So Thursday I finally broke down and called the vet.
Tuesday Emmy's leg had looked so good after her long walk...it was actually starting to almost look slightly normal again, but the next morning it was blown up like a balloon, literally back to what it had looked like when she first came in with it from the field on day one. We were 5 days into the healing process and nothing was making any real progress.
My first step was to just talk to the vet. I called the vet office and left a message with the secretary for our vet to give me a call when she had a chance. She finally called that evening as I was driving home from work. I told her, in great detail, all of the symptoms and what I had done with her thus far. She gave me 4 possibilities based on what I could tell her, without her actually seeing the leg. They were 1) a localized infection from a minuscule puncture that you can't even see, 2) a really bad bone bruise, 3) although it's uncommon in older horses, a popped splint or 4) a broken or fractured splint bone. Oh dear.
We discussed, for a long time, the possibilities, how to treat them, the financial aspects of the injury and what to do next. I like this vet a lot because she's very down to earth with the whole thing...she never tries to push you into getting something you don't need and she is very conscious about the costs of things. Not that I'm a cheap person, but I am a college student with two horses which I pay for myself, a bank account which is running low, and a hefty paycheck which I haven't yet received. As much as I would like to, I can't just start x-raying and ultra sounding everything to find the problem. If it comes down to it, then yes, I will do all of those things, but first I want to eliminate what I can on my own.
Here is the plan: We started Emmy on 10 SMZ's morning and night for 7 days. Our first attempt is to fight a possible infection that could be brewing in the leg. I started the antibiotics Thursday and scheduled an actual vet appointment for the following Thursday (7 days from the SMZ start.) I told the office that I wanted a physical examination and possibly x-rays if the vet thinks it's necessary when she looks at the leg. This seems to work out the best for everyone. The vet gave me to go ahead to start the antibiotics myself, and so the idea is that I can eliminate a possibility and only pay for one farm call. Rather than having the vet come, prescribe antibiotics, wait 7 days and have it not work, then come again to x-ray, I started the meds myself and made one vet appointment for further investigative work. If the antibiotics work, and the leg gets better, then she most likely had a localized infection and I can cancel the vet appointment. If nothing changes with the meds, then the appointment is set up for the vet to come and do a physical exam and take x-rays.
My biggest fear is that Emmy may have broken/fractured her splint bone, something that a horse can do and still be totally sound (trust me, I asked the vet all about this one...) My understanding of it is that the splint bone, in an adult horse, is a non-weight bearing structure because it fuses as the horse ages (this is why older horses don't generally "pop" splints.) Because of this, a horse can fracture or break it and (especially if it doesn't interfere with the suspensory ligament) still be totally sound when trotted in a straight line (which is all we've done thus far.) Lameness in a "sound" horse with a broken splint bone sometimes won't show up until the horse is worked or lunged on a circle, neither of which I can do right now because all we have had for the past two weeks is thunderstorm after thunderstorm and the ground is totally saturated and sloppy. If the break is in the distal end of the bone and interferes with the suspensory ligament, surgery is required to actually remove the bottom part of the bone. Horses usually recover from this in about 30 days. If the break/fracture is higher up in the proximal end of the bone, surgery usually isn't require unless there is a chance of damaging the suspensory with bone fragments. If the bone has shifted though, the break is more complicated and surgery is required to put screws in the leg, again, so the bone won't damage the suspensory. Hopefully, this is not the case with Emmy. She's far too old to even undergo a simple surgical procedure and to be quite frank, I don't have the money to do it. We got her when she was already 16 so we never insured her because my dad didn't think it was worth it at her age, so anything we pay would have to come out of pocket. If this is the case, I have no idea what I would do...probably have no choice but to retire her as a riding horse :( I'm trying not to think too far into it thought. I'm taking this one day at a time, focusing on one potential possibility at a time, hoping for the best but yet starting to prep myself for the worst.
What concerns me about the whole thing is that, in all of my dealings with Emmy (and trust me...this horse is like a walking accident. I should have just gone to vet school because she hurts herself so much that I'm practically half way there already) I've never NOT been able to control swelling. I can't even tell you how many times she's done dumb things like kicked her leg through a wall, ran into a fence, tear her entire shoulder open, get her head stuck in a hay manger, strain her suspensory...I mean seriously, I've treated so many different injuries that it's practically routine (although in the past few years she's mellowed out and only had maybe 2 or 3) and yet I have never encountered something that I couldn't fix. Despite all of the trouble she has gotten herself into, I've always been able to fix it...and I can't fix it this time. No matter what I've done thus far, her leg hasn't really gotten any better. It has been one week today since she did it and the swelling has BARELY gone down. A whole week and despite the cold hosing, hand walking, bute, poultice, wraps...everything I've tried hasn't made a difference at all.
That's what worries me. The thought that maybe this isn't working because it's something I've never dealt with before...and out of the list that the vet gave me, the only things I've never had her do is break a bone and get an infection.
Let's hope these SMZ's work.
P.S. Keep and eye out for an update about Johnny soon. I have to say I've been neglecting him a bit (as far as riding and training goes, not general care!) between the rain and Emmy being hurt :(