Thursday, August 23, 2012

Vet Visit

Danny's sweet and innocent look
I was very lucky to have Dr. Bruce Connelly agree to come down from Buffalo to give Danny the once over and give his assessment on his condition.  His area of expertise is lameness and Equine sports medicine and I am very lucky to have his input.  Dr. Connelly has said that he will be adding comments to my blog, but before I forget everything we discussed, I want to write down what I can.

He watched Danny move on his own across the pasture before I got there. Then we took him to the round pen and did the stretching exercises and then moved him around. I did not spray for flies first so the stretching was less productive than usual, although Danny did stretch his stringhalt leg out on his own.  (Yay)  Bruce said the snapping and popping noises are in his fetlock and did not concern him at all. (good to know)  He watched me back him up as well. 

Then he did several "tests" and checked his muscle tone.  He noticed that Danny is more muscle bulk on the stringhalt side in the rear than on the other side, but was not surprised by this.  He did say that for a horse this age (24) he has pretty darn good muscle tone, especially since he does not get ridden.  He did some tests on his sensory perception (on his rear feet) by pulling Danny's rear feet across behind and seeing if he would take them back.  He did take the right rear leg back but Bruce was able to actually drag the left rear (stringhalt side) across the ground  and Danny would just leave it there. He attributed this to a Central Nervous System Deficit.  Also he noted that when messing with Danny's tail, it is so free and loose, it leads him to believe that it is another symptom of the Deficit. He used a retracted pen along Danny's spine to get reflex reactions. (not sure if my terminology is right here) They were good on the right, the left was good in spots but one spot wasn't reactive the first time he tried it, but the second time it was.  I am not sure what that means.

Bruce did flexion tests on Danny's front legs to determine why he pulls his leg back when we do the stretching on the front.  He found that Danny has pain in the left front elbow, if I recall there was not as much in the right, but it is the right front that he takes from me.  Then he has me move him again and watched the front. He showed me where Danny is using his right front leg to pull himself forward to compensate for the lack of propulsion in the right rear.  He also pointed out how Danny's right front toe wears a little differently than the left which supports this diagnosis.  I had never noticed it before but I think it is because I always watch his rear. He checked the muscles in his front but if I recall correctly did not find anything that was unusual. 

When I think about this I wonder if coming up with some sort of excersise to help strengthen those front muscles would be beneficial to him, if I can do it in a way that did not add stress to his already sore elbow joints.  I will see if I can gather some information on this train of thought.

He did note that Danny sometimes does come down on the stringhalt foot while it is still flexed back.  Now I can see I am losing memory because I can't recall what he said about that. Just the progression of the stringhalt?

The basic treatment plan is to continue on with what I am doing, being careful to watch for signs of progression in the Central Nervous System Deficit.  Specifically watching for balance issues where he starts falling over.  Although he did not seem to feel that this is directly related to stringhalt, it certainly is a factor in his reconditioning, in the sense that if he falls over he could hurt either himself or me.  We of course pondered whether this lack of sensory perception is gradual or from an injury he may have had since I have owned him.. He has had a couple of slips and falls, and was beat up by a big mean horse who put him through a chain link fence and a vinyl fence. Whether he started having these issues at the same time, I cannot say. I hate to admit that I was not paying close enough attention and my concept of past time is often distorted.  

Okay so I have been interrupted 3 times since starting this so I will stop there.  Hopefully Dr. Connelly will have the time to update with his information. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Back At It....

Getting his head scratched before his workout
Danny had several days  off from his work out routine, while I was out of town and then getting caught back up on household chores and work. The few times I did work with him was so short and sweet it wasn't even really worth mentioning.  I hate that it works out that way sometimes, and I am really concerned with how we are going to work this out through the winter.  I guess I could take him down to the indoor arena a few times a week for a quick workout.

Anyway, we got some good stuff done with the
new additions to the stretching techniques I talked about in my last post and as promised I got some better pictures as well.

Notice how much higher I am bringing this hind leg up than I
was originally.
I have found that if I don't bring him to the round pen he really doesn't stay focused and is worried more about getting over to the feed shed where his yummy treats are kept. 

I got some very good stretching out of him yesterday.  He really does seem to enjoy it.

There are 2 things I want to point out about this picture.  First, notice how I am able to just drop the lead rope and he stands patiently while we do the stretching. He is such a good boy!   Second, it appears as though I am pulling with all my weight but I am not.  I am really just getting his leg up, he does the stretching after that.  It is not generally the case with his stringhalt leg(the white foot is the bad one) except once he was able to stretch it on his own.

This set of pictures is of me backing him in a circle around the round pen. We went this direction first and then did some forward motion and then backed in the other direction.  I could tell that he has a harder time backing with his stringhalt foot to the inside.  Therefor we will start with that next time and see if we can't get better on that side.

That is the update I have for now.  I don't know if I have mentioned this before but I changed his feed from Strategy GX to Purina Equine Senior.  It has more vitamin E in it, and saves from having to add a supplement.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Let me start by saying that this picture was not taken yesterday.  It was taken a year or so ago when we were trying acupuncture on Danny. I just didn't have any new ones to post today.

The other thing I want to make clear is that I am in no way shape or form an Equine professional ANYTHING.  I have no medical training except what I have learned through owning animals and have kids.  In truth, I am not even that good of a rider.  I used to think I was but since I have been working with my trainer I am learning that I was just really good at staying on.  I have come a very long ways since then but still have a much longer ways to go. Everything in this blog is about my trials and errors in trying to help a wonderful horse.  I get some guidance from others via emails, most vets who have seen him seem to feel that there isn't much to be done for him, and since he isn't in any pain.....ya ok.

My point here is this, I am making this up as I go.  If something seems to work I stick with it.  If it doesn't I stop trying that and move on to something else.  I really have had very little help from anyone trying to figure out what to do.  Also I am just getting started, so I my list of things that work and don't work is still pretty small.  I am constantly seeking out more and better information to help me a long the way.

BUT.....yesterday my trainer came over.  He has known Danny since the day I got him.  He showed me how to teach Danny a few manners, and how to show him who the herd leader was. (that would be me....I AM the herd leader)  Since then Danny has always been easy to work with.  Jay has almost always done the trims on Danny's feet, he has helped me all along.  Lately though Jay has been busy with his job, other horse projects he has taken on, and his own horses, so yesterday was the first time he has been over in a while, and the first time he has seen what I have started. 

He watched what I was doing, he gave me some pointers on the stretching techniques that he learned from a vet, and we talked about some of the things he learned at the Buck Branaman Clinic he just got back from.  He was able to watch Danny's reactions to what I was doing with a trained eye and he saw good things and bad.  He saw that when I work with his right front leg and stretch it back, Danny shifts his weight off the right rear and takes that front leg back.  Since Jay has trimmed Danny for years he knows that when Danny takes back a foot like that there is a real reason behind it.  Not just because he is being a butthead.  This will require more investigation.  We were unable to locate the reason why.

He showed me more about stretching the rear, specifically stretching forward and up.  He showed me that it is okay to come out to the side a little as long as Danny is OK with it.  We were able to get a larger range of motion and much better stretch out of him.  The best one though was when I stretched his rear legs behind him.  Danny didn't just concede, he actually gave me his leg and once I got it up he stretched himself way out, ON HIS OWN!!!  Danny is not capable of kicking out behind him, he cannot buck, he cannot stretch his hind end on his own.  He cannot get his legs behind him to do these things.  I know this because I have seen him being chased by another horse (ears pinned and teeth bared) and at the time when  a normal horse would kick back, he doesn't.  He can't.  So to see him take that opportunity, once I got his hind leg up to really stretch those atrophied muscles out, it brought happy tears to my eyes.  He did not just on one leg but both.  It was truly amazing!!!!!!

One of the things Jay showed me was instead of backing up a hill, to back him in a circle.  It forces him to pick up his feet rather than drag his feet back.  He learned that from Buck.  I guess that is one of the things Buck does to build muscle in the lower legs.  (FYI- I would sell almost anything I own to go to a Buck Branaman Clinic)

He made several trips around the round pen before showing the signs of leg fatigue, so yes, he is getting strong.  After that really great stretching I did not hear those popping noises I heard the day before so perhaps he just needed to stretch those legs out.  We did hear his hind hooves hit each other mid air, but only once.  Again Progress!!!

When it was all said and done, I was told that I am doing a good job, and certainly on the right track.  It was good to hear that from someone I trust and respect, I really needed a nice little vote of confidence right now.  So even though he may not read this, I want to say thanks to Jay for helping me yesterday. 

I will try very hard to get some pictures of the new stretching stuff I am doing and update tonight.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Week One Update

We are on Day four of the stretching and strength building routine.  It seems as though he is able to make it a little longer each time.  His stopping point is when he can no longer place his stringhalt foot down flat.  When it hits toe first and bends back I stop him.  I do not want him to sprain or injure his fetlock.  He made it over 2 minutes in both directions yesterday at a trot.  At a conter it was much quicker, although he was already tired by then.  Yesterday we started with backing up the hill twice before going forward in the round pen. Usually that is done last.

I have decided to have a vet come and watch and listen to him move.  I am hearing a sort of snapping or popping noise in his hind end, I cannot determine where it is coming from.  Is it his hooves hitting each other, or tendons in his legs?  I will schedule this appointment hopefully for a week from Saturday. 

I started him on a vitamin E supplement, but I believe it is mixed with the same stuff you use for Sand Colic, so before giving any more I need to research it.

Here are some pictures from the video I cannot upload

This is at a fast trot taken on Day 2

This I think was a slow Canter
This is at a fast walk

He is "stuck" here, having a hard time getting it back down

 Look at the difference in his length of strides...
from one leg to the other.

That is the only update I have for now.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Week 1 Treatment

We started this week with the Vitamin E Suppliment and also Stretching and some mild exerscising.
I was not thrilled with what I saw our first time in the round pen.
Danny tired very quickly, and in a very short period of time I noticed that he was not placing his stringhalt foot down flat like he should but toe first, almost dragging it. I am hoping this gets better with time.
We quit there, and walked to cool down.  I also had him back up a small hill in order to build up some back muscles.
We also stretched afterwards, and then I massaged him all over.
I did take some videos but cannot get them to load. I'll keep working on that.
Here are the stretching pictures.
I need to get a book on this, so I can be more thorough.

First we stretch the fetlock

Stretching forward

Now back

Back foot

Stretching back being careful not to pull out at all

Now Forward- this one is harder than I thought it was going to be

See how he stands on his own feet?

Like I said, I need better instruction on how to do this.
I also need better instruction on how to get my pictures to post singularly instead of in a group.  The first ones seem to work out okay then towards the bottom they go all haywire.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Danny is approx 24 years old, severe stringhalt, has had it since he came into our family about 4 years ago.
you can clearly see it here

Not much in the right

again it is obvious in the left

He is affected mostly in the left rear leg, but occasionally shows signs in the right as well, usually if it is cold or he is back up.  Nothing is known about his past, what he was used and trained for,or if he suffered an injury. 

He was allowed to "retire" and has been ridden very little since we have had him. In four years I have witnessed his condition progressing to where he is have trouble sensing where he is placing his feet.

note the trauma sight where he continually steps on his own feet

He steps on his own right rear foot often and often places his left rear foot in positions that are un-natural for a horse, he does not move it from that position.

Note how his stringhalt foot is placed directly behind the right foot.  He does not realize where his foot is right now. 

This picture clearly shows that his leg actually comes up far enough to hit his belly.  He has a hard time getting it back down sometimes.
He does do a little better at a canter or trot although I rarely see him go that fast on his own anymore. 

Danny is in good general health.  He is kept up to date on all shots and worming.  He is not prone to founder or thrush and most farriers claim he has some of the best feet they have ever seen on a horse.  Teeth were floated approx 18 months prior to this post.  Vet did not find any hooks or points, just a few waves.  Will have vet down in the next month for full blood panel, just to make the study completely accurate.  The stringhalt hoof does grow slightly longer and flatter than the other 3 hoofs (see pics below)
One year ago, we started a regime of Acupuncture.  Unfortunately in Wyoming there really is no one who is very well trained in this type of medicine, so it had very little effect on him. 

DIET:  Danny is on a simple diet of Wyoming Certified Haycubes (crude protien 18.86%- TDN est. 62%)  and Purina Strategy GX.  He is fed 2x daily and has free run of a pasture all day. Although he really does not graze much.  I would put his weight index at about a 6.  There is no crest present at his neck, nor any fat deposits on his body.

HOUSING: Danny resides in a decent sized paddock.  He is usually alone, with horses in the next paddock, although on occasion I will put either my mare or the other gelding he gets along with in with him.  I always separate at feeding time though as the others will steal his grain.

Danny has suffered a few minor injuries since we have had them. 
1. got in fight with large gelding, was pushed through vinyl fencing, minor cuts and abrasions.
2. large gash or cut on rear of hock, could have been a wire cut, could have been trauma cut from being kicked. Examined by 2 different vets, both agreed the injury was only skin deep.  Cut has healed beautifully (see before and after pics) This was 2 months ago.
3. Last week, trauma to stringhalt hoof, right at coronet band.  Unknown cause, still healing from that.  It does not seem to be causing him much pain, but it is hard to tell with its location.  He does not like me to clean it, where as with the other cut I could scrub daily and he would not move away.  I have not totally ruled out abscess on this one.

The hock cut the day we found it.

Totally healed now 

 The stringhalt hoof abrasion.  I do not like the way this one looks. Sent picture to vet, he says it does not look like abscess, farrier due this week, will have him look as well.

Danny has one old injury on right rear, some proud flesh present.  I do not know how this happened, as he had it when I got him. But I would not be being thorough if I did not mention it.

Here are the pictures of Danny's hooves as of today.  Note that all in all they are in pretty good shape, not quite due for a trim but getting there.  We are in the middle of a drought so they are a little dry, but not near as bad as my other horses.  I do treat with "Horseshoers Secret" directly to hooves, once a week.

Front feet.  Nicely shaped considering he is almost due for a trim.

Right rear foot, also a fairly nice shape.

The strinhalt hoof.  Note that it is slight more elongated, a little lower in the heel. We believe that it is a direct result of the force with which his foot comes down.  It is very hard, which makes gravel or pavement very uncomfortable for him.

I feel that his weight is about as perfect as it could be.

It is my intention to ad a video of him moving to this before post to give everyone a very clear idea of how he moves.
Our next post will be on our treatment plan.