Paddy is an ex-racehorse who has been here just over 6 weeks and like most horses who come here, he is making big changes to his feet. That's just as well since he arrived with a diagnosis of being 4-6/10 lame and the lameness blocked to his feet.
However, Paddy was not content to give us one problem and had thrown another one into the mix.
Now, its not unusual for horses to arrive here with shoulder or back pain - in fact, its more common than not, and its usually related to the pain in the forelimbs. Its something I blogged about in more detail here: http://rockleyfarm.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/whole-horse.html
If horses have a regular physio or bodyworker who sees them, its typical (and always satisfying!) for me to get a report like this one (from Red's owner recently) once horses go home: "She reckons Red is "a million times better" than when she saw her last time in the front end".
However despite being otherwise a good weight, he was still not building as much muscle as he should have been (as you can see in the lower photo); I was concerned that there was something more going on and agreed with his owner to get the vet to take a look.
At this point I wasn't sure if it was a metabolic issue (like ulcers or a liver problem) but our vet immediately focussed on Paddy's back and this is what we found...
This is an x-ray of Paddy's spine showing some of the thoracic vertebrae (click on it to enlarge). You can see that the tips of the first few spinous process are eroded and that further along they are fused and deformed.
The good news is that this is old damage which is no longer painful for Paddy but of course his back does have restricted flexibility which is why he loses muscle so severely when he is not in work and finds it hard to rebuild.
Its a good example of when a back problem is genuinely a back problem, rather than being related to foot pain and its an even more dramatic illustration of the damage you can do by putting weight on a horse's back at too young an age, as is so common in the racing industry.
I'm glad to say though that Paddy has the all-clear to carry on with his rehab and I will post a more detailed update on his hooves shortly!