Just when things seem to be going along as planned, something comes along to detour you, or completely rock the boat. That is how I am feeling this week. Quite discouraged.
On August 15 my farrier came out to put new shoes on Sinwaan. His feet were incredibly dry and some of the hoof wall chipped off as he was trimming the new growth. We noticed he looked like he was dragging his left rear toe a bit as there was a flat spot on the front-outside of that hoof. So he set the shoe a little forward on that foot to try and allow for the hoof to grow back out while we continued our training regimen. I would like to mention that I have been using this farrier since at least 2007, and when I switched over to him Sinwaan had a real issue with interference in his hind end, after changing to my current farrier after the first trim he no longer had that issue. So I feel he is and has been a good farrier for us. He did lecture me on needing to get his feet on some moisture once in a while, not only for hoof health but also because trimming him was like trying to cut through a rock!
Fast forward four weeks later. Sinwaan has worn down his shoe, and worn down his hoof drastically now. It is to the point I am asking around for advice. Have you seen this before? What could it be? The first thing Heather noticed was his pastern angle, different in the two hinds. After our lovely 8 mile ride at the lake on Saturday, Heather and Laurie looked him over, felt him, discussed it, thought about it, and mentioned that they both had ridden behind me for an extended period, focusing on his movement, and other than him over-reaching (hearing the shoes click click click, rear to front) did not notice any form of lameness issues. What was going on? He did seem tender and slightly swollen in his loin/hip area at the time, but no back tenderness.
So I messaged Cassandra. She was willing to come out and have a look at him Tuesday evening. (By now I had already made an appointment with my vet for Wednesday). When I got there, the first thing I noticed was that hind shoe. It was looking pretty weird! So upon farther inspection I noticed it was coming off, only held on by a single nail now. Doug got out his tools and we both worked to get that shoe off. Man it is tough without the right equipment! Sinwaan was a champ, standing very still for us as Doug finally used a hacksaw to get through the nail in order to remove the shoe, and then pliers to pull the nails out.
Once that was done it was time for some evaluations. Cassandra had me trot him all around. Unfortunately for all of us, I am not very good at this. It is hard for me to lead in a straight line, he tends to crowd a little and then I get paranoid about falling down and getting my leg broken again. Despite all that, and him moving out without a shoe on the gravel, eventually after a lot of trotting here and there and everywhere, and some walking, and a flexion test, we determined he was not showing any lameness. He might have short-strided twice in all that time. Cassandra pointed out a number of things to me and it was a very educational visit.
The lines on the outside of his hoof follow the coronet angle but then curve and drop down within the last six months.
There is some space between his hoof wall and the white line on that hoof that is obvious. She also pointed out hoof angles and how opposite feet rear-to-front will match. He had some filling in his legs so I need to learn how to either poultice his legs or use pressure wraps after the longer rides.
So what could it be? Tendon/ligament issues, coffin bone rotation, arthritis, injury, etc. So many options. Cassandra suggested that I keep my vet appointment and insist on x-rays to rule out what we could. I appreciated her time and insight, although I have to admit, I did go home and cry. Then the next morning Heather called me for an update and I got emotional again. It has been a sad couple of days for me, thinking we could be headed down a road of light use for Sinwaan instead of my big dream of riding a 50 mile ride.
So today I loaded him up and hauled him into the vet. We arrived early and had some time to groom him. He was a little edgy due to a weed eater running on the opposite side of the fence where we were parked, but it didn't take long for him to calm down and just enjoy Ellie's pampering. She and I brushed him, and she picked him fresh grass to eat.
The tech came out and introduced herself, and I remember her name because it is the same as my sister-in-law's, Joanie. She asked for more information as to why I was there. I told her I had been putting a lot of miles on him and he had strange hoof wear on the one side and I would like x-rays to rule out arthritis or coffin bone rotation. It wasn't long after that she came out again with Dr Pritchett and they worked together on a series of lameness tests. It was quite interesting. I asked her if I could video and she said sure.
Video #1 - walking away and back, and in a circle
During the second test she commented that he was "doing this better than the last three horses she examined." She thought his legs felt pretty good for a horse his age, especially around the fetlocks.
Video #2 - circling and the tail pull. I believe what she was looking for here (in the tight turns) was to see how he managed his back end. A horse with a hip problem will be less likely to cross over their legs in the rear, and he didn't seem to have any problem with this test.
Video #3 - tail pull while trotting straight and circling.
Video #4 - This video really doesn't show much of anything but I include it because she did tell me that he has an elevated digital pulse in that rear left.
After all the fun and games in the parking lot, we moved him into the covered area and the stocks to try and get some radiographs of that foot. Dr Pritchett agreed with me that it would be a good idea to take some x-rays to see what might be happening there. She could not see him drag the toe at all in her movement tests. She said he had no atrophy, his rear musculature was very good, watching him there was no problem, no lameness. She wondered if he might be moving differently under a load and thought it could be helpful to see me ride him as well. Unfortunately at this point she also said that she was only given 30 minutes for our appointment time today, so she explained it would take some time for the techs to clean his foot and get him set up for the x-rays. She would check back in with us periodically between other patients. I was welcome to sit in the waiting room, or take a drive, or watch. I like to see everything, and as an employee in a radiology department I was curious how this would compare.
Video #5 - Joanie explaining to the kids why she is using playdoh in his hooves for the x-ray.
Once his hoof was scrubbed and clean, Joanie started packing Play-doh into the grooves. The kids recognized the container and started asking questions about that right away. It was interesting to me to hear that the air on an x-ray shows up as black, so they pack the grooves with Play-doh to better be able to see the bones.
Video #6 - the techs attempting to put his feet up on risers for the x-ray.
Once his hoof was packed, the idea was to get him to stand on a riser for the x-ray. Well he wasn't too co-operative, and he wasn't sedated at all because there was the chance I might ride him afterwards if we had time, so they did what they could but it didn't work and they gave up after about 20 minutes of that. They equally tried both hooves on risers to no avail.
Video #7 - when the stocks and risers failed, the techs tried using Styrofoam
The stocks were kind of in the way and becoming a hazard so they moved Sinwaan out into the aisle and tied him so they could try again, this time with Styrofoam. They took an x-ray but it didn't turn out very well.
Video #8 - back in the stocks with no risers or Styrofoam, finally a lateral x-ray
So they tried again, back in the stocks this time with no risers or Styrofoam. They were able to get an x-ray without him moving, however it was not a good enough radiograph for Pritchett to diagnose a problem. She said the coffin bone tip looked a little "hazy" but it really was not good enough for her to say any more about that.
She wanted to be able to spend a couple of hours with us, so we agreed to reschedule for the next date that I have off work, which is Sept 6th. At that visit she will plan to give him a more involved lameness evaluation, have me ride him for another look at how he is moving under a load, and then sedate him for better x-rays, because he really needs to have both rear feet up on those risers with equal weight on them. Hopefully then we will get some answers. In the meantime we both agree he needs time off, so I will have his shoes pulled and his hooves trimmed so at our next visit he will be level and ready for the evaluations.
After it was all said and done I was there from 3:45 - 5:45 pm. Quite an ordeal, especially for the techs, to have to "try again another day." They really worked hard to try and get a good picture, and I thanked them for the effort.
This journey has initiated several conversations and I want everyone to know that your support and opinions really do mean a lot to me, I like to hear all the ideas and advice, many times they bring to light other learning opportunities for me. I really hope that we can get to the bottom of this quickly so I can continue on down the trail on my horse, even if it is for shorter distances...