VIENNA’ S JOURNEY
by Jamie Van Linn
Vienna was consistently, inconsistently lame on her right front and right hind around September of 2010 and showed a slight head bob on the right front. I would rest her (no change), treat her with anti-inflammatory medicines (no change) and work her harder and nothing would change. No better, no worse. She was still off, but only a little…we horse people know how that goes. After unsuccessfully blocking her, we (Dr. Fox and I) decided that further and more extensive diagnostics were needed.
The next step would be a body scan, which will highlight areas in the body that are inflamed. Vienna’s areas of concern included her sacroiliac and C5, C6 and C7 in her neck. Suggested treatment included injecting those specific spots and see how she responded. The sacroiliac was assumed, but her neck surprised us. It was explained that due to the inconsistency of her lameness and the fact that it was on the same side of her body, the issues in her neck were significant. Okay. So we had a diagnosis and a treatment plan. I was satisfied with both and was looking forward to getting her back to work. Much to my dismay, she was no different after her injections. Even with steroids fresh in her system, she was no different. So back to the drawing board we went.
There was no reason to inject her again, it clearly wasn’t effective. We had exhausted all common practices for a complex lameness…or did we? We knew that her neck issues were the cause for her lameness…and now she was actually digressing becoming neurologic. So Dr. Fox did some research and found a surgical solution done regularly at Rood & Riddle in Lexington, Kentucky. It is called a basket surgery. The most famous horse, Seattle Slew, had the procedure done twice in order to pro-long his life. First they do a myelogram (inject dye into the spinal cord though the poll), which highlights the specific areas of concern and shows where the cord is being compromised. Then they screw the “basket” between the two vertebrate and remove the joint. A cadaver bone is inserted into the basket and eventually will fill in with bone matter as the horse heals.
We had a possible solution to take an unusable horse and make her “normal” again. Of course there is always a concern with laying a horse down under anesthesia, but the benefits of the surgery definitely outweighed the negatives. Vienna had surgery in Lexington on July 21st and did well through the whole process of recovering from anesthesia and eating comfortably post surgery. She then moved to a rehab facility in Lexington (Three Sisters Farm) where she was on stall rest for 30 days and then began hand walking. After confirming with x-rays that the implant was stable, she was okayed to be hauled home.
Vienna is now just short of 3 months post surgery. Although she is not completely symptom free, I am confident that she’s on the right track. She’s walked twice a day for 30 minutes around the farm and over cavalettis and she also is in a small paddock a few times a day. Soon she’ll go in the mill and after some more positive x-rays, I’ll get to ride her again. Although this has been a very long and frustrating process, we’ve also learned a lot and met many talented people along the way. Some who are now on the Foundation’s Board of Advisors.