VIDEOS - Lame right hind leg. Advice?
My horse Beau is a coming 14-year-old APHA gelding, about 16.1 hands high. I've owned him since he was 6 months old. I primarily do barrel racing and speed events with him, but we do a large variety of other things (trail riding, cattle work, reining, showing, etc) to keep his mind fresh.
Since he was 4 years old, he was ridden almost every single day (with the winter off) until the past 2 to 3 years, when I have been gone for graduate school. He's basically just been on "pasture rest" for that time.
The few times I did ride this past summer, he did a weird mis-step with his hind right foot. Some days it was awful (doing this on every single step at the walk or trot) and some days it was so-so. Instead of picking his right hind hoof up to step on it, he is catching his toe and letting it rock over, so that he is then stepping on his own bent-over ankle. Since then it has progressed and he now compensates for it while walking, by swinging his leg outward.
No swelling, no tenderness, no heat, and no physical signs on his right leg. I can tell it is starting to bother him (whereas this summer he acted like it was not happening and carrying on his merry way), because he doesn't even like to left his left foot because it forces his right leg to bear all the weight on the ground. He will pick up his right foot no problem.
Plus, he still runs, bucks, and plays in the pasture like nobody's business, especially since he's got 2 colts to play with and run around with. Earlier this summer, he didn't seem to be phased by it, but now you can tell he is compensating.
If I think back now, I think this has actually been going on for years, but it was always very rare for it to happen, so that I took it as him being clumsy (which he kinda is) or stepping in a hole, over all these years. Now that he hasn't been ridden or kept in shape the last 2 or 3 years, it's really gotten bad.
My mom took him to the vet for me in October-ish. Just two small town vets, nearest to us. My mom said that they said it is a stifle problem in his back right leg where the ligament is essentially "locking up" on him which renders him unable to fully complete a step. So that's why he's coming down on his folded ankle, because he is not able to fully extend his foot.
The vet said that exercise is the best treatment; especially hill climbing. If the muscles and tendons and ligaments can tighten up by being in shape, then it will be less likely to lock up on him.
He also mentioned that surgery is a possiblity, but he does not recommend it at this time because it's not a 100% sure fix, and he doesn't have it bad enough to where he would consider surgery.
I was home for a couple days last week and we took some video of him moving around. I am going to take him to another vet in May that is more specialized for this sort of thing, before I start riding him on a regular basis after I graduate. Plus, I just want another opinion on anything I can do for him.
So any commments on what you think may be wrong or what can be done to treat it, I would really appreciate. I don't want to give up on him! Hopefully, I can also get him to both a chiropractor and a massage therapist in May, along with another vet visit.
These first 3 are me trying to get the video myself ... not the greatest.
Then I had my mom lead him around for me.
I agree with your local veterinarians. The horse does presents an avoidance to a flexural retraction of the stifle joint. Does this horse quickly "jerk" the right hind up anytime you attempt to lift the foot, then just as quickly seem to relax the leg?
Diagnosis of specific stifle problems is made difficult due the complexity of this "dual" joint (femoro-patellar and femorotibial).
Anterior flexural issues may represent misplacement or trauma to the Middle or Lateral patellar ligaments. Abaxial structural support failure may represent a failure of the lateral/medial collateral ligaments, the posterior cruxiate ligament or damaged meniscus.
I am not aware of any effective farriery treatment protocol. Veterinary surgical intervention requires precise diagnostic identification of the specific problem area. Expect diagnostic costs to exceed treatment expense.
Post-surgical farriery protocol may include short term use of a patten bar to unload the effected limb. Supportive shoeing on the good limb to avoid secondary mechanical problems due excessive loading during convalescence.
You'll likely hear that long term prognosis is guarded. Sorry I don't have better news for you.
When I ask him to pick up his right hind foot, he does so with no problem. He does not jerk.
However, he does not want to pick up his LEFT hind foot, and put all his weight on his right.
It's definitely an upper right leg issue, whether it is muscular or joint is hard to tell from the video but he's not wanting to flex it. I'd trust the vet, but getting another consultation never hurts.
My suggestion would be to look at a book called "Beating Muscle Injuries for Horse" by Jack Meagher. It's done so much good relieving relieving aches and pains and keeping our horses healthy. My pony went through a problem where she was sore behind around her hips (we had just started to jump bigger and had just changed to wedges behind) and it she went from being extremely reactive to nothing. I also use it on some of the older horses before their rides just to loose them up and it seems to make them a lot happier and healthier. Although it might not be a permanent fix it might help relieve some of his pain and loosen his muscles enough to help him walk better around the pasture until you can get him back into work.
We just learned about something like this in my Intro equine class. The term we used was "Stifled" and is defined as "upward fixation of the patella" and its where the stifle locks up and won't slip back. It was just a quick review of general unsoundness issues and all the prof said was young horses usually recover from it on their own, but surgery is an option like you said.
Agree that it certainly looks like stifle joint. It does not appear to be locking but may have been injured and is slipping. If you hold your hand over the stifle joint (gently so you have enough pressure to feel if there is a grinding sandy feeling) and walk him off you can actually feel the muscle slip and kinda grind on the joint when they have an injury.
Xray is the only way to truly decide if athroscopy surgery is needed and I agree that if you are sure it is a recurring injury that would be the best course of action.
I would be hesitant however to exercise him to build muscle. It is important to give him time to heal and then to slowly build muscle and get him back to fit. We just went through a soft tissue injury of a stifle and we laid up the horse for almost 3 months before we hand walked over rails etc to encourage flexion and then over an added 3 months moved on to jogging. At the end of that time we were gentle loping and she is solid and 100 percent sound after almost a year.
Did the vets suggest an inter articular injection as a first course rather than surgery? Of course they would have to decide the grade of injury etc. but for injury that has recurred generally the second time around quite often an injection will work well to tighten the stifle if it is an injury that only involves muscle slipping over a worn pattella. You might ask about that.
It is not a great injury to deal with but it can heal and the horse can be just fine. Best of Luck
Mark..it was suggested at one point with our mare that rolling the toes might help relieve some stress on the stifle (she was dragging her toe of the injured foot)simply to remove the resistance felt when dragging it through the sand? We never actually had to do it as she had enough relief within a couple of weeks to keep it off the ground. Would you ever reccemend that?
The generic term for what you are describing is called 'string-halt'. Horses suffering string-halt will present visually observable gait symptoms. The videos provided by the original poster suggest a flexural/loading problem versus the quick 'snapping' gait of a horse with string-halt.
In my experience, the more proximal the source of discomfort, the less effective the farriery protocol.
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