Well winter is here at the ranch and so it our mare Rita. Many of you were here when Rita got hurt this summer or have asked about her progress so I thought I would share a little of her story as well as the progress since her injury in August.
Rita originally came from one of the ranch’s previous employees Jeremiah. He had picked her from the Big Hole country by Dillon, Montana. Kurt loved this little mare and to this day says she is the best cow horse we own and I quote “She will lay her ole ears back and bite a black cow.” Kurt cowboyed off of Rita when he was working at Sitz for a couple of years, until we came back up to the Covered Wagon and I rode her in our wedding. The next year when we decided we want to breed a couple of horses we knew right away she was one of them we wanted to get a baby out of. Kate and her spent the end of the winter with us so we could keep an eye on her. This spring she had Miranda, and became a wonderful mother. When it was time to breed her again, we decided to wait due to the fact we wanted to work cows on her and ride her this year. Needless to say if we would have known then what we know now we would have bred her again. Rita is a phenomenal horse all around, from cows, to trail rides, to our wedding, and motherhood she has done it all! And let us know forget how beautiful she is.
After visiting our new niece, in late August, we returned to the ranch to find Rita pretty lame. Over the course of the next couple of days we kept an eye on her and tried to help with the pain. We decided it was time to have the vet check her out when she wasn’t getting any better. Doctor Tami Parrott at Hardaway vet was the one that took on Rita and the following are her words:
Rita was trailered to Hardaway Veterinary Hospital because she had injured her left hind leg while turned out with her foal, Miranda. When she arrived at the clinic, it was obvious to me right away that Rita was a very special mare with a lot of heart. Even though she was barely able to put weight on her left hind leg and was in a new place with her foal, Rita was a calm and very well-behaved horse to work around.
In examining Rita I noticed that she had swelling around her fetlock joint (see picture) and in the tendon sheath of her left/right hind leg. A tendon sheath is a structure that wraps around the tendons in the back of the fetlock joint so that the tendons can glide freely past each other as the horse moves. After some investigating, I determined that Rita had injured her deep digital flexor tendon and the branches of her suspensory ligament. These tendons and ligaments are very important in supporting a horse when they bear weight on their leg.
In order to treat the injury, we needed to give Rita external hind limb support so that her tendon and ligament could begin to heal. A fetlock support brace was built by one of the staff members at Covered Wagon Ranch (Austin) to act as a support sling for Rita’s fetlock. A wedge was placed under her heel to decease the tension on her tendon. In addition, Rita received cold laser therapy (a treatment that stimulates healing using a specific wavelength of energy) to help her tendon/ligament heal and decrease the chance that she will re-injure herself in the future. All of this was done in an effort to make Rita more comfortable and to promote tendon/ligament healing.
Over the course of the next week or two, Rita began walking comfortably on her left hind leg. She was making great progress! As a result, we were able to start her on a 9 month long road of rehabilitation which began with hand-walking once a day for five minutes.
Rita is back home at the ranch and Kurt and Melissa have been caring for her daily with hand-walking and bandage changes. At this point, she is walking comfortably once a day for 20 minutes. She looks great and we are hopeful for a full recovery!
It has been four months since her injury; she is no longer wearing her support brace and walking great. She is in a run under the barn and each day she gets 20 minutes of hand walking for exercise. We still have a long road ahead of us with and uncertainty if she will ever be fully sound. However, as we tell everyone these horses are our kids and it is our responsibility to take care of them through better or worse. This is just one of our 71 horses story. We just think she is extra special.
A big thank you to Dr. Parrot, Dr. Hardaway and everyone else that took care of Rita while at the vet for the nearly three months she was there. Also a big thank you to Austin (our adopted son/employee) and Tom Fisher (Kurt’s MT dad) for making the intense brace that Rita wore (see picture) and Eryn and Keaton for helping doctor this mare at the ranch.