Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Walking with Winnie Trip Journal

From Walking with Winnie Journal

Winnie and I started our Monday early, so she could enjoy a breakfast of grass and I could enjoy another bareback ride before taking her for her afternoon appointment with the vet. Winnie didn't seem to mind me on her back at a walk or a trot. Her lameness might not be noticed except by a trained eye, but I could tell it was still there by the slight wobble in her step.

Dixieland Drummer, a race horse recuperating at Wyandot County Equine Rescue from a fractured cannon bone, rode in the trailer with Winnie to the University of Findlay campus. Big-hearted "Dixie" won his first race, but sacrificed his leg in the effort, and was sent to equally big-hearted Dave Balz at the rescue facility, in hopes of saving his life. Dave wanted x-rays taken of Dixie's leg, to see how well the horse has healed since the accident on May 30.

After the horses were unloaded at University Equine Veterinary Services, Dave introduced us to veterinarian Rick Henninger, who would examine both horses. Winnie went first.

I discussed Winnie's case with Dr. Henninger, who gave Winnie a flex test and watched her trot back and forth on a hard surface, and then on the lunge line in the softer arena. Back on the concrete flooring, Dr. Henninger grabbed Winnie's tail to pull her off balance a couple of times, to see how well she would recover when thrown off her stance. He also had his assistant turn her in tight circles while he watched how she handled her feet. He could see the slight drag and stiffness in the hind end, particularly on the right side. She had a bit of clumsiness on her left side, too, and asked me if Winnie has shown any signs of illness. Since she hasn't had any fever or gone off her feed since I adopted her, Dr. Henninger did not think a test for EPM or herpes was warranted. He explained that if she were diseased, her lameness would progress in spite of rest. In Winnie's case, rest improves her condition, which means it is more likely the lameness is caused by soft tissue wear and tear.

The vet suspects that the repetitive task of walking several hours and days in a row, for long distances, could be the reason for Winnie's lameness, even though we trained and prepared for the walk from March through May. We discussed the possibility of giving Winnie bute and resting her for two or three weeks, then putting her to the task again, to see if the lameness returns.

I then asked the vet about the possibility that Winnie is too young for the job I am asking her to do, and he said that this might be true.

Certainly I do not want to risk causing further pain, injury, or permanent damage to my horse, and after giving it some more thought on the way home from the exam, I decided it would be in Winnie's best interest to discontinue the walk altogether. I fear the lameness will return if I resume the same schedule of work. It would be better to trailer Winnie the distance west, and let her recover over a six-month period.

This is what I must do for my horse, in spite of the disappointment it brings. I expect Winnie's fans will remain loyal, even though she only achieved ten percent of her intended miles across the USA. At least we made it over the Pennsylvania line, met and heard from many wonderful people, and hopefully, brought attention to the plight of the mustang horse, America's National Treasure.

Thanks to all those folks who have helped us on our way, hosted us, raised money for our effort, and cheered us on. We are sorry we will miss meeting those who agreed to host us along the American Discovery Trail from Cincinnati to Dodge City, and from the Santa Fe Trail to points further west. I am especially disappointed to miss this part of the trip, where we would spend less time in traffic and more time on trail, enjoying the view across the Western horizon.

As for Dixie, his future is uncertain, and after looking at his x-rays, Dr. Henninger recommended six additional weeks of rest. Dave also told the doctor about the horse that injured himself over the weekend (see last Saturday's blog entry), and his future is also uncertain. For now, he remains in the stall next to Winnie, and they have become friends.

At present I am working on making arrangements for Winnie's trailer ride from Carey, Ohio to Reno, Nevada, where my daughter can pick us up with her friend's trailer. I will continue to blog about our journey until we arrive in Paradise, and from there, I hope to network with local folk who want to protect horses, rescue abused animals, and save the Mustangs. While I cannot know what is in store for Winnie and me, I still have faith that God knows what he is doing with us. We must surrender to the circumstances as they are presented, and try to make the best choice for Winnie.

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