, rearrange your schedule, buy supplies - but the heart is just tired.

    I'm sorry. I wish there were something I could do. :(

  20. Dag - that just plain sucks. I'm so sorry you're going through this bullsh*t again. It's healthier to vent than hold it in - no one is judging.

    Fingers crossed for you that her condition doesn't get any more complicated, and she tolerates her recovery.

    I was going to say (not bragging UNIVERSE!!) that my ottb has an (uncharacteristically) healthy sense of self-preservation. But then I remembered his (previous to me) mysterious and insanely expensive to not even really diagnose hip injury that requires lots of injections and supplements to (theoretically) mitigate... so I stand corrected.


  21. Awh no!! Sending many prayers your way!

  22. So sorry you and Lily are going through this! Hate to agree that there is an OTTB curse, but so many people are dealing with it. I remember working at a barn with 60 Arabians, and the vet emergency calls were usually for the 4 TB there.
    A tree fell down in a friend's pasture, all of the other horses left it alone and her gelding impaled his chest on a broken branch. The wound was so deep it was amazing he survived, They always seem to ALMOST kill themselves, it's so weird.
    Hope Lily has a quick recovery!

  23. So very sorry. Totally understand the venting - I think it's a natural reaction that we all go through, only some of us are more likely to share that than others. *although, I will admit to crossing my fingers after reading this as I prepare to head out to the barn.

    Man, so sorry lady. Not having to change the bandage for 10 days might be the one bright moment in all this.

    1. Except I've already had to change it 4 times. :( That initial bandage lasted maybe all of 6 hours. The next morning it had slid down her face so that I found her barely able to breathe because the bandage was covering her nostrils. The entire wound was exposed. She just about gave me a heart attack.

      Thank you for the crossed fingers!

  24. Sending prayers and hugs. I had tears in my eyes reading this. I can feel how frustrated you are. :(