...you'll probably find it. Well, that's exactly what happened at my new partner's pre-purchase exam last Friday. Only we really didn't have to go looking for it; Lance (that's his barn name) was lame when I led him out of his stall! We didn't notice it quite that fast; before leading Lance out of the barn Rick checked his eyes, ears, teeth, heart rate, neurological signs, and sole sensitivity. Then I led Lance outside where Rick had me walk him in a very small figure eight, then trot him straight away and back. Rick first spotted the lameness at the walk; I saw the head-bob at the trot. My heart dropped. I had checked Lance out three times without seeing or feeling anything amiss; neither the owner nor trainer had ever seen him take a lame step in his life. (The owner has had Lance since conception, and is a client of Rick's; we also know and trust the trainer.)
We proceeded to the flexion tests (pictured previously), and the lameness increased markedly after flexing the right front. At that point Rick asked me if I wanted to walk away, or investigate further. Of course I wanted to know what was wrong, so Rick set up his ultrasound machine, and there, at the medial head of the suspensory ligament, was a small lesion, or tear. There was no calcification on the bone yet, so Rick figured the "injury" was relatively recent – as in weeks or months. However, this type of injury is rarely from a single incident; it is usually a cumulative or fatigue-related strain that gets aggravated and then subsides, over and over, until there is finally enough inflammation to cause lameness. In other words, there was no way to know how and when it happened or started. Lance had 90 days of training last January-March, and then was mostly turned out until September, when he was sent to a different trainer for another 30 days. An injury like this with so little wear and tear; was this a fluke or a sign of inherent weakness? And was I willing to take a risk to find out?
I've already spilled the beans on the answer to that question, but only a few know how much I agonized over my decision. I spent years dealing with similar injuries in Russell, riding the emotional roller coaster of injury/treatment/rehab/returning to work/re-injury, and frankly, Lance's pre-purchase results terrified me. Rick said the decision was up to me; he was willing to treat Lance should I choose to get him (and Rick has the equipment for the 'gold standard' treatment for soft tissue injuries like this), but could give no guarantees.
I tried deciding against; my heart wouldn't let go. I tried deciding for; my head got in the way. I discussed every possible scenario with Rick; I emailed and called a few friends. Then a brief email from dear Wanda brought some clarity. She said, "Just a quick thought. It might come down to this: If you were to pass on Lance, would you regret it forever? (I fear you would.) What do you have to lose?"
What did I have to lose? Time, money . . . another big piece of my heart. BUT. This time my eyes are wide open going in. If Lance isn't physically cut out to "dance," I'll cut my losses in that area. From what I've seen of his temperament, Lance will make a stellar trail mount for someone, whether that be me, Brian, his former owner (she has first right of refusal), or someone else. So I said "Yes" – and felt peace.
Rick administered the first extracorporeal shock wave therapy treatment last Sunday. Lance's treatment and healing time frame dovetails perfectly with Horton's training time frame.
Up next: The Prologue.
To ride dressage is to dance with your horse, equal partners in the delicate and sometimes difficult work of creating harmony and beauty.