Red's days consist of eating, sleeping, and hanging with the herd. Some days, he gets to go for a pony - tagging along while I ride Rhio. He's done 4 miles this way, at the walk. He comes home sore, certainly. But no one seeing his perky ears, or how he drags on the lead rope and tries to lead, would ever consider that he didn't want to be out there, in the wide world. I'm sure he'd love to get out more often, actually. He has always been a horse that likes to "do stuff."
I watch him eating, resting the bad leg. I watch him trotting around the pasture, with a noticeable limp on some days. I touch his injured leg, feeling the big, hard lump that is now his splint bone and lower carpal joint. I see him struggle to stand on the bad leg for an extended period of time while the other front hoof gets trimmed, even with pain relief on board. And I watch him willingly stand there, willingly pick up his feet, willingly trot and canter around. I watch him dive into his feed bucket, sharing only with the donkey. I watch him beg for treats, especially his favorite - carrots. I watch his eye melt when I scratch him in just the right place. I see him stand next to Rhio with a hind foot cocked, completely at ease. I know he is happy. And yet it breaks my heart to think of him whole and healthy, the way he used to be. It brings tears to my eyes to remember all the miles of trail, and road, and sheer adventure, we shared together. I hate that I will never have that again. And I hug him, and tell him how much I love him.
Yesterday, I was able to make his days just a little bit better, I think. I injected his carpi (both front knees - the injured leg and the "good" leg, which also has arthritis) with steroids. This should knock down the pain and inflammation within the joints. He hates this, even deeply sedated. Many needles end up on the ground because he flinches and twitches and generally fusses at me as I try to get them into just the right spot, a tiny crevice between bones that allows me access to the interior of the joint. But we get it done, together. And today, miraculously, he was standing square, bearing full and equal weight on all four legs the entire time he was eating his beet pulp mash. I haven't seen him do that since before the injury.
Only time will tell how comfortable I can keep him, and for how long.