As some of you already know, H injured his knee at the end of last season, and although he seemed fine on it initially, once he had some time off he seemed to become less sound on it, although he was happy enough to blast round the track or field and stand on his head with the other boys.
My thought at the start of the summer was that the best option would be to give him June and July off and re-assess how he was in August, when I got back from Ride Bare.
Unfortunately, the rest made him no better and I started to worry about whether he had really done some damage when he fell, so asked the vet to X-ray his knee. At this point, when we trotted him up he appeared significantly short on his left front leg. Disaster scenario, thinks I.
Vet and I, if asked, would have put money on a hairline crack or chip at this point, but the X-rays came back completely clear. Good news, but we were no nearer finding out what the problem was.
We talked about the fact that H had been sound even after the knee injury, and had only become lame once he had time off, but that didn't seem to shed much light on things either, though in fact it should have been a clue!
Now, he came here originally with bad feet and a severe toe first landing, but he has had great hooves for a long time now, and despite being lame on his left front, he was still landing clearly heel first. His hooves were also in perfect condition, and I couldn't believe that it was his feet that were the issue. The vet, however, re-iterated the standard position that 90% of lameness is in the hoof* and said her preferred next step would be to nerve block the foot.
Fortunately, as Hans was due here this week, I persuaded her that we would wait and first of all use the thermographic camera to get a clearer idea of where the problem was. In the meantime, with the vet's permission, I had brought H back into work, and sure enough, the more he did the sounder he became, to the point that he was trotting up the road prefectly by last weekend.
The thermographic images showed that his knees were fine, his hooves were fine, and in fact the problem stemmed from a tear in his right hind hamstring. It looks as if the time he had off allowed it to weaken, and it was making the right hind/left front diagonal unstable.
I will carrry on working to build that area back up, and hope that, provided he has no more holidays, then he will go from strength to strength.
Under "normal" circumstances, though, it would have been so easy for the focus to be on the hooves. Not only would that have been the wrong conclusion, but would have led to nerve blocks, more X-rays, and we would still have had no answers, plus continued "rest" would have actually made the muscle weakness worse and worse!
*Actually not a true statistic when you are talking about hard-working bare hooves, but we'll talk about that another day!