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Discussion on Dropped fetlock

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kayla block
New Member
Username: kaylab

Post Number: 1
Registered: 3-2008
Posted on Wednesday, Mar 19, 2008 - 10:43 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I have a 15yo 17hh Hanoverian gelding. He was a jumper back in his heyday and reportedly blew out his suspensory and had it surgically reattached. (Vet says he can't see any scarring that would support this nor can he feel anything that would be relevant.) When I bought him, his owner said he was cleared to 2'9 and no more due to this suspensory injury. But in the time I have had him, we are working on training level dressage and have not jumped.

About 5 weeks ago, I noticed that when I went to clean his back left hoof, he was swishing his tail and trying to offer the right rear. This continued for some weeks until I called the vet. He seemed very slightly off right before I called the vet, but nothing dramatic. Just enough to make me wonder if he needed a chiro. It is quite possible this irritability about that hoof has been going on longer than before I noticed.

I haven't seen my dressage trainer for awhile because of some unrelated issues but per her, 8 weeks ago, this horse was 100% sound. My dressage trainer has known this horse many years longer than I've had him and says his hind end conformation was always suspect. (Toes in, post-legged and possibly dropped looking fetlocks.)

Per the vet, the fetlocks are more dropped on one side than the other and he found that alarming. (To me, the fetlocks look a bit low but nothing like photos I've seen of DSLD fetlocks.)

Palpating the suspensory, the vet said he was "surprised" because everything felt fine, though he said the problem may be where he can't palpate.

On exam, he said the horse had a Grade 2 lameness and on flexion it went to Grade 3. I've seen no evidence of head bobbing but did think perhaps the horse was slightly off prior to having the vet out. That said, he does look quite lame on left and right hind flexion.

Vet is discouraging me from further diagnostics (it will be expensive) and recommending 12 weeks of stall rest. But without an actual diagnosis (and post vet visit, watching my horse run and play, buck and gallop, and looking like he was happy and feeling well), I'm uncertain of what to do.

He remains reluctant to give me his left hind. But other than that, at least on a day to day basis, I see no other symptoms.

Is it possible to have one fetlock lower than the other without an underlying disease process? (Conformation?)

My "stall" is a 48x48 corral so he is able to walk around. He seems happy and appears to be feeling fine. If anything, it's hard to keep him quiet because he seems to be feeling fine.

When I try to pick up his right hind, his foot jerks and it seems like it's hard for him to give me even that one. But with the left, he's clearly irritable.

There is no heat or swelling anywhere that anyone has found.

I would prefer to handwalk but don't want to cause any damage. But I can't see how stall rest will do much other than drive him and me crazy.

I have photos of his fetlocks but haven't been here long enough to know if it's appropriate to post pictures.
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kayla block
New Member
Username: kaylab

Post Number: 2
Registered: 3-2008
Posted on Wednesday, Mar 19, 2008 - 10:49 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Wanted to add that his hooves show evidence of toe dragging in all 4 feet from the wear pattern.

Also, his shoes were pulled about 4 months ago and he's being seen by an NAHCP (not sure I got that acronym right) hoofcare person who was trained by Pete Ramey.
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Username: goldshoe

Post Number: 7
Registered: 3-2008
Posted on Wednesday, Mar 19, 2008 - 11:07 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I would want the further diagnostics, obviously starting with what I could afford to do first. I can't imagine anyone recommending 12 weeks of stall rest without a more in depth exam and diagnosis of this horse, but I am not a vet. Best of luck.
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Username: dro

Post Number: 20299
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Thursday, Mar 20, 2008 - 6:08 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hello Kayla,
There are several instances where the fetlocks may be uneven that are not related to suspensory disease. The first is any horse experiencing pain on weight bearing will unload the painful leg, causing the fetlock to rise while standing . The second is congenital or acquired deep and/or superficial digital flexor contracture.

I would recommend better localization than what you have at this time to get a more accurate diagnosis. The flexion tests alone are not very meaningful. For more on all this see Diseases of Horses » Lameness » Localizing Lameness in the Horse.
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Username: dro

Post Number: 20300
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Thursday, Mar 20, 2008 - 6:10 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Oh I forgot, advice on posting photos is given at, Help & Information on Using This Site » Uploading Images and Files Into a Posting.
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Sara Wolff
Username: mrose

Post Number: 3505
Registered: 1-2000
Posted on Thursday, Mar 20, 2008 - 10:41 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Improper trimming and shoeing can also have an effect on the fetlocks. If you have a good farrier, I'd have him/her look at your horse too.
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kayla block
Username: kaylab

Post Number: 9
Registered: 3-2008
Posted on Saturday, Apr 5, 2008 - 11:49 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I got a 2nd opinion on what's going on with my horse. He says my horse looks great at speed, but at the walk, one butt cheek comes up higher than the other.

His main area of concern is that one fetlock is dropped more than the other. He also seems to think arthritis is another factor.

He didn't seem to think tests would be worthwhile so we did not proceed with nerve blocks or ultrasounds.

His recommendations are:
- 30 day bute protocol
- Adequan im moving to joint injections if there's no improvement
- Possibly putting on hind shoes that extend past the back of the hooves. (Horse is currently barefoot.)
- re-evaluate in 60-90 days

He seems to feel the horse has a long, useful life ahead of him, but may not be sound for dressage (my discipline of choice.)

He is recommending my horse never be jumped again and that he not be lunged again.

The symptoms which brought me to the vet in the first place seemed minor to me. I actually thought his back was out. When I went to pick up his left hind leg, he was swishing his tail, pinning his ears, and trying to offer me the right hind instead.

Either the bute or Adequan or both seem to be helping that. He seems to feel good. In fact, I'm having a hard time keeping him from really moving out.

I've asked a few questions about the meds in the treatment protocol.

I am curious about therapeutic shoeing or whether anything else can be done to support that one fetlock.

Aside from when I'm cleaning his feet or after about 30 minutes of work, the horse doesn't seem to be feeling any pain or discomfort.

1st vet also seemed reluctant to run more tests. Was again, just focused on the fetlocks. Though when he was out, the horse showed mild lameness at the trot and that seems to have disappeared.

My horse is 15 and was heavily shown as a jumper in his younger years...jumping more than 5' on a regular basis. So his joints have had a hard life. Also, his one back foot toes out and is not straight. I believe that is conformation he was born with rather than injury, but it would certainly make him more vulnerable to injury.

Any further thoughts?

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Melissa Baker
Username: mysi

Post Number: 208
Registered: 1-2007
Posted on Saturday, Apr 5, 2008 - 11:16 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Kayla, your story sounds VERY simular to mine,

My horse is the same age, had the same heavy jumping background, his issues were minor, my vet recommended a simular regimen, I did do supportive shoeing, I followed everything to the tee and one day months later we cantered and he turned up lame. I decided to do all the diagnostics needed to see what was going on. I did blocks that turned up nothing and then opted for a full body bone scan, which turned up alot, the most severe was DJD in the FR elbow and LH pastern, two areas that were never a concern.

I have him on Recovery EQ HA daily and monthly Adequan IM shots. And like your horse, he feels great. After all that he is completely sound, runs around and plays for hours in the pasture and seems to feel great, never sore. But I chose to retire him to preserve his joints with the hopes he will live a longer and more comfortable life. He's my walking buddy and overgrown puppy dog and he LOVES our walks.

I tell you this because without the proper diagnostics I would have likely done joint injections, rest, blah, blah, blah...and kept going and would have only worsened the true issue and done more damage AND been back to square one AGAIN!

Like Dr. O preaches, do the diagnostics to find out the real problem.

Best of luck.
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Username: dro

Post Number: 20410
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Monday, Apr 7, 2008 - 6:37 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

You often find sound horses with an uneven walk.
PS Note that I have moved your earlier posts on this problem to this discussion. It is best to keep a discussion together so those coming new to the discussion have all the information and therefore give more accurte advice.
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