When A Hitch in the Giddy-Up Isn’t What It Seems

Hudson has a recurring muscle spasm in his shoulder, right below the withers, but above the shoulder itself.  He hasn’t been lame.  He’s been…off.  I have used massage, Sore No More, heat, stretching, and work.  It gets better, even goes away.  Next day: it’s back. Hard and baseball-sized.

I started worrying.  Bute helped a little.  It should have helped much more.  I checked his hoof temperatures, they were even all the way around.  Looked for soft spots on his sole, just in case.  No bruising.  He’s trotting out and putting his weight normally on that hoof. Unlikely it’s an abscess.  They usually come on quickly, and are immediately painfully obvious.

But he’s not right.  I put an oversize (waterproof) heating pad on his shoulder, slipping it under his blanket.  It’s a chilly day.  He loves the heat.  I can’t leave him for a second (electricity) so I decide to thoroughly brush his legs.  Stimulate circulation as well as get the mud off. I scrape mud off his hooves.

I’m brushing the leg with the sore shoulder, all the way down to the coronet band.  Odd. A couple of hairs are sticking up funny.  They don’t brush down.  I feel the spot.  Bingo.

Abscess! I’ve never seen one on an outer hoof wall.  At first I’m not positive what I’m seeing.  Check the bulb of his hoof, a more usual abscess area.  Normal.

Definitely a split hoof where there was not one yesterday.  I shave the hair away.  Get the soaking boot, epsom salts, betadine, and start boiling some water.  Luckily, thanks to Tiny, I have no abscess fear.  I can fix this.  I call Bella to check protocol on treating an exterior hoof abscess, I’ve never seen one on the outside wall of a hoof this far from the bulb. Needed to make sure it was the same treatment.

Last time he had an abscess?  Hind hoof, exterior wall, just below the coronet band. Good to go: this is within normal parameters for him.  It also explains the recurring muscle spasm in the shoulder.  He’s compensating and his shoulder is sore.

Photo of (black) abscess seam below.  Red is betadine, not blood.

Poor Hudson.

He’s terrific about the Davis boot and the soaking.

He’s horrified when I want to take the boot off.  He’s convinced the boot May Not Be Moved for any reason.  His hoof is in there, and it’s going to stay there!  I tried everything, including an elbow in the stomach.  Nope.  He grit his teeth and planted that foot.  He moved all the others for me, to show he wasn’t being bad, he was willing to move hooves, just not THAT one.  Had I not noticed THAT one was now attached to the ground?

It took two of us to get the boot off.  One to “untrack” him, leading him forward or sideways, while I stood like a quarterback ready for the handoff. The instant his knee was bent, I whipped the boot off.

As Bella said: this is why we wait a few days, (when there is no heat or swelling), because it might be something easy, like an abscess!

Whew.  A good lesson in the thing that presents, a locked up shoulder, might simply be a symptom of the real problem: a hoof.




8 thoughts on “When A Hitch in the Giddy-Up Isn’t What It Seems

  1. this sounds so familiar. My horse had one that high. He had a knock on his hind right at the coronet band. Of course it formed an abscess. This one was the abscess from hell. Because it was so high up it would blow and then heal over without draining completely, reform etc. I didn’t have a soaking boot but used a feedtub with hot water. Irish would stand there like a good horse. Until he got board. I would see him start to feel around with his hoof. “no” I’d say and try to convince him to stand still. he’d continue to innocently move his hoof around until he found the edge…..and then he’d step on. Water everywhere. I think he was amused by the cursing that ensued.

    I now use a boot……

  2. I used to lease a horse who was prone to abscesses. I could always tell when he was getting one because he trotted sound but when I rode it felt like his shoulder was broken. Everyone told me I was crazy for saying that. I now feel slightly vindicated!

  3. Good detective work! We’ve dealt with our share of these as well – in different locations. I had one horse who loved to have his foot in a bucket (they didn’t make Davis boots big enough for his foot) and it was the same challenge to remove it. Silly boys! It must really feel good soaking with the epsom salts.

  4. Part of being a rider is being some version of amateur vet/ CSI investigator. Thanks for sharing this chaper, I haven’t seen that sort of abscess either. Nice job with the heating pad too. Thanks.

  5. Two years in a row my guy had an abscess in his left front hoof. They both popped out the back of his heel bulb in two weeks. Did I learn from the first one? Nope, I called the vet the minute he was off convinced he had something major wrong with him….

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