Usually having the vet out is not cause for any sort of happiness, best case scenario is that it’s not too expensive, and worst case is that something’s really, really wrong! But yesterday was just a normal yearly maintenance visit for Liam, a brief lameness check and then joint injections as necessary, a review of what meds/supplements he’s on, and a fingers crossed that we can get another good year! He’ll be 19 in less than 2 months, and it takes a little work to keep him comfortable, but its’ really not that much considering his age and that he raced through the end of his 8 year-old year, including a breakdown as a 6 year-old where he fractured his canon bone and a sesamoid. What they say about the war horses is true… if he could hold up to that, he’s one tough horse!
So Dr. Nicky watched him go on the lunge line and thought he looked good, then asked to see him move under saddle. I told her that although he hasn’t felt “lame”, he’s felt stiff, or like he takes a “too-long” warm up to get going, and that his right lead canter feels a little sticky, he’ll take it but wants to canter in haunches-in, and he bobbles a little in the transition. None of that would be concerning if he was a young or green horse, but to me they are signs that he’s starting to get uncomfortable – because of where he’s at in his training and how long I’ve been riding him, I know these aren’t normal challenges for him. I know it was a long, hard winter and he had lots of time off, so I’m sure some lost muscle plays into the equation, but I wanted to be sure he was comfortable working. Dr. Nicky watched and nodded, she saw it too. But the big relief was that she saw nothing major, and did think that putting some fitness back into him will smooth out of a lot of it.
She ended up injecting his hocks, but said his stifles looked really good so we didn’t inject those this time. She also said his right hock is almost fused, which is why his left one seems worse (previously, the right hock had been the worse one, we had speculated from compensating for his left front fetlock, which contains pins and lots of calcium deposits and arthritis from his track injury). If the right hock finishes fusing, it shouldn’t present a problem for him in the future, so that’d be great! Hopefully the left hock will follow suit…
The other great news was that she thought he looked great on his funny ankle. That’s been an ongoing issue with him, he can go great on it sometimes, and other times be really, really lame on it. It seems to depend in the weather, as much as anything. Dr. Nicky has known Liam for years now, and has x-rayed and injected that ankle, and seen Liam trot better and worse enough times to have a pretty good feel for how he works. As she watched him trot, she looked very pleased and I told her he hasn’t has a “bad ankle” day in quite some time (quick, knock on wood!!). She speculated that it might have finally finished fusing, which would be great for him!! We haven’t x-rayed it in I think about 2 years, and those last films didn’t show any change from the films from 4 years ago, which was a sign that it was stable and not progressively getting worse, which was ok because he was doing ok, but that didn’t indicate that we should expect any improvement either!
Now I’m soooo curious to see if there has been a change and if I really could hope that the worst of his ankle troubles are behind him! This sweet horse deserves nothing more, as he is still all heart and desire to perform, and training-wise he just keeps getting better and better. I’m crossing my fingers that maybe I could still finish up my bronze medal on Liam, even though Remy will likely out-perform him, it would just be so personally meaningful to do it with Liam. Then he can be my western dressage horse since Austin has a new human of his own, and of course Liam remains the king of the trail, so we have lots of that planned as well!
So basically, great news and now I have the peace of mind that he is comfortable and I can keep on doing what I love with him, which is such a wonderful feeling! Now the hard part will be giving him a few days off until he can go back to work… But here’s proof, careful training and correct maintenance can keep a horse going happy and sound, performing for many years!