Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: Playing the Waiting Game

Kaitlyn Cawley Villalobos and Diego, who has had soundness issues recently. (Courtesy Kaitlyn Cawley Villalobos)

Sometimes I think I am cursed.

OK, I know this year has been less than stellar for everyone, but lately it seems like I can’t catch a break. I actually had someone say to me “Wow, your year has REALLY been bad.” Yeah, you don’t say…

Term of Art (Courtesy Kaitlyn Cawley Villalobos)

So here we go. Let’s start with Nothin to See Here, who we now call Diego because his “racing, but never actually raced” name was way too long to scream in frustration. You may remember from last month that Diego was sent to me from California after Term of Art was injured and I needed a new horse for the Thoroughbred Makeover. Well, let me tell you … Diego has not been sound in three weeks.

It turns out that the sweetest little chestnut horse has some exceptionally bad feet, especially his heels. First we dealt with a never-ending abscess in his left front foot, then an abscess in his right front foot, and now we are dealing with heel soreness in both feet, which is a lot harder to fix then you would think. My farrier and I finally thought we got him figured out. He welded him some special shoes that would take the pressure off of his heels, he glued them on, and put pads under the shoes to protect his soles.

They lasted two days.

I wish I was kidding, but sure enough, both were lost out in the field. I spent the next day looking for both of those very expensive custom shoes. Now we are back to square one. When a horse retires from the track they go through a transition period. Their body and mind change and grow and their feet are a part of that. Diego’s feet are just a work in progress. I am feeling frustrated about the timing, but I know that he will be better off when we get through this rough patch. Until then he is enjoying eating, baths, and continuing to be the sweetest 3-year-old. He is so easy to deal with and he is a pleasure to have in the barn.

One positive thing that has come out of my bad luck with lame horses is that I have had more time to ride my 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover grad, Cave Johnson. Cave had all winter off and he has come back better than ever this spring and summer. Cave retired from the track with arthritis in his ankles and we spent the first six months of his retirement trying to figure out the best way to maintain his soundness and keep him comfortable. Two years later he is barefoot and his only maintenance is a good joint supplement. He is proof that you shouldn’t overlook horses that come off the track with an injury. He will most likely have a forever home with me and I’m looking forward to taking him to some shows later this summer.

Cave Johnson (Courtesy Kaitlyn Cawley Villalobos)

Term of Art is still hanging in there. Today is 60 days since the day his injury occurred. We have done five PRP treatments so far and we will most likely do five more treatments. He continues to be a great, but slightly grumpy patient. Two weeks ago we did the first recheck X-ray of the hock. My vet said it would be too early to see any calluses forming, but his main concern this early on was if any arthritis was already present. Naturally my anxiety was through the roof the days leading up to actually doing the X-ray — this is why you shouldn’t tell me things ahead of time. As expected, the X-rays showed no signs of healing just yet, but there was also no arthritis. That means that we still have a fighting chance. If arthritis was already present, his prognosis for future soundness would not be great. So it seems that the PRP injections have been working.

And the other news? My vet actually said, even though there is a wide gap in the fracture, he thinks it’s going to heal. His hock will never look normal cosmetically, but one day it will hopefully be functional. I hold on to this small glimmer of hope every day. I am constantly telling my vet and my husband (because let’s face it, they have both been the biggest part of this whole ordeal) that I just want to be able to ride him again one day, even if it’s at a leisurely walk. That hope is what has pushed me to wrap his legs every day, ice the hock, crush pills, sit for an hour every day while he wears the PST boot, and not to question the expense and just write the checks. So just like Diego, it’s a waiting game with Term of Art. Hopefully he will also come out of this even better than before.

I wish I had happier things to report this month, but I am staying busy and staying positive! It can only go up from here!

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