"Smile! It keeps your brain from falling out when you're frustrated!" - Clinton Anderson (Downunder Horsemanship)

"They say boys never grow up, their toys just get bigger. I say I never grew up, my 'My Little Ponies' just got bigger!" - Me

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Long Road To Recovery for Cody

So, I’ve been really lazy about blogging lately.  Though for the most part, I really just haven’t had much time.  Cody’s knee surgery was three months ago, and……it’s been a long road, getting from there to here (hah, song lyrics, but they fit).  And we have a long road ahead of us.

Outside with Lady day before she went lame.
A couple days after coming home from surgery in November, Cody went three legged lame, refusing to put any weight at all on the leg she had knee surgery on.  And a couple days after that, we found the reason why when one of her incisions started draining nasty bloody yellow stuff like crazy.  Infection had set into one of her incisions.

How or why it got infected, we have no idea.  Infections after this type of surgery are rare, almost unheard of, especially showing up a week after the surgery was actually done.  Not to mention the fact that she was on preventative IV antibiotics both before and after surgery the entire time she was at the MSU vet clinic to prevent any infection from getting in there.  And the day she went three legged lame because the infection was apparently really brewing in there, she still had on the bandage that they sent her home in, per the clinics instructions, so it wasn’t due to leaving a bandage on too long, or being rebandaged in less sterile conditions at home in the barn.  It was just one of those bizarre things.  But then, welcome to my life, if it can happen, it will likely happen to one of my horses.

Resting Cody girl.
But on top of that, joint infections are very bad news to begin with, and the three legged lame part was even worse.  Horses just can’t stand on three legs for very long, before that other leg breaks down, or bows tendons, or laminitis sets in.  Heck, even Barbaro couldn’t beat laminitis, and he had the best vet care available.

But by some miracle, Cody has managed to pull through so far!  They say Thoroughbreds have a lot of heart, and while Cody might be only half Thoroughbred, I’ve seen that “heart” and I’m glad for that Thoroughbred side of her right now.  (And I still say she's part cat, though she’s probably used up another life or two.)  Even my vet keeps saying “she’s amazing, any other horse would have given up long ago”.  I’ve called Cody a pansy in the past, because she’s so thin skinned and sensitive, but I can’t call her that anymore, she is one tough girl!

And thankfully I’ve had an awesome surgeon and regular vet to work with, and they have both been amazing working together on this.  And thankfully Cody has been smart, and taking good care of herself.

View from my bucket while stretching her leg.
So we’ve been through four different antibiotics fighting this.  The first week was three injections a day with two different antibiotics.  I’m getting good with the muscle injections, poor Cody was a pin cushion.  Then we switched over to SMZ tablets twice a day, and a long acting antibiotic injection once a week for five weeks.  She’s still on the SMZ tablets and probably will be for a few more months.  Infection that gets down into the joint and/or bone can apparently take up to six months of antibiotics to get it truly gone.  We’re not taking any chances!

By some miracle, the two joints in her knee above the infected one that she had surgery on managed to stay infection free!!  But the infection did a lot of damage to the joint she had surgery on.  Demineralizing and destroying some of the bone, and destabilizing the joint some.  The x-rays we’ve taken of that joint to track it’s progress are just scary crazy looking!  I’ll try to post them in another blog when I get a chance.  The only good thing to this is, if there was any cartilage left in that joint, the infection has completely destroyed it, basically doing what the surgery did, so if she can pull through this without that other front leg giving out on her, we should get a solid fusion in that joint this time around.

Are you done with my stall yet mom?
I feel just awful that things have gone so wrong, making her recovery all the harder and longer.  But Cody has been such a trooper!!  Not once has she given me any indications that it was too much for her to handle or that she was ready to give up.  And believe me, I’ve been watching closely.  But she’s always been bright eyed and perky.  Friendly and looking for attention or cookies from anyone who stops by her stall.  And thankfully we have a fairly busy barn where I board, so there’s always people and horses to see coming and going or stopping at her stall to visit.  Not once has she really gone off her feed, eating all the grain and hay cubes I can put in front of her.  Pacing herself with her hay so she has hay in front of her to snack on 24/7.  She’s remained in great weight and condition, and even gained some weight, and her coat is just glowing with shine.  She did have some problems with all the bute, when she started getting picky about her grain (though still chowing the haycubes) and started pawing pretty aggressively and having that mildly colicky look.  So we suspect an ulcer having started.  But 8 days of Gastroguard and putting her on Succeed seemed to clear that problem right up in no time.  And since she didn’t seem any more uncomfortable without the bute than she did with the bute, she’s been bute free ever since!

Sweet new no bows!
And so far not a trace of laminitis or tendon strain in that other front leg.  That is truly amazing, unheard of!  I’m so thankful!  And Cody has been very good about taking care of herself, laying down a lot to get off her feet and give her three good legs plenty of rest.  I know it’s usually not good when a horse is laying down a lot, but the vet and surgeon both keep saying “very smart horse!”  And thankfully I have a great farrier to work with too.  We didn’t even try trimming her feet when the infection first set in, she just couldn’t put any weight at all on that leg and there was no getting her other feet up to trim.  By the next trim her feet were getting scary long, but we managed to get three feet trimmed while standing, then waited till she lay down for a rest, and thankfully she let my farrier lean and crawl all over her while she was down to get her good front foot trimmed too.  Hopefully by the next trim, we’ll be able to trim all four feet standing.

Thankfully over the last two months, she has been trying to put some weight on that leg.  Experimentally testing it, stretching it, resting it on the floor flat footed while she eats instead of just resting it on the toe, resting it flat and teetering little bits of weight on it here and there.  We originally wanted to put her knee in a cast or splint, but until she’ll straighten it out and bear some weight on it, we haven’t been able to do either one. 

OMG, is that snow?!?!
But over the last two weeks I’ve seen some definite improvements.  Before if she walked forward she would hunch her back feet as far forward as she could get them, then hurry up and step forward with her good front foot as fast as she could, putting weight on her injured leg for the shortest amount of time possible and slamming her good front foot down hard in her race to step it forward and get off her injured leg.  Not a good idea!  So when I did have to move her in and out of her stall, we did it in reverse.  And eventually started backing up and down the barn aisle a time or two to encourage her to use that injured leg some, without slamming her good front leg around.  By backing up she could move her back feet back, then either brace herself on her hind end and slide both front feet back at the same time (which helped file her feet a bit on the cement floor), or eventually shuffle her front feet back in baby steps that still made her but some weight on her injured leg, but not for too long, and saved wear and tear on her good leg in the process.  So we got pretty good at going places in reverse.

First walk outside in 3 months!
But two weeks ago, I noticed a change.  She’s still not truly standing on it yet. And while she still likes to “put the parking brake on” a lot while she’s standing around, bending her knee and resting the toe, I have noticed her putting the injured leg down flat footed more often both in and out of her stall and putting some weight on it while she’s eating and standing around.  And from the looks of her stall, she seems to be lying down a little less lately.  But she can also walk forward!  She doesn’t have to scrunch her back end up way under herself before she takes a step, and she can put weight on the injured leg a bit longer now in order to step forward with her good foot much more gently and no longer really slamming it around!  It’s a small victory, but after three months of what seemed like little to no improvement, I’ll take it!  So our short trips up and down the barn aisle lately have been in drive instead of reverse!  And we’ve even made it outside on to the driveway a couple of times to go for a short walk out there, or go to a patch of grass to graze, or just to get out of the barn!  Chain over her nose though just to be safe!  Three months in a stall makes her a little bouncy outside, and we don’t need her doing anything stupid!!

So we still have a long road ahead of us, and probably another couple months of stall rest yet.  With the weird weather and the deep mud/frozen rut pastures, I don’t dare put her out any time soon, and not until she’s a whole lot more sure footed anyway!  Here’s keeping my fingers crossed that things continue in the right direction!

Fat and happy Lady!
So how’s Lady?  She’s doing well.  Fat, and happy, and very out of shape!  She’s pretty much been on “vacation” all winter.  Ride?  I’d love to, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  With working full time, and heading down to the barn twice a day, morning and night, to feed the girls, and medicate Cody, and clean Cody’s stall, and try to walk Cody a little bit, and redo three standing wraps and a knee bandage every other day or so, riding just isn’t in the picture right now.  But that’s ok.  Lady isn’t really a fan of arena work anyway, and the hard indoor arena surface limits what she can do because of her arthritis.  So Lady can enjoy being lazy for a while yet, then hopefully by the time the weather is nice, Cody will be walking better, and Lady can go back to work helping me pony Cody for her walks.


  1. That's a long hard road. Glad there are signs of improvement and that she's holding her own - keeping fingers crossed for a full recovery.

  2. Sending positive thoughts that she continues to improve.