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Eolith 09-11-2013 11:11 AM

Help: Mild Mystery Lameness
I've had my mustang gelding since he was a yearling. I have done tons and tons and tons of groundwork with him. He is 3 now, and we had him started under saddle with a trainer last month. He has done wonderfully with everything so far. His rides are still primarily walk/trot and only last up to 20 mins, although the trainer usually does some groundwork prior to this. Everything was going swell until we took him out on his first trail ride and noticed that every few steps he would sort of stumble a little on his right front. It happened more regularly on gravel, so we thought he might be a smidge tender since he's barefoot.

Two days later, he was mildly lame in the right front when trotting on the sand arena footing. My trainer thought it might be a minor abscess. We gave him a couple days off, and our farrier came out. Farrier trimmed his feet, looked closely for any signs of an abscess but didn't see anything. After he had been trimmed, I walked and trotted him over gravel while the farrier watched. He was sound! We turned him loose in the arena and watched him move: still sound!

The next day, our trainer took him out and longed him a little prior to getting on him. He was still sound and looking good. Trainer got on him and did some walk/trot for 15 minutes, during which time we noticed that he might be ever so slightly lame again at the trot, but it was difficult to tell for sure because he is still so unbalanced and uncertain at the trot. I asked the trainer to put him on the longe a little more after the ride just to see where he was at, and he looked mildly lame again.

We have decided to give him a full week or two off and reassess after that -- but I have to say that I'm all kinds of worried and paranoid. Do hoof abscesses really show up like this sometimes? In my experience the horse is usually dead lame for a day or two and then is fine within a few days after it ruptures. Is it possible that he's still just a little too immature to be under saddle at 3yrs old and this is his way of telling us? I will happily give him all fall/winter off and restart in the spring as a 4yr old if it means that he is a sound riding horse for years to follow.

If he is still looking lame after some time off, we plan to have the vet out... but I'm not sure what he will be able to tell us.

tlkng1 09-11-2013 11:28 AM

If an abscess is deeper the farrier can't always see/find it. I also find that some horses react more to a pre-draining abscess in different ways. While some horses do go dead lame, others may barely show and last horse as like that.

Do what you are doing..a little more rest, maybe a couple of days of bute and re-assess. May want radiographs taken just to rule out other issues.

tinyliny 09-11-2013 12:10 PM

the very long spell of dry weather we've had, then all that rain we had a couple of weeks back has caused a lot of changes, and maybe some issues with all the hroses' feet. I'd wait a bit to see what happens. he may have gotten a stone bruise, and it may or may not abcess. time will tell.

tinyliny 09-11-2013 03:32 PM

Is he shedding his frog? any crumbling white hoof?

smrobs 09-11-2013 03:48 PM

Yes, deeper abscesses will present like this in some horses as a sporadic lameness that doesn't seem to have an obvious cause. Just a while back, Pokey came up 3 legged lame one day and was perfectly sound the day after...then the day after that, he was mildly lame and stayed that way until his abscess burst at the coronary band.

I think giving him a couple of weeks sounds like a good plan. If the source of the lameness either hasn't resolved or become apparent by then, then I might start thinking of getting more worried about it.

Eolith 09-11-2013 11:55 PM

Thanks for the encouragement and the reminder not to be too freaked out all at once. I really really do hope it's something simple that will resolve itself. This is supposed to be the horse that I spend the next 20 years going on epic adventures with!

Tinyliny, I have been watching his feet like a hawk and overall they look great. Nice and compact, tough, healthy frogs, etc. He did have what looked like a very mild case of thrush a couple weeks ago, but I treated it aggressively and I don't think that it is present any longer. Actually, out of all our horses his feet seem to be in the best shape. He's the last one I would expect to abscess.

loosie 09-12-2013 01:11 AM

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Hi, of course can't know what's wrong, but yes to all of the above! ;-)

It could be that the horse just got a bit of a bruise, maybe an abscess. Maybe the bruise will become an abscess... Horses are commonly very lame with abscesses that resolve quickly, but not always. Abscesses can go unnoticed completely until they burst & leave a crack/hole.

That your horse is only 3yo, IMO is too young to do much high impact or weightbearing at all. His growing, malleable skeleton & joints are easily damaged. I would be doing little if any trotting under saddle yet & no fast lunging & tight circles. It is entirely possible that his lameness could be a body/hoof issue due to being worked. If he's looked after now, you should have him as a useful partner for longer than 20years ;-)

As with his skeleton, his hooves are still immature & the rear of his hooves especially don't *begin* to grow strong enough for hard 'work' until around 4yo. So depending on the surfaces, his home environment & lifestyle, etc, he may need some protection for work on rough ground, for eg.

ApolloRider 09-12-2013 08:40 PM

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I don't want to hijack your thread Eolith, I just had a question about thrush... When you clean their feet and its smelly does that automatically mean thrush?

Someone keeps telling me that at my barn.

smrobs 09-12-2013 09:06 PM

Another thing I thought of, since he's barefoot, it could be what the old timers around here call a "sand abscess". That's where a piece of coarse sand or small gravel gets imbedded in the white line and is forced upward as the horse moves around on that foot. As it moves up the foot, it builds an abscess and there is absolutely no visual proof that anything's wrong until it produces swelling or bursts at the coronary band.

loosie 09-13-2013 12:58 AM

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Originally Posted by smrobs (Post 3620329)
That's where a piece of coarse sand or small gravel gets imbedded in the white line and is forced upward as the horse moves around on that foot. As it moves up the foot, it builds an abscess and there is absolutely no visual proof that anything's wrong until it produces swelling or bursts at the coronary band.

That's why some still call abscesses 'gravels'. They thought that was the common cause. It isn't thought so now though, although if a horse has separation, sand/gravel can get up there & aggravate it. There is 'absolute visible proof' though that something is wrong, because of the separation.

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