Monday, August 1, 2016

Horse Health 4 - hoof issues, back issues, and building muscle

**  Since writing this post, Jax has been diagnosed with PSSM (n/P1).  Click the PSSM Label to the left to see more **

"You don't have to ask twice" - a 6 year old Jax in his usual, very forward mood in May 2013, before his health problems began.


At the end of 2014, Jax suffered a minor SI injury, which after a couple months had healed nicely.  Mid-2015 he had either a relapse with other complications, or was suffering from Low Grade Laminitis due to either feed (metabolic laminitis) or farriery (mechanical laminitis) which re-aggravated his SI.  In June 2015 he was getting sensitive on certain terrain, at around the same time we switched farriers and he started receiving a "pasture trim" as opposed to the "barefoot trim" he was receiving before.

Recap of progressive issues since July 2015 (see Horse Health parts one, two, and three for more):
  • Sticky stifles, worse than they'd ever been (almost debilitating)
  • Sore back
  • Behavior changes
  • Possible feed/gut complications (ulcers, low grade laminitis - undiagnosed)
  • Atrophied right shoulder
  • Obvious twist in right hind leg at a walk, catching/hitching every step at a trot 
  • Can no longer canter
  • Hindquarters stiff and beginning to atrophy
  • Slight roach back and pelvis tilted with posty/straight appearance to hind legs (overextending stifles and aggravating them even more)
  • Difficulty lifting hinds for farrier
  • Can no longer trot, barely walks around in pasture
  • SI swelling
  • Early 2016 - Colic; switched from sweet feed to Strategy Healthy Edge and started on supplements, including Vitamin E
  • Won't fully weight right front foot - now won't lift fronts for farrier
  • Body soreness everywhere, chiro helps but short-lived 
  • Glutes/croup sore - light touch makes him drop his back
  • May 2016 - Long toe / low heel syndrome now apparent (been there all along, I just didn't know enough to see it) - apparently all four of his feet had been sore for a long time, but since it was bilateral (left and right) in nature there was no head bobbing or hip hiking

Rehab process since May 2016:
  • I researched and started trimming his feet using barefoot methods of Pete Ramey and other conservative trimmers.  Since I'm new to this, doing small changes each day instead of full trims.  Start with rasping from the bottom to remove flares (scooping quarters), rasping heels to just above live sole (or as best I can tell is live sole), and mustang roll of hoof wall which has been lowered to just above live sole.  Eventually learn how to work with bars, exfoliate the soles, move breakover back where it belongs, and get good balance to the hooves both medial/lateral (side to side) and anterior/posterior (front to back)
  • Took off grain completely, used soaked alfalfa cubes for his supplements
  • Handwalking up to 1/2 mile at a walk, some trotting uphills for stifles
  • Started lunging at walk/trot, 5-10 min (no longer than this due to possible SI issues)
  • Started lunging walk/trot over poles, 5-10 min
    • Stifles started doing better as toes shortened in hind feet
    • Trotting over poles starting to build up glute muscles, helping stifles
  • Light riding at a walk to build core muscles, 15 min, no circles, in grass
  • Starting to canter, some cross-firing, on lunge
    • Continuing to walk/trot over poles at lunge
  • Setback in early June, huge bruise in right front frog finally growing down (had been in his foot a while) and popped abscesses in coronary band and frogs, lame for a couple weeks (we stopped Previcox for 3 days before this happened, and NSAID use will slow abscess progression, so I assume these had been brewing for a while)
  • Back to lunging and light riding when back isn't hurting
  • Early July, about a 1 hour trail ride with one major hill towards the end
  • Still having muscle soreness/tightness in mid-July 2016 even though his feet are drastically improving.  Lunging at a canter seems to help but not enough
  • Find book "Beating Muscle Injuries for Horses" by Jack Meagher, start working "stress points" July 19, 2016
  • More cantering on lunge, including rollbacks and canter departs, canter-trot transitions to trot-over-poles to trot-canter transitions (canter to trot transitions were the hardest for his stifles, but eventually he started being able to do them smoothly with no catching)
  • Back and muscles rapidly improving, by July 23 go on a 6 mile trail ride (walk only) that's fairly flat and easy - some lumbar soreness after but improves instantly with some stress point work; starting to see glute muscles and hindquarters strengthen
  • Continue lunging, touching up hooves and trimming, and working on stress points
  • July 29, find evidence of recent low grade laminitis in the form of a small lamellar wedge in all four feet (have suspected it since started trimming but couldn't see it well enough to know for sure)
  • July 30, go on a 12 mile trail ride (walk only) with lots of hills and technical terrain, minor stress point work needed after but finishes strong and looks better than ever

July 29, 2016 - left front foot (click pic to see larger image), a slight reddish material at the toe, different from both sole and hoof wall, seems to be a slight lamellar wedge.  Also note the hole at the toe inside the wedge and the appearance of the laminae towards the quarters, where seedy toe had invaded the hoof wall due to separation (treating with liquid White Lightening - that's why feet look so clean).  All four feet have this wedge.  For more hoof pics and info see Horse Health part 3.


While we are still technically in the rehab process, the 12 mile ride gives me hope!  Jax was slightly sore in his right lumbar before the ride, but loosened up and stayed loose, with no sore muscles after such a long, hilly, and technical (rocky) ride (plus about two hours in the trailer there and back)!

If you look through my tack reviews, you'll see the types of tack Jax prefers.  I've finally settled on this setup for his rehab and we both love it:

July 30, 2016 - 12 mile rehab ride - Barefoot Physio Ride-On bareback pad, with Reinsman Tacky Too Trail pad underneath.  Cushioned his back wonderfully (bareback pad has inserts to keep me off his backbone, and both pads dispense pressure points really well).  This setup did not move an inch, even with Jax weighting his hindquarters and dropping down steep inclines.  Thanks to the cushy sheepskin attachment, I stayed nice and secure also!

Jax is sensitive skinned, so anything that moves around causes friction rubs.  Upon removing this setup after the 12 mile ride, his back was pristine, no lumps or pressure spots, even sweat pattern, and no lumbar or glute soreness.

Lots of rocks on this ride but he kept going strong - pic shows us on an easier part of the trail - at Lead Mine Conservation Area, see my Missouri Horseback Riding Trails post in the Southwest Missouri section.

Jax is still looking great a couple days after the ride, but just to be safe I'm giving him a couple days off, then starting back to light riding and lunging for a week or so, with another trail ride in a couple weeks.  His hindquarter muscles are building up wonderfully and shoulders are staying loose, with no major lumbar soreness, just minor soreness that goes away immediately with stress point work, and the stress points are breaking up easier each time we do it.


In August, 2016, Jax was diagnosed as PSSM positive.  See Horse Health 5 - It's PSSM for more.


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