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Hello everyone! I've bought this four year old, fresh off the thrack thoroughbred last week. He does not present any gait abnormalities, but he has something rather odd in his left shoulder. As you can see in the pictures, his scapular spine is very visible. He walks, trots, canters and gallops normally. The last picture, the one in which he is all sweaty, is from the exact moment he arrived from the track. This protuberance was even more noticeable then, before he started to put on some weight. He had an injury which had to be stitched on that shoulder three months ago. One of the stitches is reluctant to heal completely, but we are taking care of it and it seems like it is getting better. He hit a fence and cut himself. Maybe that lead to some kind of nerve damage?. Some people told me it is probably a sweeney shoulder, and although it looks similar to the pictures I've seen of it, and the circumstances seem to match (trauma on that area) I am not convinced since that characteristic swing of the shoulder is not present. If it helps, racehorses in my country always work counter-clockwise. Apart from this, he is a very good boy. I was able to ride him (walking) the day after he arrived and we even went trail riding with four other horses yesterday. He is currently in a horse boarding near my house, where he is taken care of. He socializes with other horses and people too. He is so calm and happy I can't belive he raced two weeks ago!. Anyway, I hope you can help me identify this problem. Thank you. If it helps, I can post a video of him walking.
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Well to start please give him a proper let down period, it is so beneficial!
second it is entirely possible that since that area is still working on healing that the muscling had atrophied and not yet built back up. If he is not lame I would work him on a lunge/round pen and get him using his whole body and see how it looks once the stitch is fully healed.
He’s handsome though!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Well to start please give him a proper let down period, it is so beneficial!
second it is entirely possible that since that area is still working on healing that the muscling had atrophied and not yet built back up. If he is not lame I would work him on a lunge/round pen and get him using his whole body and see how it looks once the stitch is fully healed.
He’s handsome though!
Thank you for your answer! This is my first OTTB experience. I totally agree with the let down period. However, as he was racing and training until last friday, I did not want to make him quit exercise "cold turkey". We are currently trying to teach him how to work on a lunge, as it seems he does not know how. He is very intelligent and willing though, and he learns fast.
 

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Hi,

Firstly, I noticed in the first pic that your saddle is sitting over the top of his scapula - that won't be helping anything & I'd want to only use a well fitting saddle with good shoulder clearance.

Yeah, it looks like Sweeney to me, and your description of his accident/injury sounds like a likely cause of this. The 'old fashioned' condition, due to ill fitting collars & heavy loads is considered potentially permanent, but this is uncommon these days & only really affects driving horses(& to my knowledge I've never seen that one personally). But the 'acute' condition can come about suddenly, after injuries such as you described, but tends to be mostly healable - the horse may still have atrophy of scapula muscles, but it doesn't effect it's movement.

**I'm not up with any recent info on this condition that may advise otherwise, but I thought the 'treatment' for acute Sweeney after an accident was rest, which can take many months for the nerve to heal & that it can retard healing, or do further damage exercising the horse before it's healed. So I'd caution you NOT to ride or lunge the horse at least until you've spoken to an equine vet about it.
 

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I suspect it was not Sweeney shoulder but perhaps the muscle was injured rather than the nerve, and it is still rebuilding. Sometimes if muscle fibers are torn they never take on a completely normal appearance even though they function normally. But TBs can have pronounced shoulders anyway, so even a little muscle loss could make his shoulder appear that way, and I suspect it will return to normal with exercise.

My experience with Sweeney shoulder was from a horse that ran into another, bigger horse right at the point of his shoulder. The nerve was damaged, and it causes severe lameness, which appears like the horse can't stand on the leg, but it is only the range of motion that is affected. With a lot of rehab the horse was able to regain a lot of the motion in the front leg, but after three months it was still very obvious. Meaning, he walked with a pronounced limp. It took more like a year for him to have a decent shoulder motion, and there was always a bit of a hitch to his gait. If your horse appears completely sound already, I'd suspect the nerve was not damaged, or it was very minor damage.
 

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Quest is a 17.2hh chestnut OTTB gelding
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Our coaches have tons of experience retraining racehorses. The first thing they do when the horse comes off the track, is give it at least 1-2 months to mentally reset - more if healing from injuries.
During this time they work on manners, take them for walks in hand and turn them out, but no lunge work, riding or anything that requires teaching the horse something new.

After this point the horse will begin to lose its racing muscles, and the retraining work can begin. Letting them lose the racing muscles should help them to correctly build the muscles they need for their new job. As you know the racehorses are worked on one side so naturally they are much stronger on that side.

The rest period also allows time to relax and "just be a horse", which they generally don't get at the track.
 
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