Sunday I should have just stayed in bed. I felt like hammered grunt from the virus I picked up last week, but I didn't want to miss our morning lesson with Julie. I figured if nothing else, Julie could ride my boy to tell me what we need to work on before our upcoming show. So we loaded up and off we went. When we arrived, I carefully and intentionally hit the "unlock" button before getting out of the truck. After unloading Lance, I went back to the truck for my gloves – and realized that in my addled state I'd locked myself OUT, and my keys and phone IN. Sigh. There was nothing to do until Julie (and her phone) arrived but proceed with grooming and tacking up.
Mr. Lancy-Pants has always been Mr. Antsy-Pants when tied to the trailer; true to form he sashayed around while I worked. Something was off in the rhythm of his side-stepping; I paused to focus. It didn't take much observation; he was definitely lame on his right hind. Seriously?!?
About that time Julie showed up, and I gave her all the bad news, in order: sick rider; locked truck; lame horse. I called Rick, and told him he might want to come prepared to do a lameness exam in the better footing of Julie's arena. Then Julie and I went over Lance's leg carefully. Compared to the left hind, the right hind was warm from the hock down, and somewhat thicker through the fetlock, pastern, and heel. She suggested we watch him move, so I clipped on a lounge line and led him into the arena. As Lance moved away from me he trotted a couple steps – and was short-stridingly, toe-stabbingly lame. Abort that! I immediately unsaddled him (he heaved a big sigh at that – I think it was relief that I wasn't going to torture him more) and we waited for Rick and Brian to arrive.
After confirming the lameness, Rick started blocking. There was no change with a low block or a fetlock block. Out of lidocaine, Rick sent Brian to the truck for another bottle, then proceeded to block the high suspensory. While we waited for the last block to take effect, Julie snapped a couple of family moments:
There was maybe a little improvement after the last block; buggers. There was nothing more to do but wait a day or two for the effects of blocking to abate before Rick could ultrasound the leg, so we headed home in our respective rigs.
~ Cue ominous music here. ~
When I unloaded Lance, he almost fell to his knees getting out of the trailer. Startled by this unusual display of clumsiness, I observed him carefully while leading him to his stall. He didn't seem to be moving quite right; he didn't clear the stall door as I led him in, then stumbled over the threshold going out into his paddock. I called the house from my cell phone and asked Rick to come to the barn ASAP; something was clearly wrong with Lance.
Everything escalated from there. Examination revealed that along with neurologic symptoms, Lance's eyes were totally dilated and his heart was racing. Rick told me to put a fly mask on Lance and do NOTHING that could excite him, then tore off to the clinic to get some drugs he didn't have on the truck. He came back empty-handed, not having the drugs at the clinic, either, loaded Lance in the trailer, and took off as carefully and quickly as possible for the Oregon State University veterinary school.
At some point in this terrifying turn of events I learned that Rick had looked in his truck's drug tray and noticed that none of the lidocaine bottles had been opened – but a look-alike bottle of atropine had been. Lance's hind leg had inadvertently been injected with 10-15 times a normal dose of this powerful drug; if it had been given IV, he would have likely dropped dead on the spot.
While doctors worked to keep my horse alive, a lot of prayers were said and tears were shed. The first hurdle was keeping him alive without hurting himself or others in his drug-induced paranoia; after that, the concern was colic, as atropine shuts the gut down. (That's why it is used for spasmodic colic.) By Monday afternoon, the clinicians felt his gut was working well enough to send him home – with strict instructions to severely restrict his food intake and watch for signs of colic for the rest of the week. The effect on his eyes would take much longer – three to four weeks – to subside.
So my horse is alive and home, albeit masked, thin, and extremely hungry. For the record, he was 1258 pounds when he arrived at the vet school Sunday afternoon; he's not looking quite so robust now, but he is his normal, personable self. So thankful!