We are beyond grateful for the generosity of ALL the staff and veterinarians at Rood and Riddle vet hospital in Lexington. They donated at least $1,700.00 of diagnostics, time, and medicine to help get Apache back in shape to finish this ride across America. Their kindness and friendliness was over-the-top. We immediately felt like part of the family there at the hospital. It was a little unnerving to take your horse to an equine hospital having no idea what to expect and never having been to one before. They made us feel comfortable right away. We were always surrounded with several vets and techs at all times who were quick to explain everything and anything. We were always allowed to stay with Apache and watch everything they did, including join them in the room while they looked at his x-rays.
Which brings me to this: After taking some time with preliminary exams, they spent quite a while x-raying Apache’s entire spine. As you may recall, his blood-work came back normal including no more signs of lyme disease and his fecal exam showed nothing much out of the ordinary. That’s why they went to x-rays next- for which Apache was very good and did not need to be sedated by the way! We found the problem.
Apache has what is called “kissing spine”. Forgive me if you are a vet and I don’t explain this correctly, but I will do my best interpretation. Essentially, the vertebrae in a horse are shaped like a “d” (sort-of) and the top of the “d” is toward the top of the back. This top part of the bone is inflamed in two vertebrae in Apache’s back right where he has been sore and it is causing them to touch and rub together. This is very painful. It is partially caused by the shape of his back (the way he is made), partially by all the riding he has had, and partially by loss of muscle tone in his back. His body had, for the most part, been used to this ride and the inflammation was under control and he was comfortable for most of this ride. When we stopped for the long rest in Kentucky and then started going again, his back swelled up since he was no longer used to the routine. That explains why he had so much pain during the third week back on the trail. (the week we got to Lexington)
I was waiting to hear the expected, “I’m sorry, but your horse can not make this ride anymore.”
But instead, these positive thinking, supportive, and encouraging vets surprised me. They took Apache to a room where (after sedating him this time) they injected anti-inflammatory steroid in between his vertebrae in 7 places on both sides of his back. Apache was very good for his 14 shots! They also gave us internal and topical anti-inflammatory medicine and MSM to continue to give him daily. And the most surprising thing- we were told by their bone specialist to keep using him because with the inflammation under control, continued use could create a “false joint” in the bones which would actually eliminate the pain of the bones rubbing together. We were quite surprised but encouraged.
There was a noticeable difference right away. Apache was holding his back differently as he walked out to the trailer than he did on the way in. He bucked and took off very comfortably when we let him go in the pasture. And he has been doing well since then. We continue to give him his medicine as well as do the stretches that Patty gave us for him twice a day to strengthen his back (and hopefully spread the vertebrae out again). I rode him fairly hard yesterday in the arena at the Secretariat Center and he is still comfortable today.
We are hopeful that he will remain comfortable for the rest of the ride, as are the vets. If you would, please pray for my little Apache that he does indeed remain comfortable. We have no intentions of hurting him, but it would stress him out very bad (and me too!) if we had to leave him behind and pick him up on the way home. The next couple weeks should give us a better idea how he really is going to do, so we will try to keep you posted.
Thanks again from the bottom of our hearts to Rood and Riddle Veterinary Clinic and the entire staff for your generosity, support, and hospitality while we were at your equine hospital. You guys are amazing!