My gelding became very sore about 4 weeks ago on the rocks on trail rides. He is eight and has never needed shoes, even on the toughest trails; it therefore took me about two weeks to realize, yes, I needed to get shoes on him. After the shoes were on, the apparant foot soreness disapeared, but then he appeared to be short striding on the right hind. It appeared to be a sore upper butt muscle from the looks of it. Ater resting him and walking him easy for a week or so, he then appeared to be short striding on the left hind. We tapped his soles and he flinched when the fronts were tapped, especially the right front. The vet came to look at him, now 4 weeks into this mess, and checked his soles, which were no longer sore. He observed that he was short striding on the left hind, but he couldn't figure out the source and just said to give him a week off. He has been simply walking and resting for 4 weeks now, and I am getting really frustrated because we can't figure this out. The offness is very slight. He has always been a very sound horse with very tough feet.
Hmm.... lameness in horses (as well as tons of other health issues) can be such a mystery sometimes. Do you think that he is short striding because of his unfamiliarity with shoes? Perhaps even after having them for a time, they feel awkward and strange. Especially considering he is 8 years old and has never had shoes. That's many years barefooted... perhaps the odd sensation of the shoes will take him some time to get used to, if at all.
Just a theory. I really don't have a solid idea, and I'm by no means a vet. -_^. I used to have a little grade pinto gelding. I got him when he was 2 and sold him at 12 years old. He had white hooves and they were rock hard, always in excellent shape. He always got very short strided when we travelled over rocks, picking his way and acting very sore. He would refuse to move any faster than a stilted walk. After shoeing him, he didn't act sore over rocks, but his movement changed. He had been his whole life without shoes, and he never really adjusted to them. He strided almost like his legs suddenly felt awkward and he never really stopped. We had them on him for about 4-5 months. We finally decided to leave them off (he threw them constantly, and it was getting frustrating and expensive to constantly replace them) and I avoided traversing over rocky areas, and staying in the dirt or grass since he was completely fine on those terrains.
If he's always been barefoot and this is the first time he's been sore, I'd not think it's a reason to run out and put shoes on him. I'd suspect that perhaps there's another problem there somewhere that needs to be found. The fact that there are now shoes on him may be causing secondary problems and making it more difficult to find what was originally wrong with him.
I'd agree with Val and suggest boots for him instead of shoes while you're riding, then barefoot when you're not, and seeing how that plays into your equation (getting pretty pricey, isn't it? )
The boots might be a good idea to try. Just like an easy boot? Just in front? Those seem like they would be more awkwad to ride in than shoes?
I was really, really bummed to put shoes on him. I really had a hard time with it - how does a horse of his age, with the toughest, most awesome feet, all of a sudden become a tender foot? He has done two years previously of competitive trail riding on terrain where shoes are recommended for most horses barefoot without a problem at all. Sadly, he will not be competing this year because of this mystery.
I hadn't thought of the shoes causing additional problems. Eight years is a long time to have gone without shoes and then to suddenly need them.
Aren't symptoms of navicular a bit more pronounced - I mean this problem is really slight, and very inconsistent in location. Is it is soles? His butt muscles? On the right? On the left? In the front? Back? Something else? I don't know. We have not done x-rays yet - where do you x-ray when you don't know the source? It also seems such a minor offness to x-ray for - it is not a limp, but a shortness in stride on one side or the other. If we have to involve the vet again (probably a different vet), and x-rays are suggested, we will probably fork over the $$, I just don't want to be overkill.
Has it ever been known for horses to simply fake it, or anticipate pain when there is no real problem? I find it wierd that the short striding goes away after about 15 minutes of trotting, and does not appear in hand or at liberty, only when a rider is in the saddle.
The vet was NO help - barely looked at him for more than five minutes and then just said to give him a week off. He did not even try to find the location of the soreness. I was pretty urked!
He is getting pretty jealous, because his rider (the girl who leases him from me) has been riding our mare instead as a stand in for the competitive trail ride. He is seriously nickering to her when she comes out, and then giving her the cold shoulder after she has gotten the mare out. He is also in the best shape of his life, and has just been hanging out for like five weeks now. These things make me sad :(
One other possibility - this is his second season jumping. He has been doing really well. The problems started after their first and only show this year. It did not coincide exactly, but it was around that time. Could it be a jumping related problem?
This photo was from both of their first season jumping - form has been improving all the time. He seems to really love jumping. Now that he is a "jumping horse", he often hops things in the woods or on trails that he could simply trot over :) I wish he could get back to it.
It sometimes takes a couple of rides to get used to the boots, but most horses adjust. There are a few different brands out there and I'm not totally up on them. You'll need to do some research (and report back to us )
If the shoes are compounding the problem, you should see an improvement nearly right away. If he's still sore, then you'll know you're dealing with something else. Based on the fact that he's been without shoes for eight years without a problem, I'd be inclined to think it's something other than just tenderness from the ride.
If your vet and farrier haven't been able to help up until now, you might also check to see if others in your area have had good luck with an equine chiropractor. But I'd search for references, because just like on people, some will do a better job than others.