Since arriving at SAFE, Delcan has been a little bit off, physically. Granted, he’s an older gentleman, and with the wisdom of age comes less desirable things, like arthritis, but we still wanted to check him out with our vets.

To add another layer, when he first arrived at SAFE, Declan kicked out at a panel which resulted in a laceration along his heel bulb. This injury ended up growing down the hoof wall in a horizontal crack, something we thought might be affecting his soundness, especially after a trim exposed it a bit more recently, and seemed to coincide with some intermittent lameness.

We had Dr Lewis out to assess his soundness. She used a lameness locator to check him out — the best part was the cool hat he got to wear during his exam – asking him to trot both straight lines and circles on hard and soft ground.

Declan wearing the lameness locator.. looking dapper!

The results of his lameness exam revealed his right front to be the culprit, not his right hind as we’d originally thought. It was a subtle lameness, most noticeable when lunging to the right on a hard surface. After flexion tests, he was mildly positive on his right front, the only positive limb. His hinds were negative, and his left front worsened the right front.

Dr Lewis partially blocked his right front then, which really made me question how bizarre it must feel for a horse to have to move with a numb foot (do horse’s limbs ever fall asleep? A question for next time). The block resulted in a 50% improvement in his lameness, proving we were on the right track. A total block of everything below the fetlock resolved his lameness entirely. We had our answer.

Radiographs taken a few days later let us take a closer look at what was going on below the hood. On that right front, Declan has a chip off his coffin bone, and associated marked to moderate arthritis of the coffin joint. The bone fragment is smooth and rounded, and has likely been there a long time.
X‑rays of his left front revealed it to be unaffected. Phew!

Dr. Lewis decided that the best route forward would be a joint injection in that right front coffin joint. I can’t imagine it’s much fun having your joint injected, even under sedation, but Declan was a champ for it. He didn’t get a lollipop (being sedated would have made eating one difficult), but he did get a cool vet-wrap bandage, as well as a few days of stall rest to increase the efficacy of the injection. Well, I say stall rest, but our Declan is a social guy (re: a touch herdbound) and would have found sitting in his stall in an empty barn quite distressing. So we improvised a stall-sized space out of panels in his usual paddock, simulating turn out for him while keeping his range of motion very limited.

Declan’s joint injection in action

He was off work for a week, and then began a slow ascent back into regular riding, which is where Declan’s story enters the present day. He is back in work as a riding horse, and will remain so as long as he is comfortable. We also started him on Equioxx to help keep him even more comfortable. Going forward with good results following his injection, he should receive annual (approximately) injections to help maintain him as a light riding horse. Declan will never be a high intensity boy, but a life of leisure was always one we intended for this gentleman. And if and when the day comes when his arthritis progresses to the point where he is no longer comfortable under saddle, well, then he will retire from ridden work, and live out the rest of his days as a companion horse. But we are optimistic about his prognosis, and you can expect to see more of Declan under saddle for the foreseeable future.

Oh, and as for that right hind of his, we are wrapping it and booting it during turnout to keep it dry and clean. So far, both our vets and our farriers seem to think it will heal up just fine as the split continues to grow down his hoof.