Levi Update

Olivia   January 8, 2018   46 Comments on Levi Update

I was putting off this post hoping I’d have some more information on Levi as of the 4th, but it looks like he won’t be getting reshod for a few more weeks.


Levi has been slightly off and on since I adopted him. I always saw it in the front, but when I had him vet-checked at purchase, the vet said he had a bad hock and nothing flexed or looked off in the front. I was told to give him some time and build his musculature up. Over the last year, I’ve worked hard on that and he was pretty fit by the end of the year. The vet was really impressed when she saw him again. But he was still occasionally a bit off throughout that year.

He had pretty bad feet when we first got him and shoeing helped. He initially was in nail-on EasyShoes and went really well in them, but he kept pulling them off. If he didn’t pull them from tripping on himself despite wearing bell boots, he would pull them from pawing. He managed to twist one of them at Camelot the first time we took him there from pawing at the corral every time we took Eugene away from him. We switched him to Natural Balance shoes after that. While those have stayed on consistently, he’s never been quite as comfortable in them.

While I continued to feel like the unsoundness was in the front, I went ahead and had his hocks injected in October. He did feel better afterwards and the x-rays from his purchase exam showed he did have a bad hock so I don’t think that injection was entirely wasted, but the subtle uncomfortableness still popped up occasionally.

After Fresno, Levi was fine for the first week back and then showed up really gimpy to his first lesson after Thanksgiving. It honestly would have made more sense if he’s been off right after Fresno, but he was fine at first and then went off. (I now know why, but I’ll get to that in a moment). I gave him some Bute and a few days off and he got a bit better, but he wasn’t returning to 100%.

By December, I was getting pretty tired of this fleeting and mysterious discomfort and decided to take him in to the Vet hospital. There was no heat, no swelling, no reaction to hoof testers or flexion tests. Whatever was wrong was going to take x-rays or ultrasounds to figure out.

Vet Check

For this trip, we saw a different vet than the one who did Levi’s purchase exam. This is the vet who is handling Nilla’s suspensory (and he was also TC’s vet) so I trust him. The vet started by trotting Levi around both straight back and forth and on the lunge. On the lunge, he was noticeably more comfortable on the one stride he could take on the mulch alongside the gravel driveway. We trekked out to the lunging arena and he was even more comfortable there.

He still had no reaction to flexion tests. Although obviously more comfortable on soft ground (even with shoes on) he wasn’t really reactive to hoof testers either. The vet wanted to do x-rays to see if there were any navicular changes though he suspected there weren’t any because of the way he was presenting. Levi had also managed to scrape out a small section of his hoof leaving a gap between the hoof and shoe, so the vet wanted to look for white line (though again not likely given presentation).


I’ve never seen x-rays for navicular done and it was interesting to watch. They had to pull his shoes and then packed his feet full of some blue putty.


Then it was time for a ton of very expensive x-rays. Because Levi didn’t have navicular (which the vet suspected before the x-rays) they ended up having to take some extra images from different views once they saw what was causing the problem.

Here’s Levi’s xray:

This is a normal P3 x-ray:

All of this circled sh*t (see below) isn’t supposed to be there.

That’s sidebone. I kinda freaked out a bit, because I didn’t know what sidebone was and my mind jumped to ringbone, which is a very bad diagnosis. But sidebone isn’t ringbone and it’s not that bad as a diagnosis. Sidebone can range from existing and having no effect at all to being a career ending. Levi is somewhere in the middle of those two. The sidebone itself isn’t usually a problem with horses. Most older horses will have them and a lot draft breeds will have them (even the younger ones) but they don’t usually cause lameness. When they cause lameness the prognosis can be bad.

The vet and I had a long chat about Levi’s chances for recovery and his potential future. The vet isn’t actually too concerned about the sidebone itself, but worried about the slight demineralization of the one sidebone (seen as the dark spot in the circle below). If that demineralization leads to a fracture, he’s in trouble. To avoid that, Levi got a course of Osphos and will go on Previcox to keep inflammation down in the future. Provided that bit re-calcifies, he should be fine.

I spent quite a bit of time picking the vet’s mind about Levi’s future. Does he need to be retired? No. Does he need to stop jumping? No. Can he still do eventing? Yes. Can he go higher in eventing? Conditionally yes. If I had plans for FEI levels, then no, but he can do Training level without this being a problem (all the other things keeping us from ever doing that are a different story).

On the downsides: Can he do endurance? No. Should he live in a gravel pasture (like he does)? No. Is he going to require special and expensive shoes? Yes. Is it in his best interest to continue living in CA? No.


Levi got a shot of Osphos and will be on Previcox going forward. He also needs pads or Sneakers instead of regular shoes. This was supposed to get done on the 4th, but our farrier needs a grinder to shape the Sneakers and our barn doesn’t have electric. We tried running the grinder off our battery converter, but it didn’t work. I’ll have to haul Levi out to meet him in a week. Once he does one pair, he can shape remaining pairs at home based off of Levi’s measurements and we won’t have to haul out for shoeing.ย The fact that Levi previously felt so much more comfortable in the EasyShoes bodes well for the Sneakers solving his soundness issues.

Even with the new shoes, the vet wants his time on hard ground limited. Ideally, Levi shouldn’t be living on gravel. Unfortunately, that’s what we have. I talked to the vet about moving him to a stall and bedding it, but the vet agreed that the lack of movement and the effects on his sanity would be worse than the gravel. Because it doesn’t rain regularly here, the ground in California is rock solid for about 9 months of the year. Given all the recent droughts we keep having, it’s often rock solid for 12 months of the year. Levi should really live on the east coast where footing is soft and he could live in a combination of stall with non gravel bedding and grass pasture. Guess who just so happens to be moving to the east coast?

I can also now see how his recent and persistent offness has corresponded with his pasture being freshly graveled. And the reason he was sound after leaving Fresno, but came up lame a week later is because, after he had a few days off from Fresno, I took him on some pretty intense and rocky trail rides.

I look forward to him getting his shoes on in the middle of January. I think Levi is looking forward to it as well. He keeps trying to offer himself up when my husband goes to get Eugene. When I go to feed or blanket them, he races over to the gate hoping to be taken out. He’s also taking his boredom out on anything he can touch.

46 thoughts on “Levi Update

  1. emma

    wait are you moving to the east coast?!?!?

    also tho, that’s a tough diagnosis, but in a way kinda relief it’s not worse? sorry to hear it creates so many challenges with keeping him comfortable with the typical californian living situations. hopefully tho you can get that all figured out and he’s comfy in the new shoes so he can get back to doing all that fun stuff!

    1. Olivia Post author

      I did 3 whole posts about house shopping. We plan to move this spring/summer provided we can find a good place. I’m hoping we can manage with the new shoes until the move and then he’ll probably stay in them and just be even more comfortable.

      1. emma

        lol i saw the posts, i guess i just didn’t realize it was so imminent!! good timing tho – i hope the perfect place crops up asap! (do you know which state yet? or is that still flexible?)

        1. Olivia Post author

          The state is still pretty flexible though in the VT, NH, ME area. I think at this point it will be more about the right property in any of the areas we like.

          1. martidoll123

            okay i blamed flu induced idiocy cause i was confused too Emma ๐Ÿ™‚ I didnt know the move was imminent. Let’s chat about NH!! (My husband actually has an interview there MONDAY! LOL Yes it is cold but i love it up there) How exciting. Levi is such a character I am glad you have a game plan for him!

  2. Britt

    Aw, poor Levi! However it’s good you finally figured out the mystery lameness, which in my mind is more than half the battle!

    1. Olivia Post author

      I’m glad I figured it out and I can know how to avoid triggering issues with it, but I do wish it had been something less sever.

    1. Olivia Post author

      We’re planning to move in the spring/summer if we can find the right place. I’m definitely glad I know what’s wrong, but I do wish it weren’t so permanent.

  3. Carly

    A youngish (7 I think) QH at my barn has xrays almost identical to these. I was there when they took them and I thought it was the craziest thing ever and there was no way he’d stay sound, but with the right management–pads, being picky about footing, and limiting jump height–he’s been going around great. You would never know anything is wrong with him. Hopefully the changes you guys are planning okn making help Levi continue on for a long time!

    1. Olivia Post author

      It’s crazy how a horse can have these and be sound, but I am hopeful. It’s good to hear another positive story. Of course, Levi promptly smashed his fetlock with his hind foot and popped a huge abscess in response so his soundness may not be just up to the sidebones.

  4. Nicole Sharpe

    I object to you taking your perfect mustangs away!!

    Bummer about Levi being uncomfortable, but it looks like the prognosis is pretty good. I’ve read that deep pea gravel (4″ of 5-10mm peas) is actually a pretty supportive surface for feet, though I’m not sure about the concussive forces it might convey. Fingers crossed for successful management.

    1. Olivia Post author

      Pea gravel is a great footing for horses who are not Levi. It would even be fine for just living in for him, but the two of them run around like nutcases on it so he’s getting more concussive force than is ideal.

  5. rooth

    My heart sank when I saw those xrays but thank goodness it’s not ringbone (what my poor Ryon had). I love the way those sneakers look so keep me posted on how those do for him. Also, find anything good for real estate on the east coast yet?

    1. Olivia Post author

      I definitely panicked at first thinking it was ringbone, but sidebone seems manageable. Most places in the northeast aren’t even on the market in the winter so we’re not looking until spring.

    1. Olivia Post author

      They are really cool. I’ve seen endurance horses using them before. I wish I could get the colored one. I’m sure Levi will show his appreciation by pulling them off asap.

  6. Shauna

    My old horse Boca had sidebone that looked a lot like Levi’s. I had xrays done as part of his Pre-Purchase exam. Although the vet was alarmed at the Mt. Everest of sidebone, she did some consultation and arrived at the conclusion that, unless it broke off, and/or interfered with the joint, it wouldn’t limit him from doing the job I intended him to do. So I bought him. It was never a problem for us (although other, unrelated issues later made him unsuitable for what I wanted to do.)

    I hope with the right management and shoeing solution, you have many years of fun adventures ahead of you both!

    Excited for your East Coast search! Winters are tough, but other than that, I love it here ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Olivia Post author

      That’s good to hear that your horse’s sidebone wasn’t a problem. I am worried that the sidebone won’t be the thing preventing him from staying sound. He basically left the vet and proceeded to step on himself and create a huge abscess. It’s like he wants to be injured.

    1. Olivia Post author

      We’re looking at Vermont, NH, and Maine. My husband hates the heat and essentially refuses to move below the 42nd parallel.

  7. Megan

    Such love for the wizard vet! I’m glad it’s something manageable and not ringbone (phew!!), I’ll be curious to follow along because TC showed the beginnings of sidebone at his PPE and the vet said that it was fine for what we would be doing but I obviously have to keep an eye on it. Glad Levi is going to be okay!

    1. Olivia Post author

      I didn’t realize TC had some sidebone. I wonder if TC is getting that from the Friesian side of his breeding? The vet and everything I’ve read said sidebone is much more common in the heavy breeds.

  8. Teresa

    I was afraid to read this – I’m glad that you have an answer and that it seems to work out with your planned move. It will be nice to have some more east coast bloggers. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Olivia Post author

      There are so many east coast bloggers. Although not as many in the north as in the midatlantic. I think it’ll be nice to have more bloggers to meet, though California has been good for that.

  9. Madeline C.

    Those rads are definitely scary looking. I can’t even imagine. It sounds like it’s more on the good side than bad though! Levi doesn’t seem like the type to handle retirement well. Can’t wait to see how the shoes work out!

    1. Olivia Post author

      I’d never seen xrays like that before. Now I’ve looked up lots of articles on it, but it was weird to see at first. Levi does not want to be retired at all.

  10. L. Williams

    As I read this post I started thinking of Navicular changes, glad that it turned out not to be that and there is a good course of action for you guys moving forward.

    1. Olivia Post author

      The fact that he was never very reactive to hoof testers made navicular unlikely, but obviously not impossible since he is slightly reactive (but he does have rather sensitive soles). I was worried that that might be the diagnosis though and I’m happy it’s not.

  11. Stacie Seidman

    Look at that Levi trying to get you to move sooner…. I had a horse with side bone long ago. He was an appaloosa-percheron cross so the vets weren’t shocked by it. I didn’t have him all that long, but it was never an issue for me, and as far as I know he did well in his homes after me. (He did some foxhunting and light trails stuff mostly.) I’m not familiar with these sneakers you speak of, will you post about them?
    Keeping my fingers crossed you get Levi comfy again and can get back to doing what you enjoy with him!

    1. Olivia Post author

      I haven’t tried Sneakers before, but I have seen endurance horses using them. The vet recommended them and even had a sample one in the office to show me. I had seen them before though. My farrier does a lot of endurance horses so he knows how to do them, which is great because a lot of farriers don’t. He actually said he can make me a bunch of them and I can take them with me when I move.

  12. reluctant cowgirl

    Sorry to hear it; I know the news could be worse but it’s still expensive and inconvenient. I hope you find a good solution to get him sound and you both happy where you want to be.

    1. Olivia Post author

      Expensive and inconvenient indeed. I think it might get really inconvenient if he starts throwing the shoes all the time. I’ve always preferred to keep my horses barefoot because shoes are so annoying so this isn’t great, but I hope he’ll feel better.

  13. roamingridersite

    Those xrays are impressive. It is nice to have an answer, even if it isn’t the one you wanted. You now have a great plan of action to hopefully prevent issues. Darn abscess though! Good luck with the house search. I hope you find what you are wanting. Wish you’d look down here as property is way less expensive, but I understand your hubby’s heat disdain.

    1. Olivia Post author

      I’m pretty heat intolerant as well. I’d personally prefer to move back to PA/NJ where it’s not the south, but at least it’s not -15 in the winter.

  14. megan k

    i about pooped myself when i saw those xrays. i have NEVER seen foot xrays like that before. what on earth.

    i bet the osphos will help. and sneakers will help too! you’ll have to post about his new kicks. I hope he is comfortable until you can come east. ooorrrr iw ill take him ๐Ÿ˜›

    1. Olivia Post author

      While the foot condition isn’t career ending, our current relationship status might be. He was in a state of you better get more enjoyable or I’ll sell you before this whole foot thing put him out of work. I haven’t ridden him in almost 2 months so who knows.

  15. the_everything_pony

    Wow those x rays are crazy! I’ve never seen anything like it! Well, I’m sorry about the diagnosis, but it is very fortuitous for him that you guys are planning to move to the east coast! I’m glad the osphos and previcox seem to be helping so far, and that he should respond to the sneaker shoes ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. jenj

    Sneakers are THE BEST. I suggest throwing a wrap or two of hoof cast over them to help keep them in place for longer – it sort of acts like a permanent bell boot (in addition to the boots that he’ll wear 24/7).

    Interestingly, my trimmer uses a regular rasp to provide more breakover on the sneakers. Not sure where your trimmer is shaping them, but it can def be done with a rasp.

    1. Olivia Post author

      I’ll definitely ask him about the hoof cast. I already bought extra pairs of bell boots as I am going to double him up. He said he wanted the grinder for shaping the sneakers (cutting off some edge to make them fit just right.)

  17. Dom

    Wow those are some dramatic x-rays! Bummer that he has side bone, but glad you have answers and it’s not ring bone…

  18. Liz

    Holy crap what dramatic xrays ๐Ÿ˜”๐Ÿ˜”. I’m glad your move will benefit his health though! What a nice bonus.

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