Thank goodness no one was on the road this morning, because I can drive down the middle of the road. I have Chaco in my horse trailer behind me, and if I make one wrong move, we both could go over the edge falling 1,000 feet straight down. There are no guardrails in this stretch; a sheer rock face on one side, and a straight drop on the other. This is Colorado, and normally I love this drive, but one of the loves of my life was depending on me to not make any mistakes. The road is narrow, and I’m driving a 3/4 ton truck with a horse trailer, both of which take up the entire lane.
As you know Chaco had surgery to remove three huge chips from his stifle. The chips caused a lot of cartilage damage, and his surgeon suggested that I get IRAP injections for him. Problem is it is a series of five injections over five weeks. Another option was Pro Stride, and that requires only one injection and can last for close to a year.
I hate the idea of injections. Growing up in horse racing, I saw other people misuse this practice to make their horse appear sound. They used cortisone, which also can cause laminitis. IRAP and Pro Stride do not use cortisone. Instead, what is injected is created from the horse’s own blood. The only main side effect is pain from the injection, and it prevents further damage of the cartilage from inflammation caused by movement. I don’t want to mask anything, but I want to prevent anymore damage. Chaco deserves all the help he can get; he deserves it.
How and why does it work? Pro-Stride concentrates the blood’s natural anti-inflammatory proteins. When this highly concentrated solution is injected into a joint, it binds and stops the inflammatory proteins that are causing pain and cartilage destruction. It can be injected into a joint that has previously been injected with steroids, and since I have no idea if that ever happened, it made Pro Stride a possibility. Also, it only takes thirty minutes for it to be created and injected, which makes it even more appealing.
The main problem for Chaco and I has been weather. We got record snowfall this year with a record amount of avalanches. The only vet I could find that did it on the Western Slope is based in Durango, three major passes and narrow roads away. Every week I checked the weather, and almost every single day it snowed. People told me stories of semis swerving on icy roads. May comes along, and when the weather should be turning to rain, it is still snowing in the mountains I was feeling desperate for Chaco, because every now and then he got sore. I stopped riding him, and all I thought about was going to Durango to get this done. Finally, a week after Memorial Day there was an opening. Sunshine for four days. I called Durango and got an appointment. The other direction to Durango was buried in a huge rock slide, so going over Red Mountain was my only option.
We headed out early on a Tuesday morning, and my stomach swished side to side as if I were on choppy seas. It wasn’t about the drive as much as it was about what Chaco and I were about to do. I didn’t want him to hate me. He and I have gone through so much together, and now I was going to let some man stick a really long needle into his joint. Uggh!
Luckily, no traffic, so we navigated the narrow roads and the many hair pin turns with ease. One day I need to count how many turns there are, but you can only go 20mph max through the turns. With Chaco back there, we went 15. I didn’t want to stress his joint. We descended into Silverton after passing several areas covered with avalanche debris. Four cars in front of me turned around and headed back to Ouray after seeing the debris fields.
In Silverton, I tried to get him to drink some water, which I knew he wouldn’t do. I climbed into the trailer to check on his legs and to pet him for a bit to make sure he knew all was okay. After my last attempt to get him to drink, we headed back to the road and over the next two passes. Again, we encountered hardly any traffic, so the drive was stress free. As usual Durango was filled to the max with traffic and people driving way too close to the horse trailer. I tried to not yell at them as we headed east of town towards the vet.
The vet has his offices in the hills and his road is filled with beautiful pastures and horses. I found his place easily but not him. No answer at the door. I finally called, and found out he was in the back. I quickly unloaded Chaco who was very excited to get out. Chaco kind of forgot that I was on the other end of the lead rope, so I had to zig zag him around until he remembered me. He loaded into the stocks easily, and this is when I thought I might throw up. I could tell he was nervous the moment the gate closed. All I did was focus on him, petting him, stroking his head and neck telling him that I loved him. Slowly his head dropped into my chest, and I held his head.
The vet pulled his blood easily, and put it into the device that separate the platelets. I kept talking to Chaco letting him know that I was right there with him. The vet then pulled out the platelets, and I helped him with the next step. Back into the machine it went, but his time for only 2 minutes. Again, I helped him get the injection prepared. I held Chaco’s head as he injected the fluid. Chaco fought it. I can’t imagine doing this five times for an IRAP. Finally, we got him still enough that the vet was able to get it all into his stifle. He let him out of the stocks. and Chaco and I both were covered in sweat.
I was shaking and Chaco was exhausted. I loaded him back in after visiting with a couple of horses. I then helped the vet learn how to run his new credit card machine, and then finally we headed back over the three passes, hair pin turns, and narrow roads again with little traffic.
When we got him, he had to be on small turn out for the next three days. I felt his leg, and there was no heat. However, he was sore, which is no surprise from the shot and dealing with the drive. I ran cold water over his leg for a bit, which he seemed to like. He was thrilled to be back with Dulce and Harley albeit separated by a fence.
The next day I noticed he was still sore, so I turned him out on a small amount of pasture to walk around and get those muscles and tendons moving, and I ran more water over his leg. After time on the pasture, he walked much better. After three days, I noticed he was finally putting all of his weight on his right leg and resting his left. Yes! I turned him out with Harley and over the next few days brought Dulce back into the mix.
He has since galloped hard with Dulce several times, and no soreness yet. I think this was the right thing to do, although I still haven’t ridden him. I’m pretty nervous about it. My plans for Chaco are to do a lot of trail riding, which he loves. I don’t plan on competing in anything with him. He has given so much of himself to horse racing for several years of his life. He is actually considered a war horse, because he started thirty six times. It’s time for him to do what he wants, and that’s trail riding. We’ll see how it all goes. I know he’s bored just being turned out on pasture, so it is time for me to get over my fears and concerns and climb back into the saddle with him.
After writing this, I watched Royal Ascot. There is nothing like watching Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori, two of my favorite jockeys, to give me the courage to go outside and get on Chaco. Jockeys have always encouraged me to ride, and even though they are across the Pond, they still do.
I headed out, pulled my saddle out for the first time in three months, and caught Chaco. Caught…that is so funny. All I have to do is walk into the pasture, and he walks up to me. We did a bit of work together, and then I climbed on. Most horses you can’t do that with. You need spend a few days doing groundwork before you get back on after a long time off. The thing is I trust Chaco with my life, because I know he will always take care of me. We ponied Dulce for the first time, and they worked so well together. No matter what I ask of Chaco, he does an excellent job at it. People tell me how lucky he is that I took him in, but they got it all wrong. I’m the lucky one. I’m the lucky one.