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Pedal Osteitis and the Hunter

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  • Pedal Osteitis and the Hunter

    My hunter was recently diagnosed with Pedal Osteitis. If you make the mistake of googling this condition, you end up pretty dang sure you have a retiree or a dead horse on your hands. No fun. My vet, however - a VBN orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine doc - says that in his 25+ years of practice, he has never once had a horse retire, be PTS, or even change careers because of this dx.

    The disease is bilateral and mild to moderate. It was only discovered because my horse has started blowing out impressive abscesses from his right front with alarming frequency; on the order of 2-3 per month since September. What is very curious is that he is 110% sound between abscesses. From my unwise research, it seems that most horses remain some semblance of lame in between bouts of extreme lameness (chronic bruises or abscesses).

    Per my vet's advice, we rolled his toe a bit, brought him a hair up off his heel, and added leather pads with EquiPak. A week later, he proceeded to blow an abscess out of his heel bulb that could fit the better part of my pinky finger. He simultaneously blew one just south of his coronet band. We took more films, pulled some bloods, and put him on Doxy as a long shot. He had gastritis with the Doxy so we stopped that after 3 doses, but thankfully, there was nothing to indicate P3 osteomyelitis which can often be the root cause of this condition. We are going on 10 days of soundness (the longest stretch yet since early December), so we're cautiously optimistic that those were two abscesses which were already brewing and the shoes are actually doing their job. If he goes lame again, however, it's off to UF for an MRI. Again (last time it was right hind).

    This horse is my dream horse and I can honestly say I will never be able to replace him, nor could I afford to purchase him again (sound, of course). He will always have a place on the farm with me for as long as he lives and I will do whatever it is he needs, but he LOVES to work and lives for jumping and I see how miserable he is now not being able to do his job (really. He hangs out at the gate all day long and watches me ride the other horses. He nickers at us when we pass his paddock fence. When he's in work he NEVER does this. And I'm the only one here, so it's not that he's missing being out for a hack with his buddies. It breaks my heart.). My vet told me to go ahead and treat him like there's nothing wrong to see if anything starts up again, so we're keeping with our program, but every time I go to tack him up, I get that sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach that this is the day he's going to be lame again. It's awful :'(

    I've heard just about all the horror stories I can handle with this issue; does anyone have any positive experiences? Horses that are still going strong and have not had any changes for years after their diagnosis? Horses that eventually stopped blowing abscesses and were able to go back to/continue work?

    I think the point of this post was as much a vent as looking for some uplifting advice. For those of you who slogged through; thanks
    Nine out of ten times, you'll get it wrong...but it's that tenth time that you get it right that makes all the difference.

  • #2
    Mine never had the dramatic abscess problem, but he developed mild pedal osteitis in his right front a few years ago. He is maintained on correct shoeing and isoxsuprine. Knock wood, no problems- he returned to his career as a 3' horse and stepped down when the rest of his body started saying 'Eh, better not.' He is coming up on 18 now.

    Good luck- may you be a success story!
    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

    Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
    Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.


    • #3
      Keep pads on him and he should be o.k. I've had horses with this, and did this, and had no issues.


      • #4
        From a farrier's standpoint, moderate Pedal changes aren't necessarily a game changer or career ending diagnosis. If you work closely with a good shoer, and sounds like you are, managing his angles and comfort are a plus. Also, one thing to consider, make sure he has enough heel support so the toe doesn't have to take the brunt of all the pressure if he's lacking in the anterior portion of his heels. Been a shoer for 20 years, since 93, and seen many PO cases where they were managed and continued on having saddle careers without any problems.


        • #5
          I have a PO mare, and a couple in training with "tea cup" feet, shallow cups, thin soles, and the radiographs look like early PO. Our team manages them with a pour in pad rather than a leather one. Overall, with a well balanced foot and the pour in (in my understanding it gives a more consistent pressure) we have had no further problems or progression.

          Pads and a good farrier, maybe some isox, and you should be fine.


          • #6
            My friend has a horse with PO. He's been just fine and jumping for four or five years. Last year she was regularly jumping 3'6". He's currently laid up because he cut his stifle, but his feet are fine. I think he wears a wide aluminum shoe, but I'm not sure.