Chronic Lameness

I realize you must receive hundreds of emails a day concerning lameness but I assure you I will stump you with this one and I would appreciate your input if you have the time. I have a coming 5 year old QH. I've owned him since he was ...I realize you must receive hundreds of emails a day concerning lameness but I assure you I will stump you with this one and I would appreciate your input if you have the time. I have a coming 5 year old QH. I've owned him since he was ...

Story originally posted by: Michael Lowder, DVM, MS

Dr. Lowder,
I realize you must receive hundreds of emails a day concerning lameness but I assure you I will stump you with this one and I would appreciate your input if you have the time. I have a coming 5 year old QH. I’ve owned him since he was 2 when he only had 60 days on him. He was meant to be a barrel horse but has yet to get to that point because of one thing or another.

History:

A lot of sprained ankles and a sprained hock from running around in the pasture, rolling off the fence constantly, which gave him a lot of time off in between trying to train. As a 3 year old he threw me and I broke my collarbone, I then sent him to a reputable reining horse trainer in my area for an attitude adjustment. 4 mos later I had the perfect horse.

Then he had a bad bout with Laminitis cause unknown since he was stalled but made a full recovery in 3 days with x-rays showing no rotation. He was fine for a long time but then came time to haul him to WA State from FL since I was moving (April 02). I sent him back to my trainer for 2 mos since I wasn’t going to be ready for him immediately after my move. (June 02) A week before he was going to be picked up he rolled in his stall and kicked thru the wooden stall wall and got a couple little cuts on his hind right fetlock and pastern and a little swelling in that ankle. My trainer had it x-rayed for good measure and he was fine.

He made the haul fine to WA and this is where all my problems really started. A few days to rest and I go to groom him out and go to clean his hind feet out and he won’t pick them up (very odd for this horse) so I just passed it off and turn him out. He goes crazy as Ace does. The pasture is only 3 acres but very unlevel and harder ground than he was used to and of course he tries to slide and he bounces. But seemed to be fine. But the resisting to pick his hind feet up persists and I begin to wonder. A couple weeks go by and I notice his hind left is swollen, I call the vet and he said he was OK but his angles were way off and he needed his feet done, so I took him to the farrier he recommended and he put EDS aluminum shoes on his front and flat steel on his hind. Mind you this horse has no problems with breaking over at all but I was the mercy of the farrier who I thought knew what he was doing.

After that I was having problems with lameness in the front, took him to the vet and I used her farrier which pulled the front EDS’s off and found huge callouses built up, so we put plain steel shoes back on and lameness was gone. OK now some time goes by and we go to feed one AM and his hind RT is so swollen he cant bear weight, call the vet out and came to the conclusion that he had a staph infection and treated it with antibiotics, but said that the swelling would take a long time to completely go down. Took care of that, and I go on a trail ride with him that involved a steep muddy hill that we had to go down then back up, he handled it fine but 3 days later I go to ride and he’s lame again.

(Sept 02) 4 mos after the haul out here I take him again to figure this out. I even had a massage therapist go over him and she found a lot of tightness in his rear end. So we take a bunch of x-rays and do a nerve block on his fetlocks which do not improve the lameness at all then we do a joint block on his hind left and he was sound to that side but dead lame on his right. So we figured he strained the hind left fetlock since he blocked out but has been compensating on the right so now that was sore as well. We did numerous x-rays from the hocks down and found nothing but barely a shadow of arthritis on the insides of his hocks which I feel I would have never known had it not been for the films showing it was there. She said to rest him and see what happens and try to keep him confined to a small paddock which we don’t have so here I am with a 5 year old awesome QH gelding that I cant ride and it breaks my heart.

I don’t know what else to do for him. I have put him on a joint supplement for good measure and he is quite a bit better with his hind feet. I just want my horse to be sound so we can enjoy what we like to do. He has only jogged the barrel pattern so he hasn’t really experienced a lot of stress on his legs. Even at the trainers he was always fine. Never any problems. Even today he is not consistently lame, you can watch him out in the pasture and he lopes just as pretty and free and then sprint and roll of his hocks like nothing in the world is wrong. So I ask for your opinion in this situation.

I have another appt made for January but some people tell me that I should just brace him, wrap him and ride him. He is a very smart horse and has in the past pulled this when I was riding until I figured him out but I don’t think this is the case now. I would greatly appreciate any input you have on this horse. His breeding is Colonel Freckles and Mr. San Peppy and back to Lady Bugs Moon. He has very strong legs and conformation wise he shouldn’t have any of these problems. Please help is you can.

Sincerely,
Jackie Nidetz
Washington State

Jackie,

First, don’t " brace him, wrap him and ride him" this is a bad thing. Second, when you nerve blocked the left hind leg and he went lame in the right hind why didn’t you see if you didn’t you block out the other leg. This would have been helpful to determine at what point of the leg the horse was feeling pain. How does he do on bute? What I would suggest is:
1) test the horse for bucellosis.
2) test the horse for EPM
3) have a complete lameness exam done including nerve block until the horse blocks out sound.
4) if you can’t block the horse sound have the horse scan (nuclear scintigraphy) to locate the areas of inflammation.

Let me know what you find out.

Thanks,
Dr. Lowder