Near the end of Sunday's trail ride, Wally went very lame in his right hind leg. I was riding with my friend Natalie and we paused near my house to allow Wally to sip out of the automatic waterer one of my neighbors has mounted on their fence for stoppers by. Natalie's horse is a bit more physically fit than Wally. Okay, I admit it: Wally's a bit of a porker. So while Natalie's horse was still full of energy, Wally was pooped. I'm sure that's because our route had included a long trek to the golf course. And that requires slogging up a gentle yet definite slope to the top of the hill.
Anyway, all was fine until we stopped for Wally to take a drink. When he was finished slurping, I nudged him forward and... he couldn't walk. He was so lame behind that I hopped off to check his hoof for a nail or rock. But he couldn't-- or wouldn't-- budge his leg or foot for me. Fortunately, he had his leg cocked, so I could peer down and see that the underside of his foot was alright.
Thus began the walk home with me frantic as to what had gone wrong with Wally.
After I untacked him and gave him a shower, he barely made it back to his paddock. Then he just stood rock solid still, nickering at me, with his sore hind leg bearing little weight. It was horrible! I ran into the tackroom and grabbed him a peppermint. I knew that Wally was physically unable or mentally unwilling to move when he wouldn't come to me for his treat. Instead, he stood there, whinnying, as if saying, "Can't you please just bring it to me?"
Of course I did. And then I ran inside and called the vet.
Within an hour Jennifer was there. And in contrast to my dramatic pleading on the phone, Wally was at least 50% better. He was walking fine and cleaning up leftover scraps of his breakfast hay. Nevertheless he got an exam. Which revealed nothing: no response to her palpating his back or sacro-iliac area, no swelling or signs of trauma.
Jennifer gave him some anti-inflammatories with instructions to give him more if he wasn't better the next day. Yet he was! In fact, the next day (yesterday) he trotted and cantered around his paddock as if nothing had happened.
The verdict? Even though I know that Wally has some arthritis in his hocks, Jennifer doesn't think that's the cause of The Mysterious Lameness of Sudden Onset and Rapid Recovery. Instead it's most likely something to do with Wally's stifles, which fits with the scenario that this has happened twice now, and both times it was after I'd ridden him up some hills. Most likely he's straining the ligaments around his stifle, which causes pain and cramping. Or at least that's it in a nutshell.
Just to be clear, I am not galloping like a madwoman up and down rocky, winding hills. These are manicured, city-maintained bridle paths.
But Wally, in his porkified state, is apparently not fit enough to do such tasks. So for a while we're going to stick to FLAT trails and add more arena work to get him "legged up" as the race horse people say. I'm relieved that there is a solution to this problem. Wally, on the other hand, probably won't appreciate that solution, as it will require more physical exertion.
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