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Armchair vets.......mystery lameness UPDATE first post

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  • Armchair vets.......mystery lameness UPDATE first post

    First, I am working with a vet on this. They have some thoughts and are looking into our next move. But at this point it is still a mystery lameness and driving me crazy.

    Roxy is an approximately 11 year old draft cross mare that came from an auction in Wisconsin. I got her when she was about 9-10 months old. I had her started under saddle when she was 3-4 years old, and started taking lessons on her doing basic dressage and a cross rail here and there, and some trail riding. She was not pushed hard. Then at 6-7 she went into driving training for a couple years. She did one combined driving event, but again, wasn't worked real hard. My driving instructor moved, so we quit driving. Roxy didn't do much awhile, then we started riding dressage again. We had been riding for about a year and a half and doing well and making a lot of progress. I will say before she started driving she bucked me off and I suffered quite a blow to my confidence. So riding again was a challenge and we did a lot of walk trot, and only started cantering the last few months. A few months after I started riding her again, she just wasn't using herself well and I noticed she was actually struggling to get up. She would sit up, then rotate around on her butt about 180 degree to get her legs under her. At that time she was diagnosed with the start of arthritis in her hocks and I had them injected. The difference was night and day. She moved better and was able to get up easily again.

    Fast forward a year and she starts getting kind of cranky when I went to catch her, not wanting to be caught. She still worked pretty good and we always took it very easy with her. She is not built great for dressage and I didn't have any plans to do more than training level work and just get my confidence back. Then she started to move a bit off and I noticed her having trouble getting up again. Had her hocks injected again and there was no change this time. She wasn't exactly lame, but was just off. Had the vet out for a look and she could hear she was off more than see it, and felt like it was in the front. No reaction to flex tests, no reaction to hoof tests. Vet put her on Previcox which helped a little. But she is still off. It is subtle. Someone that didn't know her would probably just think she is a lousy mover. And we can't pinpoint it. She will look off on the left front, then maybe the right front, then the hind. She has been barefoot most her life, but I even tried putting shoes on her the last few months. No difference. I never see her lay down. I could bathe her and leave her sopping wet an she would not roll. She wanted to, but seemed afraid to try. Since I havn't seen her lay down, I have no idea how much trouble she might be having getting up. The last 4-5 months she developed sores on the front of her fetlocks. The last few weeks, she is started to get small wear marks on her knees.

    Here are some videos.

    August 2010
    This video is of my instructor riding her this past summer when she was moving and working pretty good.

    October 2010
    This is me on her in October. This is right before she started being off.

    Jan 2011
    These videos were taken for the vet to have a comparison to the videos this summer. She is moving off in these videos and at this point has been on Previcox for a few weeks, once a day.

    The vet feels it might be facetal disease, and is trying to get more info on it before they start doing a bunch of xrays etc. Has anyone here heard of facetal disease or is familiar with it? It seems that it is kind of like arthritis of the neck. Any other ideas based on the symptoms and videos? I am open to any thoughts, ideas, or opinions.

    I just figured out she is scraping her fetlocks. I have been watching her as much as I can to catch her lying down and finally did. She started to go down, got to her knees with her butt still in the air, hung there a minute, then scrambled back up, grinding the fronts of her fetlocks. So she either can't, or doesn't want to lay down. I still don't know how much trouble she is having getting up if she does get down, but in the past, she has had quite a bit of difficulty. I will call and let the vet know. The vet wanted to start by x raying her neck and feet. I kind of wanted to start with blocking, but don't know if she is obviously lame enough to tell from blocking. In the meantime the weather went to heck and we haven't been able to do anything.
    Last edited by BabyGoose; Feb. 3, 2011, 02:27 PM.

  • #2
    check her ovaries..


    • #3
      If it is neck arthritis she should have some neurological symptoms. There is a link in the faq sticky at the top of this forum that shows how to do some basic neurologic tests. I didn't look at all the vids, but I thought she showed some lameness in the front right in the first of the most recent vid, but she also doesn't seem to be using her hind end very well--not tracking up, even in the Oct video.

      I had a horse with neck arthritis, with similar lameness issues (although his front end lameness would flare up and he would knuckle over). We did a bone scan and he lit up all over including his hocks. Does she have a stiff neck or does she have normal flexibility? This was the first sign that my horse had issues.

      Also, I think sores on the front of the fetlock and knee means she is sleep deprived (and falling when she falls asleep spontaneously). So I think you are right; she doesn't want to lay down.

      Anyway, good luck with your mare.


      • #4
        Because she is a draft cross I am compelled to mention EPSM. Look into it and try a high fat diet soon.


        • #5
          First off, my gut reaction to your most recent videos on the lunge line going in both direction brings thoughts of navicular syndrome to mind. I see a horse that is off on the inside front depending on the lunging direction, and this can be a sign of navicular.

          Otherwise, I would recommend a full lameness work up with a good lameness vet. I would want to see the results of having appropriate nerve blocks performed, and then X-rays if warranted.

          Unfortunately with some draft crosses, they may inherit confirmation flaws that manifest primarily in the legs. It's literally an issue of having much too small of legs to support the weight of such a large a body. Some draft crosses of this particular body type may also be somewhat post legged, and in certain horses this combination of defects may lead to degenerative joint disease developing from an early age.

          Neurological and spinal disorders can also be on the list, as well as hoof conformation, trim, and shoeing.

          So many possibilities, and diagnostics are the tools used to narrow those possibilities.

          I'd like to see an image of this mare standing for the purpose of judging confirmation. Does she have low pasterns? It sort of looks as though she might in the video. When I see low pasterns I tend to think of DSLD.

          Best of luck figuring out the issue, and high hopes for a workable manageable solution!

          P.S. I'd also look into Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy in draft horses : Remove grain and provide a high fat diet.


          • Original Poster

            Defintely not a conformation shot, but I can't find any good conformation shots in my files. Guess I should take one! Can't believe I never took any confo shots. I have all kinds of pasture shots, action shots, cute shots, etc.


            Funny about the navicular, my trainer said she felt like she was moving like a horse with navicular would. The vet did say that she would probably look closer at her feet as well as the facetal disease thing to start with.

            I have considered EPSM and PSSM and discussed it with my vet. Roxy doesn't get grain and never has. She is fat enough as it is! I have known two other horses that have EPSM and she really doesn't have a lot of symptoms, but, we haven't completely ruled it out.


            • #7
              I'm so not a vet. But when she's working on the line at a trot in the later videos she looks a lot like the gelding I had with really bad arthritic stifles. I might check those. He'd get head-bobby like that when he was really uncomfortable and it was coming from his hind end, not his front.

              ETA: She looks just a bit toe stabby in the back in the last 3 videos. This is an out there idea, but I was just reading an article about the prevalence of thrush as the cause of such movement. And that sometimes it's there and bothersome to a horse long before we can see/smell it.
              Last edited by UrbanHennery; Jan. 26, 2011, 12:34 AM.


              • #8
                She is fat enough as it is!
                I'm glad you said this first does she have some crestiness on neck? she looks almost "soft" & lacking in muscle in her hind end (based on the August video) ... what is her turnout situation like, does she move around much? Has she ever lain down regularly?

                She looks like a nice girl I hope your vet finds some answers for you soon.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by UrbanHennery View Post
                  I'm so not a vet. But when she's working on the line at a trot in the later videos she looks a lot like the gelding I had with really bad arthritic stifles. I might check those. He'd get head-bobby like that when he was really uncomfortable and it was coming from his hind end, not his front.
                  This is an interesting idea. That might explain why the hock injections worked the first time but not the second. The hock injections could free up slightly arthritic hocks and help hind leg movement even if the major problem is in the stifles. But if the stifles have gotten worse, the hock injections may no longer help. Just an thought--my vet mentioned a similar idea when we were dealing with stifle issues in my gelding.


                  • #10
                    Has she been tested for Lyme? Selenium levels, as well?

                    Having bred, raised and trained draft x's, I would also put her on the EPSM diet.
                    www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                    "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                    Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


                    • #11
                      not a vet here- but even in the first video where she is said to be sound she looks 'stifle-y' to me, especially in the transitions. in the last videos, she head bobs a bit like a front end lameness, but when you look at JUST her hind end and the way she is tracking- it still says stifles to me.

                      good luck with her- she's very cute and i know it's hard to see them hurting!
                      Jazz- 4.9.01 OTTB, loved since 12.6.09
                      Skip- 3.3.91 APHA, i miss you buddy


                      • #12
                        I'm not a vet either.

                        From the confirmation picture I'd rule out DSLD, her pasterns are not low at all, but they do look short. I would also say that to me she looks like she may be built somewhat straight up and down in her hind end.

                        I looked at the last videos again and now I'm wondering if I'm seeing the head bob up on the outside front / inside hind when she's trotting to the left. It's so hard to tell from a youtube video.

                        So for the sake of discussion lets say it's either her right front or her left hind, and its exacerbated by going to the left.

                        The navicular theory looses some support. The left hind having an issue gains a little support. Could it be a stifle issue of the left hind as others have mentioned?

                        I would suggest looking for ware patterns on all four of her shoes. If she's chronically stabbing or dragging a toe, you should see increased ware on the toe of that hoof.

                        If you see non-uniform ware on the toe of the left hind, I would then take a real close look at that leg.

                        Some other ideas.

                        Have you tried lunging at the trot on (safe) hard ground vs. soft footing. There's a rule of thumb that says that hoof issues are generally worse on a hard surfaces, and tendon and ligament issues tend to be worse on soft footing.

                        To get some idea of her neck flexibility you could try doing some carrot stretches; Use carrots to entice her to move her nose alternately towards each of her elbows. Observe her range of motion and her flexibility.


                        • #13
                          In all videos, she looks lame on the right front. It is worse in the last ones, but hard to tell because in the first on the trainer is making her go in frame, so you don't see the head nod as well.

                          In the last two, the head nod is most pronounced when the right limb is on the outside, which suggests a more proximal lameness

                          She has some asymmetry in back, but it's hard to judge without a straight from behind view.
                          Turn off the computer and go ride!


                          • #14
                            I'd get her in to a really good clinic or university that has lameness specialists and have a thorough evaluation done. Don't waste more time or money at home. You'll nickle and dime yourself to death, and in the end still know nothing and wind up taking her to the big guns.

                            Vague or Shifting leg lameness can be a hallmark of neuro problems like wobbler syndrome. Last year I had a horse diagnosed at UC Davis with wobbler syndrome --- basically cervical arthritis that causes neurological deficits. This horse was sometimes lame behind, sometimes "ouchy" in front. Local vets at first suspected huge splint was impinging on soft tissues. Got to Davis and the stress of the trip made his neuro symptoms much more pronounced, and they diagnosed him as neuro in all 4 limbs. A cervical radiograph confirmed this.

                            She looks lame in front on your most recent video. How is her muscling? How even is it? Look at her neck ---- do you see a little "canyon" on either side where the muscling has wasted? Are her pectorals overdeveloped from pulling herself along. Muscling can give you many good clues.

                            With any draft X, always consider sidebone. They are very prone to it and contrary to popular believe, it CAN make them very lame.

                            Good luck. Cute horse and I hope you can get her some comfort.


                            • #15
                              The shifting lameness also made me think Lyme.

                              Have you had a chiro out to look at her? If she's out in one place, she may compensate elsewhere.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by UrbanHennery View Post
                                I'm so not a vet. But when she's working on the line at a trot in the later videos she looks a lot like the gelding I had with really bad arthritic stifles. I might check those. He'd get head-bobby like that when he was really uncomfortable and it was coming from his hind end, not his front.

                                ETA: She looks just a bit toe stabby in the back in the last 3 videos. This is an out there idea, but I was just reading an article about the prevalence of thrush as the cause of such movement. And that sometimes it's there and bothersome to a horse long before we can see/smell it.
                                I can't see the video's but I had a draft that was lame the way you describe - it was a case of thrush from an imbalanced trim. I never could smell it but it really hurt her. Once the farrier changed her angles (which were oddly supposed to be more upright than any of us realized) and it went away. We also learned through the x-ray process though that she had some mild ringbone. She was 5-6 and not in regular or stressful work.


                                • #17
                                  Sacroiliac? My horse had the same jinky hock/stifle look to him and the left hind always corresponded with the right shoulder. Looking closer at him, the stiffness comes from higher up. He stabs his hind feet a bit, drags his toes, his hind isn't as muscled, and his rump was uneven before the chiro worked on him. Chiro helped. He's looking much better but we're still going to have the vet do a more thorough exam so we know for sure and can hopefully prevent future episodes of lameness.


                                  • #18
                                    Were it me, I would eliminate any systemic/metabolic issue first as you can spend a fortune on radiographs and all the rest for naught.

                                    Ask me how I know to get a mystery lameness diagnosed most cost effectively (and some people might think is in reverse order....)

                                    I've had horses with Lyme and EPSM and I've learned my lesson about "mystery" lamenesses. One BIG clue for me with my EPSM mare (draft x also) is that she started to have a pony-trot. Indeed she showed some mild ringbone at age 8, but turns out EPSM was the real problem. Mild case, but enough to make her look like she was tolting, not trotting. Once she was on the diet, she did great. She's 18 years old now.

                                    Lyme horses can have shifting lameness and "stump the vet" (thus all the big xray bills), they can also just be skin sensitive...and in most cases, if continued to be ridden, become sullen and sometime angry (you would too).

                                    Beside the obvious reason I recommended checking her for Lyme is that she is from WI. That's a big Lyme state.

                                    Hope this helps. If it is neither I'm with another poster who recommended just getting the horse to the "big guns" clinic. Agreed, you can nickel and dime yourself to death doing this in the field and wish you'd had the full workup done once it became a "mystery".

                                    Again...ask me how I know about that....

                                    Regardless, I hope a good outcome for you and your horse.
                                    www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                                    "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                                    Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Thanks for all the input and thoughts so far everybody. It gives me several things to think about and discuss options with my vet. At this point, my vet is wanting to get more information on this facetal disease from the vet that specilaizes in it. He attended a seminar a few months ago where they talked about facetal disease and it seems it is something they are learning more about and he wanted more info before we come up with a plan of action. Roxy has had a preliminary lameness workup with all the routine flexion tests. She passed all of them. Vet also did the basic neurological tests, pulling the tail while walking etc. So there is nothing glaring showing up from those tests. We have talked about EPSM and she doesn't feel it looks like EPSM. I am not convinced that it isn't EPSM and may go ahead and start her on the diet. The vet also considered EPM, but again, doesn't feel it really looks like EPM horses that she has seen. EPM is also not real common in our area. Same with lyme, Roy is from Wisconsin, but I got her 1999 and I live in an area that as little to no occurance of lyme. Unless she has carried it all these years and it is just showing up now. Need to check into that.

                                      So once they get all the info they are lookin for on facetal disease, then we will decide what direction to take. Either x-ray for that, or start trying to narrow down feet and legs. We are just in this holding pattern right now.


                                      • #20
                                        Neck arthritis or also ring bone in the right front came to my mind. I think if your going to do a bunch of xrays it might be more useful to do a bone scan often a great way to figure out intermittent NQR. If you choose to go for a bone scan it is helpful to work her a week prior so that the hot spots light up. Best Wishes!
                                        Last edited by Fharoah; Jan. 27, 2011, 02:27 AM.