Hi COTH Hivemind, looking for feedback/ideas, vet will be involved, typical disclaimer, etc. I’m not sure if this belongs better in the dressage or horse care forum.
I have a hot hot sensitive Lusitano gelding (typical of the breed, but this guy can be extra reactive) who is dragging the left hind toe. The severity is intermittent through the session and long term-- he has had periods of a few weeks over the past 8 mos I’ve had him where his behavior declines and he seems unhappy in the work, spooking, very stiff, and otherwise is a superstar, has obvious talent for the upper levels, and a great work ethic. Other than the spooking out of nowhere occasionally which is getting much better since I got him, his major issues under saddle are that his LL canter is significantly stronger than the RL, he can be stiff bending left, and he struggles to maintain the canter in straightness on long sides and diagonals.
I moved him to my trainer’s barn (Trainer 1) in the beginning of January touching the third level work and since then we’ve improved canter half pass, working on tempis on the good days, and playing with half steps. He tries really hard and has never taken an obviously lame step under saddle or on the longe. However, with the increased workload the toe dragging is definitely becoming worse, to the point where he is making the left hind toe square. He drags the right toe a tiny bit but the wear on the toe is insignificant relative to the left. The past three rides he has been struggling to maintain the left lead canter and stay on the outside rein and swings his butt into the wall in the transitions walk-trot or trot-canter going right (swings his butt left). He first did this in a lesson with Trainer 2, who worked me through it that day riding shoulders to the wall, haunches in, leg yields to the right, but he was doing it more significantly yesterday and I made it clear that he couldn’t blow through my outside leg in the transitions by swinging his butt and finished for the day by putting him on the longe-- I think he was a little touchy right hind but nothing severe.
Farrier has said that the toe drag was definitely there but that at the time (a week ago) he wasn’t lame. Her comment is that he walks like a 17hh horse behind and a 15hh horse in front (he is about 15.2hh). He has a 8-10 in overtrack at the walk and looks like he is ‘skating’ behind sometimes at the trot but he doesn’t feel weird under saddle. He was seen by the chiro ~2 weeks ago who said he was “all left” and needed to develop muscle on the right but otherwise his spine looked great. I know this, his saddle is adjusted to compensate. Both recommended caveletti work which we started with Trainer 1 and he is terrified of going over the poles but can be convinced at the walk so far (this seems ridiculous, I know, but probably the result of poor management before I got him and he will walk over on the ground if I go first).
When I got him he had a severely contracted right front heel that my farrier has been working on and is slowly opening up and healing. He’s probably been dealing with this most of his life and we’re fixing it at 12 years old. With the wet season we’ve been treating for thrush.
My thoughts: have we brought something up by messing with the tall heel he’s been compensating for his whole life? Hock arthritis? A silly evasion? Something cropping up after increasing the workload?
Just to add another layer-- he is not mine. I have him on a year lease with the intent to help the owner sell him this summer (eye roll). So I’m hesitant to dump hours of my time and thousands of my dollars into this just to give him up in ~six months.