So yeah … I am writing this with one good eye.
So why do I feel compelled to write with only one eye? Well, Speedy has had one hell of a week, too. We're peas in a pod, that dude and I. Here's his story:
- Thursday - We had a great ride. He was supple, bending, and moving really well.
- Friday - I gave him a visual check and all was well.
- Saturday - a no barn day.
- Sunday - When I showed up, he was grade three lame. I shared that already.
- Monday - The chiropractor came and worked on him for more than an hour. He was still sore on his front end, but improved. The chiropractor felt as though it might be a shoeing issue. I sent my farrier a text who promised to give Speedy a through evaluation when he came out for his regularly scheduled visit in two weeks.
- Tuesday - I hacked him around the neighborhood. He was quit sore on his front end, but he did loosen up a bit as I rode. I phoned the vet and asked whether it could be laminitis. The vet's response was not likely, but it was a possibility.
- Wednesday - I had my sound pony back. I hacked again and was delighted that there was no soreness on the front end at all.
- Thursday - another no barn day (dealing with previously mentioned eye thing).
- Friday - I turned him out and watched with amusement as he bucked and played and galloped like a wild thing. My worries vanished, and I looked forward to a weekend of riding.
- Saturday - He was very lame again.
Well son of a bee-biscuit. I really didn't know what to think. I saddled him up anyway. I only rode around the neighborhood at a walk. Sometimes a short ride can help clear up why a horse is lame: do they work out of it, or does it get worse? I threw some easy boots on him hoping that would tell me if it was foot soreness. He still minced around, clearly sore, but he was well-behaved and spooky in all the right places, but he also got a bit freer in the walk as we passed the half way point.
Weird assessment, I know, but it showed me that whatever was wrong wasn't bothering him enough to suppress his appetite or make him indifferent to his surroundings. I ruled out laminitis. Besides, he had no digital pulse. Everything about him was systems normal: he was happy to see me, eager to come out and "play," eating, drinking, peeing, pooping, spooky, girthy, grazing, etc. He was just very lame in the front.
Completely perplexed, I sent a frantic message to my farrier: WHAT COULD BE WRONG? Jaime, being the great guy that he is, asked if I could bring Speedy to his house so that he could finally look at him himself. Within 15 minutes I had Speedy loaded up and we were off to my farrier's house, 55 miles away. I have never been so grateful to have my own truck and trailer.
Jaime spent at least two hours assessing Speedy. He used the hoof testers multiple times. He pulled the shoes. He dug out every inch of sole that was non-essential for survival looking for any red flags. He quickly ruled out laminitis, stone bruises, abscesses, or shoeing malfunctions. He remeasured Speedy's feet, re-examined his angles, measured again, studied him from the front, the back, above, below, and then did it again.
And then, just to be sure, Jaime called over one of his boarders, a vet tech, to re-examine Speedy with him. The vet tech put the hoof testers on, palpated Speedy's tendons and ligaments, examined the white line, and then said, "huh." Neither of them could find a problem with Speedy's feet.
A few things did pop up during the exam, though. The first, and most telling, was that Speedy had "sprung" both front shoes. Even though he's only at 5 weeks in the shoeing cycle, both shoes had "lifted" away from the hoof, but they weren't loose; they had been bent. This is not normal. My boys are shod every 5 to 6 weeks, and when Jaime comes to re-shoe them, the shoes are always tightly attached to the hoof wall with no gaps and they never get loose and clanky. Additionally, the left front had a small amount of bruising on the outside of the hoof wall with one, small tender area near the heel, not enough to make him this kind of sore though.
The second thing that Jaime discovered was that Speedy was "out" in his withers even though he had just been adjusted a few days before. A small amount of pressing almost sent Speedy to the ground. His withers and shoulders were quite tender. As we hand walked him, it became quite clear that if it wasn't his feet that were bothering him, it had to be something above his feet that would affect both feet. In other words, it couldn't be a fetlock or knee. Something structural was causing him to be sore on both feet.
As the vet tech asked me questions (have you changed his feed, is there anything he could get hung up on, does your saddle fit okay?), one question caught me by surprise. The tech asked if Speedy ever steps on the rails of his pen. Why yes, yes he does do that!
And suddenly, we had a hypothesis that matched what little we were seeing. The tech suggested that Speedy may have had one or both feet up on the rail when something startled him. As he tried to pull his foot (or feet) back out, the back of the shoe might have gotten hooked on the rail, forcing Speedy to wrench it out. This could have "sprung" the shoe and tweaked his shoulders. The chiropractor may well have "fixed" him last weekend, but while he was turned out on Friday, bucking and galloping, he may well have re-tweaked his front end causing the lameness to reappear.
The hypothesis made more sense than anything else that had been proposed. It also explained how Speedy could be sound one day and then completely lame the next. It also gave a reason for how he was back to normal and then unsound yet again over the weekend.
Between the three of us, Jaime, the vet tech, and myself, we decided that a trip to the vet was not yet necessary. Instead, I got the chiropractor on the phone and he and Jaime had a long pow-wow. Jaime did a very careful trim on Speedy, and we left him barefoot until Jaime can come back out early next week to re-shoe him. This way, in case I do need to go to the vet for x-rays, the shoes are already pulled.
I left Jaime's house late in the afternoon and headed down to the chiropractor's place which happens to be on the way home. Jaime lives in Tehachapi, a small mountain community in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. It's a pretty good climb to get there as Tehachapi sits at over 3,000 feet in elevation. The chiropractor lives closer to Bakersfield, but it's in a tiny little community off the highway, down a rather steep hill into the Caliente Valley.
It was 4:45 p.m before I pulled into CC's ranch. Almost as soon as CC started adjusting him, Speedy's back and withers were pain free again, much to my relief. CC felt that it was not a foot issue either and seemed to think that our getting hung up hypothesis made sense. He worked on Speedy for a good 45 minutes. Speedy wasn't sound when we left, but he was certainly improved.
CC's recommendation was the same as before: Speedy should feel better in a day or so, but this time, I am not to turn him out. If he has energy to burn, CC suggested I ride him instead.
Again, I am so grateful to be able to just load up my horse and take him to the people who I think can help him feel better. Neither Jaime nor CC were able to make the drive into Bakersfield on Saturday, but they were able to make time for us to just show up.
So that's where we are right now. Speedy and I both had a long week and an even longer Saturday. I hope that Speedy feels better quickly. And if not, I feel like we're definitely on the right track. We'll get it sorted out. We always do.