Hey all. I'm new but I've been reading some posts around here. I know it's long, but here's my story:

I have a 13 yr old, 14.2h Appaloosa/Pony cross. I got him in August 2008 and at that point he had been perfectly sound for a year and a half (as long as he had been on the farm before I got him). He is not a great mover, has a short stride and tends to hit the ground toe first but he was sound for 1 year after I bought him. In July of 2009, we did a schooling dressage test on hard, uneven ground, which was something I debated doing but ended up going for - I am not certain, but I believe that is the day that he sustained a medial collateral ligament injury. The barn vet, who I am infinitely furious at now, misdiagnosed my horse with laminitis and a pollen allergy when he became lame (1 on the scale from 1-5) in the right front, going to the left. However, soon after, we got a second opinion. After using temporary nerve blocking, ultra sounds, and x-rays to pinpoint the injury to his right front hoof, we took Paddles to get an MRI, which showed damage to the medial collateral ligament AND a bone cyst. We were told that the bone cyst may or may not be interfering with the coffin bone and causing lameness, and that usually they develop in young horses and are harmless.

SO. We injected his foot 3 times and put him on indefinite stall rest. After about 3-4 months he was relatively sound on stall rest and no hand walking, so we gave him another 2 weeks and were given the ok to start hand walking. (Luckily he is naturally a very calm and laid-back sorta guy, so we didn't have too many problems with him acting crazy.) In December the vet said I could ride him first for 5 min at the walk, then 10, then 15, then 20, etc, and we brought him slowly back into work. SLOWLY. We didn't start trotting for a month, or cantering until a month or so after that. All this time he had been on stall rest.

We let him out in a small field with 2 other calm horses in February, and shortly after that he became unsound again. At that point, the vet said he might not ever be sound, even serviceably, so we turned him out 24/7 with 25 other horses in a 75 acre field in March. He has been in that field ever since.

Now, a year after he was injured, Paddles is not any worse. The vet recommended 50 degree angles and bar wedge shoes with a pour-in pad (talk about expensive!) but it clearly wasn't working and wasn't helping to get him to put his feet down heel first or flat footed. Some days he was relatively sound, most he was slightly off in the right front. He was never unsound at the walk. We pulled the shoes in late May and put regular shoes on him with 55 degree angles. However, he was almost sound 4 days ago, and a day after that I had the farriers shorten his toe and put wedge shoes with a plastic pad (no bar), 57 degree angles, and a 4-week shoeing cycle. He has been sound at the walk, trot, and canter for 3 days on good footing.

My question is, does anyone else have experience with collateral ligament injuries? It has been 11 months - what do you find is the usual healing time for injuries of this nature? I believe that the soundness Paddles experienced in December-March was the result of constant stall rest and being walked on good footing, but turn out was too much for him. What do you guys know about angles and shoeing and what types of angles/shoes are good for a horse like this? His feet tend to grow out in the toe and his heels are a bit underrun, but not too bad. Any advice, information, stories, or comments would be GREATLY appreciated. I love this horse more than anything and am still willing to try something new to make him feel comfortable.

Thank you!