Poor Little Sore Foot

Our lameness issues aren't getting better. In fact, they are getting worse. Way worse. The "worsest" if you will ...

Everything started the beginning of the winter season with a little extra stiffness in the early parts of our ride. I expect this every winter. My giant red teddy bear isn't young anymore, and his joints pop more than Orville Redenbacher. We modify our rides to include at least 20 minutes of walking, both on a long rein and with contact. Then a little slow trotting, before I ask for a really engaged trot and start asking for bend, contact and figures. This has actually been working out very well for us, and I have felt pretty okay with debuting at Training Level later this month (but those concerns are another post!).

Recently, the lamness has been getting worse. Instead of working out of his stiffness and soreness, his gaits develop into a three legged hop around corners and a regular limp. While very worrying, the symptoms aren't there all the time. We might have 3 or 4 great days where his joints just crack and then 1 or 2 horrifying days. On the bad days I think about applying for a horsy leg transplant. I've been begging my vet to come out and look at him, but with the holidays and the racetracks (my vet is the main vet for Ohio racetracks) closing it's been impossible to get him out there.

Monday, after a really bumpy 15 min ride, in which Guinness seriously HOPPED around a corner on THREE LEGS. I called my vet from the saddle, nearly sobbing. We were able to schedule a visit, and talked about some of the possibilties including debilitating arthritis, injections or some sort of soft tissue/tendon injury. Really everything was looking pretty down right then. After I left the barn that night, all I could do was mope around.

All day Tuesday I kept trying to stay positive. I kept hoping for a simple arthritis diagnosis. Something an injection and careful warm-ups, wrapping, poltice and rest could help. Anything but a tendon injury, really.

Tuesday night I rode Guinness around for the vet. He watched us trot and walk both directions, as the big red horse hopped around below me - clearly in pain. An extensive poking and proding session resulted in my vet reaching for the hoof testers - and coming up with a positive test on the front right toe. My vet then proceeded to tell me that it looks like my horse has soft soles, and that I should slap some pads on him or pack him with Magic Cushion for the next two weeks to see how that helps. Venice turpentine is another option, to help toughen the soles. Oookay...

I have a couple of issues with this. First of all, why are my horse's delicate soles suddenly destroyed by the same footing he's been on since mid November? I know that we've always had to be extra careful with Guinness' feet, but why, despite the softness, is he only tender in one spot? What other options are there besides full "tennis shoe" type pads? What about an abscess? Doesn't that seem a little more like the obvioius option?

I feel like this is going to be an ongoing issue, but I'm just not sure how to continue from here. For now, the plan is to soak and poultice Guinness's right front hoof to see if I can coax out what may be an abscess. I agree that there is definite heat where the hoof testers pointed out a problem spot, and from the outside of the hoof I can feel a bit of isolated flare. I am wondering if this was caused by a quicked nail, a possible infection hurting as it grows out and/or he tripped hard and bruised his toe.

What really bothers me is the constant problem of soft or tender soles, and the complete write off I am getting from those around me. My vet told me that this problem would never resolve because "red-heads" (read: chestnut horses) always have softer feet. And that "white feet are always weaker."

... okay. Seriously? No.

First of all, the foot in question isn't even GP's white hoof. His white hoof is his back left, and I've NEVER had a problem with it.
Secondly, I never HEARD the thing about chestnuts, it's the biggest load of hooey ever. I mean, what if I told you that the reason my neighbor can grow a beard is because he has brown hair. Or, the reason his wife's fingernails break all the time is because she is fat.
Mythology, it's an amazing thing. Studies have disproved the white feet thing several times, yet my VET is spouting it. I'm disgusted..

Needless to say, I'm pretty frustrated right now. I've been trolling all horse outlets I know of to try to find more information to try to help my horse. I feel pretty abandoned by the professionals around me, and that's rather disheartening.

I did call my farrier, and that man has been a godsend. He wants to come out to look at Guinness and re-evaluate his feet. He doesn't think this has to be something we have to "just live with", and thinks the mythology is pretty bunk. Thank god, finally. We're going to have a look on Monday. Here's to hoping ...