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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Before you chew me out for seeking veterinary advice on the internet, I would like to let you know that I am discussing this with a vet on Monday, when I am able. I am not calling the emergency pager for this. Thanks!

Yesterday, my husband and I rode for about 30 minutes. After the ride, I noticed my husband's horse's front pasterns seemed very upright. He conformationally has somewhat upright pasterns, but they appeared completely vertical the way the horse was standing. I've seen foals with mildly contracted tendons and this is what it looked like, but I have never seen anything like it in an older horse.

He may have been like this before the ride but I did not take note, as my husband was the one to fetch him from the pasture, groom and tack him.

The horse is 23. He was being ridden about 3 times per week during show season (May - October), as he was on lease to a kid who was showing him in 4H. He was competing in HUS and Equitation, on the flat only, and in obstacle trail. Now my husband is his primary rider and my husband only does light riding at the walk and trot about once per week, so his workload has recently decreased.

There has been no change in his diet or turnout situation. It did however drop about 15 degrees in temperature from Friday to Saturday. It went from a high of 45 F to a high of 30 F with 30 mph winds.

Other than his stance, nothing appears wrong. He is not lame out in the pasture, and was not lame at the walk or trot under saddle. He seems to be in a good mood, ears forward, and willing to move. I could not feel anything unusual upon palpation. There was no swelling, heat or obvious tenderness from the bottom of the hoof all the way up to the elbow. He wears front shoes and had a reset about 2 weeks ago.

I say I have never seen this in an older horse, but I have also never owned a horse in his 20's before. Could this be a sign of stiffness from cold temperatures and a decrease in exercise, or could it be the start of something more serious? Has anyone ever had a similar experience?
 

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There is no way to tell by looking. Given his age, he could be getting arthritic. I would talk to my Vet and have an experienced person like him/her evaluate him

There are a couple of things you can do first: You can give him Bute for 2 days (1 gm AM and PM) and see if he travels any differently. If a horse is experiencing pain or discomfort in both front legs, they won't have a limp, but they will travel very differently with the Bute. [If you are going to have a Vet out to look at him, ask the Vet if you can give him Bute for 2 days and see what it does, if anything, several days before he comes out.] Make sure the Bute has worn off before he comes out.

Before you give him any Bute, pick up each front foot and bend it back very tightly. I take the toe and bring it back as tightly as I can toward the back tendon behind the horse's cannon bone. Frequently older horses get very 'tight' fetlocks and show pain when you try to do this. Then, after holding the leg for a couple of minutes with it flexed like this, have someone trot the horse off. If the fetlocks are getting arthritic and painful, this will aggravate them and the horse will be head-bobbing lame as it first trots off.

Do this before your Vet comes. The more information you can give him, the better he can evaluate your horse and you can usually save at least one trip.

Sometimes, you can use injectables like Adequan or Legend or use joint supplements like Cosequin and extend a horse's useful life. Stay away from anti-inflammatories for regular use because they are so hard an a horse's digestive system. You can easily trade arthritis for ulcers and worse.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for your insight! I'll probably skip the bute until the vet comes, but I will try flexing the fetlocks and watch for lameness. I think his left front looks worse than the right as far as the tightness. I see zero change in his way of going. I saw him go for a short gallop around his pasture, bucking and farting. He didn't seem painful in the least. It would be easier to judge if I could watch a more experienced rider ask him to extend. My husband is not asking for a full trot at this point in his riding. He's only asking Rags for a slow trot/jog, so there wasn't much to see during their ride yesterday.
 

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Let us know what the vet says. My mare has one very upright pastern, and it's due to the start of arthritis in her coffin joint, but she is definitely lame. So if your horse is moving freely and galloping, it could be something else. Fingers crossed for you!
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