Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Time for a 2nd Opinion? (plus video)

Today's News Update
Staring: MoonSox

Post-dated from yesterday (Monday) afternoon...

Anyone who really knows me, knows that I don't have an awful lot of faith in veterinary diagnostic skills. I think they're wonderful at treating things they know. But when it comes down to a "What do you think this is" scenario, I think you're getting a best guess. Which is based on experience. Much like the best guess you get from any horse person/vet tech or farrier.

This stems from a lot of experience, both as a client as well as working within veterinary labs. I've gone in with a dog with what I considered to be a bacterial skin infection, paid $400 in tests and walked out knowing it wasn't ring worm. And was told to purchase some polysporin and "give that a go".

I've been told my cat would require surgery to have his eye removed. I asked if there was ANYTHING we could try first. Two weeks of a topical ointment later my cat's eye is back to normal. And still in his head.

I have similar stories from others. Don't get me wrong. They're certainly doing their best to provide you with their best guess. And that often requires a lot of testing, poking and prodding.

But diagnosis sucks. In all medicine. The only difference is that human medicine is free for us. So yes, take as many blood tests, MRI's, CAT scans and such that you need to make a diagnosis. Though, 9 times out of 10, they'll just tell you what it's "not".

The problem is, at this point I just want to know that my gut wasn't steering my astray. That I'm not some terrible owner who's too cheap to pay for proper veterinary care at the FIRST sign of injury. I wanted someone to tell me to stop worrying. To say that he wasn't in fact on his death bed. And that my decision was not cruel or uncalled for.

So I wonder, has anyone local (Manitoba) done xrays on their horse? I'm thinking that if this doesn't resolve itself, I may as well get the vet out. And tell him to bring his xray machine, since I'm not settling for his half-hearted response of "um...maybe...an abscess??". At least with xrays I can have a look at any degenerative aging issues, future issues and risk factors.

But I know that's going to have a healthy price tag. For my peace of mind it's worth it.

But for nothing at all? THAT is what I don't know.

...maybe he'll be spontaneously sound tonight? : P


Well, fast forward with me folks. To yesterday night...

I headed to the barn in the evening and met with H, future BO and lameness guru. She's seen a ton of leg/hoof disasters right down to the feared "founder". She's got vet tech experience, has been messing with ponies for years now (sorry, H, didn't mean to make you sound old...you're not!), boards horses at her own place, married a physiotherapist...let's just say she's a great resource and a great comfort.

So she dragged her little girl out to the barn with her and proceeded to give Moon a full physical.

She's got skill. I've tried to mimic her in the past but don't have the same knack for it. She manipulated, pulled, poked, prodded and twisted every limb, every muscle and such.

We found some things out. We didn't come to any 'determinations', but I certainly left the barn breathing a little easier and comforted that I'm not the worst horse owner.

But first, enjoy our screen shots and video (thanks to K for his awesome videography). I still chuckle about asking him to give me a hand and his automatic thought that I was gonna have him trot around the ring with Moon! I'm really okay doing my own physical labor! I just needed someone with a steady hand to capture it all (and without a toddler in the other!).

So first, screenshots...


I meant to have a match to the above ones showing his head drop as his left for came forward...I should mention, I really wasn't dragging on the line in most of these shots (occasionally he just wouldn't move). He was raising his head so high that he'd take up the slack.

And now for video...

On a circle:

In a line:
I've made one obvious observation....I need to continue to train my horse to lunge. No horse at 13 should not have a clue how to lunge on a circle. It's an exhausting process and I've slacked off since I got him last spring. Which was obvious by Mr. Stand-and-turn-to-me-on-the-line. And means I have to run a LOT to observe any lameness : P

Then again, how much does his pain and discomfort affect his willingness to move properly on the lunge? He's never been as bad as he has lately (he'd at least walk in a circle instead of just turn-on-the-fore : P ).

Of course, tell me your thoughts on the video. I left in moments where he's walking, as I don't see any lameness there. But maybe you guys see something we don't...
So the prognosis??

H found some very clear back pain in my boy. I admit, I already suspected he had a sore back. Mr. Cinchy is normally an indicator and with everything I've done to him, it's no surprise. What was a surprise was how bad it seemed. H could get him to completely hollow his back, all his little muscles tightening up. The whole thing just looked sore and awful.

We played a bit with saddle fit and I'll take up her suggestion to up his gullet plate a half-size from medium to medium-wide. There's no rock in his saddle, and a fair bit of clearance over the wither. No harm in the increase to give it a try. We both agreed that the merino half-pad was a good choice over a cotton dressage pad, which I'd swapped back to after his back rubbing.

She found what we think is a knot in his shoulders, and a bit of heat in his left shoulder. Not the offending leg, but still not comfortable. She pulled a bit on his fore legs, and he showed pretty clear discomfort on his right. He only did it once, but he was almost cringing (or if horse's had hands, clenching a fist) with his opposite hind the whole time. He just looked unhappy about it.

No real heat, maybe a bit in the coronary of the offending hoof. Maybe a touch of coronary swelling? So hard to judge. No digital pulse either. Joints all clear of heat and swelling.

Hooves fine other then a bit of white-line disease, which I've known about for awhile. Pain in the arse to treat, since trimming plays a big roll in rectifying it. What does one expect out of a 13 year old horse with irregular trimming in the past, lack of exercise, reduced nutritional feed quality and wet muddy fields? Oye.

So the best guess, is probably a muscle strain/ache. Abscess isn't off the table, just have to keep an eye on that one and see how it plays itself out.

Thanks H for quelling my worry and stress and taking the time to do that for me. And to everyone else who promptly emailed me good wishes, advice and guidance! I'm truly spoiled!

My game plan?

I'm calling it quits on the soaking. No success in the last week. Abscess? Maybe. But I don't want to make his hooves to brittle with all the soaking.

For the muscle problems, massage, icing and continued turnout with his little slow group of buddies. Movement is important to horse soundness, so I'll keep him moving. He only really walks around anyway. In the mean time, no riding. : (

I'm hoping like CRAZY that this resolves itself soon. I'll continue to be patient and give him the time he needs to hopefully heal. End of the month, I give myself a birthday present of a large vet bill and the accompanying (hopefully) piece of mind that he'll heal, should he still be unsound by then.

At this moment, I'm thinking that our practice show at W's won't happen. Likely ditto on our english riding clinic and maybe even our May show. I won't do anything that compromises him and I want him to have the time to work back up to our previous training level. All I hope is that he can get better, and does. That's all I want.

So we wait. And I love on him.

Speed onward to today... 

Now of course, all that is pretty depressing. Especially with gorgeous temperatures outside, the snow melting away, the show season imminent, a new game plan for our training, trail season reving up, my birthday on the horizon...

In all of that sadness and worry, comes a little ray of sunshine. And beside that ray, came another. Then another, and another and before I realized it, an awful lot of special people broke through my little cluster of storm clouds.


You see, a great many people follow Moon's story on this blog. Or my facebook page. And a great many of them are local.

Ever wake up, after your heart melting a little the night before over the sadness of your buddy not being ride-able, to find a small mass of folks offering you access to their best-est buds?

I did.

It started with H and access to her studly black. And for a trail rides, a boarder who okay'd my borrowing of her gal, a steady-eddy I've been privileged to ride over the years before I found my Moon.

....and Moon's stall-neighbour, a new found horse-friend and pizza lover, emailing to say I'm more then welcome to enjoy her girl in lessons. And her girl is a beautiful dressage horse, I assure you.

And then, someone from the IRC's board. Who herself has a broken foot and hasn't been in the saddle for months. "The snow is almost gone and the sand ring will be ready. You want to borrow my boy? Seriously!". And he's the second love of her life, she's hand trained him and he's gorgeous.

Countering that, was another friend with a handful of polo ponies and a 1/4 mile to that park I love so much.

The sun keeps shining down. Yes, my boy hurts. Yes, I'm gonna have to wait it out, give him the best treatment I've got, and keep hoping like hell it all goes away.

But while I wait, I have a wonderful, incredibly generous group of friends who done something so special. Offering me the chance to continue to ride, to continue to hone my skills, and continue to believe that no matter what happens, I'll always have horses to ride.

Just no one tell Moon, or he'll decide to take an early retirement. And he'll ALWAYS be my number one, my first choice, my Mr. Moon.

But be assured, I am humbled and appreciate all of you and your offers (and very well might take you up on them should this last through the weekend...anyone want their horse in an English riding clinic in May?? Or practice show at the month's end??). I think you're all amazing people with huge hearts and I know I've a great set of new and existing friendships, with owners and ponies alike!


  1. Poor ol' Moon, I hope you can figure out whats wrong with him soon.

  2. I'm sure you'll figure it out.

    As I watched your videos I thought about how bad I am at the whole lameness identification thing so I moved on and noticed that on the bright side, Moon sure has a cute round bum! And so shiny! You can sure tell he has a good mom.