Thursday, March 8, 2007

More Reflections on Twin Arabian Foals Part 3

The beginning of the twins story starts here

It's really been hard from me to get back into re-writing this part of the Arabian twins foals saga that I lost yesterday. As a horse woman, sitting at this darn computer writing isn't what I really want to be doing with my day in the first place. I want to be go on a horse ride or do something hands on with my Arabian horses. However, the weather here sucks right now and I'm on foal watch with Krugorrs Heiress (click "next" to the right and you'll see her with her first Arabian foal, Scandalous Love, the mother of the twins). Sooooo...........I guess that means I'm stuck writing about the twins.

I am still playing around with my keyword stuff trying to increase my stats so bare with me and the repeated words and words in parenthesis. I'm trying to find a happy medium that doesn't drive you and me crazy but still keeps the search engines happy.

At the end of the last segment all three Arabian horses were on stall rest awaiting the outcome of the x-rays. We had made the decision to go against Pilchuck Hospitals' recommendations to restart the filly on antibiotics until we had ruled out injury as a possible cause for the lameness. In the meantime, the filly was being closely monitored for any changes in behavior just in case septicemia was the culprit behind the lameness and swelling in the Arabian horse's hock. We didn't want to loose this horse because we made a mistake.

The Arabian colt was also being monitored because the horse was still not exhibiting "normal" behavior for a foal of his age. While the Arabian horse was eating and sleeping fine and his body functions seemed to be working fine, the horse still exhibited lingering symptoms of dummy foal syndrome.

Because the bones of newborn horses are not fully hardened, they do not look the same on x-rays as hardened bones of mature horses, making the x-rays more difficult to read for the average veterinarian. Many vets can go their entire practice and never see x-rays of neonates (newborn foals). So the Arabian horse's x-rays were sent off to a specialist in equine neonatal radiology to be read. As you can guess, there are not many experts in this field, so we had to wait.....and wait..........and wait some more.

Finally Dr Gillette got a call from the expert about the x-rays of Scandalous Surprise (Arabian horse). The diagnosis expressed by the radiologist was not good. While I did take expensive notes, they wouldn't do much but confuse you like they confused me. So in layman's terns, the Arabian horse had crushing syndrome affecting a number of the bones in the right hock and the left hock as well.. The prognosis was not good. In the radiologist opinion the young filly should be euthanized. Dr Gillette requested the x-rays be sent on to Pilchuck Hospital for a second opinion.

At this point the good news, there was a physical reason for the young Arabian horse's lameness. The horse didn't need antibiotics, the septicemia had not returned. The bad news, this was yet another complication of the horse being born a twin. The other twin could also be afflicted. Without a complete battery of x-rays of both horses, we wouldn't know the full extent of the damage. I spent several heart wrenching days trying to figure out what my choices for these small Arabian horses were while we waited for Pilchuck's opinion.

It was another three days before we had any information from Pilchuck Hospital. Dr Bolton and Dr Fehr had both looked over the x-rays of the horse. As usual when dealing with different vets, they did not agree with the radiologist. They all agreed that the young Arabian horse was experiencing crushing syndrome . They didn't agree on the extent or location of the damage, methodology for treatment and long term prognosis.

I talked to all of the veterinarians involved with the Arabian horse and her x-rays. To be perfectly honest, it made my head swim. It still makes my head swim today. In very basic terms, Surprise's right hind hock was crushed. It sound absolutely horrible but when it was broken down into parts, it didn't sound so bad to me.

The hock on a horse is made up of many bones. (if you looked at the x-rays on the neonatal site I included above, you can see how many.) The radiologist believed that several of the bones in the Arabian horse's hock were compromised. The Pilchuck vets believed only one bone in one hock (the right) was crushed.

Dr Fehr explained the crushing of the horse's hock to me like this. Take a soft bar of soap and put it between your thumb and forefinger and squeeze. The surfaces of the soap succumb to the pressure resulting in a bunch of little tiny cracks or fissures. The soap will change shape from the assault.

Mechanically, all those bones in the horse's hock fit together like puzzle pieces allowing the hock to function. In the case of this young Arabian horse, one of the puzzle pieces no longer fits because it's shape has been altered. The pieces no longer move in unison. Pain is caused by the other bones rubbing up against the piece that no longer fits. Eventually this rubbing will cause arthritis. The extent of the arthritis will be dependent upon the amount of use, body weight being carried, etc. Long term effects would be to expect the horse would not live it's normal life span.

Also, Mother Nature has a way of compensating for injuries like this in foals. Normally, a foal that has experienced crushing syndrome like this will not mature to normal size. That is one of the reasons that many times surviving twins to not grow to meet their full genetic coding.

The x-rays showed that the injury had calcification. That meant is had been some time since it had happened. It also showed it was a weight bearing injury. It probably happened at or soon after birth when the horse first put weight on her limbs.
The x-rays also showed that the bones of this horse were still not hardened properly. That meant that the horse was still at risk of further injury. It also meant that the other twin's bones were probably not hardened properly either. The colt,too, was at risk of injury. There was no way to know how long it was going to take for the horses' bones to harden fully. In the meantime, the horses were on indefinite stall rest.

As far as a prognosis for these Arabian horses, that was yet to be determined. If we could keep the horses quiet on stall rest and avoid anymore damage to their joints, and if we could correct the angular limb deformities which were intensifying the possibility of injury to the soft bones, The horses could possiblly grow into normal horses. However, the vets believed the filly would never be a riding horse. She would most certainly always be lame and probably be a dwarf. If we couldn't prevent any further injury, it was anybody's guess. The young horses who fought this hard to live could end of candidates for euthanization.

As a horse woman this has been one of the most challenging events of my career. It has taken my heart and tied it up into knots and then beat it with a hammer. Each time I thought we had overcome all of the obstacles a new one presented itself. Looking into the sweet faces of these two foals and watching their "maiden mare" mother take their antics in stride always seemed to give the extra oomph I needed to keep on trying. There was no way I could look at these young Arabian horses and euthanized them.

To be continued........
Part 4

Scandalous Trouble and Scandalous Surprise are ten months old today.

And as a final note, I finally devoted a blog to Tommy Garland on the one day not one search engine request came through on my blog for Tommy Garland. Wouldn't you know that's how it would work.


  1. Hi MiKael

    Life has a way of throwing one curve ball after another. They say that we are never given more than we can bear, but sometimes I wonder.

    Hope you warm up soon. We seem to have the opposite weather that each other are experiencing. Come on warmer weather, I am determined I am going to ride this year. My filly is 6 years old and I have ridden her maybe 20 times, isn't that sad.

    Stay warm (((HUGS)))


  2. I have just typed a reply and went to post it and didnt get the message that it would appear after you had cleared it but the message dissappeared. If it didnt come through let me know and I will do it again.


  3. MiKael, maybe the cold weather is a good thing so that the colt and filly don't want out to play as much if it were a beautiful spring day! My heart goes out to you and I felt like my heart had been tied up in knots and beat with a hammer as I read this post...I really can't imagine how you feel. You and the twins are in our thoughts and prayers!!!