I have a 12-year-old APHA gelding. He is 16.1 hh and I have owned him since he was 6 months old. Our favorite thing to do is barrel racing, but we also do all the other events at the gymkhanas/horse shows as well as some showing events (western pleasure, reining, etc). Basically, I've done EVERYTHING with him! Most of our riding consists of trail riding or working cattle.
When he was 5 years old, he got his left front foot into the barbed wire fence and injured himself severely. I didn't ride him for a whole year after it happened. We thought for sure he would be nothing more than a pasture ornament for the rest of his life. He had been cut from the outside of his foot, starting at the coronary band, all the way down and around and under the hoof at the back. It was a mess. However, quite miraculously, he has been 100% sound and back to barrel racing ever since. His foot is just a bit funky looking now with all the scar tissue. He has never worn shoes as he doesn't have a need for them. I did inquire about corrective shoeing during the time he healed up, but the farrier thought it best to leave him barefoot.
Well, I guess he has been 100% sound until this year. I am currently going to optometry school and my parents have been keeping him for me. I only got about a month and a half off this past summer, but which of all I was home the whole time and was riding him every day. About a few weeks in, I noticed that he was favoring his left leg but only when we would trot. I couldn't feel a thing when we walked, or galloped (lead did not matter). The first time it happened, I got off right away to see if he had a rock in his hoof but there was nothing. I felt both his front legs for any heat or swelling but there was nothing.
This continued quite randomly off and on for the rest of the break I was home and riding him. I couldn't see a pattern or a reason why he would be limping on a certain day or not. And surprisingly, this was the best barrel racing season we've had yet (albeit it was quite short!) and we were winning in the 1D that when we've never been out of the 2D in years past! So I was very impressed with him and really wish I had a longer break...
Now, when I am not home, he does not get ridden very often (seriously maybe 3 or 4 times MAX the whole year) because my mom is the only other rider and she has her own horse to ride. However, she did tell me last week on the phone that she has noticed him limping out in the pasture. I forgot to ask her if it was when he was walking or trotting. But she did say she still sees him tearing around the pasture like crazy doing the playing stuff he does, as if nothing hurts. She did decide to ride him one day last week and actually didn't go very far because he started limping. She felt so bad for him that she got off the last quarter mile and led him home he was limping so bad. She's also checked his legs, hooves, etc and can't seem to see anything that would be causing him to limp.
So the only thing I can come up with is that he may be having some early arthritis.
During the year we were letting him heal from his injury, we did have X-rays done to see if the wire had gone all the way to the bone or not. The vet said everything looked okay except for one little spot where the wire may have hit bone. She couldn't tell because of course, the X-ray was slightly blurry in the area of question. She said that if it did hit bone, it is possible he could have early arthritis problems.
So does this sound like arthritis? What do you guys think? If it is, what supplements/treatment can I give him? He is a VERY picky eater...
Any other ideas of what this could be???