In Search of A Lameness Diagnosis

Owning a horse is not for the faint of heart.  Your emotions ride an unpredictable roller coaster of ups and downs.  One minute you are on top of the world riding some amazing feeling that you never felt before.  The next, you are humbled as you realize you no longer know how to steer. 

The amount of money that can be spent to own a horse is mind-blowing.  Add in the cost of training and maintenance to keep that athlete sound and happy to move up the levels, and you might as well throw that budget out the window.  Something will always come up and that money you had sitting aside will be gone in the blink of an eye.  My husband has come to believe that all horse people justify what they spend on their horses by comparing their expenses to that of someone else who spends even more on said item to make it all seem ok.  I have to admit, he isn’t wrong!

An inevitable experience in the world of horses is dealing with lameness or injury.  If you own a horse or work around horses, you will most likely experience both.  I’ve owned Josie for approximately 18 months and for the first time in our partnership, I felt her take steps that made me hesitate and worry that something might be wrong.  I couldn’t pinpoint what it was, but I knew something didn’t feel right.  I tried riding through it. Maybe I was overthinking it. After all, I ride on a grass arena that isn’t level. But when she swapped her hind legs in the canter, I knew it was something more. Thankfully I video my rides using Pivo and was able to watch the playback to see what was going on.

Going down the steeper parts of my arena, she was taking a shorter step with her left hind leg.  In the canter, she would gradually take closer steps behind as we came down the slope and eventually swap behind.  Ugh. 

Over the next few days, it seemed to get better so I concluded it was just a minor issue that resolved itself.  Oh if it were only that easy! At my next lesson, I noticed a different feeling.  Now she seemed off in her left front and she wasn’t working out of it.  Lovely. Luckily, my vet was on her way to do a vaccination and could lay eyes on her.

I explained what I was feeling and showed her past videos of how she was moving. Thank you Pivo! Each video was time-stamped so I had a clear timeline of when things happened. Flexions showed minor lameness in both hocks.  Crap.  I didn’t even notice the right hind.  Does the right front want to get in on this tomorrow?  Why did I feel it in the left front?

Next step was to X-ray the hocks.

Since this wasn’t a planned lameness exam, the x-rays had to scheduled for a different day. I left my lesson with so many thoughts swirling through my head.

The x-rays didn’t show anything significant. I could go the more invasive route and try joint injections or try an IV or IM injectable to see if she would improve.  I asked respected friends to help guide me on how I should proceed.  With the information I gathered, I decided I would feel more comfortable with a second option.  I made an appointment with another vet that used a computer and sensors to detect lameness.  The fact that I am super analytical had me interested in seeing what this process was about! 

Although I was bummed that I couldn’t get in for a few weeks, I was really hoping that Josie would heal herself by the time the appointment rolled around. Unfortunately, that was not the case.  Although she was improving, she still was not 100%. 

The appointment started off as a usual lameness evaluation until she brought out the computer.  This is what I was here for! The diagnostic system was called Equinosis Lameness Measurement. A sensor was placed on Josie’s poll and on her bum.  A funny box was strapped to her pastern.  The sensors connected and the computer was ready to analyze her gait. 

With each jog, the computer gave a summary of each limb, if lameness was detected, if it was in the push-off or landing phase and gave it a score.  All tests pointed to the left hind.

Once a baseline was established (see above photo), the flexions began.  It was so interesting to see the scores change as the limbs were flexed in different areas. The highest score was given when the stifle flexion was done (see below).

Initially, she was hoping it was just a pulled muscle as Josie’s hamstring started quivering during the flexion. Let’s try a muscle block to see what happens.

We were so excited when the muscle block seemed to have drastically improved her way of going. Woohoo! The first reading gave an improvement of 3.3 Push off and .01 Impact. Yes! I was so excited. A few more tests to confirm. Test 2 = 6.3 / 0.0. Oh no. Test 3 = 6.2 / 1.2. Fudge. Time to flex! Test 4 = 10.5 / 4.6. Shoot. The block helped, but did not solve the issue. Ugh.

Time to xray the stifles. 

Just like the hocks, nothing of significance.  After finding multiple areas of soreness in her body, hearing an audible change in how her footfalls hit the ground, and using the computer analysis, the recommendation was to inject her stifles, help her sore muscles with magnawave and a chiropractic adjustment, and begin a 28-day loading dose of Adequan.  Goodie.

Josie was quietly standing being the best patient I could have asked for, looking at me every now and then for reassurance.  Such a lady. I was so proud of her. I felt that a thorough analysis had been done and numbers don’t lie. I agreed to the treatment and prayed that this was going to help her.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve ridden 3 times since the procedure and she is feeling better with each ride.  I have never felt her use her body the way she has since the adjustments!  I hope this was what Josie needed to get back on track! You never know what is going to happen, but I feel like I made an educated decision on a treatment plan and so far it seems to be working!

This weekend we are showing at Flying Cross Farm, Training 2 and 3. Send good thoughts and prayers our way that Josie will be feeling her best and that I don’t forget my tests!

Follow our journey!

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