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So Many Questions

I don’t normally post on the weekend but I’m driving myself crazy and need to write my thoughts out before my head explodes.

I’ve owned horses for almost a decade. You’d think I’d be more familiar with this stuff. Truth is that Gem and Pete were easy to manage. I’ve never had a single lameness even after she cut half her hoof off. No nagging NQR. Sure I dealt with personality disagreements and she wasn’t easy to train or ride but health wise she was an ox.

Now I’m finding myself overwhelmed and losing faith with a nagging right front lameness that will not go away. Or at least won’t stay away. And I’m so confused.

Here is what I know:

  • He was sound the day I met and rode him.
  • He was sound for his PPE, flexed 0/5 all limbs and had clean X-rays. The vet was confusing when it came to his navicular shots claiming she saw things but then sending them to a more experienced colleague who said they were normal. She gave the go ahead for low level eventing. Dusty spoke with her during the exam and was comfortable with what she said to give the green light for purchase.
  • Both times he was shod all around and his feet were normal looking. The X-rays showed too long toes and needing the shoes set back farther but otherwise fine.

Then I brought him home. That was on a Sunday. On Monday he came in to the barn missing his back right shoe and half the hoof. He was lame on that foot. My then Farrier came out that Wednesday, trimmed all four and reshod the fronts. He was unable to walk come Thursday so I took him to the vet and she casted the hinds but saw no other issues.

Fortunately the hinds were not so bad and he quickly came sound again and able to be ridden. I rode him both at home and took him xc schooling. He was perfect. A little footy on the hinds in the gravel water complex but happy, forward and moving fine. At home I took a lesson in the pouring rain and he was fine w/t/c both directions on a 20m circle.

The week after he came in for dinner missing his front left shoe and half the hoof with it. The front right was loose with half pulled out nails and so we removed it and called the farrier. He came out and cleaned him up but he was dead lame on the front right with exposed lamina the next day.

I fired that farrier and got a new one.

Eeyore continued lame on the front right for weeks. He was pasture sound and sound on the lunge but very obviously lame front right under saddle going right. Going left he was fine. Going straight he was ok.

I gave him 6 weeks completely off between farrier appointments. That was from the end of July until Labor Day weekend in September. He remained sound at all gaits in the pasture. Labor Day weekend I trailered him to Trainer’s beautiful footing and he was sound at all gaits even jumping a small vertical just fine and willingly.

He remained sound for two weeks, I think I rode 5 times, then last Monday he was odd. Not lame, but sucked way back and refused to leave the ground to jump. Tuesday he looked off walking in from the pasture for dinner and then yesterday he warmed up fine but was dead lame on that front right going right at the trot about 15 minutes in.

Ok… that is the back story. Kudos if you’ve stayed reading this long.

I had Dusty examine his front right this morning and he found nothing and no reaction. No abscess and no bruising. No heat. No pulse. He is sound in the pasture and cantered up to the gate for breakfast no issues.

  • After that Dusty had two thoughts.
    1. Saddle fit.
      Soft tissue injury

    Here is where I’m getting myself wrapped up in too many questions without answers.

    First, his feet suck. His front right is shaped like an elf shoe and there isn’t anything to do about it until it grows all the way out. I find it hard to believe that isn’t the root of the issue. The foot is completely different looking than when I got him plus he is barefoot. The left front remains normally shaped though under-run and he is sound on that. It’s got to be the hoof right?

    But if it is the hoof then why is he only lame under saddle going to the right at the trot? Why not in the pasture? The footing is harder out there with the lack of rain and I’ve watched him walk, trot, canter and rear/buck play all perfectly sound. Up and down hill too. Now he isn’t doing it on a 20m circle but still. If his hoof was the culprit, wouldn’t he be lame all the time on it? Specially since he isn’t a little NQR. He is three legged hobbled lame under saddle.

    So Dusty posited that it could be saddle fit. The saddle was purchased for Gem after all and he has much bigger shoulders and a different build. The fitter said it was fine with a thin pad under it 5 months ago but maybe it pinches his right shoulder after a while and causes the lameness? He is a bit melodramatic when it comes to pain. I mean, when the hubby says go buy a new saddle and see if it helps I’m not going to say no but I don’t know. It would explain the fact that he is sound out and on the lunge line. I doubt it is the answer though. What horse becomes three legged lame with a pinched shoulder?

    The other concern though is that there is a soft tissue injury that was either present but hidden when I bought him or occurred out in the pasture or when he was lame from his feet and six weeks was enough to calm it but not heal it. It’s hard to explain the soundness outside and on the lunge as well as no heat, edema or pain with palpation though.

    Ahhh!!!

    So this is my plan at the moment unless bloggerland can come up with other suggestions and believe me all are welcome.

    1. Try one of my other saddles, even the endurance one. I know it won’t magically heal him but it is free to try and will appease the Hubby making spending a lot on other things easier for him to swallow.
    2. Nag the crap out of farrier to come out. If he doesn’t answer or can’t come, try to find someone who can even if they aren’t my favorite in town. If he comes sound with shoes end of story. If not….
    3. Set up a lameness eval with the vet. Likely Tryon Equine and see what’s up. Who knows it could be a left hind issue showing up as right front lameness and I’ve been looking at the wrong thing this entire time.

    Wish me luck. My brain hates things like this. I’m a fixer. Not being able to fix this is killing me.

    And thanks for reading a long post with no pictures.

    29 thoughts on “So Many Questions”

    1. I’ve been thinking since your post last night… some of what you’ve described is Batt to a T when he’s had a monster abscess brewing. Way before we have heat or regular lameness during turnout. On and off off-ness, sometimes really lame under saddle, sometimes not, but otherwise fine. I won’t find anything either but eventually something major blows and in hindsight… now, not saying this is your issue at all. But, I start now to become insanely paranoid about abscess as Batty is prone (as was Hayley—crappy QH feet—Hayley was mistakenly diagnosed with laminitis her abscess were so bad) that I’ve started to see signs a mile away (Subi on the other hand has fabulous feet).

      How is he at a forward trot in hand down the long side of your arena? Both ways? Can you video? And watch him? I just say that because it’s hard to watch and jog plus it’s nice to have something to look back at.

      It could be saddle fit plus something else. Subi started to stretch when his saddle stopped fitting and was pinching. He’s stoic in general and did nothing under saddle but he’d do that when getting tackled up. The dramatic ones do a lot more… if he’s got something brewing plus the saddle hurts? But it is odd that it’s one direction only.

      No ideas about soft tissue. Not my area.

      I have some other thoughts/ideas but don’t want to post here… email me? Sekatz AT udel DOT edu

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    2. We do have a horse in the barn that tells us VERY loudly when his saddle doesn’t fit. Literally goes from hack winning movement to three-legged lame. I’m hoping it’s something as simple as that!

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    3. I know exactly how you feel. I mean, it could be saddle fit – maybe like one shoulder muscle is larger than the other so the right side is worse? I don’t know. He may need a new saddle anyway, but I do agree with you tho that it does still seem to be in his RF. We’re battling Whisper being sore in her LF, and its the exact same back and forth lameness with her. But the only time she’s been sound is after she grew more hoof. Then the farrier came out, and while he barely took off anything, she was sore again. So, we’re thinking she just needs to grow more hoof. Maybe he does need glue on shoes. I knew a filly who was horrid on her hind feet, so the farrier made some plastic shoes and glued them on since she didn’t have any foot whatsoever to do a nail. She could get them off every few days but after a little while they stayed on and her feet got a lot better. I’m sorry I don’t have any other ideas!

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    4. I agree with Sarah. Saddle fit can cause a lot of issues. It could also be an abscess so that the two together are too much. I als used to ride a horse that would be off unless he was ridden forward.
      Called ‘rein lame’ and was quite pronounced with him.

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    5. How is he going straight under saddle ?

      Can you try riding him bareback , walk and trot?

      Before buying expensive saddles , I would beg, borrow to use a variety of saddles , if not I would find the best equine lameness vet for a evaluation. Best Wishes

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      1. Straight he is fine. It’s just turning going right which is why I’m worried it’s soft tissue. But I don’t know. Turning he puts all his weight on that inside right so maybe? I have three different saddles here to try: dressage, Dusty’s AP and my endurance saddle. It’s a free test so why not? After that it is shoes then a vet

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    6. If only he had human feet, you’d be able to fix them lol. I feel like you prob have 2 things going on from my totally ammy point of view. Like something bugs RF, but mostly tolerable until saddle or something else about being ridden pushes him over. As my pony’s RF healed he had certain things like deep footing would cause him to be slightly off. I think trying a new saddle is a good idea to decrease the ‘other’confounding factors.

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      1. Right? I could fix him right up! The more I think on it I think it may be bad foot worsened by the saddle since it only comes out under saddle. Could still be soft tissue but I can easily rule out saddle fit by trying another saddle and I’m trying to set up a farrier visit so those are the simplest fixes. Once those are ruled out I can head to the vet

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    7. I hope it’s as “simple” as saddle fit! I remember going through this whole crazy person “Why are you lame but not lame but kind of lame but only sometimes lame?!?!?!” saga with Bobby before we finally diagnosed him with navicular. But at that point he’d been barefoot for 3 years and working with shoeing changes to get him sound was easy peasy. Not being able to nail on shoes is certainly super frustrating. Hopefully your farrier gets back to you about glue ons. Or the bastard just stays sound. 😉

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      1. That would be nice. What’s a sound horse anyway? Trying to find a time farrier can come out. Apparently nobody works full time and has horses at home around here. Frustrating. But in the other hand I have the 100% go ahead to buy a new saddle from the Hubby so even if it doesn’t work I still get a new saddle out of this.

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    8. I’m so sorry. There’s very little that’s more insanity-making than a NQR horse.

      I hate to say it, but everything you’ve written up sounds like soft tissue. It would be terrific if it’s saddle fit or just growing out a foot, but the worsening on a right turn is pretty indicative of soft tissue. In your shoes I’d be headed to the vet for a workup. Initial lameness eval with rads + ultrasound. If nothing else, rads will help you get a path forward with a farrier in terms of balance/sole depth/etc.

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      1. Soft tissue is my big concern. Something in the hoof like a collateral ligament injury that wouldn’t show edema or heat. It’s frustrating that it only shows up intermittently and only under saddle.

        I want to shoe him first and see if it makes a difference. Maybe not the right answer but one I need to do for myself. His rads in May showed nothing and he was sound then and now his foot is completely jacked up and he is lame. Talking to several vet friends of the hubbys and they say the first thing is to shoe and see if it makes a difference. If not go in and block the the hoof and see what happens. If the farrier can’t come
        out soon I may loose patience with that approach and head to the vet instead.

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    9. Was he pasture sound/lungeline sound after you rode him when he was 3 legged? Or did he stay lame for a bit after your lesson? Horses can be so annoying- Chimi’s going through a NQR thing right now too and I’m about to take him to Tryon Equine just to pinpoint something. Is it hoof, hocks, or soft tissue? UGGGGG Blogger ponies need to stop being broken!!!! I do hope that the shoes help and if you need to borrow another saddle to check just let me know. I have one that fits my QH with giant shoulders so it might help you if you go the saddle checking route. Just let me know!!!!

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      1. You know I was so depressed I didn’t even think to try. He walked off sound being led but he has always done that. He trotted up to the gate for breakfast sound this morning.

        I actually did a stupid thing and road tripped to Aiken to the tack exchange and picked up two saddles on trial. Useless I know especially when I’m probably staring down an eval bill but you know. Gotta do what you gotta do to not fall into the pit.

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    10. These are all my opinions based on my own experiences. Definitely take it or leave it: I’m saying this strictly with the intention of providing feedback that I hope will be helpful in some way in the long run. I am not a vet nor do I pretend to be one and we’re all going off what you’re telling us here. ❤

      As someone who owned a mare with a front foot so clubby, at one point it was 2 sizes smaller than the other front: the slippered hoof can be a problem. I'm not sure why your farriers aren't recommending trimming that, even though I know you want the hoof to grow so that you can shoe him. But that forward curvature in the horn does create additional torque on his lamina on that foot, and that alone can make him lame. Rasping it down to eliminate some of that torque can make a difference in comfort levels *if* that's the root of the problem. This is why nowadays short toes are recommended by "new school" vets for laminitic and foundered horses because when they grow slippered toes like that, shortening the toe helps minimize stress on already stressed laminae. Trimming an even slightly slippered hoof sooner rather than later encourages the hoof to grow out with a tighter white line, especially if there isn’t any other serious process going on inside of his hoof. It will also create a healthier, better shaped hoof to place a shoe on later.

      Saddle fit issues can be worth investigating: sensitive horses (aka wimpy about pain) can become quite lame with a saddle that doesn't fit right, especially when adding a rider's weight. And yes, they can become three-legged lame because of it. But given that you had a saddle fitter assess the fit of Gem's saddle on him prior, I personally am less keen on possibility unless he’s gained a significant amount of weight during this time that might alter fit. Which is possible, since he’s been on pasture with decreased work because of his lameness.

      I've been thinking this is soft tissue for a long time because of the way this is presenting: he's fine some days and varying degrees of worse on others, and seems to get worse sometimes during/after work. As you know, soft tissue lesions don't usually show up on x-ray. Lower limb soft tissue problems in horses are easier to diagnose with ultrasound than soft tissue within the hoof. Vets with newer equipment might be able to accurately ultrasound a hoof but that can still be challenging. I sadly boarded at a barn where at one point 8 of us had our horses laid up with varying degrees of soft tissue injuries and we all bonded over our horses’ injuries, especially since we all used the same vet and relied on one another for splitting barn calls. At the time, Lily had her annular ligament strain, another boarder's horse had torn a ligament in his back, another had issues with the ligaments in one knee, and most of the others had suspensory tears. The worst was a friend's mare who had a tear at the base of her DDTF inside her hoof. This mare was a well-bred warmblood, an event horse, and my friend was an experienced long-term horsewoman and upper level eventer with unlimited finances when it came to her horse. It still took a year to diagnose the lameness for what it was, required two different vets and an MRI to nail the diagnosis (first vet insisted it was laminitis), and then 2 years to bring the mare back into full work…as a dressage horse only; she was not allowed to jump again after her injury. It is because of this that I am a lot more likely to call the vet sooner rather than later to work up a lameness. Soft tissue injuries that wait tend to get worse, and I’d rather rule that out early so I’m not stressing about that possibility while looking at other possibilities. I’ve also probably spent too many years reading in Blogland about horses whose soft tissue injuries were the end of their careers and sometimes lives. ***Absolutely NOT saying this is your horse’s problem.*** I understand why some people choose to wait on getting a diagnosis; just explaining my POV on why I personally choose not to.

      I do not think it is strange at all that he is less sound under saddle than out playing in the pasture because you're adding an extra variable to the mix: your weight. Sure it's probably 10%-15% of his weight, but go jogging in thin-soled shoes for half an hour with a 25 lb backpack and if you have any issues in your limbs, you are going to feel them a lot more than without that extra weight. In some cases gentle riding can improve a lameness over time (abscesses, arthritis) but in many others it can both temporarily and permanently make lamenesses worse.

      My personal fear with shoeing before a diagnosis on something like this is that shoeing might mask the problem for a while, meaning that if he comes up lame on that hoof again after he has been shod, it might be because the problem has worsened. But then again, I went through hell with an injury-prone mare and that's exactly the type of thing that would have happened with her. :/ Eeyore might end up just being fine once he has shoes back on.

      Lots to address and think about as possibilities: this is not a good place to be, and I'm so sorry you are going through this with Eeyore. All the crossables are crossed in the hopes that you can find a solution, and a simple one at that, to this soon. ❤

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      1. Thanks for the well thought out reply. I always appreciate your insights.

        I keep going back and forth on what to do next as there are a lot of variables including being married to a vet with prior horse knowledge and multiple horse vet friends all piping in. The farrier didn’t trim last time because there wasn’t anything to trim. He had chipped the hoof down to the white line already and trimming would guarantee pain. Glue on shoes were our next go to but then he came sound and it didn’t seem necessary.

        I really wish (useless but that’s life) that his hoof was normal shaped as it would make all this simpler. Normal hoof but lame? Soft tissue until otherwise diagnosed. Crap hoof shaped oddly and sound before that happened? Could be hoof or something else. And you are right internal hoof injuries are a bear to diagnose and I don’t have unlimited funds for my horse.

        The vet is closed weekends and this doesn’t qualify as an emergency call but I plan to give them a call when they open at 10 tomorrow morning to set something up. Regardless it would be nice to have their eyes on the hoof and how it is growing out.

        I did leave out one part of the story from Friday because I was tired of typing on my phone but it may be useful to have it out there. After he came up lame I slide off and poked at the foot and his leg. Trainer noted the saddle had slid way forward and adjusted it back. I hopped back on and he was better but not normal so I called it quits.

        While we were standing there talking about him, he stretched out his front legs like Gemmie used to do to stretch herself at the trailer before a conditioning ride. You know, front legs extended out and bows down to stretch the legs and back out. Well he is weird so he also crossed his front left over his front right which put all his weight on the lame front right and he stretched down. He then started to topple sideways cuz he had his legs crossed but then stood normal. I decided to walk him back and he walked the entire length of the arena with his nose in The dirt stretching his neck as far as he could and leaving a trench in his wake. Once we hit the grass he picked his head up and walked normally all the way back to the trailer which is a long walk over gravel and down a steep hill.

        That is why Trainer originally mentioned it could be saddle fit since he so obviously wanted to stretch after I loosened the girth and after he had been lame. I don’t know.

        Right now my plan is to test a few different saddles on him that I already have at home and see if it makes a difference. His shape is completely different from when I brought him home and very different than my Gemmie. I doubt the saddle fits super well at the moment. It’s free and something I can actively check at home on a Sunday when nothing else is available and either way it gives me more info for the vet.

        The vet will get called tomorrow morning and I’ll have them out whenever I can. This is where having the horses at home is hard. They work 10-4 Mon Fri and I work 8-5 with no barn manager to meet them for me so scheduling is tricky but I’ll get it done.

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    11. wow i had hoped he had stayed sound this time. 😦 I am so sorry to read all this. I hope you figure it out. I could totally think it was saddle fit IF it was both ways or more present at times. Remus bucked every canter I did until I got the stubben (So it was consistent)> I hope you figure SOMETHING OUT so you can ride. And thank goodness he is as cute as he is. I wonder if you started long lining him or something to see if he is lame that way or not..(Ie. no weight on him but at least you could work him a bit on soft ground? Horses are such a pain. SO is life. LOL My inlaws left yesterday and it has poured down rain every since. Won’t get to ride this weekend EITHER. 😦

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    12. I’m pretty much with you on your plan of attack. Reading your post the main concern of mine was soft tissue (intermittent, worse on softer surface), but since those can be really hard to diagnose, I’d try the couple of easy/more obvious things first. If saddle and shoes don’t make any difference, at that point I’d be off to the clinic for some diagnostics.

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    13. If it’s saddle fit he should be back sore and that would be easy enough to tell without trying a bunch of different saddles. All good modes of attack, have them block him in different places on that leg to see where the lameness is coming from.

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    14. Ugh, there is nothing worse than this moment.

      Trying a different saddle is definitely a good plan.

      I would be inclined to take more radiographs to see if there are any changes since the PPE images, and potentially try nerve blocking to better locate the area that is causing him discomfort.

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