Let’s face it—my vet was stumped. We thought we had this thing figured out, but then… maybe we didn’t? There is no question that you can look at an x-ray of Dolly’s hoof and see a crack in the navicular bone. I had dutifully gone home and applied shoes and padding as prescribed to relieve pressure on the crack, but there was no improvement—in fact—it might even be a teeny bit worse? Either we weren’t fixing the problem correctly, or we weren’t fixing the correct problem.
For me, the immediate concern was getting to the vet with everything I would need to reapply the shoe and goo once we had treated the hoof. It was one of those perfect, clear, winter mornings—23 degrees out. I had to hitch up the trailer and collect everything on my F-14 launch checklist before loading up and heading out. Somehow, I managed to pull this off and even hit the road a few minutes early. Little did I realize that I was headed for yet another (even longer this time) marathon session of attempted diagnosis.
My vet wasn’t happy with the whole “it’s not improving” thing. I tried to take credit for a bad shoeing job, but he said it looked really great and should have helped—so much for martyrdom! So he blocked the hoof yet again. It is a real testament to Dolly’s good nature that she is still putting up with all of the needle sticks. And… um… well,… no improvement. So he had me saddle up and ride (no mean feat when it has, by this time, warmed up to around 30. Dolly was “a bit fresh,” as they say.) Then we blocked higher, then ride some more, then ultrasound, lather, rinse repeat. He was not ruling out anything. (There was even a fellow there who has been using infrared thermography to diagnose lamenesses and he had this guy check everything from the neck down.) After 4 hours, much discussion, ultrasound and many x-rays, ride in circles at a trot, and numbing Dolly’s leg to the point where she kept doing the classic “I can’t feel my leg!” He finally found something.
On an x-ray of her knee, he found an old fracture line and just above it, on the inside of the splint bone is a blind splint. You can barely see it on the ultrasound. He thinks it is putting pressure on the nerve which is causing the pain—a neuropathy! That explains why there is no swelling or heat. It also explains why shoeing, stem cell therapy and bute didn’t help, and why it didn’t get worse (or better) with more riding. Shoeing changes the forces on the suspensory ligament, which changes how it applies pressure to the nerve, so it also explains why she might have gotten a bit worse. There may also be some involvement with the navicular bone although it is hard to say how much.
So he shot it up with cortisone in the hopes of relieving it and we will see how it pans out as I increase her riding over the next month or so. Surgery is a possibility, but the more I read about it, the less I like the prognosis. I drove home feeling a bit like a deflated balloon. What more could be wrong with her? And is this really “it,” or is there something else lurking in there that we haven’t found yet—grrr…
And the punch line of this whole affair? We never did pull that shoe and inject the hoof, so I didn’t have to reapply it complete with messy goo—at least I can be happy about that part!