I imported a nice sale horse back in April, a big, leggy 5-year-old WB gelding. Very nice horse, who vetted well. Shortly after he came, he dropped a bit of weight due to my previous barn’s feeding program (assistant trainer addressed quickly, a long separate story there!), lost some topline, and seemed a little weak behind. Nothing crazy, just chalked it up to import adjustments. The then-assistant and I worked really hard to get him in a good flatwork program and saw lots of improvement. Meanwhile, the horse was showing with me in the 3’ AA hunters, with no noticeable issues.
In early July, the horse gets tried. They love him. At the vetting, he shocked us all and flexed off on the LH. The buyer still loved him, and we agreed to try again a week later, proceeding with the PPE if he flexed fine and moving forward with a lameness exam if there was still an issue. Reader, there was still an issue. The lameness exam, performed by arguably the top lameness practice in the country, was… less than conclusive. No changes to any X-rays; he finally blocked to the LH suspensory, so we ultrasound and got some wishy-washy answer about there maybe being a minor strain (described as a “slight separation of fibers”) to the proximal LH suspensory. Since there was no hole or tear, PRP or stem cells weren’t an option. The diagnosis was to pull his shoes, give him some time off, do shockwave, turnout, and hand walk for three months. He was jogging maybe 2/5 lame at this point.
Now we’re three months later, and there’s been no noticeable change on the ultrasound, but the more I read about ultrasounds on proximal hind suspensories, the more skeptical I am in the diagnosis in the first place. It sounds like muscle and fat can sometimes be misleading on those images, making an MRI a better option. I’ve also not been pleased with the vet’s approach and advice—he didn’t even care to watch the horse jog a few weeks ago and halfheartedly said we could start tack-walking, “I guess.” (Even though the vet didn’t watch, the horse is jogging sound.)
We started laser shortly after that visit with a different practitioner and have seen tremendous improvement—she felt he was having issues higher up in his SI. In just a few laser sessions, he went from being somewhat sensitive to palpation to letting me curry his back quite vigorously and even enjoying it! I’ve been long-lining him at the walk—he’s now a pro!—and is tracking up well and traveling evenly behind. He even trotted off on a tiny circle the other day (still a little fresh, LOL! ) and was moving as well and as sound as he ever has.
I’m not a vet, but I know what I can see with my own eyes, and this horse is feeling and looking great compared to July—my assistant trainer moved out on her own, and he is no longer too thin, has pretty good muscle tone for being out of work, and his bare feet look fantastic. So, what would you do if he were yours? Continue with rehabbing slowly and carefully? Get a second opinion with an MRI?