The week before last, Shiloh came up lame during a ride.
I noticed his rhythm change when we moved from sections of softer to harder ground between our round pen and the barn area. It wasn’t anything dramatic, but it definitely caught my attention.
When I got off to lunge him, Shiloh looked sound to the right but he showed a head bob at the trot to the left. My own physical exam provided no answers. You know, no nail in the hoof or obvious leg swelling. He seemed otherwise to look and act normal. Seemed comfortable moving freely around his paddock.
This issue came up just a few days before our annual Spring vet appointment that I wrote about in my previous post. I opted not to ride Shiloh until then. I requested a basic lameness exam during the appointment.
Long story short, the hoof testers revealed some mild tenderness near a front toe but nothing else of concern. Of all the further diagnostics offered, I chose the “let em rest and wait and see” approach.
I didn’t ride Shiloh again until exactly a week from the ride when he appeared lame. For that ride, I took him out into my largest pasture with the thickest grass cover. It was lovely. I kept him mostly to a meandering walk, but picked a few of the smoothest sections to open him up to gait and trot. He felt sound to me and seemed comfortable with what I was asking him to do.
A second short ride two days later in the same pasture also went well. Hopefully the lameness that presented was just something temporary.
I want my horses to be as pain free as possible of course for their own benefit. Have you ever noticed that equestrians have a funny way of making our horses’ problems all about us? This was one of those times for me.
I admit the lameness bothered me more than I was prepared for. I might have felt a bit distracted and tired and grumpy all week because of it. I’ve retired enough horses at this point to know how disappointing it can be to realize you’ve taken your last ride with this particular partner. It is something that I personally find very sad. I still mourn not being able to ride Bear.
Seeing Shiloh lame understandably brought up all those feelings right to the surface. Front and center. Then I ran away with them. I spent a little too much time thinking up plenty of upsetting what-if scenarios.
I know I am not alone in this type of situation. Both in person and on the internet, I know horse folks who have experienced something similar. I even recently came across this essay published on Horse Nation called ” On Horses and Hope” at https://www.horsenation.com/2021/05/14/best-of-jn-on-horses-and-hope/. It’s an equestrian’s call to her fellow riders to cling to hope, even when you face disappointment and heartbreak in your horse life.
Shiloh is 18 now. A chronic issue could certainly be brewing beneath the surface. He could need more support to maintain his same level of activity as he gets older. I know that as I am aging I need more lotions, potions and supportive gear than I used to in order to keep me moving. Older horses don’t seem much different in that regard. I’ll be keeping an eye on him. I’ll be making adjustments as needed and/or pursuing more diagnostics if the issue presents again.
And of course, there is still the hard reality. One day, I will experience my final ride on Shiloh. No matter how much I do not want it to be so. In the mean time, we’ll see if I can put some more distance between today and that eventual date.
All the more reason to appreciate, to relish each and every ride.