LAMENESS?! No heat/swelling

So my horse seemed off on Wednesday, slight head bob and wasn’t right on the left front at the trot. Sound at the walk but did notice him take a few weird lame steps when on the gravel. He’s shod all around. Thursday he was quite lame at the trot. No heat or swelling. Took him to the vet today thinking just an abscess. He didn’t react to hoof testers and they pulled his shoe and scraped a bit but couldn’t find anything and didn’t want to go to deep. They asked if I wanted to do x-rays just to make sure and I being cheap said no, still hoping for an abscess. So they sent me on my way instructed to soak him and wrap him for an abscess. Well now it’s midnight and I’ve spent the last 3hrs researching and now I’m totally regretting that decision and am panicking. It’s sounding a lot like a coffin bone fracture, it seems like abscess generally cause a crippling lameness and he’s not terrible and it was progressive the first two days. Also when I rolled up to pick him up today he ran to me bucking in his field, not seeming to be in much pain… He didn’t seem to appear really lame on the grass in the field but was still quite lame on the hard ground (was lame on both grass and road yesterday). Could this still be an abscess or an I probably looking at something bigger? Kicking myself now for now getting x-rays and will most likely go back this week.

Yes, abscesses can present in a lot of different ways so don’t start imagining the worst. I have a tendency to do that too, so I understand what you’re going through. Sometimes abscesses can cause on-off lameness for weeks before either resolving themselves naturally or coming to a head. Sometimes you can have so much lameness it looks like a broken leg. Sometimes you can discover an abscess exit wound and never even see any lameness - as it happened so quickly you missed it.


Give it, maybe, 3-4 days, hand walk only, soak. If no improvement, time for the vet and x ray or maybe ultrasound of the lower foreleg. Know it’s tough on a budget but blocking bottom up to identify the exact source of the pain before imaging actually can save you over randomly guessing what to take pics of. If you are lucky, he’ll block out on the first site.

Even though there’s no heat or swelling, this could very well be soft tissue damage higher up. Broken coffin bone is pretty drastic and nothing really pinpoints it. IMO and IME.

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It could be anything; an abscess brewing, a bruise, a mild soft tissue strain. Agree with @findeight it would be a bit drastic to suspect a fracture. Give it a few days. If it doesn’t resolve, have the vet do a lameness evaluation and then flex/block/radiograph (or ultrasound), depending on what is recommended.

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Block before any diagnostic imaging :wink:
So you can hopefully pin point where he’s lame, then explore further.

Agree with BSR and hand walk only for a few days. Low dose NSAIDs if you’ve got 'em, once a day.

My OTTB presented similarly to your horse early in the summer. Lame at the walk on the first day, then lame at just the trot on the left for. Vet pulled the shoe and blocking showed that the pain was in the foot. Not reactive to hoof testers, she said to wait to see what he did over the weekend. Come Monday, he was sound and has been ever since, and we never got to the root of what caused the lameness.