Hard Way’s CAT scan has the vets here so fascinated that they sent it on to various other vet schools around the world, including the University of California-Davis. Everybody’s first reaction is that the case is very… interesting. Not exactly what you want to hear from your vets. I’ve had several conversations with my vet in Chantilly about it, and while my French is fine and I think I’m understanding a lot of what is going on, I really wanted to hear it in English. Trying to track down exactly who in California had looked at this was like finding a needle in a haystack, but Jane Smiley was able to help. Thanks to Jane, I was able to talk with the radiologist who consulted on the case.
So: Hard Way does indeed have pretty severe osteocondritis in the first vertebra, and he’s had this for a long time. But he also has a severe fracture in part of that vertebra that is relatively new. What is “interesting” about it is that the fracture is in a very strange place – in order to cause it, he would either have had to have fallen head-over-heels, run straight into a tree, or reared up and turned over. He has done none of these things. Best guess is that he smacked his head rolling in his box. He is a very enthusiastic roller; since the bone was already compromised by the osteocondritis, he must have smacked his head against the wall. The vets don’t care how it happened, but I am, of course, more than curious.
In any case, the prognosis is not all that bad. Dr. Pichalski at UC-Davis says he needs time, which he will get. I will send him to Normandy for four months and we’ll take another CAT scan in January. Best case: The bone has stabilized and formed a bony lesion that will stand up to racing. Worst case: the area has not stabilized and Hard Way will have to be officially retired. But his life does not seem to be in danger; he raced with the facture and came back to buck and play in the walker.
We could, of course, just call it a day and officially retire him now. He’s five, he’s raced, he’s won and there are a lot of other horses waiting for their chance. On the other hand, Hard Way is a bit special around the yard, and it may be completely irrational, but I think we haven’t see the best of him yet. In France, five is not old. He has raced only 18 times in his life; he has one win seven places. With the exception of this problem – and it is a big exception – he has never had anything wrong with him. Early next week I’ll take him up to Normandy where will have his holiday, and then we’ll take another scan in January. I’m hoping by next April, Hard Way will be back at Longchamp.