Tuesday, October 16, 2018

My Last Rides on Indy

Definition of a heart horse
  I'm going through a bit of an emotional roller coaster right now.  You see, Indy had a very bad fall in the pasture a little over a month ago.  I came home to find him three legged lame, without a shoe, and in terrible pain.  At first I thought his leg was broken.  It was sort of hanging, and he would swing it out and around to walk.  It was swollen but not much heat, and he let me pick it up and move it around.  He wasn't moving too well though.  I cold hosed him, poulticed and wrapped and put him in a stall.  I found his shoe in the field and it was twisted all to hell.  I can only surmise that he was running around, overreached, and tripped and fell and went ass over head into the ground.

  The swelling subsided after a few days but he still couldn't walk right.  I talked with my friends, parents, and sister as we tried to work through what it might be. He wasn't broken leg lame but more, dragging and swinging.  He could stand on it, but the toe dragged and he had a hard time backing it up.  It was as if he couldn't feel where his leg was.  There was no pain reaction. My second thought after a break was that it was a suspensory injury.  I did a lot of reading, and the diagnosis was kind of close but not quite right.

He is truly the most beautiful man 

 I started to really feel sorry for myself, and Indy.  If any horse does not deserve this, it is him.  I thought about how close we were to our goals this summer, and that I may never event him again.  I am embarrassed to admit it now, but I was really down thinking about how we would never finish a Pre Training event when we were so close to being ready.  As the days went on, I started realizing how trivial those thoughts were, when the question started to become not if he would event, but if he would be ridden, and then to if he could even be comfortable.

  My sister works at the vet office, so I was in contact with her a lot and she was discussing his symptoms with the vet and giving me ideas.  The vet thought it might be nerve paralysis.  I did some reading online, and although it seems rare and there wasn't a tonne of info, what I did find described how he was moving to a tee.  The vet came out to do an assessment in person shortly after and we confirmed it was most likely a nerve issue.  She checked his pelvis and didn't think anything was broken, same as his neck.  The neurological test showed he was very positive for neuro issues.  He couldn't walk in a straight line.  He couldn't hold himself up when you pull on his tail.  It seemed to have traveled to both his hinds and he was clearly unaware of where his hind legs were.

 The vet prescribed Dex for 10 days.  A strong dose and then tapering off at the end.  If there was swelling causing his nerve to be pinched it might help.  It is almost impossible to know where the damage could be without doing really vigorous testing.  Even then it would be "maybes".  That just isn't an option for me and also will not change the outcome.  The final diagnosis was still a bit up in the air.  And the treatment is also a "wait and see" type of deal.  If he improves then there is hope.  If he regresses, then there is not much hope.  I was hopeful because in the days before the vet came out he was showing some improvement.

 The steroids immediately helped with swelling in his leg.  His mood however became very depressed.  He was moping around the paddock and looked absolutely miserable.  It was really hot and humid that week, and the vet assured me it was likely the drugs and weather that had effected his mood.  She was right, after the heat passed and he finished his round of Dex he was acting much more like himself.  As the days went on he was walking better, still funky, but better.  A few more days passed and he trotted in the field.  I started crying I was just happy to see him feeling good enough to move around out there.  I was becoming more hopeful that he would be comfortable enough to retire and live out his days.

His first Pre Training in a monsoon

  Another week passes, and I am giving him nightly massages.  His back is wrecked with knots that have to be worked out daily.  I wake up one morning to find he has fallen in his stall and taken out the wall.  He is also sitting against the wall all night and there is no hair left at the top of his tail.  I put his Back on Track sheet on him on the nights its not too hot and am religiously massaging his back and hind end and it seems to help.  For a few days he stops leaning on the wall, and I see him cantering in the field!  A messy, scary canter, but a canter no less.  Once again, I am hopeful.

  The next week he is again cantering in the field, and since he doesn't have a good handle on where his legs are, he slips and falls again.  My heart absolutely sinks in fear.  He lays there for a minute and then gets up.  He seems no worse for ware but his back is yet again really tight after this and he is back to leaning on the wall at night.   I continue my routine of back massaged and Back on Track.  He seems happy enough to be turned out and move around, except he spends most of time at the hay.  He normally follows Penny around like a lost puppy.  I see she is eating over by the neighbors horses pasture, and its just really unlike him to not be beside her.

Im yelling as he attacked this in beast mode

  The days carry on, and he falls again in the field.  Then I go in the barn one morning and his stall mats are out in the aisle.  He looks like he is moving OK one day and the next he can't walk in a straight line whatsoever.  I'm tormented by the image of this seemingly perfectly healthy horse in front of me who can't make it through the day without falling or hurting himself.  His hocks are covered in sores from hitting the wall in the stall at night.  I have him bundled up from head to toe in Back on Track wraps, hock wraps, blanket etc, but he is still struggling.  He looks fabulous, he eats amazing, but his attitude is changing.  I can tell he is in pain.

  Last weekend, I saw him standing in his field for hours.  He wasn't moving, just standing.  I could tell he was sore and tired.  I knew I was being faced with a decision I didn't want to make.  Do you keep trying and hope he can live a comfortable life, to risk him seriously injuring himself again, potentially fatally.  Or do you make the call, and risk cutting a life short that maybe could have recovered from this life altering injury.  I am not good at making these decisions.  I am not good at even thinking about these decisions.

He was a natural in the dressage ring

heading out on XC at our first Pre Training.  We retired but I blame the rain and my confidence. He was stellar.

  Instead I think about how the last ride on Indy was the last time I would ever see his giant lion mane beneath me.  Or how I jumped off, not realizing we wouldn't be crossing finish lines ever again.  Or how this horse so dear to me always gave me so so much, and is a dream to have around.  I think about how Penny would feel if she didn't have her boyfriend to follow her around and protect her every day.  I think about all those nights we went for bareback dressage rides and he made me feel like a crazy young rider again. I think about how he gave so much at the track in his 70 starts, over 7 years, and how he so deserves to live out his days with his Penny and eating grass and being pampered.

  I don't want to think about the choice I know I have to make.  The choice I have already made in my heart.  I feel stupid for ever caring if we would event again.  I feel lost at the thought of a life without Indy.  I could fill a book with the stories of how he changed me, changed my life. Of how truly special a horse he is, not just to me, but to this world.  I have to say goodbye to my dearest friend soon.  I am not sure how I will be able to do this.

our very last ride together
***All photos are used with permission and are copyright Linda Shantz or Michaela Ibbotson, do not copy without permission.


  1. I am so sorry <3

    You ARE doing the right thing for him, and take comfort in the fact that you were strong enough to make that decision for his best interests. Selflessness is something that isn't taught, and I can guarantee that Indy will be thankful for you helping him. I will be thinking of you <3

  2. I am so sorry to read this. I had to make the hard decision for my mare last summer when she had a similar issue in her hind end. It was watching her graze while laying down that I knew immediately it was time. She was in pain but trying to be so stoic. You always do the right thing for your horses, and this will be no different, even though it will rip your heart from your chest. He is a lucky boy to have you as his owner. <3 *hugs*

  3. Ugh I am so so sorry to read this update on him. I was really hoping he was going to recover enough, but it sounds like you're going to be making absolutely the right decision, even if it's the hardest one. You've obviously done everything for him, and it kills me when that's not enough. I'll be thinking about you. <3

  4. I'm so so sorry, there are no words. You are making the right decision for him to be pain-free and in peace, even if it is a heartwrenching one to make. You're in my thoughts and prayers.

  5. So heartbroken for you reading this. The hardest decision any of us ever have to make. Hugs to you and the big handsome man.

  6. i'm so so sorry, there are no words :(

  7. Thank you everyone. I am taking comfort in all your kind thoughts.

  8. I'm so sorry- you guys were SO good together. The decision is never easy, but it IS the right one. And it's not stupid to have been upset at the thought of never eventing again- it was clear he loved it as much as you do.


  9. i am sorry i was wondering how he was doing as i follow you on IG and saw this onset of issues for him. But when you mention all this i can see why you are making the decision you are. I am glad you can have him at home with you and i hope you are at peace once he is pain free. We will all remember Indy as he was going across the cross country course or in stadium or in dressage. If you could get him relatively pain free i would think him being a pasture pet would be fine but this sounds like not the life he should have (OR you should have to see either this is so hard on you seeing him like this i am sure). Remember the good times and remember we are all here for you to sound off, vent, scream and even hit things if you need to. We understand. I am very sad for you and him. He was so spectacular and had such promise.

  10. I'm so, so sorry. What good boy to be lost so young. It sounds like the right decision, but I know that doesn't make it easy. I'm sorry that you're going through this.

  11. I am so very sorry. Just gut wrenching, and so not fair. He is lucky to have you

  12. There aren't words to adequately capture how sad and sorry I am to hear this. He is the handsomest boy.

  13. I am so sorry, hugs and words are not enough. It's so hard to see horses we love suffer and letting them go is the largest kindness we can give them sometimes.

  14. This is absolutely devastating. My heart is so broken for you.

  15. Tori - I am in tears reading this.... I am so so sorry, I really do understand what it’s like having to make that tough decision.
    If there is absolutely anything I can help with, please let me know.
    You’re in my thoughts. ❤️

  16. My heart truly goes out to you. I know the pain of making this decision for a horse in his prime. Take comfort in the fact that you'll only do what's best for him. He is lucky to have you to watch over him.

  17. I can feel your pain. I haven't read your latest post yet. I'll have to come back to it later, because this one already has me choked up. I'm so sorry you have to go through this. Sending prayers and love to you.


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