Judge had his surgery to remove his melanomas on Wednesday. Everything went really well.
Since there is no loose skin to suture inside a horse's ear or on the hairless part of the dock of the tail, both sites have to heal as open wounds. Despite the whole ear tumor being bigger than a golf ball, its point of attachment was only about the size of my thumbnail and did not involve the ear cartilage. That spot is nearly healed already.
The site of the tail tumor is not nearly so small and neat. In order to get good margins, Judge has a divot a bit over two inches across that goes well into the muscle. I'm treating it with Granulex V spray, plus Judge has ten days' worth of twice-daily Trimethoprim/Sulfadiazine tablets.
The vet came out to the barn to do the surgery because after all our trailer loading practice, when it was time to haul him to the clinic Judge wouldn't load. He's always been very well-behaved and cooperative, but in recent months he's been aloof and short-fused. Thoroughbreds are more normally reactive than most other breeds, and I attributed the rest of the behavioral changes to his moving up through the ranks in the herd. He's now the dominant gelding and thinks himself to be quite the ladies' man.
According to the available literature, equine melanoma is not painful. I could touch either of the tumors without Judge showing any sign of discomfort. But despite those facts, now that they're both gone Judge is back to his old cooperative self.
When we were trying to get Judge loaded, there was no shortage of "helpful" advice. The horse is being a pig, the horse is disrespectful, you need to get after him and make him mind. I now know those tumors, especially the one in his ear, were bothering him more than I thought. I feel absolutely awful for not doing something about the tumors sooner, despite normal veterinary advice being to leave melanomas alone unless absolutely necessary since surgery can cause otherwise localized masses to metastasize.
So I owe Judge a huge apology. The ear tumor is going in for histopath, since it was an atypical melanoma. It's way too soon to tell how fast the tumors will return, since most melanomas do. But regardless of the tumors' size or appearance, I will take action at the first sign of change from normal behavior.
I broke one of my own cardinal rules here: that horses never do anything without a good reason, and any time a horse is resistant look for a physical cause first. Judge's personality change was from physical discomfort, pure and simple. I won't make that mistake again.
Punishing Judge for being a disrespectful pig would have accomplished nothing except making him more miserable than he already was. He probably would have (justifiably) started avoiding me altogether. Removing the tumors fixed his behavior, not inflicting negative reinforcement and positive punishment.
The horse does not lie. We humans just have to be willing to hear the truth.