Jaz seems to be recovering well from his bout with strongyles. I am grateful not only that it has been easily treatable, but that I have had the means to pay for his care. This veterinary adventure has cost $1,200 so far, and I anticipate the ultrasound in 2 weeks will be another couple hundred dollars. I'm sure many people can cite instances when they have spent much more than that to treat a horse or other animal. I have done so myself.
Prior to the exam at Performance, my biggest fears were either an impaction or a tumor. Before the first ultrasound, when Dr. E felt what he thought might be a tumor, he was quick to say that if that's what it was, nothing could be done. The only way to determine the nature of the tumor would be a biopsy, but the mass was up almost to his spine. He'd bleed to death before they could get to it. And if they did manage to do it and he lived, then what? Possibly risk opening him up again to remove it? Colic surgery is no walk in the park either. I don't care what species you are, there's no such thing as minor (or inexpensive) gut surgery.
Although I hoped for the best, I could not help but mentally prepare for the worst. So far, I have been able to afford normal equine care and maintenance, and the occasional emergency inherent in horsekeeping. I have shared my whole life with animals. I've had to make the hard choices that come with it, but it's always been about what is best for the animal. Never before has money been a part of the equation. But this economy and Mr. Fry's underemployment for the last year and a half have created tough financial challenges.
The day before the appointment, Heather and I had a conversation about the "what ifs". Keep in mind, Heather and Nita owned Jaz from the time he was 6 months old until I bought him as an 8-year-old. I looked her in the eye and I heard myself say out loud that I could not jeopardize our tenuous financial situation if faced with a multi-thousand dollar surgery. Heather assured me she understood. She had to make that call last year when one of her mares faced emergency surgery with questionable odds. And whether the horse makes it or not, you still have to pay for it. I didn't have to make the call ... this time. But I'm glad I had the time to think about it with a calm, clear mind, rather than in an emergency, when emotions and adrenaline run high.
I got an email recently from a friend who reported going to a horse auction and the top price was $150 for sound, working, papered horses, $15-$25 being the average. If you drive around this area, you can see many formerly prosperous breeding/training/showing facilities for sale. Heather and Nita have acquired quite a few horses at auction, or from owners who basically just handed them over (for whatever reason). Most are perfectly decent horses, but ones that don't necessarily fit into their business plan. If something happened to Jaz or Poco, they would give me another horse ... more than one.
Am I saying Jaz (or any other animal) is disposable? Of course not. Jaz is a great little horse. I owe him a lot for the confidence he's given me. But we're not in the business, nor do we show. Jaz is our pet, and we love him dearly. The question I had to ask myself is this: If it came down to it, do I risk our financial future on this horse, or cut my losses and give another horse the best home I can?
In my situation, the answer is obvious. Heart wrenching, but obvious.