Friday, July 9, 2010

Crushing News


I don't really have words.

After Galway last fall, I noticed that Ringo had a slight irregularity mid-way down his right front tendon. He wasn't lame, but there was definitely a lump; I had the vet check it out then and we couldn't find anything wrong and I so continued on, but it was definitely at the back of my mind. Then, I both hurt my back and wanted to go home for the holidays and decided to send Ringo down to Gina's for the entire month of December; while he was there, I asked for him to get ultrasounded at UC Davis just to make sure that our findings at Stanford were correct. I had kind of hoped to get to go to Davis myself, but I trusted Gina fully to take good care of him and bring back a full report. It did turn out that there was a small lesion on the superficial tendon, but Gina stressed to me that he should be fine, needed no rehab at all, and could continue with full work. I thought this was a little strange, but I trusted her opinion fully and was really eager for the season to begin.

And, as the record of this blog shows, something was up pretty much from the beginning. I just didn't have the horse that I'd been having so much fun on the fall before. Since Ringo was sound and OK'ed to be working, I was certain (and Gina confirmed) that it was my riding that was causing the problems. As he got worse, I kept wondering whether something was physically wrong, but he never presented lameness and the lump on his tendon never seemed to change or get bigger, so I had to assume that the problem was elsewhere. After Three Day Ranch, which was such a disaster, I felt almost certain that something was physically up, and so got him checked out by Gina's vet. We did a full work up and found some very minor hock soreness and maybe the hint of foot soreness and treated with pads and hock injections, but the tendons were all deemed to be fine and so we didn't take any ultrasounds.

Of course, pads and hock injections did very little to solve Ringo's stopping, for which Gina's solution was to tell me that he was no good, that he had a natural propensity for stopping that showed in his record that I, through my bad riding, had amplified, and that I had effectively ruined him. She told me that, if I left him with them, they could start campaigning him at Intermediate again sell him off before I "ruined my investment" by getting eliminated a bunch of times trying to compete him myself because I was way too poor a rider to fix him. They topped this off by informing me that they already had buyers lined up to look at him and all I had to do was leave him in their care. Instead, Ringo and I got the hell out of there.

Because I was feeling a bit suspicious about the whole situation down in Atascadero, I decided to have Ringo rechecked when I got up to Stanford. Once again, however, the vets at Stanford could find no problem with him and saw no need to ultrasound, so we decided not to. My vet told me directly that the problem with his jumping was going on "in between his ears."

So, that was the way I had been dealing with the problem: working consistently to build strength, trying to go at whatever pace he felt comfortable at progressing at, and doing repetitive low jumping exercises as often as possible to get his mind back into wanting to jump. All spring he never took a single lame step and honestly felt better on the flat than he'd ever felt before. But all along, something was nagging at the back of my mind.

By the time we got to Groton House, I was pretty certain that I had given him the best and most consistent ride I could possibly give him to prepare, and he still stopped cold in the stadium. I decided after that to get him checked out by a vet yet again, this time at home, and this time do a full ultrasound and not just a lameness workup, because it was clear that he wasn't lame but that something must be bothering him.

And you know what we found? A big. GIANT. HOLE. in his superficial, compromising around 45% of the tendon diameter. Not good. Not good at all. I also showed the vet the ultrasound images from last time (which she actually showed me how to read!) and she told me that if we had continued without the stopping and tried to do a two star as the vets at Davis (or Gina's interpretation of the vets at Davis... I'll never know) said that we could, there would have been a good chance that he would have had a traumatic breakdown along the way. He never should have been working, let alone jumping SO MUCH all spring long. Because I'd been told over and over again that the problem wasn't physical but one that had to be trained out of him, I'd essentially undergone a systematic method of making his injury worse for months.

I feel sick. I've let Ringo down. I knew all along in my gut that something was wrong, and I didn't do anything about it. I listened to the advice of others instead of my own intuition, and my horse paid the price. There were so many times during the spring when I could have gotten him ultrasounded again and caught this earlier, before the damage was so bad. Instead, I just made it worse and worse. And all this time, I was getting frustrated with Ringo's stopping when he was actually giving me all he had and hurting himself further with every jump I made him take.

On the upside, he has a great chance at making a full recovery. The road is going to be long from here, and it will be at least six months until I get to ride him again, but it's very possible that, a year from now, I'll have back that wonderful horse that I first tried a year ago.

Ringo is going to get a month of stall rest and hand walking, and then we're going to start the process for stem cell and PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) treatment. Fingers crossed!


j. said...

Kate, our sport -- especially for amateurs -- depends a lot on trainer trust. THEY are the professionals so we tend to defer to their years of expertise even in the face of an unquantifiable gut feeling -- how do you explain a "gut feeling" to a pro that you are trying to impress? And how many times have you improved when a trainer has pushed you beyond some comfort levels? It's hard to know when a feeling should necessitate action -- when it's truly bad vs. just uncomfortable.

At the end of the day, you know that you never acted selfishly but always in what you hoped was the best interest of the horse. Ringo couldn't be in better hands for his rehab.

Rachel said...

OMG! I am so so so sorry. But please don't beat yourself up over it. You had him checked so many times! Me personally, mainly bc of finances, would have heard the all clear and never given it a second thought--considering you had a sound horse. I would have thought the same things (a mental issue-- no desire to jump etc). Your preciseness has, in fact, saved your horse! SO MANY other owners/riders would have continued to push or would have sold him. Please try to not feel sick, but grateful that you DID listen to your intuition, better late than never! you and Ringo are in my thoughts.

Jess said...

So extremely sorry! My horse Doobie had the same thing, but we didn't catch it until it was too late. He had surgery and made the recovery to being a glorified pasture ornament. (He was already 18 when the injury occurred and had been a Jr/AO jumper his entire life) Best of luck with the recovery!!!! I definitely understand the ups and downs if you ever need an ear or a shoulder ;-)

Beckz said...

Man I would be so wild with Gina if I were you. It's not like you ever mess around with tendon injuries. At least you know now though and can work on getting him better. And you know it wasn't your fault. It wasn't your riding letting you down.

I'm impressed that you did keep checking the tendon until you found the problem even though everyone was saying it was fine. I hope the rehab goes well.

Kaitlin said...


I'm so sorry to hear what has happened to ringo. Like everyone else has said though- don't beat yourself up over it. Your a great rider, and horse owner, and ringo couldn't be in better hands. These things happen, and although they are heart breaking, it would be even more heart breaking to know your horse was totally destroyed. But because you ARE a good horse owner, you found the issue before it got worse. Its like j. said, for us amateurs especially, we put a lot of trust into our trainers. So it sucks when they screw us over. (Has happened 1 too many times to me, and i've finally found a good trainer to trust!)
Keep your head high, and you'll be back on ringo in no time!

I'll be keeping you two in my thoughts!

Andrea said...

O.O I can't believe Gina said that a lesion needs no rehab work!!!! Even with Gogo's two teeny tiny mini baby SDFT lesions, each is requiring over 6 months of strict rest and rehab work. Honestly, I don't believe that the vets at Davis would have ever told you not to rest any tendon injury, no matter how minor. That doesn't sound like them at all. I can't believe it!
Nobody in the world can sympathize with you right now more than I can. With Metro, I kept on turning him out and moving him for four months while the gigantic unknown hole in his suspensory only got worse... I wanted to die when we really found it what it was. Like you, the professionals around me had told me to keep him going. And obviously I am doing the whole SDFT song and dance with Gogo right now as we speak.... if I ever go north a little more we really should have ourselves a pity party and go to the beach!!!
If you need anything, or want somebody to bounce ideas off of or chat with about all this poo, you know where to find me. My heart really, really goes out to you. I know exactly what you are feeling right now.

Andrea said...

PS to try and make you giggle a little bit even though you don't want to:

ItsOnlyAnna said...

I'm so sorry:( But as everyone has said, you can't beat yourself up. In a way, you were following your gut instinct. If you had given in to what you were told, Ringo would still be going untreated, and it would have turned into a career-ending injury. If you had listened to Gina, who knows what kind of hands he would be in. We ALL know how some people treat a stopper...If you ask me, he's in great hands!

eventer4life said...

I'm so, so unbelievably sorry. But I'm so glad to hear he'll make a full recovery. And it's great that you didn't give up on trying to find something wrong with him...If you had given in to Gina, it could have been so much worse.
I hope that his rehab goes well and he'll be back to Intermediate before we know it

Kayleigha said...

I believe Gina won her silver medal on a lame horse...or at least one that never made an appearance again. I'm so sorry for you and Ringo, and so glad you trusted your intuition!

jacksonsgrrl said...

Hey! New reader here... I am going through a rough time in life, and wish I could do a myriad of things SO DIFFERENTLY. We simply cannot. Get your chin up, and your eyes forward. Beating ourselves up for things you cannot can't change---pointless. Your horse will forgive you your honest mistake. He already HAS! Best thing of all? He has a wonderful mom to aid in his recovery. Sounds like you got rid of that "professional" and have learned a lesson about the feelings you may have in your heart. We tend to listen to horse people we respect. This is your learning process to make you a better horse owner. Someday YOU will be the total expert. And you will have good, solid information to impart.You will be looking back on this as a blip in both of your careers (albeit a learning one!) in a year or so. And ANY trainer that tells you IT IS ALL YOU without first suggesting a medical reason, or saying there is no problem, when you had one...well, now you know.... KNOW YOU KNOW. I pray never to have this happen! I'd be dead in the water in many ways, mainly money wise. My rich father calls it my "sickness" and calls once a year :( Help with anything? RIIIGHHT. You have LOTS to be thankful for. It does sound like you know that. NO BEATING YOURSELF UP. You can only move on anyway. The next jump may be BIG, but move through each moment, not the whole picture all at once. That is what I find helps when things get really bad (and with a big jump too!:)....

Suzie said...

All I can say is that I'm really disappointed my this post Kate. I still consider you a great friend (and I wish you so darn far away!), but this rant was in poor taste. I can completely understand where you are coming from. I've been there. We have all been there in one way or another. But all I can say is that there are always two sides of the story.

I wish Ringo a speedy and 100% recovery. You'll both be back in business in no time. You two are amazing and I really wish things were different than they are now.

P.S. I much preferred you as a trailering buddy than G.H. It has been... painful.

Alana said...

Oh. No. I am so very very sorry for you and Ringo. I wish him a full and speedy recovery, and I want you to read and believe what everyone has posted, YOU DID A GREAT JOB CATCHING THIS! You are a great horsey mom!
Also, I do not see this as a rant in any way. Much less a rant in poor taste. You are simply worried about your boy and wish to fill us all in on exactly what happened to him.

Katherine Erickson said...

wow. All I can say is Thank You over and over for all of your wonderful and thoughtful comments. I know it sounds corny, but reading your words of support has really helped me get through these last 24 hours.

Andrea, if you ever come to Mass we should definitely get together! I'm rereading your blog posts to prepare myself for the months ahead (and in an extremely "small world" moment, Nicole actually sent that very same ten-don commandments to my roommate this spring when her horse was injured!!)

I would like to make clear that I'm not blaming Gina in any way for what happened. I'm still hurt and confused by a lot of the things that happened there, but I'm not looking to scapegoat this injury on her. This horse belongs to me and is ultimately my responsibility. I believe that I made that clear in what I wrote in the first place, but I'd like to say it again more explicitly in case my meaning wasn't plain.

Suzie, you're right: there are two sides to every story. This blog is my side of the story. I've tried very hard not to sensationalize what's happened, but ultimately I can only report the information and experiences that I know. Again, if you look at what I wrote, it is clear that I'm not blaming Gina but merely recording her part of this incredibly long and frustrating story. The bottom line of the post is that I blame myself. I don't see how this can be construed as being in bad taste. If you can help fill me in on "the other side of the story," I would love to hear it.

Again, thank you all for your wonderful words and thoughts!

Val said...

You have an amazing horse. He was protecting both of you by stopping at the fences. He is lucky to have you to take care of him.

toni ostini said...

As someone said "this rant is in poor taste." Far worse, it is defamatory. The First Amendment does not allow someone to injure another's reputation and livelihood by making false statements. (and statements can become "false" if extremely pertinent information is withheld, as has happened here.) There certainly is another side to the story!!!! Dear readers, do not believe everything you read, or at least remember that there is always, always, at least one other "side" or viewpoint. As for not intending to "blame" or scapegoat Gina, you have simply got to be kidding!

Katherine Erickson said...

Toni, I'm very sorry that you feel that I've wronged your sister in some way with this post. I personally feel, as I said to Suzie, that I've done as good a job as I can at presenting my side of the story (both in this single post and in the public record of this blog), and do not believe that I have defamed Gina in any way that would be in infringement with my First Amendment rights. As I've said multiple times now, I take ultimate responsibility for what happened. Nowhere in my post do I directly or even indirectly blame your sister. I even elaborated the multiple veterinary examinations that Ringo had both in and out of your sister's care that supported the theory that Ringo was completely sound and ready to go. Ringo was never lame at Gina's, just as he wasn't lame when he was ultrasounded yesterday. It is not your sister's fault that I didn't ultrasound him again sooner, and I have never said otherwise. If you read what I wrote and came to different conclusions, I apologize, but that is neither the letter nor the spirit of my words.

I have no control over what other people have said in response to what I have written, and their takeaways do not necessarily reflect my own. Please don't get mad at me for things that other people have said.

I'm so sorry that we've had to communicate again in such unfortunate circumstances. I really enjoyed meeting you at Gina's house this winter (and without you, I never would have become addicted to LOST!! You got me hooked just in time =)).

Sarah said...

Holy cow! Talk about drama! Kate, I've been following your blog for about a year now and have very much enjoyed reading about your adventures (and the pics are amazing!). I am very sorry to hear about Ringo and hope for a very speedy recovery! I just have to say that, yes there are two sides to every story and most folks are smart enough to realize that. For those that think this is in bad taste, well, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. My interpretation of your experience at Gina's was simply that it wasn't a good match; period. That happens and that's ok. And if this post is the worst thing that somebody ever says about Gina, she's doing something right! Again, best wishes to you and Ringo and I hope you have a blast at Stuart! I've always wanted to compete there!

Andrea said...

Aaaah, the interwebz! Where no matter what you say, somebody takes it the wrong way.

Tamara said...

I hope no one reading Kate's blog experiences the sadness of a horse with a tendon injury. However, since this is a pretty common equine issue, I'd like to clarify one point in case you do.

There are usually two sides to a story. However, this is not necessarily true when it comes to recommended medical treatments. I have been unable to find any diversity of opinion on the best way to treat a horse with a tendon injury. The UCDavis website is very clear that such an injury should be treated with 6-9 months of rehabilitation for optimum recovery.

I think it's unlikely that UCDavis would have recommended Ringo be returned to full work, following their finding of a lesion of the superficial digital flexor tendon (as noted on his medical record).

So, my plea to all of you: if any of you are ever advised, or even allowed, by your trainer to keep a horse with a tendon lesion in work -- no matter how much you trust the person providing the advice -- I encourage you to seek a second opinion.

As Kate's mother, I certainly wish I had advised her to.

jacksonsgrrl said...

Ah. I love Kate's Mom! :)

Nicku said...

Ok, I am a new reader and 8 days late and 21 comments behind but I just had to write to you...First off, I am so excited that you're on your way to treating the injury with the stem cells. But more important, you are so wise to have listened to your gut, you did so well by your horse and yourself. This is how we learn how to trust ourselves, it's a process, it sometimes means that we have to go through some bad/tough stuff along the way to find out what our intuition sounds like. I am sorry that such a pro steered you wrong, like Andrea, I find that whole explanation that you were given odd. My mare had a similar injury in Spring and the process is a long one as far as recovery goes, but if you love this horse, you can rest assured that he's more likely than not going to bounce back if you give him the time and he'll be that horse you always dreamed of! Thinking of you and now totally obsessed with your horses and their stories :)

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