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.