Diaries Magazine

Team Willow!

By Cate @finally4ever

Hey y’all! I hope that everybody is doing well. 

I wish I had a better update, but we’ve had a rough couple of days over here, compliments of my big bay mare. 

**This post is going to be long, wordy, and probably full of gross pictures. Just a disclaimer.**

Lets start at the beginning. 

(10/22) Sunday Night: Mike, Shannon, and I headed to the barn to do afternoon chores after the AWESOME surprise baby shower that the barn group threw me. Willow had been out all day, since it was beautiful out. We brought her in, gave her dinner, and I did my usual routine of going over her with her favorite brush while I checked for lumps and bumps. Sure enough… 





Willow, as I’ve learned over the years, is a sweller. Every cut and bump blows up like a balloon. This, though, was alarming not just because of the SIZE but because of the location. Right on the joint. I immediately called the awesome Dr. Robertson (who called me right back) while we scrubbed it up with iodine and kept cold water on the joint. I explained what had happened, and texted her the above pictures. She agreed with me that the location was not good, and she wanted to see her first thing in the morning. I gave her 2 grams of bute and applied Corona ointment. We tried to wrap the joint, but she was REALLY not happy with the idea so I decided that having her kick all night would do more harm then good. She was not lame at all.

(10/23) Monday AM: Willow was stiff, but walked right out of it in the indoor. The swelling had gone down, but the cut was leaking clear fluid (not good, as it was more than likely joint fluid). Dr. Robertson took a look at it, and we agreed that we needed to take some films to see how close the cut was to the joint. We took several films, and they confirmed our suspicions that the abrasion was lying right up next to the joint. We took blood for a white blood cell count, as well as joint fluid samples to send to UK for a cytology (so they would let it sit for 48 hours to see what kind of bacteria was growing in there). Dr. Robertson also took samples for her own cytology/blood work so we could get a jump start on treatment.   UK would take a minimum of 24 hours from when we sent the samples off to START their culture, and when treating a joint infection it’s best to be as proactive and aggressive as possible. We gave her 2 more grams of Bute, and Dr. Robertson wrapped the joint for me. 

Monday PM: Dr. Robertson called me and said that from her lab work Willow’s white blood cell count was low. During an infection, the cell count is normally high, however Dr. R was fairly sure that her count was so low because her body was ramping up to fight the infection and had sent the cells to the site of the injury. She recommended that we get Willow to her clinic right away to get her started on IV antibiotics and they would flush the joint first thing in the morning. Within a half hour from the phone call, Willow was on the trailer on her way to the clinic. They put her in the stocks to insert her catheter (to make giving the shots easier, since they had to be given every 6 hours) and gave her her first dose. She was a total champ for the whole process.

Dr. R said that she would give me a call in the morning after they flushed the joint and I would be allowed to go up and see her when she was awake. They flush the joint (I’ll spare “educational” pictures..it’s gross!) to rid the joint of any debris, as well as give it a high volume of fluid, and break down adhesions. Furthermore, it allows the pH in the joint to return to normal, giving the antibiotics a chance to work their antibiotic magic! 

(10/24) Tuesday AM: Dr. R called at about 11 and said that the initial flushing had gone well and I was welcome to go up and see her when I wanted. Apparently she’s become a bit of a celebrity up there.

Mike and I talked a little bit about what we were going to do after she was released from the clinic. She was still going to need to be wrapped and medicated, much more aggressively than when she had cellulitis. Lets take just a brief moment to remember that I’m supposed to have a baby in three weeks… k? Mike, while bless him for throwing himself so enthusiastically into the horse husband world, doesn’t know how to wrap. I would prefer he NOT learn on Willow right now.  We decided that we were going to talk to Dr. R about keeping her at the farm (they also run a boarding and lesson program) so that Willow could have the care that she needed. I was speaking to a friend about what we wanted to do, and she recommended a rehab facility about an hour away. I made plans to take a visit out that afternoon and Shannon and I jetted off to see Willow before the appointment. 



She was grumpy and groggy, but still mugged me for a peppermint and let Shannon pet her nose. She has a window in her stall, and really just enjoyed standing and watching the geese in the pond. She can’t quite figure out what those things weird things are! Dr. R said that her cytology was still negative at the 24 hour make, which gives us a 50/50 chance of there being no bacteria in the joint. It has to sit for 48 hours. She said that it was tentatively a good thing, as anything that was growing aggressively would have shown by now. However, we still had 24 hours and I wasn’t allowed to get excited as some bacteria is slow to grow. Once we know exactly what we are dealing with, we can adjust her antibiotics accordingly. Right now she is receiving penicillin and gentamicin as a broad spectrum preventative, as well as banamine to help with pain and swelling. 

Tuesday PM: I met with the owner of the rehab facility and was highly impressed. She was clean, organized, and had a WONDERFUL track record with all kinds of injuries. She was very optimistic about Willow’s chances of bouncing back from this and she has the set up to do just about anything that Willow needs as well as two acclaimed vets on staff. The aftercare of this kind of injury is just as important as the initial steps taken, in order for it to be a successful recovery. If the joint gets re-infected, Willow will have to be put down. In order  to give Willow the best shot of bouncing back from this, I know that sending her to Melody at Aurora Farms is the right choice after visiting with her for about an hour. Dr. R agrees with my decision. Thank you so much, Linda! 

(10/25) Wednesday AM: Dr. R called me and let me know that Willow’s joint flush went VERY well this morning and that her joint looks fantastic. It’s the first time that I’ve heard her unguarded about her optimism and that’s a wonderful thing! She said that if they are going to do well, then their joints typically look like Willow’s did this morning as far as heat and swelling were concerned. She is still not lame. We both did some squealing on the phone, and I said that I would be up after Shannon’s nap time to visit and say hello. She didn’t say anything about the cytology cultures, but I’m thinking that the end time is much later this afternoon. I haven’t been up yet, but I’m excited to go see her.

She will be released from the clinic on Friday morning, barring any issues, and will make the trip to Melody’s then. 



We aren’t out of the woods, not nearly, and we still have a few weeks before we can breathe easily again. I’m going to make a this into a tab of it’s own, so I can continue to update everybody as things progress with her care. You can find it up top.


I want to say a huge thank you to everybody for all the good wishes, calls, texts, and prayers. Special thanks to Ashley for the #teamwillow hashtag! I know that they play a big part in helping Willow pull through this and they are wonderful for boosting my morale! Willow has a crack team of doctors, nurses, and cheerleaders in place and I’m keeping the faith that she will come out of this on the other side and we can continue our journey together. The stress of not knowing what the next few weeks will bring is something that I don’t wish upon any person and the financial strain on our family is something that we were not expecting this close to having baby Charlotte.

It’s been mentioned by a few people that we start a fundraiser, selling Team Willow/Finally Forever After t-shirts, to help deflect some of the costs of her care and so people can show their support of my big ‘ole sweetheart! I’ll keep everybody updated on if we go through with it or not, and where you can get your shirts once we get them made up. Please keep rooting for her and I’ll keep updating on the page.


We love you all! 



- Cate & Willow

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