This afternoon I found myself wrinkling my nose and making a face at the putrid smell I was intermittently aware of.
“Yuck!” I said out loud to myself as I sniffed around a bit. “That’s disgusting.”
As is way too often the case, I soon discovered the source of the smell was, well, me. But we’ll get to that momentarily.
If you remember, Tiz Taken Back had won a race and finished an oh-so-close second by what we like to call ‘a dirty nose’ over the summer. Shortly after her second-place effort, she came down with a case of the sniffles which morphed into the snots.
A vet was summoned, and before rendering a diagnosis, he used an endoscope to take a look-see up her nose and down her airway. He saw nothing amiss such as an entrapped epiglottis nor anything swollen or enflamed, and thus ruling out other things, decided we must be dealing with a sinus infection. Pretty run of the mill stuff. He put her on a course of antibiotics, and the snots went away. Case closed.
After a failed effort to run Ms. Tiz at Ellis Park (we shipped in but Mother Nature had other plans, sending a deluge that washed away the track and cancelled racing for the day) we once again made the trip to Cincinnati and Belterra
Team Tiz was extremely hopeful for another trip to the winner’s circle, as we not only had Cory Orm aboard, but the race had a fair-to-middlin’ chance of staying on the turf.
I will pause right here and interject that for those of you who don’t understand the importance of Mr. Orm in the irons, please go back a couple blog entries and catch yourself up. Lol.
We figured we had all our bases covered: Jockey unafraid of Tiz’s shenanigans—check. Pony person ready for anything—check. Horse well-anointed with aroma therapy calming oils and smelling anything but horse-like—double check.
It was pre-race business as usual. Tiz (predictably) dropped Cory in the post parade. The pony person (thankfully) held on to her and Cory got back aboard. They made it to the starting gate, Tiz loaded fine, the field broke and…the Tiz we know didn’t show up. She traversed the course evenly, finishing mid-pack.
“I don’t get it,” Cory said with a furrowed brow as he pulled her up to unsaddle. “She just galloped around there. She didn’t even try.”
Our brows were furrowed as well as we made our way back to the barn pulled along by Tiz, who looked entirely nonplused about the whole non-effort thing.
Because nothing else seemed to fit as a reason for her mediocre race, and because she had recently been deemed by a vet who examined her to be “one of the soundest horses I’ve seen in a long time,” we pinned the blame for the bad race on raging hormones. Her previous trainer swore up and down that she was a monster to deal with when she didn’t receive regular treatments of Regumate to keep her from cycling. You couldn’t prove that theory by us, as we really saw no difference in her with or without it, and since I don’t like drugs, in our barn she was mostly without it.
And, because she was bouncing around the barn the next day in a very in-your-face sort of way, I mentioned to Jerry that there was a race at Keeneland that was a semi-decent fit. It was fall, and that race would close the book on the 2017 racing season for Last Move Racing.
Once again, Mr. Orm up; once again, Ms. Tiz mid-pack crossing the wire. What. The. Heck? Back to the farm for a winter-long rest while we tried to assess why our filly that loved to run had now apparently lost interest in the game.
What she hadn’t lost interest in was food…Tizzy is the eating-est horse I’ve ever seen. Never misses an oat, and that didn’t change on the farm. But a couple weeks into her hiatus, a trickle of snot made an appearance. Once again a vet was consulted. The general consensus was that the sinus infection was back, or more likely, never totally went away. Perhaps that was the reason for her last two (bad) races. Because Tiz looked great, there was no fever and she was eating, um, like a horse, we made the decision to forgo antibiotics (which are way overused) and let the filly try to kick the infection herself since she had plenty of downtime to do so.
Turnout time in the field and plenty of fresh air seemed to do the trick and snot abated, until one day it was back with a vengeance. In addition, Tiz was now having some trouble breathing on her right side. This time the vet xrayed her head in search of a culprit, which he thought might possibly be a bad tooth. But her teeth looked fine, and in fact the xray wasn’t showing much as far as sinus problems either.
It was right about this time that Jerry had an epiphany, remembering all the way back to Tiz’s debut for Last Move Racing and the race that wasn’t. (If you have no idea of whence I speak, again I would refer you back a couple blogs to catch up.)
Just two days later, not only was poor Tizzie struggling to breath, there was a swelling underneath her eye that was tender to the touch. At the suggestion of our farm vet, we scheduled an appointment at Hagyard with a surgeon Jerry knew from the track.
More xrays and another scope later, a large mass was detected. Likely, according to Dr. Rodgerson, a sinus cyst which would require surgery. And yes, said the good doctor, trauma from hitting a chained fence full-tilt head first could certainly have been a catalyst for Tiz’s current situation.
Dr. Rodgerson escorted Jerry and I to his office where he called up the exact procedure he intended to perform on his computer so we could get an idea of exactly what we were dealing with. He assured us that if what was filling up our filly’s head was indeed a cyst, the prognosis for a rapid return to racing was a good one. Of course, there was an off chance that we might find we were dealing with a tumor instead, which would be an entirely different matter.
I am fascinated by vet work, and had it not been for all that pesky math and science involved in becoming an actual veterinarian, that is how I would be making a living today. But alas, there was that. I was intently studying the graphic images on Dr. R’s computer screen when I made my request to sit in, and he hesitated just a beat before saying yes.
As I lay in bed the night before, the thought kept replaying itself in my head that this wasn’t just any random horse I would be observing…it was our horse, and I had grown quite fond of her. Would my presence in any way put her in more jeopardy? Or make the surgical team nervous? I was sitting at Hagyard still vexed about it when I was informed that Ms. Tiz was next on the docket. What the heck…this isn’t something that one gets to witness every day, so in I went. Tiz was, in fact, already out cold--anesthetized and maneuvered into place for the operation by a system of winches and pulleys.
A smallish gentleman of slight build whose job it seemed to be to organize a smooth running operating room popped out of the room where Tiz was laid out flat. He introduced himself as one Mr. Daugherty and added as if he was dead certain of the fact, “I see she’s a Tiznow,” as he inclined his head in the general direction of the prone body.
“Ha, I wish!” I said, thinking to myself that there could be absolutely nothing about my present attire that speaks to the kind of money that would require. “She’s actually a Tizway.” I replied.
“No matter,” he went on undaunted, “Anything of that line is all the same…all attitude…lots and lots of it! Plus they all look the same…big, dark, gorgeous, lots of chrome.”
I had to agree with him there…since we got Tiz’s ulcers under control and she began to gain weight, she has become quite the looker. And she used her farm time to undergo a serious 3 year old growth spurt.
“You know, as far as attitude, she is quite laid back as far as Thoroughbreds go,” I imparted.
It was Mr. Daugherty’s turn to laugh. “Really? You should have seen us trying to give her a shot!” I had to chuckle as well…our girl has quite the dislike of needles, and pre-race medications are quite the drama-filled production. I had forgotten about that.
His next statement made my jaw drop, and once again left me once again in awe of God’s care for our concerns…big and minute…since it had to be Him that sent this man across my path with a story.
“Speaking of attitude and of Tiznow,” Mr. Daugherty lowered his voice and moved in closer, “Didja ever hear about the big fella’s antics right before the Breeders’ Cup?”
“No,” I said somewhat sheepishly as I had worked for Breeders’ Cup and probably should have heard.
“Well, it was his final work before the race, and all the media were there to watch it,” Mr. D said with a touch of suspense. “Chris McCarron was aboard. They stepped onto the track, Tiznow looked around at all those people and apparently decided that he didn’t feel like a workout that morning. He dropped his head, and dropped McCarron right there on the track. Took off back to the barn and that was that. That horse pulled that kinda stuff all the time. He would train if he felt like it, and wouldn’t if he didn’t. The post parade was the worst…” Mr. D let the story linger in the air.
Oh my word! My mind flashed to Tiz and all we have been through with her antics. All of the work we have done to try to figure out if there was something physically wrong causing her odd behavior, or if she is just a mental nut job. And of all places for God to send someone into my path with a possible answer…perhaps it’s just, as Ol’ Hank Jr. would say…a family tradition! I relayed Tiz’s past performances to my new friend, who left me with a possible solution…a piece of equipment called a Stablizer.
But I digress.
The surgical team had assembled, awaiting the arrival of Dr. Rodgerson. As soon as he appeared, he directed me to a place up beside my horse, with a good view of the goings-on but out from underfoot. As the surgical instruments (aka power tools…all-purpose tool, hammer, chisel and drill) were made ready, all involved seemed concerned that at some point in the process things would come to a screeching halt while someone drug my unconscious body out of the way. I assured them that if I felt at all woozy, I would sit my own self down or remove me.
I used my phone to catch all the action, and the only point that necessitated me closing my eyes was when Dr. R had to use the full extent of his body weight to pop open the trap door he had created in Tiz’s forehead.
Two hours after surgery, Tiz was back in her stall, alert and of course, looking for food. We are awaiting results of the culture and biopsy of the wad of goo (technical terms) that was removed from her head, but preliminary findings seem to indicate her problem was indeed a cyst.
We brought Tiz home the next day, and have finished her post-surgical treatments of 4 liters of iodine-infused lactated ringers pumped into her head twice daily via a pencil-sized hole drilled for just that purpose. As Tiz’s sinuses filled up with the fluid, it began flowing down through her nasal passages and out around the incisions on the skin flap holding the mending bone in the middle of her face in place. Her head had so many leaks, it looked like a sprinkler. As the liquid ran out her nostrils, she flapped her lips, sending all sorts of stuff flying. I was unaware that at least some of it landed on me, until I began catching those whiffs of unpleasantness I spoke of earlier. I guess it’s all in a day’s work.
As I type this piece, Tiz Taken Back is now happily outstanding in her field. Make that out standing in her field. I must give a shout out to my good friend Teresa, who took time to drop whatever she was doing the morning of surgery and text me the awesome prayer that she sent up on mine and Tiz’s behalf. God is good, and we are praying for a speedy and complete recovery that allows for a return to racing. That is our hope, but God’s will be done and if His plans are different, so be it.
Thus continues the crazy life and (mis)adventures of Project Horse #1.