Offerings of a Prize-Winning Poet, Aging Jock,and Recovering Lawyer

Archive for August, 2010


by Art on August 13th, 2010


                                                        (13 Aug 10)

 It looks like Zarahas’ chukkers are over.  Two months ago I heard him gasp slightly as we started a workout of ascending and descending a mile-long hill.  Although he never limped, I noticed when de-tacking him that his left-rear fetlock (like our ankle) was mildly swollen. 

 Two days later I played him two chukkers of polo, between which he stood with his weight shifted off of the stocked-up leg.  In both chukkers he gave me full effort, never limping or favoring that fetlock.  Seemed okay, right?  Dead wrong. 

Next week two low-resolution ultra-sound views revealed what horse folks call a “bowed tendon,” meaning it was stretched out of its normal length.  That injury is often career-ending for performance horses, i.e., ones asked to do strenuous sprinting, stopping, bumping, and turning, as in polo.  Still, the last three years have seen medical breakthroughs in equine surgery and stem-cell repair of damaged tissue.  So I clung fast to this hope. 

Two days ago Dru and I trailered Zarahas north to San Marcos to be examined by the county’s best equine surgeon and the West Coast’s top ultra-sound vet.  (Thanks, Kip Hering, for the generous use of your truck and trailer.)  I asked Zarahas to bow when we greeted the surgeon; he did. 

 As Raa stood quietly (without anesthetic) for high-resolution ultra-sound, we got the bad news.  His tendon was not just bowed but split down the middle.  “In my 30+ years in the business,” said the ultra-sound vet, I’ve never seen a tendon split this way.”

 Zarahas, aged 16 (life expectancy 30), had played polo for nine years.  In good health he might have enjoyed ten more years of the sport.  Not now.  But he’s more than a polo mount; he’s our pet.

So we trailered him south to Jamul, one of the best equine-rehab facilities around.  Three times a day Zarhas’ fetlock will be strapped to a machine that delivers compressed cold to the tendon.  (The machine, called “Game Ready,” was first developed for professional human athletes.)  Tapering the frequency but lengthening the time of each treatment, these treatments will extend for a month.

 In September we’ll trailer him back to San Marcos to see what ultra-sound shows.  Then we plan to have our own vet inject his fetlock with stem-cells (“nature’s own medicine cabinet.”)  If all this works, Zarahas will be able to take gentle rides on river-bed trails and become my bareback taxi around Hering ranch.

 As you see, we’re sparing no expense.  Unlike most polo players, I never considered giving him away or putting him down.  Still, the latter is a sad possibility if (like the racehorse Barbero) he avoids standing on his hurt leg so much that his good leg breaks down from the weight.

 So, as we’ve reluctantly learned from life, we do all we can but can’t control ultimate outcomes.  Tomorrow I’ll play two chukkers of polo on Chloe and umpire two more on Khourney— surviving members of “Raa’s herd.”  Then I’ll drive down to Jamul and give Zarahas much talking and petting and loving and treats, plus bites from a big red apple.

I’ll post any significant news about Raa.  Thanks for all your cares and concerns.  Cheers!  Art