Severe Head Bobbing: No Leg Lameness!!

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Severe Head Bobbing: No Leg Lameness!!

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  • Head bob with no lameness
  • Horse sound but head nodding

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    07-19-2008, 11:23 PM
Severe Head Bobbing: No Leg Lameness!!

I own a 9 y/o thoroughbred gelding who for the past 8 months has exhibited back/hip problems with no explanation we have been able to find. I am posting in the hopes that someone has experienced something similar or can direct me to much needed help and information.

2 years ago my gelding injured his sacroiliac joint (we believe by falling or rolling on a large stone in pasture) shortly after that he was rested and received chiropractic treatment to adjust twisted hips. Following the treatment he remained sound and in excellent condition for 2.5 years. However this past winter he began knocking himself in the front lower ankle, causing periods of lameness from 5 minutes to 1 hour (depending on the severity of the knock) , furthermore he began exhibiting this lameness / knocking shortly following jumping (up to 2 ľí) His feet were slowly adjusted (to reduce the inward swing of the front left foot) and the knocking has since stopped with the helpful addition of SMB elite front boots. However he began head bobbing shortly after the knocking stopped (5 months ago). The head bobbing would start and stop randomly (no association with gait, collection or time worked) it would last anywhere from 3 steps to prolonged minutes of head bobbing and ranging from mild to severe. However there was no associated change in gait (not lame) and it did not happen everyday. The head bobbing occurs almost exclusively under saddle with only three instances on the lunge line, all of which followed bucking, kicking and/or rearing. The head bobbing seems to follow after he is asked to collect or around 20 minutes of work. He has been given bute, roboxin (muscle relaxer), he is on multiple joint supplements as well as electrolytes and vitamin e, he has had both his sacroiliac and his hocks injected, been given chiropractic treatments and massage therapy all with no results. He was x-rayed and exhibited only very minor arthritis of the hocks (typical of a working horse his age), he was sent to have scintigraphy and showed very minor positives around the sacroiliac and the hocks (which resulted in the injections of both joints). This past week he received chiropractic, massage and shockwave therapy to the back from behind the cantle through the sacroiliac. Furthermore I have tried every type of saddle pad from high whither, to shock absorbing and gel pads. Unfortunately all with no result. So if anyone has heard anything like this case, or thinks they may know something about it please write back. If you have any further questions I am more than happy to clarify. Our next step is acupuncture and a saddle fitter.

Thank you for you time

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    07-21-2008, 05:18 PM
If I'm reading everything correctly nothing gives him ANY relief or does it only give him relief for a short period of time?

Have his hoofs ever been x-rayed?
    07-22-2008, 08:20 AM
My first thought is to check the hooves. Sound a lot like navicular syndrome, but impossible to say just by guessing at a verbal description, esp in light of all his other problems.

If his back is such an issue, he may well be overusing his front end to compensate and excess strain of carrying more weight in an unnatural way over the front could be taking it's toll. I suggest x-rays as has been mentioned. Head bobbing that comes and goes is the classic sign of Navicular, and determining how much internal damage there is can help your vet/farrier make him for comfortable. It may just be he needs a little more "tweak" in his trim to allow him to use his feet a little better and make him more comfortable overall and halt damage. He may even have fractured seasmoid bones (in the fetlock area). Lots of people overlook it, but having "knocked" himself, he could have cracked them and when they heal, there can be bone spurs or just not healed at all and it irritates the tendons/ligaments in the area, similar to navicular, but higher in the leg. Arthritis usually compounds it after a while, but it can be manageble .

Your best bet is a the x-rays to know where to start. Keep us posted on anything you find out!
    07-22-2008, 11:04 AM

Thank you for your response and ideas. Navicular is an interesting idea. However he has had bone scans (scinitigraphy) which showed no additional blood flow and uptake in the naviular area (an indicator of navicular syndrome). His hooves and legs through to the shoulder have been extensively x-rayed (on several separate occasions) and showed no signs of internal damage or syndromes such as naviular or fractured bones. My farrier has also tested for signs of tenderness and inflammation throughout the past few months with no results. It is possible that small hairline fractures of the sesamoid bones could have been missed, and I will be looking into getting the x-rays examined by an expert, so thank you for that idea.

Thank you for your input and ideas

    07-22-2008, 11:11 AM
G&K's Mom,

I canít connect anything I have done with a change in head bobbing because the head bobbing is so inconsistent. So when I change a particular thing (it: saddle pad, shockwave or chiropractic) and the head bobbing pattern changes in some way I canít say for sure it was related. The closest I have come was following a chiropractic treatment and three days rest he did not exhibit head bobbing for two days. And following shockwave and long periods of warm up (20 minutes lunge) he was sound for 1 day. So unfortunately I canít tell you whether it provides no relief or temporary relief.

His hooves and legs up to the shoulder have been extensively x-rayed (multiple times and multiple angles).

Thank you for your questions,

    07-22-2008, 12:52 PM
Wow, sounds very mysterious, you really HAVE to keep us posted if you find out what's going on with this poor guy...
    10-14-2009, 11:34 AM
Update on Ant: Over the past few months we have undergone extensive testing including scintigraphy scans and comprehensive ultrasound. What we found was two ligament lesions in his lower back one directly beneath the saddle and one 4" behind that. Over the winter and summer he was extensively rested with very limited activity (hand walking and not turnout). The healing has gone very slowly however during his most recent ultrasound it looks like one injury is completely healed and the other is at around 70%. Any lameness still occurring appears to be related to hocks and possible sacroiliac stiffness from muscle wasting and prolonged rest. He recieved injections in both the hocks and the si and is slowly starting to work more - the injections can take as long as 6 weeks to show effects so we are just waiting and hoping and gradually getting him back to work.
    10-14-2009, 12:51 PM
WOW, I had to re-read this to remember the story. You really went to town investigating the cause. So glad you seem to have found the cause. Thanks for the update. Very interesting.
    10-14-2009, 01:07 PM
Wow! Glad he's on the mend albeit slowly!

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