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Am I Holding on to False Hope

Hello All,

I’ve posted a few times about my quarter horse who has minor navicular changes in his front right, tore his left front DDFT, then tore his right front DDFT and managed to have minor laminitis last summer. He is 17 years old and been on and off working in between the injuries about 3 years. I have a fantastic lameness vet and farrier team that have substantially helped me throughout this process since I’ve moved to this new state. In summer 2016 he had laminitis but it was minor no rotation but my farrier had a death in the family so he stayed in these huge wedged heels for a couple weeks we did extensive x-rays. Got some better shoeing and took him off 24/7 turnout. Now he is out 8 hours and in the rest of the time. Diet has been adjusted as well. In October of 2016 horse tears DDFT according to US so we opt for 4 weeks of the regenerative laser 3x a week, completely heals tear and new tissue has grown in. March 2017 horse starts presenting lame on right front and so shockwave and magnawave are done for some body soreness adjustments to shoeing for navicular.

Immediate progress. May 2017 tear in right front DDFT but no change to the navicular angles everything seems pretty good. So June 2017 decide to laser right front to see if we can get the same effect as completely healed left front (KNOCK on WOOD). Random body soreness and mysterious hind end lameness shows up a week later, tripping, trouble navigating hind end over poles. Diagnosed with EPM currently on second round of Marquis and this is the last week of laser. Good news hind end has drastically improved and muscle wasting that took place is slowly building back up from short walk/trot rides. EPM blood test came back mildly positive (apparently there are a lot of false positives)

If you’re still following me, yesterday horse comes up completely dead lame in the right front. Vet and I agree probably abscess because wait for it…He’s got a keratoma that’s been hanging out for quite some time in that right front as well. (we’ve known about it but it didn’t really affect him enough to have the surgery and its been getting smaller)

So COTH, I’m about 6-7k in on this horse just since January of this year. I’ve owned him for 4 years he is now 17 requires corrective expensive shoes up front, his supplements run me about $150 a month (hoof, vitamin E, probiotic… so on) I am completely in love with this horse as I have known him since 2010 and he is fabulous to be around temperament wise and so so athletic its stupid how much has happened just in the past year. Is he telling me he wants to retire? He’d still be quite the expensive pasture puff and here’s the kicker will put other horses in the corner and kick the crap out of them. Very food aggressive with other horses. Acts like a puppy dog around humans will absolutely lick you to death. He’s small maybe 15.1 on a good day.

Retirement options:
Stay at my current boarding barn and pull unnecessary items, pay off vet bill and just let him be. Farrier only travels to me becuase vet is a good friend all of his clients are required to trailer in.

Pick a retirement place 2 hours away. probably much cheaper. Not sure if he will be in a stall probably pasture with no supplements and mostly grass diet. probably will not keep fancy shoes either depending on barns farrier.

Am I being absolutely ridiculous or have I created some sort of fantasy in my head that I could fix this horse? I know none of you can tell me what to do or not do but if anyone is in a similar situation or has dealt with the constant horse just breaking themselves enough to where they need your care but not enough to stop fixing them?


Pictures: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3014068306757.1073741841.1114020806&type=1&l=cfbbd49add

Well, if this were my horse, I’d do what I have already done twice, which is either euthanize the horse or retire it.

But I only retire horses if A) I have the money to sustain the animal’s needs medically speaking (I’m talking the usual feed, hay, the usual vet care, etc…not hundreds of dollars of supplements a month, must be in therapeutic shoes, etc) and B) the animal can actually retire well… that means not in constant pain, not needing constant medication, can enjoy turnout, in other words can enjoy BEING A HORSE.

I realize you didn’t mention euthanasia, but it’s a reality for a horse that can no longer do a job and can’t maintain a reasonable level of comfort with reasonable care. How you choose to define “reasonable”, though, tends to be highly personal.

I wouldn’t feel good about retiring a horse that needs therapeutic shoes, can only tolerate 8 hrs of turnout and needs tons of supplements just to exist semi-comfortably. But that’s me, not you. You have to decide what your threshold is. I based my protocol above not based on what I necessarily want in any given situation, but what is best for the horse in any given situation.

Best of luck: it’s never easy, but it is often simple.


It sounds like there is maybe more going on (something like Cushings maybe) underlying a lot of this. He doesn’t sound like a great candidate for a casual retirement place or like he will be cheap to retire.


It sounds like you really like him and have the means to keep trying to fix him and want to fix him. If this is the case, fix him. It doesn’t sound like any of these things on their own are necessarily retirement worthy but you are with the horse and better understand the affect on him as a whole.

I have been going along a similar path with one of my horses for the past three years…a series of minor injuries that required rehab then a serious injury that vets said he would not recover from and he did and then another serious injury which I thought might kill him but he is doing well again and it looks like he will continue to be a riding horse.

I have the means to continue to rehab him so I will as long as it means he is not suffering unnecessarily. He is not a candidate for a rehab facility but luckily he lives at home with me so I can cater to his every whim. :wink:

I just wanted to mention that my horse tore DDFT at P2 and navicular, distal sesamoid and collateral ligament and he was on stall rest with hand walking only for 6 months, then walking under saddle for another month and the 2 minutes of trot for 2 weeks etc. It was well over a year before he was doing “normal” flat work. 4 weeks just doesn’t seem possible to heal a tendon tear.


Doesn’t sound like you can fix him…I’d look for the retirement option I could afford in which he’d be comfortable. If his pain can’t be controlled, I’d have him euthanized. I won’t let an animal carry on long term with pain


I agree with Abbie.S
Very sorry you’re going through this

I spent over 2 years and thousands of dollars trying to keep my horse with similar issues (ddft, navicular, he had persistent abscesses) comfortable enough for retirement, and did not succeed. He was never able to really enjoy living pain free outside for long before another round of abscesses or tendon trouble, and I regret I tried that long to “fix him.”


If he were mine and I had a boarding only option I would euthanize. I know it seems cold hearted, but I just can’t justify boarding a horse I can’t use. It is too expensive.

What you choose to do is your business, but with all his soundness issues and the fact that you are obviously in debt because of it, tells me you cannot afford what he needs. Let him go now and remember him the way he is.

Plenty of horses out there that won’t be so draining ( emotionally- financially) and a new one will find a place in your heart as well.


Time for a serious chat with your vet about the prognosis for each injury. If he’s okay apart from the probable abscess then I wouldn’t hesitate to treat the abscess. However, if he’s not really recovering from the other stuff you have to start thinking about the accumulation of straw. As in the straw that broke the camel’s back.

How much is too much includes the horse’s quality of life, your ability to provide a situation that supports his issues, physically, mentally AND financially.

Look at what has happened, how it happened and think about how likely it for him to get into a similar situation again. It’s hard, but you have to be brutally honest with yourself, and ask your vet to be honest, not optimistic. You have to decide what you are willing to do after that, but it is so easy to get trapped in the downward spiral of managing an ever increasing number of apparently minor issues.


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Guess it depends on your budget, how much can you spend without messing with YOUR quality of life? He sounds expensive for basic upkeeep.

You have done your best, but I don’t think things will improve dramatically. You don’t say how he hurts himself. Some just can’t play nice, have to go all out to reinjure themselves constantly.

I would say Abby put it very well, with Sancudo sharing her experiences and money not fixing the horse.

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A retirement place 2 hours away would not work for me. Since he has had a bout of laminits before he would surely founder if retired completely on pasture. Who will be there to see if he is comfortable or in pain? If he can’t be in a field grazing what kind of life would it be? We keep them alive for us, we euthanize to avoid further pain for them.


If the retirement place is a good one, I’d go with that. Wean him off all the meds and fancy treatments meant to speed healing and get them back to work quicker. Pull the shoes and turn him out and leave him hat way or a FULL year. It sounds like he’s never really had the opportunity to heal and I bet he’s sick if being poked, prodded, tested, tolerated imaging equipment in the name of getting him back to work quicker (.and paying for the vets new office?).

You don’t need to be there every day, there’s nothing to do but see if he will heal himself enough to go back to light, unmedicated work or retirement. Career is probably done.

Give him a shot at some golden years and real time to see if he will heal. Think nothing wrong with euth being on the table here, just not the centerpiece at the moment. Back off trying to fix it and let him just be a horse in the fresh air and sunshine. Seen that work enough times to recommend it and it certainly doesn’t hurt the horse or have any side effects, scary treatments or drug interactions. Substantially reduces cost for you too.

A very good vet I met socially recently confessed nobody, vets included, wants to give them the time off they really heed to heal…many owners think anything to get them back ASAP is the best thing for the horse. It’s not. Time to heal is the best thing and vet has starting to tell the hard truth they need time, not treatments only possible because insurance pays for a chunk of them.

Of course vet has found many owners and trainers will just get another vet but is comfortable with that decision on their part because vet went with the truth and best interests of the horse.

See where he is in a year…As in a full 12 months, 365 days, not 3 months followed by 5 months of treatments and 4 months of slow rehab,. A year. Off.

And don’t feel guilty about starting to worry about the mounting vet bills. That’s fair, don’t get let yourself get guilted into continuing by well meaning friends under the theory it’s best for the horse to get back to work. No it’s not, it’s best for the trainer to get the horse back and the vets to sell their treatments and meds. Best for horse to be left alone to heal and for you to take a break on costs for things that are not creating improvement.

Be remiss not to add horses might be older then believed and teeth are not accurate by mid teens, can be off by 4 or more years (mine was). Know you said he was a QH, assuming you have papers and foaling date. But for others in similar situations, horse might be 20 or 21 and maybe their body is ready to retire but they are good horses and will keep soldiering on for you against their best interests because they were bred and trained to do as told. Don’t forget or take advantage of that generous heart.

I cannot tell you what to do but I can tell you my story and you can decide if it is a cautionary tale. I feel your pain. Quite a few years ago I had what I thought would be my dream horse. She was 12 when I got her; needed under saddle training but was wonderful to be around - all who met her immediately fell in love. Less than 1 year after I bought her she fractured her heel and became navicular-like. I did rest, rehab, corrective shoeing, wash, rinse repeat - for 5 years. At the end of the 5 years she tore her DDTF. I was ready to do shockwave therapy but the vet said, “We can do shockwave but I have to tell you, she has a lot of other problems with her feet.”

I went home an cried all weekend, then called the vet to tell him I was retiring the mare. She has actually found a home and a job as a walk-only lesson horse. (Long story to this, but she looks good and seems happy.) I do not regret trying to rehab my mare, but I do regret almost 5 years of lost riding time. In hindsight, I probably should have stopped after the first couple of years, but she was such a special horse, I was forever hopeful for her recovery.