OP, I don’t envy you. I had a similar situation with my gelding, and trying to figure out what was wrong with him was so frustrating. The good news is…we DID figure it out and he’s a much happier horse now.
I’ll try to keep this short (yeah, no…that didn’t happen. Prepare for a novel…), but basically his issues started out as behavior (uncharacteristically spooky and tense and explosive). His back was definitely sore. I had a DVM chiro work on him twice and he HATED it both times. She said his back was basically going into spasms and suggested supplementing with magnesium (to help muscles relax), and working him over ground poles, and backing him a lot to strengthen his topline.
The magnesium definitely helped him be more comfortable overall (better for grooming and bathing…both of which he’d loved at one time, but could hardly tolerate anymore). I did the exercises over poles and backing as much as possible, but we didn’t have a lot of poles at the barn and because his back was still so tender, I wasn’t riding much. I longed and worked with him in hand, and really didn’t see a lot of improvement in his back.
Enter the new farrier/trimmer, who is really amazing. She saw immediately that his angles were not good, especially behind. She suspected NPA (not confirmed via x-ray, but just looking at his feet) and explained how this would cause issues in his back and loin (he was sensitive over his loin area). So, she started her work of correcting his feet.
During this period, his topline was sad. This was a horse who had been roly-poly with a crease down his back and rump. He’s an appaloosa with a halter bred sire and western pleasure bred dam. He was born stout and chunky, it’s how he’s supposed to look. His SI was prominent now, hip bones prominent, backbone prominent. Just nothing at all like he’s supposed to look.
Saddle fit was the next avenue we went down. I’d gotten a new saddle that I thought would work for him. I was wrong. Saddle fitter came out and made adjustments, admitted it wasn’t “perfect” but should be fine. Horse thought otherwise. I finally stopped riding in that saddle and on a whim bought yet another one (Wintec Isabelle). I had a feeling that he would prefer a lighter weight saddle, and the way the saddle is made just sounded perfect for him. This time I was right. He loves the saddle. It fits him perfectly.
With the new saddle and the new trimmer, lots of magnesium on board plus a good joint supplement, he started improving. Our biggest change came when I moved him to the barn/farm adjacent to the one where I’d been boarding. (Farms share riding arena and common riding places, just owned and run by different people). This place was a much better fit for my horse and me…smaller, more individualized care. We had been at the previous place for two years and my gelding never fully settled into the place. To this day, riding past that barn is the only place that he gets nervous and spooky. I don’t know if he still associates it with pain or what, but as soon as we’re past it, he’s back to normal.
Anyway, at the new place he flourished. Calmer, happier. Feet improving, diet improving (more hay, less “grain”), everything going well. Then last fall he went lame in the hind end. I’d never felt anything like it before, it was like he completely lost any drive from behind and couldn’t trot or canter. His trot felt like a gaited horse, there was no push, no two-beat rhythm. He was really struggling. It got to the point that he couldn’t lay down anymore.
Long story slightly less long…it turns out he has some significant arthritis in his right hock and a little in his left. Vet recommended Adequan and Equioxx, and that’s what we’ve been doing ever since (in the middle of his second series of Adequan shots right now, stays on a pill of Equioxx every day and will for the rest of his life if necessary). He’s sound as a pound, relaxed, happy, and looks like a million bucks with a nice topline. Back is never sore, trots and canters under saddle with no issues, loves being groomed and bathed again.
For the record, here’s the list of things that he eats and/or I believe have helped him:
- properly fitting saddle (that the HORSE says fits, not the saddle-fitter)
- change in farrier/trimmer and huge improvement in feet
- Magnesium (between all his supplements and ration balancer, he probably gets 16 grams a day)
- Daily pill of Equioxx
- Fed more hay than at previous barn (given “lunch” when pastures are dormant)
- K.I.S. Trace supplement (lots of good stuff including amino acids)
- ProElite Grass Advantage ration balancer (best feed he’s ever been on)
- Adequan (definitely makes him less creaky and more fluid and forward)
- SmartFlex Ultimate (no idea if it helps but I’m afraid to stop)
- Three Probios treats (soft chews) every day (has a healthy gut and good poop, so I don’t want to stop just in case)