Monday, May 21, 2007

Book Review: Horses, Owners, Vets, Farriers and Therapists All Live Happily Ever After In New Book "Back to Work"

I wish you could fold me up like a bookmark and store me inside this book.

The lovely volume "Back to Work" arrived from the printer this week and I eagerly sat down for a critical review of the fat (389 pages!) hardcover about rehabbing horses from colic surgery, laminitis and soft-tissue injuries.

The first thing I noticed was how many friends of Hoofcare and Lameness Journal are featured in this book. Farrier Paul Goodness, vets Ric Redden, Cooper Williams, Bruce Lyle and Liz Maloney...the names jump off the page. It's like old-home week.

But the stars of this book are the owners. The author judiciously profiled each one--riding level, job and time and budget constraints, personality flaws and all, as she analyzed the techniques and timelines used to bring each horse back to performance.

And that's no mean feat. These injuries are severe but each horse's story that I read had a happy ending. Every vet and every farrier was a hero. The horses all eventually seem to have recovered, and some even surpassed their pre-injury level of performance. Each owner overcomes the challenges to handwalk their horses through the depths of winter and somehow manage to afford ACell treatments, chiropractics, heart monitors, magnetic blankets, and serial ultrasounds and radiographs. Vet clinics like Fairfield Equine in Connecticut and Palm Beach Equine in Florida and consultants like Ric Redden are in the budgets of these riders: lucky horses!

I admit to being mesmerized as I read the tales. After the first few, I started to realize that the horses were not going to even come close to pasture-ornament status, let alone see the dreaded "Entering New Holland" sign. And each of these dedicated owners kept the horse, obviously feeling a lifetime bond with it after the ordeal of hands-on rehab. I'd like to live in this world.

What's disturbing about this book is the lack of illustrations. Each horse and rider are pictured together, often during competition. Everyone looks happy. What we don't see are the horses themselves during rehab. No ratty stable blankets, no knotted manes, no soiled bell boots. We read about the therapies, but we don't see any treatments. There are no closeup images of bulging bows or abscessing soles. No radiographs, no ultrasounds. Everyone's smiling. Life is good.

Authors of technical chapters include veterinarians Mary Brennan, Barb Crabbe, Bob Grisel, Nancy Loving, Richard Markell, David Ramey, W. Rich Redding, Jeanne Waldron, Cooper Williams. Massage therapy section by Richard Valdez, human psychology by Janet Sasson Edgette. Each rider lists veterinarians and therapists who assisted.

One criticism: It's hard to understand how farriery as a subject could be left out of this book, but Texas farrier Ron Marshall and Hoofcare and Lameness consulting editor Paul Goodness are mentioned as individuals who played roles in helping foundered horses.

The story of Karen O'Connor's plagued-with-injuries event horse Upstage was a highlight of the book for me. She competed on him at the Rolex 4* in Kentucky last month. After seeing his medical history, that is nothing short of a miracle.

Vets, therapists, and farriers may not have the patience to read this book from cover to cover but the index is helpful in locating information buried in the text and it might be worthwhile to gain the author's insight into what sorts of owners are willing to go the distance to bring their horses back from injury and illness. Each horse's story has a timetable outlining how and when medical and therapeutic treatments progressed.

This book would make a superb gift to inspire an owner who is undertaking a suspensory rehab or a bowed tendon or whose horse needs to recover from colic surgery or laminitis.

Favorite quote from the book, attributed to David Ramey DVM on laminitis therapy: "If someone tells you that if he or she had started their particular approach to rehabilitation 'in time', your horse would be much better, you're either dealing with a charlatan, an egomaniac, or a fool. Laminitis is a humbling disease and anyone who claims universal success simply hasn't treated enough horses."

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