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Mystery Lameness?

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  • Mystery Lameness?

    Really need some thoughts, I have been having on again off again problems with my 10 year old mare. She isn’t what I would describe as “lame” but looses rhythm in her trot and gets a bit of a shuffle every once in a while, but this is becoming more of a regular thing. She also has gone from a “dislike” of circling to the left to an outright refusal as well as resisting the left lead canter and collection.

    At first this was chalked up to poor quality saddle fit and a bad farrier, after fixing each of these problems the issues subsided for a while. Then we started experiencing some arguments over going forward and left, which my trainer put up to a pain memory and “mare attitude” and said to work thru it. Which I tried for a couple of months with no real progress but no increase in gait and attitude issues either. But then our canter departures which have never been great became a scrambling mess (to the left especially) and she has started tripping in the front end under saddle about once every 5 minutes or so.

    The saddle fit had caused back pain, so I have worked with a massage therapist and chiropractor, who both found the same concerns; she is tense all down her neck and back with a locked up atlas and sacrum, and some pain has returned to the thoracic-lumbar junction as well as a massive amount of tension in her shoulders and there was a popping in her left scapula before adjustment. We put her on “e-vitex” to help with the muscle tension and a gram of bute a day until it takes effect.( I also put her on a joint supplement about 10 months ago, thinking that she might have the start of a joint issue.) I have prescribed “homework” from both practitioners including massage, stretching and backing up small inclines to engage the hind end which we have been doing for about a month. I am still riding her lightly a few times a week at walk and a bit of trot when she is willing and I have noticed that she is more unwilling than ever to circle left and the tripping is still there.

    So what I’m really interested in is opinions on if this is only a muscle/ back issue, or is there a front/ hind end lameness component and which is it? I do have an appointment coming up this week with my regular vet to address these issues, just wondering what people’s thoughts are and if anyone has had similar experiences?


  • #2
    In my horse's case the tripping (and assortment of NQR-ness) was due to neck arthritis. Do a search here on that and cervical arthritis. Also do a YouTube search on Martinelli + neck + dressage.
    The Evil Chem Prof


    • #3
      video at liberty and under saddle would get you some objective responses. Without seeing her go and you riding her it's anyone's guess.
      chaque pas est fait ensemble


      • #4
        Is she better on bute?

        Is she better under saddle or on the longe?

        Is she better with regular work, or after time off?
        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


        • #5
          You mention a trainer, a chiropractor, and a massage therapist. Have you ever considered having her checked out by a veterinary lameness specialist. You know, the kind of person who checks feet, legs, and joints, does nerve blocks, and uses radiographs and ultra sound to diagnose?
          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


          • #6
            I agree with merrygoround that's were I would go.....


            • Original Poster

              More Info

              First of all thank you to everyone who read my entire post and thoughtfully commented.


              the bute does not appear to be making a difference, but I have taken her off of that so I will comment more on that in a few days.

              as far as her being better on lunge or undersaddle, it's a hard call for me because I can keep her on a circle on the lunge but she is explosive on the lunge. as far as her movement goes it is about the same, so I want to say that she is better undersaddle.

              she seems to be better with regular work.


              As I said at the bottom of my post I do have a lameness exam scheduled with my vet this week. I should have posted that he is a lameness specialist and a chiropractor, I have been working with a second chiropractor because of scheduling, but this, the bodywork and the e-vitex/ bute is all on the recommendation of the vet. he was hoping that the problem could be solved in this way instead of the x-rays blocks, but obviously it can't so we are continuing to that step.


              • #8
                Everyone seems to think that bute will work on all horses in all situations. It doesn't. Often horses are like people in that they respond differently to different types of pain killers. Some people have no reaction to aspirin, and others find that Tylenol or Advil do nothing for them or work like a charm.

                My question is, have you tried anything like glucosamine, MSM, chonrotin sulfates, etc. Just out of curiousity. It can sometimes help you identify or remove the problem.

                Just a thought. Bute has not worked on a lot of horses I know, and yet glucosamine, HA or even MSM have done wonders for them.

                I hope the vets can figure it out. A series of x-rays is probably called for as soon as the block identifies the joint with the issue. If you're vet is good, but not one of the top in the lameness field, then have the x-rays sent out to one that is and get a second opinion. People often forget to do that. Some vets are good about sending them out on their own, when they want to be sure of the diagnosis. Bad vets usually get mad if you ask. If they're digital, get a copy on disk, call another vet office with top lameness vets and ask if they'll give you a second opinion on the x-rays.

                Of course, this only works if you have something that shows up! Soft tissue? Try the supplements.

                Good luck! I know how frustrating it can be when you don't know the cause of the problem and have tried to eliminate all the "easy" answers on your own.
                "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"


                • #9
                  Get a VET!!!!!!!!!!!!! don't get your horse diagnosed here for something that sounds like you already checked a few boxes..saddle...chiro...NSAIDs...


                  • #10
                    Based on the severity/consistency (or do I mean constancy ) of the symptoms, I'd be happily surprised if this is just muscle or alignment, but more realistically I'd suspect arthritic changes.

                    She also has gone from a “dislike” of circling to the left to an outright refusal
                    I think this is meaningful BUT if she is ultra-senstive, it may still be a saddle issue, then on the lunge there still a combination of lingering pain/discomfort and habit (pain memory avoidance).
                    Then you mention she is explosive on the lunge - why do you think this happens? (I'm wondering if she's always been a little uncomfortable, but stoic ...)


                    • #11
                      Interested to hear what the vet says. I am wondering if there was some long term damage to the spine; either done by the saddle or that was pre-existing but made the horse more picky about the saddle.

                      Bute/anti-inflamatories don't tend to help with neurological pain (I hate it when people call Bute a pain killer...)

                      Wouldn't have to be issues with the actual area under the saddle either; neck or pelvis issues would cause issues with the back that could also make the horse more sensitive to saddle fit and really affect the horse's work tolerance.

                      If you are able to safely stand above/behind the horse, look for any areas lacking symetry. This may also help you pinpoint the area of concern.
                      Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Peggy View Post
                        In my horse's case the tripping (and assortment of NQR-ness) was due to neck arthritis. Do a search here on that and cervical arthritis. Also do a YouTube search on Martinelli + neck + dressage.
                        Ditto. Seen it too many times in the last 2+ years to count anymore.
                        On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


                        • #13
                          i would not want to hazard a guess based on so little info.

                          if you can post vids that might help, but it can be anything from incorrect riding/training to arthritis and anything in between.


                          • Original Poster

                            Thank you everyone for the suggestions!

                            As I stated in the OP and the follow up I do have an appointment scheduled with my vet, who is a lameness specialist, on thursday. My intent with this post has never been to replace the lameness exam, but to see if anyone has had experience with similar symptoms to what my horse is displaying.

                            I will discuss checking the neck with my vet at our appointment on thursday. My fingers are crossed that we can figure out what is going on with her with out going as far as a bone scan but if that's were we have to go we will get it done, I just haven't had the best experience with them in the past as far as it being a useful diagnostic tool.

                            I will post with the vet's findings and thoughts as soon as he is out.



                            • #15
                              i would suggest riding your horse for your vet so they can evaluate if that might be an issue.... incorrect riding and training can injure the horses body.... and it is prevalent nowadays....

                              not trying to say you ride incorrectly, as i have no clue, but it is one of the possibilities.....


                              • #16
                                My vet often has me ride for an evaluation or recheck. Makes sense, assuming the horse is rideable, simply because we're generally planning to use them for riding and even if there's not a rider issue they don't always present under saddle as they do in hand or on a line.
                                The Evil Chem Prof


                                • Original Poster

                                  The vet came out on Thursday watched her on the lunge and did flexion tests which were positive on both hind legs. We did x-rays of both hocks which showed some "pre-arthritic" changes and a small chip on the cranial surface of the left hock which the vet thinks is stationary. I am following the vet recommendations of hock injections and the x-rays are being sent out for a second/ surgical opinion.

                                  I'm supposed to go for a light ride tomorrow and see how she feels, but I know that it has made a difference. yesterday (24 hours post injection) I did our massage "homework" and her back and hind end was much more loose and pliable than I have ever seen it!

                                  What an odd way for hock pain to manifest!


                                  • #18
                                    When having hock injections we wait a minimum of 3 stays after injections before starting to ride.


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Originally posted by Ride On View Post
                                      When having hock injections we wait a minimum of 3 stays after injections before starting to ride.
                                      Ride On - thanks for pointing out my last post didn't come across quite right! I did massage work and hand walking for the first two days post injection, then a light ride on the 3rd.

                                      After the first ride, I have to say that the hock injections didn't solve everything but they made a BIG difference.

                                      I also just heard back from the surgeon that was consulted about removing the chip, he said that he doesn't think that surgery is necessary but saw a different area of possible concern showing a line in the hock. We are doing more xrays today in hopes of clarifying the surgeon's concern. Keeping fingers crossed that it's not really there on closer inspection!


                                      • #20
                                        Glad you seem to have pinpointed the issue, and hope the the thing the surgeon noticed turns out to be nothing of significance.

                                        Does it make sense for your horse to have hock issues (either from its build, work load, or ?) or do you think the hocks are wearing prematurely and maybe a secondary issue?
                                        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!