Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Medial Patellar Ligament Splitting, Post-Op Days 3 and 4: Complications!

This picture of Brandy was taken Thursday (after I wrote the prayer) when I went out to work with her.  Her right thigh was very swollen and she could hardly bear to put her right hind foot down.  There was no way I could ride her when she couldn't even bear her own weight, so Herb and I took her for an hour-long walk around the property, taking in three hills, each one a little steeper than the previous one.  I decided she needed to stay up in the round pen so I could keep her medicated, and I doubled her dose of Bute on the vet's orders.

Friday when we went out to work with her, her right leg seemed very slightly improved, but it was still so swollen that it pressed against her belly and looked twice as big as her other leg.  When I finally got Brandy moving briskly for 20 minutes, the right incision began draining bloody fluid.  Concerned about the coming weekend, I called Dr. White.  When he came, he was concerned about the look of her leg and said she has developed cellulitis.  This is basically an inflammation of the tissue in response to the surgery and is not an infection, but it can certainly predispose to infection.  He gave her an IV diuretic (to help reduce the amount of fluid in the leg) plus an IV antibiotic, gave me 10 days' worth of twice daily antibiotic tablets, and prescribed cold water therapy on the leg followed by application of a DMSO solution which causes heating of the area.  I didn't ride her that day, but did get in her hour of brisk work.

Then Friday night when Herb went out to shut up the "little" chickens (as we call Wren's flock) he found that they had not come back to the brooder house after their first day of freedom. Instead, they were on the ground against the hay barn, and we needed to round them up. In the process, we pursued one of them over to the barnyard which made the security light turn on--and there was a horrible sight.  Brandy was out flat on the ground (like this picture, taken this morning), breathing raspily.  Her right leg, which was stuck straight out, was draining on her other leg.  When we came up to her she would not get up, which is extremely unusual for my horses, and even tugging on a lead rope could not induce her to rise.  Dr. White had told me to call "any time," so I took him at his word even though it was 10 p.m.  We conferred over the phone, decided she wasn't colicking, and settled for putting her in her stall with plenty of water and some feed to monitor her intake and output overnight.  She eagerly ate the bit of grain I gave her, so that was an encouraging sign.

This morning Kara and I went out to ride both horses and found Brandy flat out again looking like this.  You can see the ridge of swelling of her right (upper) thigh against her belly.  Again, she didn't want to get up, but finally let me pull her up.  I warmed her up in the round pen after she was saddled while Kara lunged Angel to get her in a more cooperative, calmer frame of mind.  Angel is feeling fine and sassy, and she was ready to go!
We rode for an hour, gaiting around the Lower Pasture several times and up the big hill in the Back Pasture.  Brandy behaved beautifully, although I thought I felt one of her stifles catch once or twice.  She was much more willing to "walk on" in her flat walk than she was on Post-Op Day 1.  I had a crop this time, but hardly needed to use it.  (For the uninitiated, a crop is NOT used to hit an animal with!  It just enables my arm to have an extension that can reach back and touch Brandy's rump if a kissing sound is not enough to urge her on.)

When we finally came back to the round pen, I rode her around at a running walk a bit more, just to be sure she's getting enough work.  (My toe is pointing in these pictures because I was nudging Brandy over to the right with my left heel.  Don't think I advocate riding with pointed toes!  I've just never been strong enough or flexible enough to keep my toes up and heels down while reaching my leg back and applying inward pressure!)

I'm still concerned about Brandy, but feel encouraged that she can move as well as she's doing.  I hope and pray that with hydrotherapy/DMSO both before and after working her, plus the antibiotics, she'll get over this hump.  I'm also very encouraged about her behavior riding out in the field with only a halter to control her and Angel bopping along excitedly in front of her!  Kara had to stay on her toes with Angel, but she had fun, too, so at least Kara and Angel enjoyed Brandy's rehab.


  1. Ouuuu,those are scary pictures. You must have been so scared and worried when you found her like that. Poor Brandy!!

  2. Oh, Susan, I am so sorry to hear about poor Brandy. I know you have been worried.

  3. I WAS really scared and worried, Jenny & Barbara! I felt so helpless! I'm feeling more hopeful now, though still concerned at the drainage.

  4. Hi Susan, Fred had her Medial Patella Ligament Splitting operation done yesterday. She was so bad that her stifle was sticky on every stride, as I told you in my email. Today I walked her out for 2 miles and it didn't realy stick once, so fingers crossed!
    My vet says 'gentle' excersise only, but I know that you did mostly trotting? I am going to increase to trotting asap as if it worked for you, it might work for Fred. She is a bit uncomfortable, but not really lame.

  5. Maureen, I'm glad to know Fred was walking better yesterday. Actually, I didn't trot Brandy because she's a gaited horse. I used her flat walk & running walk, which is a faster version of the flat walk. The only reason I worked her hard was that my vet said to (after the first day or two post-op). Personally, I'd recommend you follow your vet's orders or at least, if she starts feeling frisky, ask him if you can step it up.

    Do please keep me posted on how Fred does. Best of luck to you both!

  6. Hi Susan, I am keeping a diary, day by day, of Fred's progress and the work I am giving her on my blog if any of your readers are interested in the success - or failure of Fred's operation.

    1. Maureen, I've posted a link to your blog. Best of luck to both of you from Brandy and me!

  7. Hello Susan, an update on Fred. She got much worse after the splitting operation and was locking on every stride on both hind legs. It was so bad that she couldn't travel in a trailer to the Vets as she couldn't unlock them to balance herself.
    The Vet decided that a complete sever was the only option and this was done on 23/05/2013, a week ago at home.
    The Vet could not believe how TIGHT the ligaments were and said that they must have been too tight, causing the sticky stifle - not too loose - and this was why she was worse as the splitting operation had made them even tighter!!
    She is much better now as they can't stick anymore and she is striding out on her 15mins twice a day walking in-hand like she never did before.
    It is 4 weeks until she is allowed to trot, so we won't know until then if she is still lame on her offside hind, like she was before.
    So, a word of warning. If your horse has a sticky stifle problem, check whether it is due to it being too loose, or too tight BEFORE you opt for the ligament splitting operation which only works on loose ligaments.

    1. Maureen,
      Thank you so much for your update. You had told me that Fred was much worse and needed to have the ligaments severed, but I hadn't heard the result. If they were that tight, yes, it explains why the surgery made it worse. :( I'm so thankful that Fred is better now on her walking, and I'm hoping trotting will be great! It sounds quite hopeful so far. Please let me know in 4 weeks when you start to trot her.

      Fortunately, my vet was right in his assessment that Brandy's ligaments were too loose. I'm not sure exactly how he arrived at that, perhaps because it got worse only after she was stolen and was recovered badly injured--and he assumed it was due to a slip or fall while being hauled away in a trailer. Thank you so much for sharing this insight for anyone who's reading this--and believe me, there have been lots of hits on this post! There must be a lot of horses out there with stifle problems.

      I'll be waiting to hear some hopefully wonderful news about Fred being able to trot . . .


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