Lamenting Lameness

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 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.

8 thoughts on “Lamenting Lameness

  1. I hope Shiloh can be made as comfortable and pain-free as possible, with the happy outlook of many rides out together for some time to come.
    I feel for you too, as I know what it’s like when one of our animal companions is unwell. We had to take one of our dogs to the vet a couple of weeks ago. We don’t know what she did, but she seemed in pain. After examination, the vet suspects she may have hurt her neck, so she’s been having anti-inflammatories and painkillers. She’s improved a lot, but not quite back to her normal self. It’s worrying. 😦

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    1. Oh, I am sad to hear about your dog’s difficulties. Neck pain is no fun. Sounds like we both have taken an unexpected and unwanted ride on the worry train recently. I commiserate. I do hope she continues to improve. Thank you for your well-wishes regarding Shiloh too.

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  2. Our connections with our animal families are so crucial to us aren’t they. I hope Shiloh continues to go well for a very very long time. Good timing with the vet check. Have a non limp, pain free weekend pony friend.

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  3. I have been there for sure! That feeling of unevenness. Then if an abscess is found I am almost happy. That is an easy one to fix. Biasini had an abscess when I first got him and after that I put Keratex on the sole of his hooves 2x a week. Since then no problems. But I am also giving him a series of Legend shots for his joints. and in the winter I gave him an Adequan series. After every ride where we have been working I put tendon ice boots on his hind legs. There is a saying that you can only be as happy as your least happy child. Same is true for our horses. I can only be happy if Biasini is happy. If he is not I tend to catapult into worst case scenarios. I will keep my fingers crossed for Shiloh.

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    1. Yes, definitely. I can only be as happy as my least happy horse. That’s a good way to put it. I was wondering about an possible abscess too with Shiloh but nothing has materialized yet. I am grateful at least that he seems perfectly comfortable in his paddock. That is the most important thing. But I sure would like to continue to be able to ride him without issue . . .

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  4. Oh dear, I hope Shiloh is all better and/or on the mend. Sounds like the week off helped. And I agree, we drive ourselves crazy when things like this crop up. We love our horses so much and don’t want to see them in pain. Thanks for sharing, and it’s nice to know we are not alone in our worry for our equine companions! ❤️🐴

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