To the Fairgrounds
Though we had Dolly in and out of the trailer a number of times we hadn't yet taken her for a ride. It was time: she had her surgery coming up and we certainly didn't want that to be her first trailer experience. Also, her last trailer ride, the one that had brought her to Windflower Farm, had begun with a traumatic loading at the auction house. Normally, I would take a buddy pony to keep her company, but since she needed to travel to Mass Equine alone, I thought it best she now go it alone, too. So it was off to the local fairgrounds for some groundwork. When we walked out onto the cross-country field she was a wonderful mix of curiosity and energy.
After basic groundwork to make sure I had her attention, it was on to some jumps:
Dolly Juliane Dykiel copyright 2011
Dolly Juliane Dykiel copyright 2011
I'm sorry this one of the bank is a bit blurry, but I wanted to show it because it illustrates Dolly's athleticism.
As long as I got Dolly on a straight line to each obstacle she jumped it fearlessly and enthusiastically.
And then a standardbred pulling a sulky around the track that ringed the cross-country course suddenly materialized. If you had a textbook similar to the one I had in elementary school, you will have read how the Native Americans thought the Spanish conquistadors on their horses were two animals become one. Dolly had a similar response to the horse pulling a two-wheeled cart with a human in it:
Dolly fascinated by standardbred and sulky Ainslie Brennan copyright 2011
After more standardbred viewing it was back into the trailer.
We stopped at Johnson's Restaurant in Groton where Juliane and I had milkshakes while Dolly drew adoring fans to her open trailer window. She took all this attention in stride--quietly munching hay then actually nodding off to sleep. It had been a big day.
Mid-morning the next day Dolly and I headed to Mass Equine Clinic in Uxbridge, Mass., -- about fifty minutes away. The surgery was to be performed the following morning, so Dolly would spend the afternoon and night settling in. I had mixed feelings about taking her--glad that she would finally be repaired but sad that I would need to leave her there. Since February--with the exception of two overnight horse shows--I had always been with her. I also knew that she would, once again, experience pain. Of course, it was necessary, but she'd already suffered so much.
I knew she would be in competent, loving hands. Jay Merriam has been my vet for over twenty years. He and two of his associates would do the surgery. Dr. Mike Strasser called as soon as the surgery was over. It had gone well. Dr. Strasser was kind enough to describe the procedure for this blog. In his words:
Dolly is a 4-year-old QH mare that came to Mass Equine Clinic for surgery. Although her exact history is unknown, she sustained an extensive tear of her vulva, likely during a traumatic foaling. The tissue in that area is referred to as the perineum. There is usually a three-inch separation from the anus to the top of the vulvar lips. In Dolly’s case, those three inches no longer existed as she was torn externally. Fortunately, the tear did not extend into her rectum. Unfortunately, such an extensive tear had deformed the normal conformation of her perineum, which prevented her vulvar lips from sealing. Every time Dolly took a step or even breathed, the movement caused a rush of air to move into her vaginal vault, causing discomfort, making her more prone to infection, and creating an unusual noise. The best way to prevent this influx of air is to surgically close the upper portion of the vulvar lips with a Caslick’s procedure. Caslick’s procedures are commonly performed on mares with less than perfect vulvar conformation to decrease the risk of infection after they are bred. In Dolly’s case, a simple Caslick’s procedure wouldn’t work because, although the perineum is composed of stretchy skin, Dolly just didn’t have enough stretch left in her skin due to some previous scarring. Simple closure of the vulvar lips would fail because there was too much tension on the area that needed to be closed. We performed a perineal body partial transection by creating a relaxing incision in her perineum. A surgical incision was made parallel to her vulvar lips, separating her perineum from the surrounding muscle tissue in her hindquarters. This then provided us with the needed extra tissue! We then sutured her vulvar lips closed. The relaxing incision was left to heal by second intention – meaning it was left to heal on its own. Because there was no tension, the vulvar lips came together perfectly. Dolly will have some scarring but it will all be hidden by her tail. She will be much more comfortable, be less prone to infection, and will no longer make noise when she moves. -- Mike Strasser, DVM
Dolly spent the night recuperating at Mass Equine, and the next day I took her home with a full page of instructions. The surgical site had to be washed 3-4 times a day with Providine, then a salve applied to provide an antiseptic barrier between the wound and the unavoidable presence of fecal matter. I was also to take and record her temperature daily. Well, Dolly would have none of it. She never struck out but she gave many warnings with a cocked hind leg. I e-mailed Dr. Merriam informing him that if I continued to attempt to take Dolly's temperature I might require a similar operation.
This is his response, as well his own description of the surgery:
I don't blame her for not wanting her temperature taken! As long as she's eating and pooping she's fine. The surgeons (Dr. Mike Strassner and Dr. Susan Galanthay) and l discussed this and we agreed that a radical approach would be necessary. On one side, she had lost so much tissue in the foaling accident that there was nothing to attach to, which is why the other sutures didn't hold. To create a new wall to attach to, they had to make several parallel "relaxing" incisions to allow the deeper tissues to come free enough to replace what had been lost. The procedure involved 2 deep layers of sutures finished off with one more at surface level. It was pretty intricate work and took almost 2 hours. It looked great when she left and she should respond well over the next several weeks. She may need a minor touch-up at the farm, which we can do later on. Meanwhile, make sure she eats her meds and is a good girl, she sure was a nice patient. Looking forward to seeing her all healed up. Thanks for bringing her in! She's a lucky girl. -- Jay Merriam, DVM, M.S.
Dolly has been home just over two weeks now and is obviously feeling a lot better. As per the vets' instructions, she has been in--and continues to be in--a small paddock with a stall attached. She is by nature a quiet girl, and it wasn't until yesterday that I saw her in any gait higher than a walk. But yesterday in the cool morning freshness, and anticipating her breakfast, she exploded into a series of joyous bucks punctuated by several squeals and snorts. Tomorrow the vet arrives to remove her sutures. Dr. Strasser told me that Dolly couldn't do any real work for a full month after the surgery, but I'm going to ask if she can be ponied on the trail, at least at the walk.
By the way, Mass Equine is a major participant in Project Samana--a program in which veterinarians, vet technicians, and others periodically travel to the Dominican Republic to provide much needed assistance to equines and other domestic animals in this developing country. Please check them out on Facebook: they do wonderful work.
Next week my trainer Linda Parmenter will be riding Tica--as well as her own FEI horse Odin--in an Artur Kottas clinic. As many of you already know, Mr. Kottas is the former Chief Rider at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. My husband and I were lucky enough to see him in a magnificent performance there a number of years ago. I've also seen a number of DVD's of him giving clinics, and they were wonderful. So I'm very excited and will fill you all in with the details in the next blog. And, of course, there will be the usual Dolly update as well.
Until then, and thanks for reading The Windflower Weekly--
Housekeeping note: Last week I under-reported Juliane's achievements on Quilly at the NEDA Schooling Show of Aug 7: Her score in her first dressage test of the day was 68.5 and she was Reserve Champion rider not just for her division but out of all juniors that rode that day. Aplologies, Juliane!