It’s been a while! All has been extraordinarily quiet on the front because Vesper has been off work for the last 3 weeks due to another bout of lameness – this time, things were more of a mystery.
After successfully rehabbing her right hind fetlock strain back a couple of months, I was paranoid that it was cropping up again, however this time around she was quite sore in the front end – but still showing signs of soreness in the hind end, too (????). Of course I wasn’t able to pinpoint which leg was giving her problems (because that would be too easy), and of course it wasn’t consistent between the arena and the hogsfuel track, so she got 2 weeks rest and some bute. This turned out to not be the solution as I hoped, and so I decided it was time for a visit to the lameness specialist who comes highly recommended. If rest isn’t helping, there’s something deeper going on and not knowing what the issue is was driving me mental.
The lameness vet was a great experience – he was friendly, helpful and explained everything in a way that was easy to understand and did not make me feel like I was in his way. Their clinic uses a “Lameness Locator” which, using sensors on the poll, pastern and SI joint, collects and reports data about the horse’s movement to pinpoint lameness. Some info from their website:
The “Lameness Locator” objectively detects and quantifies body movement asymmetry in a horse using small, body-mounted inertial sensors and a hand-held tablet PC. […] Data collection is in real time and veterinarians are free to perform their usual lameness evaluation routine without distraction.
The proprietary Lameness Locator analysis uses the motion data transmitted by the sensors and algorithms developed during 18 years of gait analysis of sound and lame horse movement at the University of Missouri E. Paige Laurie Equine Lameness Program. That research used treadmills and high speed cameras to mathematically characterize normal and impaired gait.
[…]This unique set of data analysis algorithms helps to determine the affected limb or limbs, the severity of lameness within each limb and the timing of peak lameness pain within the stride cycle of each limb.
Results are then presented to the veterinarian in an intuitive graphical interface that is easy to interpret and report to clients.
This was super helpful for me as I still couldn’t tell where Vesper was sore; the initial finding was that she was displaying minor push-off lameness in the right hind (our previous issue from a couple of months ago), but as we delved a bit deeper, it was determined that the RH issue was compensatory for a sore right front. She was
- mildly lame jogged on concrete in a line
- sound on sand in a line and on a circle
- and very lame on compacted gravel in a circle.
The data kept coming back as the right front being the issue, so we pursued that a little further. A nerve block into the foot changed nothing (the same result as our spring vet check up. This RF issue has been lurking for a while, but *only* shows up at vet checks when jogged on concrete – it’s a non-issue on softer footing), so we took x-rays.
Vesper has arthritis (or ringbone, what a terrifying word) in her RF pastern, which I have suspected since I bought her; with a long eventing career behind her, I’m very confident that she has arthritis in many places. After discussing our history, it was determined that the very hard, compacted footing in our arena is the cause of this lameness issue. Vesper has been comfortable at every other barn in full work, but the footing at our current barn is just too firm for her. It’s been hovering in the back of my mind since we moved there, but I hoped that she might just acclimatize to it over time.
The excellent news is that the vet (who is also an eventer, super comforting) gave her a great prognosis, saying she can go back into full work right away (on softer footing) and for as long as she is comfortable. He even said that he doesn’t see why we couldn’t do our horse trial the first weekend of September! That won’t actually be happening, because now we’re both so out of shape and I have a theatre production running this month which is keeping me absurdly busy…
I know that ringbone can be career ending if it is bad, but the vet said that Vesper’s case is minor and she’ll let me know when she’s ready to ease back. She’s getting Previcox now and we’re only working on the hogsfuel track, with the occasional trailer ride to the nearby park which has a huge hogsfuel arena. She’s totally sound on the softer footing, which leads me into the awful news: which is that we have to find yet another barn to board at. Sigh. This one is almost as perfect as you can get in our area, but the footing in the arena is just too firm.
I had written off the rest of the show season as I didn’t think we’d get back into shape fast enough, but it turns out there’s one last horse trial in October which I’m going to aim for instead of the September one. It should also be a lot cooler by then (or just more miserable if we get our usual rainy October), and it gives us enough time to get back into shape and prepped.
I was really nervous about the outcome of this vet appointment, wondering if Vesper would have to retire to a dressage or trail-only horse, but now that I know what’s going on, and have the green light from a lameness specialist, I’m feeling huge amounts of relief.
I also found out today that Michael Jung’s horse La Biosthetique Sam FBW – who is one of the top event horses in the world – is the same age as Vesper and still killing it, and that just made me so darned happy.
I love my old lady. I’m 28 and I have arthritis too, so she and I will just continue to enjoy ourselves doing what we love while popping our NSAIDs.