When the Plan Doesn’t Go According to Plan

When I first got Quinn I didn’t have any hard and fast plans. I wasn’t concerned with getting out to compete right away though I did want to compete eventually, and I wasn’t in a rush to meet different milestones. I had wanted a partner to go on a journey with, to learn and grow with, and wherever we wound up was wherever we would wind up. “It takes as long as it takes” was my guiding mantra and nearly two years into this journey it’s still something I remind myself often, even if lately it’s accompanied by a sometimes dark, ironic sense of humor. Needless to say, the journey we’ve gone on so far has deviated quite a bit from what I had originally envisioned. I guess that’s how journeys usually go though, right?

We tried to bring Q back into work at the beginning of April, after 8 months off from a (supposed) suspensory strain. Pretty quickly into it (like day 3) we realized he still wasn’t quite right and was displaying many of the same symptoms we saw last year. We immediately pulled the plug and got the vet back out. More blocks and xrays, neither of which yielded anything definitive. Maybe some sketchy spinal processes, maybe the suspensory hadn’t healed all the way, lots of head scratching and confusion. 

After all this we watched Quinn go both directions on the lunge one more time and my vet, a lovely kind man who is well tenured and respected in his field and who’s opinion I trust implicitly, turned to me and after a beat said “You know, you’ve put a lot of money into this horse already…” The statement hung there in space. He was right. In the last year and a half I’ve spent a little more than $10k (about $7k at the time this conversation took place) on vets and lameness exams and scans and chiropractors and body workers and medicine and Chinese herbs. I don’t disclose that figure for shock value or to garner a reaction but because it’s the truth and I think it’s important to be transparent about how much you can spend and still not really know what the problem is.

I knew what he was gently trying to tell me. You’ve spent a ton of money on a horse that’s unproven, that may never be sound, that we have no idea where the problem is. You’ve spent well over the amount of money it would take to buy a different horse, a horse that wasn’t as green, a sound horse, a better horse, a horse I could do more with than hand walk and fret over. I’m a frequent online window shopper. I’m in all the Facebook groups. I’m intimately familiar with the kind of horse I could have for the money I’ve spent on vetting. But that horse wouldn’t be Quinn. 

I told my vet I wasn’t done trying so he referred us back to Rood and Riddle to do a bone scan. To make a long story slightly less long, the scan was inconclusive and after a full lameness workup the answer I was given was to have him reshod with pads in front as he was heelsore in his front feet. They swore up and down that it was his front feet making him sore behind (not that it can’t happen, but given what we’ve been through seemed highly unlikely). I’ll post another day about the frustrations of trying to get professionals to take you seriously. If you’re a woman in the world you already know. Nevertheless, we tried the new shoe setup and saw mild improvement for a short time before he deteriorated again. Semi-unsurprisingly the vet we had been working with at R&R is no longer returning my calls. Classy. 

I’d be lying at this point if I said I wasn’t overwhelmingly frustrated. But I’m grateful too. I’m grateful that despite the fact that he’s been living with an ailment seemingly no one in the world can figure out that Quinn has remained the kind, easy going character I fell in love with almost two years ago, that he still tries his heart out for me. I’m grateful that I was brought up to be a good horseperson before a being a good rider, that I knew to listen when Q started telling me that he couldn’t. I’m grateful for my barn manager/trainer/best friend who has advocated for my horse (and all of the horses under her care) like he was her own, who has been honest with me even when I’ve wanted to believe that things were better than they were. I’m grateful that I live in an area of the country where I have access to some of the best veterinary facilities in the world and that I have a job that even though I’m not rich by any means, affords me the ability to pursue the highest standard of care. I’m grateful that there are professionals in the world like the one I spoke to this morning, who called me from his personal phone number after spending a day reviewing my file with a solid plan of what to do next (including bringing a second vet onto the case for a second set of eyes). I’m grateful that even though I don’t know how it’s going to end, that the journeys not over yet, that there’s still a chance that this all turns out okay. So send Q and I all your good vibes as we pursue our seemingly 47th opinion in a couple weeks that at the very least we find an answer.

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