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need help/mystery lameness

O.K. all ya'll lurking vets...and riders who've dealt with so much
lameness that you've seen it all...I've got a mystery for you.

Close friend wants me to sell her horse for her.  Here's his history:

Bought him as an unbroken 6 year old 2 years ago.  In the last 2 years
she brought him along with lots of trail riding and had done 4 50's, the
last of which was the Gee Creek ride in March '98.  He was about 9th I

In January of 98 he had an abcess Right Fore.  they opened it up, (not
much drainage) and he got O.K.  

After Gee Creek he was lame in the rear.  Diagnosis: stone bruise.  Egg
bar shoe & pad fixed him right up.

Next weekend he was lame on the right front again.  Hoof testers said
same abcess.  Drained very little.  Vet put him on anti-biotics.  Had her
soak it in betadine in a medicine boot...which rubbed the hide off his
leg so that was discontinued.

In June:  Said same Right Fore had abcess.  Put him on HEAVY anti-biotics
(over 50 pills twice/day or something like that).  

The horse would be sound for short periods between all these lamenesses,
but was laid off all this time.  Finally, while vet was messing with
testers, he noticed he didn't think the horse wanted to flex in the
fetlock area.  He x-rayed and said there's the beginning of arthritis. 
Where the joint is a ball shaped bone sitting in a bowl the bottom of the
ball is a little flat.  He decided that's the problem.  

Now he's had her inject the fetlock twice.  She laid him off awhile and
decided to sell him for whatever she can get.  She brought him to my
house yesterday because she wanted me to sell him, (doesn't like to mess
with people and I love to talk....)

Here's what I see:

A 14.3 medium build beautifully straight legged clean jointed horse. 
There's not a knot or a bump anywhere.  He has nice sized feet, no
interference, spreads wide in the rear when he trots.

When we first started riding really slow he was a bit of a fool since
he'd been off all year and felt great.  We did quite a bit of walking
with a couple of very short trots thrown in.  Walked up and down some

Next we went riding down the shoulder of the road...had been riding about
45 min. and when we went into a trot he was dead lame, head
bobbing...right fore!  After some colorful comments on the situation on
the owner's part, then some major commiseration on all our parts, we
brought him home, tied him to the trailer and came in for awhile.

Went back out after 45 min. or so, took him down to the pavement and I
flexed just his fetlock, then trotted him out and he wasn't even as lame
as he had been when riding.  

I did a thorough check of his back. No response. (June weighs about 110
and rides and Ortho-Flex.  He's never had a problem with it and is dark
enough gray that white hair would show)

Flexed the fetlock & knee, same thing.  You could see very slight
deviation, but nowhere near what we'd gotten on the grassy shoulder

She said at home it was more noticable going down hill and on grass
rather than pavement.  I messed around with his suspensory and think I
got a pretty positive little tug from him about 4" below the knee.  I
tried the other side several times and didn't get it, tried the Right
Fore again and got the reaction in the same place.  At the Gee Creek ride
she was traveling with Kaboot & me.  Kaboot was doing a big nice
collected trot downhill and Massah was breaking into a gallop.  Could
have been rough on his suspensories...

The only time there was ever any swelling was the visit where the vet
decided to x-ray....but then, I've had horses get fill from abcesses
before.  However, another vet (and these are BOTH GOOD vets who vet
endurance rides and I have tons of confidence in) looked at him once and
when he picked up the right fore he really couldn't bring the hoof up to
touch the horse's elbow.  After being injected last week, now you can. 
By the way, she uses a great'll just have to take my word
for that.

This is a pretty darned nice little horse.  He has now nickel & dimed
June into near poverty.  She's ready to just cut her losses and get him
gone at any price.  She really likes him; he's just broken her heart too
many times this year.  The vets settled on the diagnosis of arthritis,
but this just doesn't seem right to me...why would he start out sound,
then be dead lame 45 min. of walking later?  As great as his legs look,
and with him so near his ideal weight, why would he limp worse from
arthritis than some of these old obese schooling horses who just keep on
going with ringbone and everything else?

Since he had a freaky abcess in that right and on for most of
the year...that never really had any drainage to speak of...could there
not be what the old guys called a "gravel?" that would come out later?  I
seem to remember them saying it could take a year.  Why does the lamenes
come and go so quickly?

Maybe this horse is a little stiff in the fetlock, but I find it hard to
believe that's what's causing this limping.  I've seen horses with much
worse arthritis continue to compete and we're just trying to get him
sound enough to be a backyard horse.  How could he go from top 10 on a
rugged 50 to too lame to trot 25 yards from arthritis within weeks?

I honestly don't think she can bear spending any more money trying to
figure this out, but then she can't sell him while he's lame so what to
do?  If I had pasture I'd just take him and turn him out a year to see
what happened.  She's not going to put him on Adequan or Condroitins.  If
she's going to buy those she'll buy them for her 18 year old that came in
2nd at Liberty Run.

Any suggestions?


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