The vet started out by checking Limerick's feet, legs, and digital pulse. Lim still had heat and a digital pulse (although not a bounding, powerful pulse). Before she could apply the hoof testers to check for toe pain, a couple guys at the end of the barn began using a rotary saw on a piece of plywood.
These guys are friends/family of the family that owns the stable, and they live in apartments above the front end of the barn. Why they couldn't have done this outside the barn, I don't know.
The vet and I rolled our eyes and she shouted over the saw, "Let's lunge her first."
Despite not being turned out all day, Limerick did not trot when I asked her to. No change when I went from asking to demanding. Finally, I flicked the lunge whip close to her hind end and she jumped forward into a lethargic, stiff trot.
Once again, it was obvious she was more ouchy on her left side, but where? I couldn't quite pinpoint it. First it seemed like it was her left fore, the foundered foot. Then it seemed to be coming from her left stifle. The vet was almost as puzzled as me. She quizzed me on my current care of Limerick's arthritis--Cosequin ASU as a daily supplement and Adequan i.m. injections every four weeks.
"Your current maintenance combined with the joint injections from February should be working to keep her arthritis under control," she said.
Back at the barn--which was now quiet--the vet applied the hoof tester to both fore feet, paying closer attention to the left fore. Limerick didn't bat an eye.
The vet then took radiographs of Limerick's fore feet to check for a change in rotation.
For the non-horsey people, rotation is when the distal phalanx, aka P3, aka coffin bone (the last, or hoof bone, on the horse's leg) is rotated downwards, away from the hoof wall. This is also called founder. P3 should be parallel to the hoof wall. For a pictorial reference, here are Limerick's digital radiographs from February:
Right fore--notice P3 is parallel to hoof wall (barely visible).
Left fore--notice P3 is not parallel to hoof wall. Instead, it is rotated downwards about 10-11 degrees.
I had to wear one of those heavy lead aprons, which I thought was pretty nifty. But I'm a dork like that. I love watching, and being involved with, veterinary procures. I think I missed my calling there!
The vet has one of those newfangled digital radiograph machines so we could see Limerick's bones in perfect clarity almost immediately. Her right fore looked as normal as ever but I was shocked when I saw her left fore. The founder was not worse; it was better. After five and a half years of 10-11 degree rotation, it was down to around 4-5 degrees of rotation. The rotation had been halved since February! I credit this change to my new farrier. Hooray!
The vet also noted that Limerick had thin soles but frankly, they are thicker now than they used to be.
As she talked, my vet made sure to look at me so I could read her lips. She even did this while applying the hoof tester to Limerick's feet, which was a bit of an awkward position. You have to love that kind of accomodation!
The vet then drew blood to test for insulin resistance, Cushing's, and thyroid issues. If the bloodwork comes back abnormal, we will go from there. If it comes back normal, she is going to work with me to tweak Limerick's diet since I am not happy with Limerick's weight. I know that it is better for a horse prone to laminitis to be slightly underweight, rather than overweight, but I am bothered by the fact that Limerick gets so much food yet rarely gains more than a pound or two. And if anything disrupts her routine or health, she drops weight alarmingly fast.
The thinness in itself can be a symptom of insulin resistance, as well.
In the meantime, I am to give Limerick one gram of phenylbutazone per day until Sunday. All other aspects of her routine can stay the same, with the exception of riding...kind of!
"Can I ride?" I asked.
"No...well, since you are so small, you can ride her at a walk," my vet replied, with a smile.
I asked a few other questions here and there. I asked if Limerick could have an abscess and the vet noted that the symptoms did not quite point that way. She said it wouldn't hurt to soak Lim's left fore in an epsom salt soak if there was no change.
When I got to the barn, the horses were outside. Despite the field full of bays and chestnuts, it wasn't hard to spot Limerick with her blaze and grazing muzzle. As I walked out into the pasture to get her, a couple horses near the entrance to the grassy section (the pasture is divided into two sections--a dry lot and a grassy area. The sections are separated by a fence with a gate. The gate to the grassy section is currently open in the afternoon, around two hours before the horses are brought in) of the pasture saw me coming and thought I was one of the barn guys bringing the horses in for feeding.
With sudden joy, they flicked their tails up and galloped at full speed into the dry lot and around the corner of the barn to the pasture entrance. I stood back and watched helplessly as the rest of the horses, around twenty in all, followed suit. And then there was my poor lame Limerick, ears pricked and tail up, galloping out with the rest of them, her legs and feet not showing a sliver of pain.
I could only shake my head and follow the horses.
After I brought Limerick in, I checked her foot. I did not detect any heat, nor a pulse. Hmmm. I gave her a bath with a combination of Vetrolin Bath and a brace in case she had sore muscles--and boy, it was a hot day, anyway!
Back at her stall, I gave her the daily dose of bute. She is so funny with that stuff, as soon as she spots the tube, her eyes will go wide and she'll clamp her lips shut. Sometimes she will turn her head away from you. Despite this show, though, it is easy to administer oral medications to her.
Then I tried to take her temperature but I think the old mercury thermometer is broken. I plan on stopping at a pharmacy to find a digital one today; hopefully I can find one that will allow me to tie a piece of string around the end in case the thermometer gets "lost" in Limerick. That will not be the highlight of my day if it ever happens.
So who knows what's going on?
Maybe she exerted herself too hard in the pasture and was sore and gave me a scare.
Maybe she hurt her feet while madly stomping away those spring flies.
Maybe she had a mild virus and fought it off on her own.
Maybe she really was laminitic and we caught it so quickly that going off rice bran oil and the one gram of bute a day was enough to drive it away.
It's not impossible--check this excerpt from a site about laminitis:
This is a partial list of stages a Laminitic horse might experience.
- The Horse is just not right. He seems vaguely sore or stiff and is not quite himself. There may or may not be heat in the hoof and a digital pulse.
- The horse seems stiff in the shoulder and a little short strided. He might seem preoccupied or worried and isn't moving around as much as normal. There is most likely heat in the hoof and a digital pulse.
Today I'll ride her bareback at a walk and we'll see how she is. If she seems well tomorrow, I'll trot her on the lunge line to see if there's any change.
In the meantime, we'll wait for those blood test results to come back.