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'Invisible' Lameness

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    'Invisible' Lameness

    Looking for any and all ideas/recommendations on this scenario, all you experienced COTHers!
    Horse is 9 yo with no history of lameness. In June horse was grade 4 lame on left front. Xrays completely clean. Third block up the leg was almost sound. Flexion test no difference. Started bute, iced leg daily, restricted turnout and support wrapped.
    Horse was much better in July, vet came back twice, did 2 ultrasounds, compared both legs side by side and couldn't find anything. Blocked again, this time including the tendon sheath, still could not pinpoint. Flexion test still no difference. Last half of July discontinued ice and put back on regular turnout.
    Vet thinks it's the suspensory, is very encouraged by the progress he's making and recommends lunging every 3-4 days at trot to check soundness.
    Some days he is sounder than others. Sometimes he actually looks better going left than right. Friday he was off at the walk, but so slight I could not see it. At trot it almost looked like stiffness in his shoulder. We flexed both shoulders, like the chiro does, and it did seem to help a bit.
    I'm leaning towards continuing through Sept and re-evaluating at the beginning of Oct. Anyone had any success with any oral supplements? All thoughts are welcome - Thanks!!
    Some days the best thing about my job is that the chair spins.

    Treating without a firm diagnosis can really miss the mark. For elusive problems, I always head for the university hospitals... the sheer number of tough cases they see, combined with the number of good veterinary brains on site, is often the best way to get to the root of the problem. Good luck!
    Patience pays.


      Another set of eyes might be a good thing at this point. Is this a lameness specialist that you are working with? If not, you might see if you can locate one in your area, which might be at a university hospital as mentioned above. When something first appears and you can't come up with a definitive diagnosis, I can see treating this or that and seeing if there is a response. But sounds like you have done that, lameness continues to come and go, and it has been awhile, so at this point I would be inclined to dig deeper and try to find out what is really wrong. This might require a bone scan or MRI, if warranted, but I'd really want to see what someone who specializes in lameness finds first. If you were here in my area, I'd know where to suggest, but not in "Central US". Good luck - I understand your frustration, having been there multiple times!
      Last edited by horsepoor; Sep. 5, 2010, 01:08 PM.


        I feel like a broken record suggesting this yet again. But I would get a good chiropractor (emphasis on the "good") to take a look at the horse. My chiro and body worker (two different people) have fixed more lame horses for me than any other route of treatment.

        I've had two horses since July present as grade 4 lame. The first was my mare on the 5th of the July. My overexuberant day-after-the-4th neighbors sent my farm into a full blown panic and I think my mare slipped and fell during the hysterics. That's, of course, the diagnosis in hind sight, since for the next few days I was pretty sure that it was a suspensory issue (she was lame on her right front when it was on the outside). A couple of hours of chiro over two sessions 2 days apart by my vet and she was back to fully sound. With clean x-rays, this is the type of thing I would suspect with your horse. My mare was all jammed up through her shoulders and was basically unable to use her right front because of it. Having been through a lot of BNV clinics, I can tell you what the process would have been in most other places (ultrasound, x-ray, block, stall rest, etc.). I'm so grateful that my vet is as good as she is at looking at body mechanics from both a vet and chiro perspective. She was able to watch her on the lunge and immediately assess what needed to be done.

        My gelding did "something" to himself......he somehow managed to pull down an 8' section of no-climb wire, 2"x6" boards, and hot wire, and had small cuts and missing hair all around his head and face and a few cuts on his butt. The next day he went grade 4 lame on his left front. His LF also happens to have two huge set splints which he's had since I picked him up off of the track. The lateral splint blew up, and he had inflammation from his fetlock up to the splint. We were sure it was either the check or suspensory ligament. My vet ultrasounded and everything looked clean. So she and my other body worker spent 2+ hours working on him and he (much to my surprise) walked off sound. A week later he blew an abcess out of his heel bulb. In hindsight I think the following happened: he wrecked his body in his wrestling match with the fence and also had an abcess brewing. The body issues were what made him initially lame, but the abcess was what caused the swelling (though this wasn't a normal abcess-causing-swelling presentation). He was sound following the bodywork and then 3 days later went totally lame again, but blew the abcess later that afternoon. You can take what you want to out of that example. Who knows what the real story was.....could have been the abcess the whole time. But considering the number of times my chiro has "fixed" this particular horse (who has a penchant for trying to destroy himself), it's kind of a moot point for me.

        Anyhow, that's probably way more detail than you need, but I will say, on the record, that I don't believe in the number of ligament issues that are regularly diagnosed. I think that a large percentage are caused by body issues. And I think when a ligament is found "ready to go any minute" you're a hell of a lot better off figuring out what's leading to the imbalance in the horse's body that's CAUSING the ligament issue than just sticking the horse on stall rest and hoping it heals.

        As a quick side note, I've picked up a lot of horses over the years with descriptions exactly as you've just described. Horse is "invisibly" lame and deemed unfixable and the owner decides to get rid of it asap. Every single instance where I've ended up with a horse from that scenario my chiro has been able to fix the horse in a handful of sessions.

        At the very least I would seek a second opinion. Good luck on figuring out what's going on with your horse whether you pursue the chiro option or not. There is nothing more frustrating than knowing that's something wrong but not being able to put your finger on it!
        Flying F Sport Horses
        Horses in the NW


          Do I ever know how you feel. Imagine that you find, upon additional diagnostic work, that there's something wrong everywhere instead of nowhere. Joint injections were described to me as "pissing in a hurricane" Nothing more frustrating than not being able to figure out what is wrong so you can have a plan. I did an MRI with mine in hopes of finding something that was an obvious major problem as opposed to probably a contributing factor. Instead we just found more interesting possible contributing factors that were formerly invisible. Thus, I would not suggest it unless I felt it really was a good idea, and in this case I do think it is. If there are no units nearby set up, I would look into the new mobile equine MRI that is traveling around.


            PNWJ, I agree, a good chiro may find a cause. I was a nonbeliever till my horse, who always yanked her right hind away from the farrier and me-got some chiro (massaging and applying some pressure on some points on her rump) and she stopped. She had done it for the 6 years I had her.


              Good luck finding a "good" chiro. I've run into more than my fair share of quacks (both equine and human).

              I'd go for the larger practice or teaching hospital.

              I have had better luck with good body workers (still hard to find the good part) than with chiropractors.
              Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
              EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                when 3 chiropractors and an injection failed to solve soreness in my horse's SI and a left hip that was lower than the right, myofascial release therapy got him symmetrical sound and happy again. i can't recommend it enough.


                  I had a mare who out of the blue went lame on her right hind in November
                  - Had the vet out
                  - Stall rest
                  -Hand walked her
                  - x-rayed both hind legs (which were completely clean)
                  - Chiro out to adjust her
                  - More time off
                  Around January she was back to normal and sound, I rode her 4-5 days a week and she was perfect every day.

                  Then I had a working student ride her for me one Saturday in April and she went lame again (according to the working student she just "lunged" her and rode her and nothing was wrong, well the next day she was OFF)...
                  - Had the Chiro out
                  - Gave her time off
                  - Had the vet out
                  - Flexsion test she wasn't any worse
                  - Wasn't in "pain"
                  - Hand walked
                  - Injected her Stiffle
                  - Hand walked
                  - Time off (about 2.5 months)

                  And again she is sound (now has a new home where they just trail ride)... I wanted to know what was wrong with her but I am SO thankful she is sound. It sucks to get no answers but on then other end it's nice that she "structure wise" is clean.

                  Good Luck!

                  Henry (House of Fortuny) 7 yr old OTTB


                    Originally posted by Bogie View Post
                    Good luck finding a "good" chiro. I've run into more than my fair share of quacks (both equine and human).

                    I'd go for the larger practice or teaching hospital.

                    I have had better luck with good body workers (still hard to find the good part) than with chiropractors.
                    I certainly don't disagree with this. Though IME the chiros at big vet clinics haven't been any better than the "backwoods" ones. And a "CHIROPRACTOR" isn't always the answer either, as others have mentioned. Sometimes the best person in your area is a massage person or a myofascial release person or something entirely different. My "magic bullet" just happens to be a vet/chiro. Growing up the person who filled the same role for my GP horse was a human chiropractor who had never worked on animals prior to coming out to our barn. And between that person and the one I use now it was a "non-defined" body worker who uses all sorts of different therapies.

                    My point is not that you need a chiro specifically, but that you need to find a person who is absolutely genius with their ability to evaluate a body and make a difference. I would say that 1 out of 10 (and that's being seriously generous) chiropractors are able to actually DO anything, and my feeling is that you need to find someone about whom you can get references that sound something like, "this person worked MIRACLES on x, y, and/or z horse."
                    Flying F Sport Horses
                    Horses in the NW


                      Original Poster

                      Thanks everyone for the ideas!!
                      My trainer/BO worked as a large animal vet tech for 5 years, so has lots of experience with lameness and highly recommends the vet for it (she was at the University of Missouri until just recently). We've been trying to get the chiro out for a couple of weeks now, so hopefully sometime this week. The chiro has also recently completed training in acupuncture, so she is definitely trying to expand her education, which I really like. I also have a friend who does myofascial release, so I may call her if needed.
                      After reading the replies and examples, I am hoping the chiro may hold the key to helping him take that last step forward and be a sound pony.
                      It's just frustrating when he's so close to being there!
                      Some days the best thing about my job is that the chair spins.