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.
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. 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.