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The Magical, Mystery Lameness Tour

By Cindy Hale

Thursday, November 3, 2011

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$600 fetlock
I know it doesn't seem in any way special, but what you're looking at is a $600 fetlock.

Remember how I just wrote about colic? How the slightest symptoms evoke a sense of dread within every horse lover? Well, I’d like to nominate sudden, unexplained lameness as a close second to colic. Though it’s not a potentially life-threatening situation like colic, discovering that your dependable, four-wheel drive horse has suddenly gone lame can be more than a little upsetting. That goes double for neurotic horsewomen like me, who fret about everything to do with their horses’ health, from wonky ears to peculiar skin bumps and watery eyes.

This latest saga began around the first of October. I was ill and hadn’t ridden for several days, so I opted to longe Danny rather than ride him. The big ol’ lunk was frisky, and even after I’d worked him on the line for a few minutes he still let out a couple of leaps and whoop-tee-dos. When he landed after one spectacular burst he was undeniably off.

Figuring that he’d merely tweaked something, I brought him, iced his leg, then wrapped it and put him up. But guess what? He was still off the next day. And the next. And the next. When I jogged him on a circle to the right he was lame on his left front. Theoretically that meant he was sore someplace on the inside of his left foot (like his heel) or that perhaps he’d strained one of the ligaments on the inside of his left front pastern.

And thus began a quest to find what exactly was wrong with Danny. Fortunately I get along great with my vet, because I sure spent a lot of time with her visiting my house.

Just in case you’re reading this, thinking, “I wonder if Danny was sensitive to the hoof testers,” or, “I’ll bet he was even more lame when the vet performed flexion tests on Danny’s joints,” the answer to both ponderings are, “No.”

Also, there wasn’t any swelling, and he didn’t flinch, no matter how much he got poked, prodded, squeezed or compressed.

So to narrow down where she needed to focus her attention, my vet blocked Danny’s lower leg once, twice, three times. For those of you unfamiliar with diagnostic nerve blocking, it’s a process where the vet temporarily numbs an area of the horse’s leg—say the heel, for example—and if the horse is suddenly sound then voila! You know precisely where to start fishing for the answer.

Much to my relief, the blocking pretty much ruled out navicular and ringbone. But when he was sound once his fetlock joint was numbed, I became concerned: What if he had some bone chip floating around in there? Gadzooks, my husband shudders at the cost of my horses’ annual vaccines. What’s he going to do when he finds out Danny needs arthroscopic surgery?

Yet guess what? Danny’s x-rays were fine! There weren’t even any signs of arthritis like you’d expect on a big, teenaged horse with more than a few conformation flaws. So surgery was unnecessary.

So where did that leave me, besides with a dwindling bank account?

Since Danny went sound once his fetlock was numbed, it was apparent that his fetlock joint was bothering him, perhaps from when he screwed around on the longe line. Or, due to age and normal wear and tear, the cartilage in the joint could be thinning out, causing some soreness. My vet advised me to continue resting him and also to have his fetlock joint injected with cortisone and hyaluronic acid (HLA). That way, the inflammation is abolished and the cartilage and joint fluid are supported. Plus Danny will join Wally in getting a daily dose of an oral joint supplement.

Of course, wouldn’t you know it, the very same day she arrived to do the procedure, Danny was prancing around his paddock perfectly sound. But we went ahead and did the injection anyway. Then his leg was wrapped and he was sequestered in the barn for several days.

In another week Danny will be ready to start back under saddle. He seems ready to me right now. In fact, he keeps walking up to the paddock gate each time I saddle up Wally with this look on his face like, “Uhm, have you forgotten about me?”

Trust me, I am looking so forward to the day when I can breathe a sigh of relief and climb on Danny’s back again. Then the nearly $600 that was spent on vet bills will have been worth it. Because having a sweet-tempered, four-legged sofa to ride on the trails is priceless.

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11/13/2011 3:00:01 PM



emma    winter park, FL

11/6/2011 11:37:32 AM

Glad hes ok

Laddie    Esc., MI

11/3/2011 2:34:34 PM

wow. I'm really glad Danny is okay.

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