I had spoken at length with my vet about Lilly's issues when I called her to make the appointment, so she was already aware of what the issues were when she got there. I added a few extra details to the story, and then we got right down to business. We took Lilly into the indoor and my vet's assistant walked and jogged her for us while we discussed what we were seeing. I was afraid Lilly would be having one of her "good" days today since the vet was out, and she was. Other than not really wanting to move out, she looked pretty good. Again, I kicked myself for not taking a video the day my trimmer was out, because she was having a really off day. It would have been nice to show her exactly what I was talking about. I promised my vet that I wasn't crazy, so we moved on to the flex tests. She tested her ankles on both front legs, and then her knees, and said she tested slightly positive on the right front, but nothing worth being concerned about.
After discussing what we saw, my vet suggested we nerve block the right front and see what we get. So we put her back in, gave her the injections, and then waited for it to take effect. While we waited, the assistant commented on what a sweet horse Lilly was, and how easy she was to work with. She said she wishes all the horses they encounter were like Lilly. My vet chimed in saying that not only is Lilly the sweetest mare ever, but she's also the cleanest mare ever. She said, "whenever you see Lilly, she'll look just like this... spotless!" I just love hearing people gush about how well mannered my girl is. She's such a pleasure to work with and be around. I am so lucky to have her.
|Watch out... she's crazy!!|
After testing to make sure the nerve block had taken effect, we took her back to the indoor and had the assistant jog her. She was quite lame, and my vet said this is exactly what she was expecting to see. I took a short video.
She said, "she's foot sore." So why didn't any of the soreness show up before the nerve block? My vet said she thinks it didn't show up because her feet are equally sore, so it shows up as more of a short stride rather than any kind of limp. Make one hoof feel better, and she'll limp on the only one that feels sore. It also explains why some days she's feeling better than others, and why one day she's really lame on only one hoof. It just depends on how her hooves are feeling that day.
She said it was up to me if I wanted to block the other hoof, but she expected to see her sound and really moving well without taking short strides. I opted to do the block. I don't want any residual questions lingering.
After the block on the left front, we jogged her quickly in the indoor and she moved almost completely sound. We didn't think the block had made it's way up to her toe yet, but there was a noticeable improvement, so we considered it a successful test. Next step was to get some x-rays.
My vet is going to send me the actual files from the x-ray machine, but in the meantime, you'll have to look at these super high quality iPhone pictures of the x-rays. Better than nothing, I think!
Left Hoof (the so-called "good hoof"):
|Left hoof x-ray from today...|
|Left hoof x-ray from 10/17/11 (Two months after the shoes came off)|
Right Hoof (the so-called "bad hoof"):
|Right hoof x-ray from today...|
|Right hoof x-ray from 10/17/11 (Two months after the shoes came off)|
There has been a little improvement in the left hoof as far as sole depth, but she pretty much has no palmar angle on that hoof, and my vet said she has too much toe. Looking at her hoof in real life, though, I can't imagine taking off anymore toe! She said Lilly should have a minimum of 15mm of sole, and 20mm would be ideal. We're rocking out at 6-7mm. Not good, but I'm not really surprised. I've known her soles are thin, and I knew they hadn't really grown much since the shoes came off two years ago. It just hadn't really been a concern because she had been doing pretty well up to this point.
So why is Lilly suddenly having issues with her hooves when she wasn't a few short months ago? It has to be a metabolic issue, a terrain issue, or a weather issue. She's on real grass 12 hours a day, she's getting a lot more hay, the ground is much less sandy here, and it's the wettest summer we've ever had. I think I read that we're 9" above normal. Perhaps it's a combination of all those things, but it's wreaking havoc on her hooves.
So what do I do? I really only have two options: I can try to keep her comfortable and wait it out, hoping she just needs more time, and try to find a pair of boots she can wear for more than three days before they come apart. Or, I can have her shod, possibly with pads, depending on what the farrier thinks. With option one, she might be more comfortable than she is today, but I don't think she'll feel markedly better because even in boots, she's still walking on those soles. With option two, I'm doing what I've tried really hard not to do, which is put her back in shoes. Chances are, though, that we'd see immediate results and she would be 100% comfortable.
My main purpose for pulling the shoes in the first place was to get her hooves into shape. She had terribly underrun heels, shoes that were too small, and they just weren't healthy at all. I hoped that if I gave her enough time to transition, I could have a barefoot horse, but I never closed the door on having shoes again someday. I thought perhaps during peak show times she might need shoes, but I wanted that to be the last resort because she seemed so much happier once the shoes came off.
She has really thin soles, and super flat hooves, and other than being able to get her heels back where they need to be, that's really been the only physical improvement in her hooves. It's possible that she's just genetically doomed to have have thin soles and no matter what I do, they're always going to be thin. If they've not really thickened a whole heck of a lot in nearly two years, will they ever? Am I wasting my time, and in the meantime causing my horse unnecessary discomfort? The goal is 20mm and we're at 7mm... that's a heck of an uphill battle.
If I put shoes on, I could actually ride my horse. As it stands now, even with the boots she's uncomfortable at times, so I don't feel right riding her. I have a call in to my trimmer to tell her what we found out and get her opinion on what she thinks I should do.
Could it be time to throw in the towel and bow down to the horseshoe gods?