Again - I find myself learning something new about how much I do not know about horses and how they work.
DVME was kind enough to make a special stop this evening on her way home to a dinner party, because of how simply OFF Chester was this morning. I told her: Look, I am NOT crazy, this horse is dead lame. Considering on Saturday, he didn't take a lame step, she was quite apprehensive, but decided to come to my rescue anyway. Love her.
When I got there, I put him in his stall and immediately feel his hooves for heat as DVME had asked me to do...annnnd, sure enough, the hoof wall and above the coronet band, was hot...more on the left then the right...and then all 4 (DVME chalked that up to him running around like a lunatic.)
As I am waiting for her to arrive, I am watching a couple of the younger girls having a lesson. One of them, who I love dearly, goes to me: "Your horse is a maniac!" I look at her: "Oh really?! How so?" And she proceeds to tell me that he was acting like a moron, flat out galloping, rearing, playing with the other horses, but when he stopped, he could barley walk. I. Wanted. To. Kill. Him.
DVME shows up, hoof testers in hand. She feels his legs, can't find anything out of the ordinary. I want to stress that there is absolutely no heat, swelling or puffiness ANYWHERE in EITHER of his front legs. There was however, a little bit of sensitivity in his left foot, but it was hard for her to really tell, because of his snow pad and shoe. We take him into the arena so she can watch him move. I walk/trot up and down in a straight line and he is off - I am not looking at him, but I can feel it. Then, she asks me to turn him in a tight, small circle to the left and to the right. He visibly was having a hard time doing that. So, she flexes his front left leg - we take off at a trot, he takes 3 steps and she immediately tells me to stop because he is crippled.
There is an old saying that goes‘no foot – no horse’. This emphazises the fact that the vast majority of lameness cases relate to the horse’s foot. In fact a foot abscess is the most common cause of lameness. ( I didn't know that.) They can result in severe pain but are readily treatable if detected at an early stage. Other common foot problems include laminitis, arthritis of the joints within the foot, ‘navicular disease’, fractures and tendon or ligament strains. http://www.poolhousevets.co.uk/equine_lameness.html
My reading into this tells me that: It cannot be over emphazised that most sudden onset lamenesses in horses are caused by foot abscesses.
So - why do a flexion test and come up with the diagnosis of an abscess...aren't flexion tests used to test joints? Good question and one that is answered like this: It is common knowledge that, when bending the toe joints at a certain place, the blood supply to the hoof is interrupted, so no blood flows into the hoof. If there is a painful inflammation in the hoof, the lack of circulation is comfortable, because it disables sensitivity to pain. Above the "tourniquet" location, in the region of the navicular bone and the head of the pastern, congestion develops. When the limb is released and takes up its normal angle, the blood rushes into the inflamed region with increased force (congestion wave), which is even more painful for the horse than normal circulation. Thus the flexion test gives information if there is inflammation in the hoof area. http://www.thehorseshoof.com/S_FlexionTest.html
Okay - Great I say...how does THAT diagnosis answer The Million Dollar question?! Well, with an abscess, they are constantly moving around and sometimes they can end up in a more painful spot then others (check - answers the mystery of him being on one day, off the next). Meaning that when we were schooling and he spooked, the abscess could have been underlying for a while and that spook was enough to cause it to finally come to a head - for lack of better term (check as to why he was immediately lame after the spook). Meaning that if this is ACTUALLY what is causing him to be off (because we won't be 100% sure until we see progress or block his foot - more on that in a second), his Jacks Joint, stiffness and back ouchiness are all secondary issues to the primary one...Eff. Chester - just tell me what is wrong with you already.
How did he get the abscess...?! Good question - my guess - snow and ice build up, maybe there was a rock/sharp piece of ice in there (remember I was gone for 5 days over Christmas), his feet didn't get picked out during that time, the snow and ice stayed built up even with the snow pads on and it caused the abscess..? Maybe? Who knows?
What happens now? Because he is an absolute crazed lunatic out in the field, he is confined to his stall until at least Sunday. (Good - serves him right - I can't BELIEVE he was running around like a lunatic!!) We are to hand walk a couple times a day, soak both feet in epsom salts, and his left foot gets an Intex Poultice pad, vet wrap and duct tape boot until Saturday (to be changed daily). If on Sunday, there is no change, then I am going to call our farrier, have him stop in to pull his shoes and then repeat. If a week from now there is still no change (heaven forbid - because it would break my heart), then we will have to block his foot and go from there. The one good thing about this situation - at least I don't have a day job at the moment and can be there to make sure I do everything I can to get Chester better.
I REALLY hope this is what it is and over the next week we see a big improvement. So, let's send Chester some good vibes and some good Karma.