Thursday, August 29, 2013

Not What I Expected

Yesterday Lilly was visited by our new (although not really new because she's seen Lilly three other times) trimmer. I was ready to go. I had pictures of hooves, old radiographs, spreadsheets, Word documents, ingredient labels, and a brain full of information ready to answer any and all questions she had for me. This was our "think outside of the box" session, and I was looking forward to hearing what new ideas she might have.

She arrived a little early and we got right to work. Lilly waited patiently in the cross ties while we both sat on the floor poking, prodding, and messing with her hooves. I told her what's been going on since she saw her last, and what's been happening with her hooves recently at our new place. When she picked up Lilly's left front (the "good hoof") to look at it, I mentioned to her that Lilly has a short window of time where she'll let you have that hoof. After 5-10 seconds, she starts walking her hind legs up underneath herself and very kindly, but clearly, asking for her hoof back. I wanted her to know Lilly wasn't just being a brat.

Usually when I'm trimming that hoof, I just give her a lot of breaks. I've tried standing her on towels, in boots, and on squishy pads to try and make her more comfortable, but it doesn't make a difference. C, my trimmer, wanted to try a folded up towel, so we did. It didn't help. She found this to be extremely telling.

Once we were done evaluating from down below, she wanted me to longe her. So we went into the arena and I longed her first to the left. She took a few short steps but looked pretty good. When I turned her around and longed Lilly to the right, though, she was taking short steps nearly every stride. This was both good and bad... good because usually when you're trying to show someone what you're talking about when it comes to your horse, they're quick to make a liar out of you, so at least C was able to see what I was referring to. It's bad, of course, because I don't like her to be uncomfortable and I thought we had been making progress since daytime turnout started.

She found this to be extremely telling as well.

We put Lilly back in the cross ties and C started doing some body evaluating. She noted how Lilly's knees aren't even, her right hoof is higher than her left hoof, and when we looked at Lilly from behind, there was clearly a difference in her shoulders. The right one appears to be a bit 'jammed up'. I remember when I first had Lilly's shoes removed, my trimmer (not C) also noted the differences in her knees, shoulders, and hoof height, so those things aren't new to me.

This is an old picture from this past November, but it shows the height difference in her hooves.
This one is from yesterday, showing the height difference in her knees.
This one is also from yesterday, just to kind of show how differently shaped her hooves are.
So after hearing all the stories, watching her on the longe line, looking at her body, and reading none of the literature I brought except for the radiographs, C sighed and said she thinks Lilly's hoof is fine, and what we're actually dealing with here is an issue somewhere between the knee and the shoulder.


In perfect tunnel vision fashion, I have been focused on nothing but hooves for the past three weeks, never once considering something else might be going on.

So here are the reasons she thinks it's not a problem with Lilly's hoof:
1. While the issue started shortly after moving her to the new barn, and got worse about three weeks ago, if it was metabolic and a reaction to the new grass, she should be showing symptoms in both front hooves and not just one.
2. If the issue was because she just has super thin soles (which she does), why is she only showing lameness on the right hoof? Both hooves have 5-6mm soles, so wouldn't she be also be gimpy on her left front?
3. Why is she fine with holding up her right front hoof for hours at a time, but a mere 5-10 seconds after lifting her left front, she's begging to put it down?
4. If it's just thin soles or some other hoof related issue, why is it that folding a towel until it's four inches thick and placing it underneath her hoof gives her absolutely no comfort when her left hoof is up in the air?
5. If it's just thin soles or some other hoof related issue, why is she more uncomfortable when being longed to the right?

Her thinking is that shoes can mask a lot of problems, and prior to having her shoes pulled, I was having a crazy time with saddle fit. I spent a small fortune buying and selling saddles, trying to find something that fit her. Once the shoes came off, the saddle fit issues magically went away, but this problem with her right front hoof showed up shortly thereafter and has remained an issue ever since.

She's been adjusted and massaged, and no one ever mentioned an issue with her shoulders, just her pelvis and her TMJ. That doesn't mean she couldn't have had an old injury that showed up differently with the shoes (or was masked by the shoes), or perhaps she injured herself once her shoes came off. The puzzling thing for me has been trying to figure out why she was doing so well prior to the move, but maybe she has irritated the injury because she's in a new place, with new horses, lots of grass, and a lot more room to run around and act silly... or slip in the wet grass.

So we didn't do anything new and exciting with her hooves, because she didn't think we needed to. We're making no changes to her diet or anything along nutritional lines either. We discussed having my vet come out to nerve block the hoof just to once and for all determine if we're dealing with a hoof issue or something a bit farther up. Then I can discuss with her what the issue might be, and figure out a treatment plan. It will probably include a visit from the chiropractor and perhaps some massage therapy.

She also mentioned a farrier/trimmer clinic that happens every second Tuesday of the month about three hours from me. A very well respected lameness veterinarian works with trimmers and farriers on horses with lameness issues. It would essentially be free for me because it's for the benefit of the participants and I'm providing the lame horse. I say "essentially free" because it's a three hour drive, so I'd have a nice gas bill, along with my time, and I'd have to take the day off work. I'm not really sure how I feel about doing something like that.

C was going to contact my regular trimmer and discuss her thoughts with her and see if the clinic would be beneficial or not. I might also call a vet I haven't used before to get a fresh set of eyes instead of using my regular vet.

In the meantime, C just trimmed up the hinds for me, and then pretty much left the right front alone, minus a bit of shaping and she also dug out a little bit more of the seedy toe. She's thinking that if the right shoulder is pushed up, she would want to leave as much hoof on that right side as possible, while taking as much hoof as possible off the left hoof. It sounds counter-intuitive and it took some explaining on her part for me to understand what she was trying to say, but it's less about the height of the hoof and more about the angles.

So here are the hooves after she was done trimming yesterday:

Right front.
Left front.

And what post would be complete without a self-portrait of the super sweet, super patient, and most wonderful pony in the whole world (and her momma)?

Awww... so cute!
C warned me that Lilly might be a little sore today, but she was actually moving quite well. Much better than yesterday and I was surprised when I longed her in the arena. Here are a couple videos I took, although I wish I had taken video yesterday before the trim to compare. I didn't think about it while we were longing her because C was there watching, so why bother taking video? Duh, because then I could look at it today! Oh well... too late now.

I hope I remembered to write everything down. An issue not relating to her hoof wasn't what I was expecting, but I'm curious as to any opinions y'all might have about a possible shoulder issue, or any other thoughts about what could possibly be going on.


  1. A very well respected lameness veterinarian works with trimmers and farriers on horses with lameness issues. It would essentially be free for me because it's for the benefit of the participants and I'm providing the lame horse..

    Sounds great to me - as the sooner you figure out what is going on, the sooner you can start correcting it. The longer it takes to figure it out, more damage might be done. Are you able to take a vacation day?

    1. The clinic wouldn't be until the 10th of September, so I could probably get my vet our sooner, but it's definitely something to consider. I think if my trimmer decides it would be beneficial, I'll plan on going. It shouldn't be too difficult to get a day off work since it's on a weekend deal.

  2. I would get an equine chiropractor out. A good one can work wonders.

    1. My vet is also a chiropractor, so I think that might work out well. It'll be like having them both there at the same time!

  3. I like it that your trimmer looked at the whole horse and not just the feet. From the way she moves on the lunge, it's quite possible that it's an issue above the knee. She's not extending the right front quite as far, and its travel to the rear is also restricted. I agree that a good chiropractor - be careful as there are many bad ones - could make a world of difference. It's likely that she's sore in other areas, like her back and neck, since she's moving in a way to protect the sore limb. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

    1. The barn manager mentioned something about an issue in the hind end as well. I definitely agree that she could be sore in a lot of areas from protecting whatever is the main cause of all this.

  4. I agree with Margaret above -- the sooner you can figure out what's going on, the better. Good luck and keep us updated!

  5. Wow, what a great consultation. I mean that's exactly what you wanted - a truly fresh look at the whole problem. I hope yall can figure out what's going on and how to fix it - she's such a sweet girl!

    1. Yep, that's exactly what I was going for... a fresh set of eyes to point out anything I might have been missing. All I kept thinking was hoof, hoof, hoof!

  6. I hope you can figure it out and get Lilly back to her old self again.

  7. Sounds like a thorough, and (hopefully) helpful consult. Agree with Kate about the effect of protecting the limb, and good chiropractors / body-workers.

    I'm interested in this clinic you mentioned - we're both in eastern NC right? Care to share any info?(xianleigh[at]

    1. I have a feeling she'll need a chiropractor and probably some massage as well. Alex mentioned Animal Krackers, and they kind of do everything, but it's not chiropractic. I've heard really good things about them.

      I'm in the Raleigh area, and I think you're more on the coast. Unfortunately, the clinic is about 3 hours west of me, so it would be an even longer trip for you, but I'll let you know more about it once I find out the exact details.

  8. The shoulder really isnt surprising as it fits the bill and answers questions. I am no expert, but through working with my trainer/body specialist with Milo, I have learned a bit about equine mechanics....I remember trainer said that a lot of horses get shoulder issues, and to me it comes as no surprise with the uneven hooves and knees. I would recommend finding someone that works with the muscles and WHOLE horse, not just a chiropractor. I know I live in a totally different area, but the chiros around here never seem to help any problems...its been my experience that working with the muscles and not bone is what solves things. You can tweak bones but the muscles pull them back however they want.

    1. I see a chiropractor myself and have worked in some massage sessions as well, and feel they're both important. It would be ideal to find someone who can kind of do it all, that way I'm not having so many appointments and time between appointments. Hopefully I can get her feeling better soon!

  9. Gosh I'm impressed with the time your trimmer took to look Lilly over before trimming. There are so many blacksmiths and barefoot trimmers who just turn up ...trim ...take your money and leave. The video clips were interesting and I can see why the whole situation is so frustrating. Have you tried thermal imaging. I've used it before and the results were really really interesting as any hot spots show up just like that. It might show up any heat in that shoulder if it's the problem