The Lame Horse Chronicles: Facing into Retirement

Life... when it rains...



Jingle has been battling an on again-off again lameness for about two years now. I've blogged about it, the most extensive post being here. I began riding him a little over two months ago, after 4 months off, and 2 months of hand walking/lunging. He came back pretty strong, and I was guardedly optimistic in his recovery. The "test" (per se) was May Long, where we did two very short rides, and one decently long one - all at a walk. He did not remain sound, and, quite honestly, in my heart of hearts.. I knew he wouldn't.

So, back we went to the vet.

This time, they called him a 3/5 on lameness. He was blocked, and after two blocks to the front left, still only seemed about 80%, from a previous 60%. Which is where my vet came in with the options.


  • Take him to Saskatoon, where the vet school has an MRI
  • Wait until August, when my vet's MRI will be up and running
  • For now, try Navicular Bursa injections, which will either cure any bursitis that could be causing the lameness, or will atleast be an indicator that it is, most likely, a tendon injury.

I opted to go with the Navicular Bursa injection. I gave him three days rest, with hand walking and bute, and was told to ride on Thursday. He is still lame. 

So now I am faced with, what next? Is my $750 wild paint pony *worth* the MRI and further diagnostics... not in many people's eyes. Is he worth it to me? Well, that's a trickier answer... As it stands, the MRI will cost around $2500 (I have already put about $3000 into this lameness, to no avail). IF they can diagnose what is wrong (and that's a big IF), there will be surgery, which will likely cost another $2000. Then, there will be a large amount of stall rest, 6 months to a year. Then, there will be a small chance he will get better, and even if he does, even more of a chance he can re injure himself. So, the prognosis... not so good.

At the moment, Jingle is happy and healthy. At a walk, he exhibits no lameness. He is still spunky, playful and full of attitude. He plays with his pasture-mates. He runs me over for grain. He is, for all intents and purposes, still very happy and full of life. Except when I ride him... then he is sore.

So, to me, the answer is, retire him.

I thought about a year ago that I would be retiring my 11 year old gelding and felt I was okay with it. To have him live as long as he can, happy and healthy, even if I'm not riding him... well, that's an okay compromise, I thought. Now, facing into it, knowing that this is where we have come in our journey, is a lot harder than I fully recognized.

A month ago, I had a thriving three year old, on a path to showing, and an old loveable 11 year old, I felt I could bang around on for years to come. Now, I have a dead three year old, and a retired 11 year old, which puts me at zero horses to ride.

It's heartbreaking. Where do I even go from here? I feel, as if, my life with horses is mired in quicksand and I just keep struggling, and thus, keep sinking. This isn't how it's suppose to feel...

So, this is where we are. Now, I have shifted my focus to ensuring my horse is comfortable and happy in his new path. The fact of the matter is, most likely, Jingle will live another decade or more... retired. I won't lie, selfishly, that puts a pretty sour taste in my mouth. 

But, I love him. I would never sell him as a companion horse or ship him... and realistically, that is honestly his two options now. So, he will stay with me, and maybe one day, I will be able to have my cup of coffee with him every morning.

Comments

  1. *hugs* tough decision there for sure. He's a sweet fellow that you love and I know that it sucks. Maybe letting him retire for six months and revisiting the cost of MRI/surgery is an option?

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  2. Maybe this post made it seem like it's all about the money, that is a piece of it.. But the bigger piece is that I think 6 months to a year of stall rest will kill Jingle before a slight soreness will. I may revisit options, but I doubt it.

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  3. Well that sucks. I hate lameness, specially the mystery kind. You sure have had a bad run of luck lately. But I think its probly the right choice as sad as it is.

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  4. I hope this doesn't come off as sounding completely horrible because you know I know how much you love Jingle and would always do what's best for him, but saving the money by not doing diagnostics that might not come up with any results--or results that end up telling you to retire him from any real riding anyway--can be put towards a new horse.

    Another horse might not seem like the direction you want to take right now because of everything that's happened, but eventually you'll want to get back in the saddle on your own dude (or lady) again. Jingle is your heart horse. Let him be happy and sound enough to play around in a field, and see if you can find something that will meet your competition goals and bring some happiness to you.

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    1. Haha, we are one in the same. No, it doesn't sound horrible at all, in fact, I worried my post was the one that sounded horrible... i've gone right to the end, and now i'm faced with a grim prognosis that can almost make him worse, so why not cut the loss here? I've already been quietly searching for a new horse since Bunny passed, and just trying to figure out my options. I whole heartedly agree with what your saying, and that's a large part of why I came to this conclusion. Thanks for the support. <3

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  5. I think I would have retired him too. Sending hugs, lameness issues (especially unknown lameness issues) are so challenging. I try to believe that all things happen for a reason, maybe these events are leading you to your next big heart horse/competition horse.

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    1. let us pray.. haha, that is what I hope as well.

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  6. Don't know if you have heard of Connie Challice (she's on FB ) but she is really good at rehabbing sore horses. She is a barefoot trimmer, and has had a lot of success with "mystery" lameness. If you are going to retire him anyway, why not have Connie take over the trimming?

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    1. I haven't, I will look into her - thank you.
      However, Jingle does have a very reputable farrier, and the vets have always been very complementary of his shoes/barefoot trims (he has spent the last two years mainly barefoot) in x-rays.. so I am hesitant to change that up.

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  7. That really does suck. The right thing to do is often the hardest thing to do. Can you get him on the waiting list for a retirement home? I'm really sorry to hear this.

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    1. I don't really know if there are retirement homes around here, per se. I have a few options .. where he's at now, family friends, isn't too terribly expensive, but is enough where I am thinking about moving him. I just want him to be somewhere that is close enough I can visit once a week, but also where I feel comfortable enough going once a week. I once had him at a private residence and although I felt very happy and comfortable with his care, I felt I was intruding on their privacy whenever I was there. That wont do. So, I'm planning on keeping him where he is until I find a new horse, which could be months out, and then hopefully finding a neighbor of his current barn that would take him for a reduced rate.

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