Speaking of Guinness, I'll fill you in on where we've ended up. The big red horse is being boarded at a facility 30 minutes North of my house in the town of Clinton. He's turned out 100% of the time, with full access to round bales and pasture. His feed is mixture of oats and 14% pellets, and he's put on a ton of weight (just on the hay/grass alone!). His feet have good days and bad, but the majority have been good. The turnout has done amazing things for his sole depth and strength. Rocks are still tough, but he's arena sound. More on that in a bit.
To start from where we left off: At the end of May, I had x-rays taken of GP's front feet. I wanted to put to rest the niggling feeling that there was something mechanical causing his increasing lameness. Good news? His feet looked great. No rotation, navicular bone in good positioning, and everything hunky dory. The vet agreed that his soles are thin, but encouraged me to leave his shoes off. His professional opinion? Shorten those toes and get that heel underneath the foot, and I'll have a happier horse.
Of course, there was bad news. X-rays always bring that, don't they? The vet took one look at Guinness and expressed an immediate concern about his ankles. They were very large and puffy, but not warm. He asked about injury, and I told him about GP's racing past and his arthritic changes. Vet said he wanted to x-ray the ankles to see what we are really looking at. Take a look below ...
Right front fetlock and hoof view.
Right front fetlock and hoof view.
If you look at the fetlock joint (especially the right one - top photo), you can see the degeneration of the fetlock joint. It's pretty severe, turns out. This explains the huge ankles. Vet said that he thinks half of the lameness I've been seeing is from these joints. We sat around these x-rays and discussed our options. Injections was the main suggestion for management. There's no "fixing" this sort of injury, and it is only going to get worse with time. Eventually, both will completely fuse. This isn't a huge deal. It will cut down on GP's flexibility through his ankles, and his usability as a dressage horse in upper levels. I'm not terribly concerned about that. He will probably never jump again. That saddens me, he loves it so much. Once his ankles have fused (which can take years), he won't have pain any longer. I'm looking forward to that day.
A week after these were taken, we had both ankles injected with a combo of H/A and Depo. I know a lot of people have strong feelings about this injection, but I really think it's the right way to go. The Depo takes the immediate inflamation out of the joint, and the H/A works on a longer term to allow the join to work normally. Unlike the first time we had injections done, the large puffs on the ankles didn't go down immediately. Instead, after a week of turnout, the inflammation slowly went down. Soundness did improve.
During the month of June, I was busy trying to find a new job where Christian was going to be going to medical school. Guinness was my stress reliever, and I would hop on him bareback (it only took me 20 years to figure out how to leap on a full grown horse from the ground!) and round up the other horses to bring them in out of the field. We went for long walks, but nothing strenuous. GP started losing weight pretty drastically here, and I was starting to worry about him. The grass in his turnout was rapidly disappearing, and I started him on ground flax to add calories.
On July 4th, Guinness moved to Indiana. He's a happy camper being outside all the time (except for getting a little beat up by his new herd). He has a shelter, and food. His first trim lamed him pretty substantially, and I felt awful about that. My new job doesn't allow me to supervise his farrier work, and that is hard for me. His second trim didn't lame him so much. His feet have since come back stronger than they were, and his heels are starting to come underneath him. He's a sore foot on gravel roads, but sound as can be in grass. In the arena, he seems to short stride at the walk but be perfectly content to swing along at the trot and really step up under himself. That has been a beautiful thing to feel.
This weekend, we've been working on conditioning. Lots and lots of walking. We've been on the bit, we've been on a loose rein. We've explored hills and fields and woods. We've trotted a distance and cantered some. We've crossed puddles (oh my!) and met cowboy horses (they're so short!). We've been having a blast, and not taken a sore step yet.
Life's been looking up for this big red horse.
After Christian heads to school this afternoon, I'm headed out to enjoy a holiday on horseback. I'll try to take some photos and video while I'm out there. I need to get some conformational shots and video of movement for my records anyway! After all, I don't have any photos of Guinness in his hairless summer coat yet!