In my many years of horse ownership, I’ve never had a horse who needed to see the vet as often as Madigan does. He’s had more injuries in two years than Moe has had in nearly twenty. Thankfully, most have been fairly minor and easily resolved- an abscess here, an upset stomach there. Now he’s going on four weeks of mystery lameness that’s stumped everyone from me to his vet to his trainer.
Back in late May, Madigan kicked at me when I touched his right stifle. This was very unusual- he’s never been sensitive about being touched anywhere. I assumed he’d bumped his hip unloading at the show the previous week. When the stifle soreness persisted into the next week, I made a vet appointment. In the few days between making the appointment and going to the appointment, he began exhibiting lameness on his right front. I couldn’t find any evidence of injury on his leg or his hoof, so I assumed it was likely an abscess. We had an incredibly wet spring, and Madigan’s favorite pastime is lounging in the pond. He had a couple of abscesses around this time last year, so I felt like this was a reasonable assumption.
At the clinic, I told his vet of my abscess suspicion, and he focused on evaluating the sore stifle. Madigan’s x-rays looked perfectly fine, and my vet advised it was likely just growing pains that would resolve with a couple of days of Bute and turnout. The vet advised soaking and wrapping the hoof to draw the suspected abscess out and sent us on our way.
I threw out my back right after that, so Madigan spent the next week and a half turned out in the pasture (where he lives 24/7 anyway). When I finally felt well enough to hobble over to baby school with him, he seemed fine. He no longer reacted to me touching his stifle and the abscess appeared to have exited through a small hole in his frog. However, he was lame on the right front as soon as he stepped into the arena.
Fortunately, my neighbor had a horse headed to the vet clinic for repro work the next day, so Madigan and I hitched a ride. His vet did a full lameness evaluation- flexions, hoof testers, nerve block. Madigan was extremely sound. The vet noticed a second small hole in his frog, and mentioned that it looked as if a second abscess had drained recently. He theorized that the sandy dirt of the arena might have irritated the abscess holes or that Madigan was still feeling some soreness from the abscesses.
A few days later, I took him back to baby school where he was once again lame in the arena. He wasn’t as lame as he had been, and I sent his vet a video. His vet couldn’t come out until this week (and I didn’t feel great about driving 45 minutes to the vet when I couldn’t sit in my office chair comfortably for more than 10 minutes), and in the interim, Madigan sustained a small scrape on his right front leg. Of course it was hot, swollen, and sensitive when his vet came out on Monday. His vet x-rayed his hoof, which looked completely normal. Madigan was gimpy from the swollen scrape, so his vet gave me some antibiotics and advised Bute for a couple of days. If he’s still lame when he returns to work, his vet will rearrange his schedule to come out and look at Madigan that day to see if he can determine what’s wrong. An MRI might be the next step, but I hope it won’t come to that! (Because holy shit, horse MRIs are expensive.)
In the meantime, Madigan is happily turned out, unhappily having antibiotics squirted into his mouth, and probably enjoying time off from his incredibly easy job of being a baby horse.