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existentialpony 01-09-2013 08:13 PM

Dropped fetlocks (this is long!)
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Hey all!

About a month ago, I purchased my first horse. Straight legs, no history of lameness, and ridden with me 5-6 days a week with no lameness or soreness. I did notice that his fetlocks dip when moving, but not being a vet and knowing he has consistently shown for years with no problems, and seeing it in a few other horses... I didn't give it too much thought. I did not get a pre-purchase exam for a host of reasons that are not pertinent to this post! :)

See first picture of him-- cranky that I was taking pictures of him after an unexpected bath, hehe, but a decent shot of him standing around to give you an idea of what he looks like and how his fetlocks are when he's relaxed.

Today I had a vet out to check some stiffness he's had in his left hind leg and overall wonkiness (can't put a finger on it) in his hind movement; it isn't hindering his work--in fact he is eager--and I can't detect any lameness, but I was concerned that it might be causing him pain he wasn't showing.

In under an hour and without a single x-ray, sonogram or blood test (in fact, she trotted him away and towards us barely twice) this vet diagnosed Jax with neurological disorder likely EPM, and with DSLD--degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis. She told me he was unsafe to ride, unrideable, and (I quote) could only be a "pasture ornament." Keep in mind that only yesterday, this horse was eager and fun and obedient in the arena, so to hear this pretty much shut me down and I was to the point of tears when she left.

I spoke to my farrier, to barn friends, to Jax's last owner; the last owner talked to her vet and Jax's first owner. Everyone was pretty surprised and angry at the vet. In retrospect, her neurological assessment was (to be frank) bull and not very thorough. When I repeated all of the vet's exam techniques after she left, Jax responded appropriately each time. He is a very compliant horse and I am relatively confident that was all it was.

As for the DSLD, I just want to remind you that Jax has never been diagnosed lame and showed consistently from the end of 2007-2011 with no breaks in his record, indicating he was sound for them. He does however, drop his fetlocks when doing his bouncy floaty trot (see pictures, I tried to get shots when they were dropped as far as they go). There is an old picture of him from shows and he did it then, too.

I bought a good pair of Iconoclast SMBoots for him to wear (the ones that pull up under the fetlocks), I have him on Smartpak smartvite and smartcombo (with joint supp), and my barn manager's daughter has offered to trailer Jax to her vet for a second opinion. I also want to get a chiro out to sort out his hind end, since the vet offered NO helpful information on how to help him. Jax's last two owners have been in touch with me and let me know that if I am having second thoughts, there is a trainer in Scottsdale that was really bummed about not getting him and they could talk to her and see if she is still interested-- if I want. Which, I really don't want. :-( But I also don't want to have a horse with medical problems in the future.

I guess I'm asking for thoughts and advice. Sorry for the long post, but any help is really appreciated right now.

spirit88 01-09-2013 08:38 PM

Iv seen horses fetlocks that dropped alot more then your horses fetlocks do. Its possible its DSLD but doesnt look real bad. Id get a second opion on him from pics he certianly doesnt look like hed be unridable. Or even unsafe to ride but then agian pictures dont always tell the whole story. In the standing pics i dont see his fetlocks dropped much at all.

BarrelracingArabian 01-09-2013 08:54 PM

I agree a second opinion couldnt hurt.

existentialpony 01-09-2013 08:59 PM

Thanks for the input so far, guys. I started looking around online and am noticing that there are many pictures of horses dropping their fetlocks similar to mine at a trot (eg. in horse-for-sale ads, etc). Not saying it's normal, of course.

I am anxious to get a second opinion. The farrier is coming tomorrow to bring Jax's toes back a little and I think I'll trailer out to my friend's vet this weekend.

I really don't want to sell Jax because I'm starting to love and trust this horse quite a bit, but knowing that the other trainer is still interested makes me anxious to find out if he's a horse I should sell. :(

Cherie 01-09-2013 09:13 PM

There is a huge difference between DSLD and being a little 'coon footed'. I would call him coon footed unless his legs look a lot different than he did when he was a 2 or 3 year old. How old it he now?

As for the EPM diagnosis -- that is pretty irresponsible to diagnose something like that without much more advanced evaluation.

Have someone lead this horse away from you and as he walks, pull his tail to the side (each side) and see how badly he stumbles when he is pulled off balance by his tail while he is walking. It is a pretty good neurological test.

Kinda like horses -- all Vets are not created equal.

deserthorsewoman 01-09-2013 09:23 PM

ImHO....this vet needs to draw unemployment......
He is not dropping anything, the only thing I see is feet in need of doing. Longish toe and a bit high in the heel, especially behind.

Sharpie 01-09-2013 09:37 PM

When horses bear weight, the fetlocks dip towards the ground. That is a normal part of horse movement. Look at slow-motion footage of racing TBs- their fetlocks actually hit the turf at times! What I see in the picture is a normal horse with normal movement. Unless something has seriously changed from that trotting picture, I'd say you need to talk to another vet. Preferably one with good references and/or that is well-respected in the equine community.

Good video:

existentialpony 01-09-2013 09:46 PM

Wow, thank you so much. Sharpie that video is helpful-- I really didn't think he was so abnormal! The pictures of his "dropped" fetlocks were actually stills from a video I took today, trotting him around me on the lead rope on hard ground after the vet left.

He is 11 years old in March. I think what I am actually dealing with is a tiny bit of arthritis (which the vet mentioned but didn't even spend a moment addressing), so when I get my second opinion I am going to talk to the vet about an adequan or pentosan shot, and stick with a chiro.

Now that I can relax about Jax, I can start fuming over the $250 it cost to have this idiot vet drive out and lie to me... I thought I was going with a reputable vet group (when which I wouldn't have minded the cost), but apparently I was wrong.

existentialpony 01-09-2013 09:55 PM

Also Cherie, the vet did the tail-pull and she seemed to mumble a lot that well, he seemed to be okay "but..." (I feel like she was looking to confirm her diagnosis, not reject it, if you know what I mean?). We were on sandy rocky ground and when he didn't stumble, she reaaally dragged him and tried to make him stumble up (I was internally panicking about her diagnoses and didn't watch as well as I should have... :( ). I will do it again with someone from my barn on the pavement.

I am relatively sure he has no neurological issues. He doesn't stumble when we are riding or anything.

BBBCrone 01-09-2013 10:52 PM

Say what???

Okay I'm not vet but yeah ... definitely time for a second opinion. And perhaps a refund. Dang.

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