Horse NQR and Finally Getting Vet Involved: LOOOOONG POST

As strange as it is, in 33 years of horse ownership, I’ve never had one worked up for lameness. Usually any unsoundness has been obvious and upfront to treat. I’ve never been hard on my horses, so there usually hasn’t been much wear and tear.

Milton is a 13yo Appaloosa gelding that I’ve known since birth (actually, since conception, I know is sire, dam and grandsire on his damn’s side). I’ve owned him since he was a year old and have done all of his raising, breaking, training, and riding myself. He’s never really been a horse with lameness issues, but he also hasn’t worked terribly hard in his life. I started him too young (2yo) and I regret that as I wonder if it’s coming back to bite us now. He’s always been a quiet, agreeable boy who has also been a “kick ride” his entire riding life. This boy is never in a hurry to go anywhere. That’s not to say he can’t give me some forward, nice work when the stars align, but it takes a special combination of ample warm-up, at least somewhat consistent riding to keep him sort of fit(ish), and me really being on my game as far as asking for him to come from behind and stay in front of my leg (lots of transitions usually help).

He much prefers being ridden on grass to any kind of other footing. The lovely covered arena where I board seems to be too deep for him (he struggles…I imagine it feels like me trying to walk, jog, run on the beach). The footing seems fine for other horses, but he’s a very flat moving “daisy-clipper” kind of guy who doesn’t pick his feet up much, so it seems like he just gets bogged down in that footing. Our round pen has a harder packed footing and he usually starts out a little stiff in there but eventually works out of it. Grass is definitely his favorite and that’s what he was ridden on pretty much all of the time as a youngster except for the few shows we went to. He did fine at the shows making the switch to arena footing then.

Until today, Milton has been barefoot his entire life. Until about a year ago, he had the same farrier his entire life. I finally made the switch after moving from my farm (which I sold) to the place I board and noticed how everyone else’s horses’ feet looked so much better than Milton’s. The farrier/trimmer I use now is phenomenal and she has made some big improvements to Milton’s feet. He was NPA behind and his toes were way too long all the way around, he had some WLD going on, etc. The first few times she did him, he was pretty sore from the changes that were being made, but usually worked through it in a couple of days. And honestly, it wasn’t unusual for him to be sore after his former farrier trimmed him either. Sometimes he was, sometimes he wasn’t. There was no rhyme or reason to it that I could see.

I made the decision about a week or so ago that I wanted front shoes (my farrier only does glue-ons) on him just to see if that made him more comfortable up front and helped him want to move out more. He’d been doing well, but I wanted to be proactive and help him in any way I could.

Over the past few weeks, I got a wild hair and decided to switch his supplements around, pulling him off of his normal joint supplement (which was working fine) and putting him on yucca thinking it might…I don’t know…be some miracle thing that made him feel even better than he already did. Keep in mind, he hasn’t really been “lame” at this point other than the occasional foot soreness after trims and whenever he’s walked over rocks, etc. Riding him has been fine.

During this time, I also bought and started using the Equiband system on him to encourage him to use his hind end more properly. That really seemed to work and he actually seemed to enjoy it? Which seems weird but whatever! I was happy he liked it.

After making the change from the joint supplement to yucca, and also cutting his magnesium supplement (which he was on for calming and a tense back) in half (10g down to 5g), I noticed he was a little stiff one day in the round pen when I lunged him. Almost head bobbing. When I got on to ride him a few days later, yikes! He felt like he had four flat tires. He had absolutely NO “go” and just felt like he had forgotten how to bend or do transitions or anything. It was such a strange feeling that I got off of him and lunged him out in the field to see what was going on. Other than being VERY lazy and not at all eager to do anything above a walk (though I did get him to trot and canter), I couldn’t really see any lameness. Still, I knew he wasn’t right, so I quit and put him up, vowing I wouldn’t ride him again until he got his new shoes. In terms of what I was feeling under saddle, the only way I can describe it was that I could barely post he was so…smooth? Like there was zero thrust coming from behind and he had the emergency brake on the entire time. As I said, he’s never been a “forward thinking” horse anyway, but we had made progress and he was doing SO much better. It’s like every bit of our progress in getting him using his back in and moving forward went ‘poof’ and he felt worse than ever.

I lunged him twice this past week and both times he started out kind of questionable but worked out of it and looked okay. Not fabulous, but not horrible. Certainly not lame.

By this time I had ceased the yucca and put him back on the joint supplement, hoping that would help him feel better.

One trouble area that I’ve always been aware of is his right hind. It’s a little more turned out (not horrible, but it is what it is) than the left hind, and it seems to be the weaker leg that doesn’t quite push as much and has less range of motion.

Today after he got his fancy (expensive) new shoes, the first thing he did was walk off sore on his fronts, which really freaked me and everyone including the farrier out. These are like Easy Boot glue-ons. His hoof is totally incased and he’s got Magic Cushion packed in them as well. I walked him around a little and he got better, so we’re thinking he was expecting to be sore (and may have been from the trim), but the more he walked around the more he at least seemed to get used to the shoes and understood that his feet wouldn’t hurt.

So I tacked up and got on and the farrier wanted to see him go. He walked fine, nice and forward, marching along, but the trot was the same feeling as I’d had the last time I’d ridden him. He just wasn’t pushing from behind at all and seemed really, really reluctant to do much. The farrier noticed when he was walking away from her that his right hind was showing a significant lack of range of motion compared to the left.

I took him out in the field and walked for a bit, then tried trotting again. He still felt sucked back and like there was just no oomph at all. I could barely get off his back to post he was moving so…shuffly? And at times it was almost impossible to keep him trotting. He also had no intentions of cantering, and this is a horse that normally loves to canter.

I went back near the barn where the farrier was and she and everyone else at the barn watched me trot him again a little. I then asked for right lead canter, and that went pretty well (pushing off with LEFT hind is easier…makes sense). I asked for left lead canter too and he did it that time, though not happily, but that’s not terribly unusual for him. He actually felt better after that, and the farrier agreed and said to go ahead and ride him, see if he worked out of it.

So back out into the big field we went and I sort of insisted that he go. The more he went, the better he got. He cantered on both leads, trotted more forward (posting was easier, there was a little oomph finally), and even trotted over a ground rail or two, though none of this was done very enthusiastically.

On top of everythig else, he has respiratory issues (undiagnosed/unscoped but all the symptoms of being a “roarer”). I’ve never had him scoped as he spent a few years as a pasture pet and his most taxing work has been w/t/c around on the rail for maybe 30-45 minutes a few times a week. But I did notice that his breathing has been a little more labored and loud the past few times I’ve ridden, and I’ve wondered if he might have allergies kicking up (again…never tested, but he’s the poster child for allergies…always itchy, hair falls out on face, scabby legs, etc.)

So, he acted like I’d ridden him into the ground by the time we were done today, and I dragged him back to the barn, hosed him off, gave him some treats and took him out to the pasture where he drank deeply in the water tank and then just went and stood over by the fence with his buddy and looked exhausted and pitiful.

So! That entire novel to say, I called the vet today and have asked for them (well, her…their lameness vet expert) to come out and do a full work-up on him. She’s coming Oct. 15, and I’m actually excited, hoping that she’ll find something that is fixable or treatable to make my boy more comfy. He’s such a good egg, and I love him so much. He tries so hard, even when he’s not feeling well, and I want to do anything I can for him.

If anyone has read this saga and has noticed any red flags for things I should make sure she looks at, tests for, etc. please let me know. I know she’s going to do the normal lameness work-up, hoof testers, flexion, blocking, ultrasound, x-ray, etc. I’m thinking about getting blood drawn to test for IR too (given the touchy front feet). I’m not sure if they can x-ray his front feet with the glue-on Easy Boots on, but that’s something that needs to be done at some point. I truly feel like the hind end, especially right hind, is an issue.

Any other bloodwork I should have done? EPM? Lyme? PSSM?

I want to leave no stone unturned. I love riding him, but if he cannot be ridden comfortably anymore, he’ll live out his days at this beautiful farm being the world’s biggest pasture pet and equine therapist for his mama (me).

Oh, and we are doing a clinic with an animal communicator tomorrow! I’m not sure how much I believe in that stuff, but it seemed like something fun to do with him that won’t tax him physically. Anything I should ask her? (Anything HE should ask her? LOL)

I wonder if I should continue to try to ride him or just stay off of him and let him rest until the vet comes?

Bless anyone who read all of this. I think I needed to get it all out so that I can give a good history to the vet in a couple of weeks. I’m grateful for any insight, advice, stories about your own NQR horses that have had similar symptoms, etc.

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I’m sorry you and Milton are in this position. It’s tough to say - it could be a total imbalance of the hooves. It could be a stock-horse type disease like PSSM.

Do you have videos of him going, and pictures of his feet?

The entire time I was reading it, it reminded me of something I went through with a TB of mine - especially the footing preferences and lack of oomph… We x-rayed his feet and discovered a startling 5mm of sole depth… So close to road founder I think we were real lucky. He went into corrective shoeing immediately, I fired his farrier and never looked back.

Jingles for an easy diagnosis and quick fix on the 15th. Please keep us updated.

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Thank you, @beowulf. I don’t have any really good pictures of his feet or videos of him going, especially going the way he’s going now (questionable soundness).

The person who does his feet now is a highly trained barefoot trimmer and rehab specialist. She is all about balancing his feet and they were very out of whack when she started. His feet used to look horrible just a few weeks into a cycle, and once she started doing them he looked fabulous. He was sore the first time she did him for sure, but she made some changes (not too much, but it still made him sore). He was sore a couple of times after that, but then he got so he was fine when she trimmed him. He’s only recently started being sore again after getting his feet done.

I’m wondering about metabolic issues where his feet are concerned. He’s a big horse and his feet are relatively small by comparison (thanks to his halter and western pleasure breeding).

There are probably several issues, and it’s just time for them to all pop out at once. I’m wondering if using the Equibands, which did get him using his hind end more and stepping under more evenly with both hinds, may have taxed that right hind a bit too much?

I’ve also noticed his feet cracking a bit more these past two trim cycles than before. And there’s some WLD showing up on his left hind…but he had a chunk out of that one, so I’m not surprised.

Ugh. They’re so much less complicated when they’re pasture puffs that never do a day’s work and stay sound as a pound. The moment you want to actually RIDE them…they fall apart.

We shall see. Tomorrow the Animal Communicator gets a crack at him (that should be entertaining at least, lol), and in two weeks the vet gets down to business. I’m feeling optimistic. Regardless of the outcome, he will get whatever he needs. He doesn’t owe me anything. He’s my buddy. :slight_smile:

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What a lucky boy to have such a dedicated owner! I will follow this thread with interest as my mare has had some similar issues. The barn where she lives has 3 arenas and one of them has fairly deep footing. She can have a hard time in that ring and seems to prefer the grass fields, even when they’re dry and hard. She also has the same lack of “oomph” at times and has a habit of panting after any sort of exertion despite overall decent fitness levels. Two years ago we did a long format 3 day and she would still pant after a few minutes of trotting, but it came down very quickly.

Wish I had something helpful to contribute but wanted to let you know you’re not alone!

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Jingling for you & Milton.
He sounds like a good egg & you obviously take great care of him.

No advice except with the Communicator:
Let them tell you (through Milton) what’s going on.
If they don’t get to the lameness issue, then ask a non-direct question like: “What’s going on when I ride?”

Hope between that - even if only for funsies - & your vet you can figure out what’s up :crossed_fingers:

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Thanks guys. It is good to know I’m not alone. And yes, @2DogsFarm, those are my thoughts exactly regarding the animal communicator. Though, unless he’s greatly improved tomorrow, I think the fact that he’s sore is going to be pretty obvious. I just went out to check on him and give him a couple grams of bute and the poor guy will hardly walk! I took him out and made him hand walk for a bit in the big field around the arena and the more we walked the better he got, but if we’d stop for even a few seconds he acted like starting again was soooo hard. I tried backing him up and that was really difficult too for him. It’s definitely his front feed bothering him right now though. He acts like he just doesn’t know what to do with them and he’s walking on eggshells everywhere. He’s landing almost dramatically heel-first in front now, which he never did before. If anything, he kind of landed a little toe-first before getting these shoes.

This is the kind of thing he’s wearing:

https://www.easycareinc.com/our_boots/Easyboot-Glue-On.asp

I have pictures of them on him, but I’m trying to remember how to post them.

I hope the bute makes him feel better tonight while he’s out grazing with his old buddy. They’re a pair. Milton is 10 years younger but looks like he feels 100 years older right now! Bless him.

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The “flat tire” feeling screams hind proximal suspensory injury to me. I’d be sure those are ultrasounded, as they can masquerade as hock issues.

If he blocks to the front feet, I’d want hoof balance x-rays up front before pulling the shoes for regular x-rays. Also keep in mind that not all horses tolerate hoof packing. You may need to find someone to try a normal shoe on him at some point.

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Thank you for this!
Will she be able to do any x-rays with the glue-on Easy Boots in place?

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Any chance he’s getting sole-pressured from the glue-ons? I have no experience with those particular boots, but I have had horses object to pour-in pads or certain kinds of packing under pads. It’s usually a footsore, lame everywhere, refuse to move sort of feeling. If you’re committed to glue-ons, it might be worth trying a more traditional glue-on that doesn’t affect the sole.

I also agree with @joiedevie99 that the two flat tires feeling is very suspicious of bilateral hind proximal suspensory issues. But, at least IME, they don’t usually look uncomfortable just walking around.

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I don’t know, but I would assume so. We typically take hoof balance x-rays with the shoes still on, then pull them for x-rays that analyze the coffin and navicular bones. Generally speaking though, your vet will use physical exams (straight line and circle, hard and soft ground, and with rider weight) to narrow down a general leg/area of concern. Then he/she will block the leg starting 1-2 blocks below the area of concern (unless its the heel, you can’t get lower than that). There are only so many blocks you can do in a day, so sometimes you need to table the exam for a second appointment, just FYI.

Sole pressure from the boots is my guess but wanted to ask why you chose those. It says they are only meant to be left on for a max of ten days, I see no point in that personally. If you need glue on shoes why not Sigafoos?

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My first guess for the reluctance to move was also sole pressure from the new shoes and packing. I believe you can do x-rays with those on. If you look at Daisy Bicking’s website I think she uses those or something similar and has some x-rays posted on there.

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Hugs to you and Milton - he sounds like a tryer, and you’re a great owner to keep after this.

In addition to the lameness work-up (which everyone else has advised you on already and I have nothing to add there), I would also ask about the respiratory issues. If he’s having trouble breathing well under saddle, that would also explain his lack of go. I know when my allergies and sinus issues are flaring, I have zero energy to do anything - I feel like I’m walking through frozen syrup, and breathing is impossible. He may need an antihistamine, or something else. I’m not saying that would be the entire problem, as it also sounds like there could be a soundness issue, but it could be on top of the other issue.

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I’m another voice for potentially too much pressure on the sole at least contributing to the more obvious soreness. My lease mare is a tough cookie EXCEPT for her feet, and when her farrier tried a pad meant to support her frog she was instantly acting exactly like Milton: reluctant to move, looked 100 years old even though she’s not. She has a basic leather pad in there now, but her farrier has to be careful how much he packs it or he’ll be coming back to fix it.

Eager to hear how your appointment goes on the 15th.

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Sent you an email, but also wanted to mention that I switched from Equiband to Eagle Prosix with startling good results.

Thanks for the continuing advice and support.

As for why these glue-ons, the farrier has been using them like this for many years, and everyone I’ve known that has used them (which is four people at our barn) has had good results with this set-up. Usually, the advice is to use these for two or three trim cycles and there should be improvement in sole thickness.

I do feel, though, that Milton doesn’t find them comfortable. I can’t tell if it’s that his trimmed hoof is tender and the pressure of the boot around that newly trimmed hoof is painful, or if, as you guys mention, it’s the pressure of the sole packing and boot. Or possibly both. The question is whether he’s going to get used to them in time and be more comfortable, or whether I need them pulled off ASAP. I know how miserable I am if my feet hurt in a pair of uncomfortable shoes, and I don’t want Milton to have to experience that for another moment if that’s the case.

His feet are my main concern right now. But the other issues were present before his feet got done/boots put on yesterday, so that will be addressed on the 15th.

And I agree that his respiratory issues could be a major factor in his lack of “go” right now. It’s strange, the weather has been nicer/cooler with less humidity lately, which usually makes his breathing easier, but it hasn’t been the case this year.

If he’s still miserable in his boots today, I’m calling the farrier and asking if I can take them off. That’s a LOT of money down the drain, but I can’t let him hurt. I heard her say she DOES do “regular glue-ons” I think, so that sounds like a possible plan. I’ll ask her about that. I just went with these because that’s what I’ve seen at our barn and with good results, and they’re what she recommended for trying to help him grow a thicker sole.

I paid $500 for this horse 12 years ago as a neglected, malnourished yearling. I literally got him because I felt sorry for him and I needed another horse to help keep the pastures grazed down at my old place. Now he’s the “only horse” and he’s relishing in his ability to put a dent in my bank account, LOL. He’s worth it.

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Agreed; sole pressure is not unusual at all. Why glue ons at all? I have to admit I didn’t get through the whole original post but was thinking - just put some shoes on and see how it changes things - by the end of a few paragraphs.

A good trim and some basic shoes might be all he needs. I mean, xrays wouldn’t be useless either. But before I assumed that there was additional lameness issues to consider, I’d start with basic hoof protection with no pads/packing, etc.

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This farrier only does glue-ons. She’s primarily a barefoot trimmer and therapeutic hoof specialist. She teaches courses in hoof care and how to do rehabilitative trimming and shoeing. I know that doesn’t mean much, and it sounds absurd to defend someone who has lamed my horse, but for the majority of a year he’s been doing so great and in fact so much better with her as my farrier than he did for the majority of his life before that with my old farrier (who left toes long, heels low, and Milton’s feet always looked like a hot mess by the time he was due for another trim).

I’m wondering if he’ll tell the Animal Communicator today: “Tell my stupid mother to take these #$^%&ing boots off my feet!!!”

Because that’s what I think I’m “reading” loud and clear. Damnit. Having good intentions doesn’t always work out.

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I don’t know that I would go so far as to stay she’s lamed your horse. You’ve just tried something that doesn’t work for him. I can’t wear Dansko clogs even though other people love them. They cripple me.

I’d probably take the shoes off if he is still sore today. Unfortunately.

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No, you’re right. I don’t think she lamed him. I was more-or-less looking at it from the viewpoint of someone who doesn’t know my farrier. She’s actually the absolute BEST. I have spoken with her twice this morning. Once before I talked to my BO and once after. She was set to come back out this morning (her day off) to pull the shoes and try something else. I then called my BO to ask how he is today, and she said he walked in from the pasture great! In fact, she said he was more spry than usual! Well alrighty then! So I called farrier back and said not to come. She said she would consider herself “on call” for Milton today, LOL, and that if I need her to call. She wants to know how he is doing. (This is a lady who randomly texts me just to ask how “Himself”…as she calls him…is doing. I’m blessed.)

So it’s on to the Animal Communicator, which the farrier laughs about and totally doesn’t believe in…neither do I, honestly, this is for entertainment and involvement with my BO and some other ladies who are hauling in. Why not? A fool and her money are easily parted!

I’ll check in later after the voodoo is over. It lasts four hours! Should be interesting!

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