Thursday, April 19, 2018

Trip to the Vet

Penn came up very lame on 4/3- there's a bunch of factors that contributed, not a single "that did it" source.

He didn't want to push with his left hind leg - he'd wobble/hitch at the walk, head bob and squish at the trot on the diagonal pair of right front/left hind, and he was completely uncomfortable on the left lead canter.

He rested the rest of the week and I tried to stretch him a little, but he still wasn't sound by the weekend. I ended up cancelling my trip to GP Trainer's for lessons 4/7-8. We buted him all week and tried robaxin over the weekend. He didn't make much improvement.

I wanted my vet to look at him, but I also wanted to try the electo-acupuncture that our office offers. Unfortunately, the vet who usually does that (and chiro work) is on maternity leave, and they have a vet coming in once a week to cover all of her clients. Luckily, the travel vet was coming to town the following week! Unfortunately, her schedule was packed and if I wanted it done, I'd have to bring him to the office for an end of day appointment.

No biggie, I called the office and they were able to work out a time and day for me to come and both vets would look at him in one swoop. Wahoo! I felt better about him having a lameness exam at the vet office anyway because they have all the toys there (gait analysis and all the non-mobile machines).

The appointment was for 4pm on Wednesday 4/11, so off we went! Penn was fussy in the trailer, and a bit hot headed getting off. It made it a bit difficult when they jogged him on the asphalt... he's wiggly already and extra lookiness doesn't help.

We talked about all the factors that happened. She watched him trot in a straight line and circle, flexed each leg two different ways, and only found a very very slight reaction to the front right fetlock. She thought everything moved fine when manipulated, his hips are fairly even, and thought he was probably just muscle sore from training and body work. She offered the "lameness finder" and I said, sure why not, we're here.

Sensor bonnet
Ankle sensor
Taped on hindquarter sensor... because he doesn't have enough hair to clip it on.
All ready to jog again! But sigh, must he stand all demented?

Penn managed to confuse the lameness finder. It requires 20 steady trot steps, and all of a sudden he was completely distracted by a week old filly in a pasture with her mom. I did try to go and pet the filly, with the vet's permission, and she thought I was scary and her mom immediately ran over and ushered her away in a perfect "stranger danger" way... I should have at least taken a picture of her!

Round 1: Right front and left hind mild to moderate lameness, right hind mild lameness
Round 2: Left front and right hind mild to moderate lameness
Round 3: Right front and left hind mild to moderate lameness, right hind mild lameness

We settled on 3rd time's the charm and that the issue is the left hind and right front, but more the left hind. The right hind probably reacted because it's either sore from work or sore from compensating.

The vet didn't think we were looking at muscle strains or tears (yay!), or bone chips. She said to ride him lightly, w/t/c allowed, but gently push his comfort zone to get him using his hind end properly again. She also approved a clinic I signed up for on 4/22 (details to come!!!). She was the one who asked if I was still going (she originally wanted to go too except she's on call that day), and I told her only if she approved it. It's a rather low impact clinic, we'll be mostly walking and standing around, so she said sure, he can still go!

Next up was waiting for the traveling vet to get back. The staff settled us in the exam room to hang out because they didn't have an extra stall for Penn. I got him a bucket of Alfa-Lox from the trailer, they got him a bucket of water, and the humans sat in chairs.

OMG guys, Penn is so damn cuddly. He's a giant lapdog. He didn't want any alfalfa, he kept his head in my lap, just wanting face scratches, without being mouthy at all. If he was smaller, he would have tried to curl up on me!

The travel vet arrived after only 15-20 min of waiting. She checked him over and talked to his regular vet, and decided to concentrate on his right shoulder and then evenly over his hind end.

Regular acupuncture needles
He's not this uneven behind, he's resting his right hind lol.
There are two needles (not hooked up) right on each hamstring. You can kind of see the left one just under his clip hairline.

Penn took each needle well, except the needle that went on the left hindquarter and even with the dock (attached to the blue wire in the picture above). He tried to scoot away from her and we had to reset him so she could get it in properly. I took a bunch of pictures so I could reference it later and work on that location my my mini-phaser.

He thoroughly enjoyed his treatment. Head down, sleepy face, relaxed ears. I'm pretty sure this horse is just a fan of body work!

The vet said to give him 2-4 days off, and then see how he is. We got him all bundled back up an loaded, and set off for home. I was excited to be parking my trailer in the daylight!

This whole episode has made me take a good hard look at all of Penn's body parts... and I have to say, he's looking pretty damn good! Soundness issues aside.

I wrote this in stages and didn't get it organized until now, but we've since decided more things for him.

I lightly rode him on the harder outdoor surface Saturday and Sunday this past weekend. He does feel much better, but not 100% like he did a month or so ago. We'll call him w/t/c sound, but not dressage sound. There are certainly lesson ponies out there that are much much lamer than him, haha. When I insisted he use his left hind, he felt very good and strong. When I didn't, he'd sometimes revert back to uneven and have a loss of balance. I'm not sure if he has to learn it won't hurt as much, or if it's still sore, but eyes on the ground said he looked very babyish when he'd have those moments of lost balance and lack of push, like he was confused about what I wanted.

He got a day off and I took him for a light walk trot stretch in the indoor Tuesday, and he came out looking like shit. I don't know if it's because it got cold and the mud got deep again or what, but I lunged him briefly to move him around and he worked out of it. I got on (from the right side, just in case it makes a difference to him... I almost pushed myself over him and off the other side of him... it's been at least 15 years since I got on from the right side, lol). He felt really good though, very comfortable. Was it more time? Was it softer footing? Was it lunging a little first? Who knows. But it did cement the next decision we made for him.

He's still allowed to go to our fun clinic this Sunday, but on Monday he'll go back to the vet clinic for a SI injection. The vet and I independently came to the decision- I texted her an update and asked what she looks for in horses that might need a SI injection. She said he's already ticked all the boxes, and she just wanted to see how he responded to the acupuncture before suggesting it. I did want a spinal x-ray, but she said their office wasn't equipped to x-ray that close to the hip- the horse is just too thick and fleshy there to get a good picture. She said he'd have to go to a vet school and be put under to get a picture. It's not important enough to me to travel 10 hours for that, but I thought it was an excellent suggestion when I was poking around for info on horses who get SI injections.

Everyone feels really good about having that done- I knew it would happen eventually, but I was hoping we could wait until his age was in the double digits! He just turned 9 in March. He's always been weak in the SI area, and we've done a lot to build up the muscle in his hind end. Over the past year, he's gotten stronger in that area and less touchy. The chiropractor and body worker both said that area looked better. However, I think the increased sit and self carriage we've been doing aggravated it (plus a couple other things that aren't blog fodder), and he needs some help now.

He's being turned out in the round pen (flat, solid footing) until he goes to the vet again, and probably after his post-injection rest period... at least until the footing resembles earth again, not soup (fuck you mother nature and like, the 7th winter you've sent us). So inject next Monday, 4 days off, then a week or so of light riding. Hopefully he'll be back to normal!


  1. Isn't that lameness locator gadget cool? The vet who invented it works at the equine hospital I go to, and it really helped sort out what was going on with a mare I had a few years ago who was off and on lame. I love the numbers and graphs it can provide!

    Anyway, sorry Penn was feeling a bit under the weather but sounds like you and your team have him on track to feeling like a million bucks again ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. PS I so can't wait to hear about your clinic ๐Ÿ˜ since I think I saw what it is on FB and I'm super jealous and would love to try haha.

    2. I didn't get to see the graphs or anything, but I was super excited to use it! We're definitely on the right track (I hope), but I'm trying not to be too optimistic about it.

      I'm sure you did see it, haha! I have always wanted to go, but never had an opportunity to!

  2. What a rollercoaster! So sorry you're dealing with this but I'm really glad you've got a path forward. Fingers crossed this does the trick and you're back in the show ring in short order =)

    1. It has been very similar to the up down that mother nature seems to be giving us right now! I'm trying not to be too hopeful, things haven't been lining up for us so far this spring. I am glad it doesn't appear to be more severe though.

  3. Fingers crossed the SI injection gets him feeling comfortable! At least with that one sometimes a single injection can last a long time!

    1. I didn't know that about it until I started poking around. Seems like one of the few injections that sometimes a single round does well for years (unlike hocks and stifles), or the horse never needs it again. I don't expect he'll never need it again, but I am hopeful I won't be doing it yearly.

  4. Glad you got goodish news and you're not facing an acute injury. I love reading about how methodical you and your team are about managing Penn, and all the cool resources you have!

    1. I am so lucky to have the resources I have, and if for some reason the local ones can't fix it, there are localish hospitals and a very good vet school about 5 hours away. I've already got a back up plan for if this doesn't do the trick, but I'm really hoping not need it!

  5. So glad you guys are being able to get everything figured out and treated before show season ramps up. You've got fancy prancing to do, Penn!

    1. Ugh, I've already had to cancel 3 shows and another outing. I'm glad we're going to get this sorted before we get to the thick of it though. And I'm also glad that basically resting him for the month of April will do him a lot of good later. I think the SI injection might put us "ahead" in training, despite the break... he's struggling with giving clean changes now, and this should really help his comfort to do that. He's offering all the good wrong answers (changing behind first), but he was struggling with coordinating the two without hopping his hind end or flinging the front.

  6. Hampton benefited greatly from having his SI injected. He was much like what you describe in Penn. It did take him about 3 weeks to really start to show a difference after the injection, I think because he was simply so sore that it took a while for things to calm down. Sending Penn hugs!!

    1. That is good to know!! Because uh, cue the panic if he doesn't feel ok when we try to start working again. He and Hampton are so similar that it would not surprise me if it took that long for Penn to feel better.

      He's been practically resting since 4/3, so maybe the 20 days of limited to no work before the injection will help the feel better time on the other side.

  7. Hope the SI injections help him feel his best!

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