Friday, July 29, 2016

Intermittent Lameness aka On Again, Off Again Lameness

Are you in an 'on again, off again' relationship with your horse?  


You know what I'm talking about.  Those times your horse is just 'off', showing signs of vague lameness that comes and goes?  You watch and think you can isolate the area of concern but it is not always so obvious.  You study his movement and have your friends study his movement.  Your horse is not '3 legged lame', which is a phrase describing a horse that will not bare weight on one leg, and therefore, walks on 3 legs rather than four.   Your horse is showing less obvious signs.  You may only see a slight head nod at the trot (but what if your horse is gaited and nods his head naturally?  Or you may only see it in the smaller riding ring going in one direction, but not in a larger arena or straightaway.  Or he's 'ouchy' on gravel....or just a teeny bit short-strided.  He just is not moving freely but it is subtle.  You don't ride because you don't want to aggravate whatever it is that is bothering him.... so you turn him out and he gallops off like a mad man.  Hmmmm... couldn't be too sore!!  Grumble, grumble.

Or you do ride and he 'works' out of it, you think.  You ride and he feels tight and tense....is it his teeth?  His tack?  The footing? A bad day?

You study him in the pasture.  Why did he not gallop off like he usually does?  The right answer can change for a multitude of reasons.  Again, you analyze and fret.




If you've been here before with your horse then you have probably;
1. had your vet out
2. had your farrier out
3. have tried to 'fix' it on your own

And the results probably were:
1. You spent a ton of money
2. You are no closer to figuring out what was going on with your horse.
3. The lameness comes and goes

So you;
1. Get a second (or third) opinion.
2. Try a different farrier (or two)
3. Try new DIY fix-it methods.

And you are probably;
1. poorer
2. nowhere closer to figuring it out
3. Have conflicting information/diagnosis/treatment plans from all the professionals you have consulted that all take time, money and resources but lead in different directions. You still have no clear plan.
4. confused and frustrated


I don't mean to be a pessimistic person.  I am not usually but on again, off again lameness can feel like a slow, steady drain of your time, energy, and resources.  If you are like most horse owner's, seeing any discomfort in your horse is pretty agonizing for you- not to mention the horse!  I gain pleasure by seeing my animals healthy and happy.  Granted we can't control every illness or injury but vague types of lameness sort of feel like it is something we did-- poor saddle fit, trained or rode wrong/too hard/poorly and caused some sort of strain etc.  We feel guilty.  Because it comes and goes, we analyze every movement with our horse.  We plot ways to avoid whatever we think caused it until the lameness pops up regardless.  What sort of insidious, chronic illness is trying to take hold of my equine?

Plus, all of this it interrupts your riding time, which is a stress reliever for most people and something my horse enjoys too.  If the horse is just vaguely sore... will he ride out of it?  Would riding/exercise/turnout help or hurt?  I know I feel more sore some days than others and need my human equivalent to bute.... life goes on, right?  What to do?  What to do??  Is it me?  How can I stop this??



If you came here for answers, I am sorry.  All I can do is offer sympathy.  I would offer advice but you probably have more advice than you know what to do with.  And I know you have compulsively researched every possible ailment, supplement, and treatment.  Our barns are all full of various cures, tack, and possible solutions.

I had a spring with on again, off again lameness in my horse.  He is sound as of today and I breathe a huge sigh of relief.  I still can't pin point exactly what caused his lameness.  I wrote of another horse that I struggled to save here: http://horsesandhealing.blogspot.com/search?q=navicular  I had flashbacks to my days with Splash this spring.  And, pray tell, WHY does this happen to the best horses?   It is always the best horses!


If you are in a similar spot I am offering my sincere sympathy.  I hope the correct treatment is made clear for you and the right professionals are put in your path.  I hope for you and your horse many comfortable, sound days ahead.


Happy Trails!
Sue Steiner